In my opinion, Gili Air, a small island just off Lombok, has everything you’ll ever need in a holiday: stunning sandy beaches, plenty of adorable restaurants, enough bars to keep you entertained at night, and the feeling of having your own space to breath but not so empty that you begin to impersonate Tom Hanks in Castaway.
The island is super tiny (just 3km long and 2km wide) and the pace of life here is on go slow speed. It can take a while to adjust, especially after the noise and busyness of Kuta or Seminyak, but soon you’ll be as laid back as a local. It’s with a heavy heart that I’m letting you into this secret slice of heaven but I couldn’t possibly keep it all to myself.
// GETTING AROUND //
The main reason for this taste of tranquility is that motorised vehicles are banned from the island. No horns, no petrol fumes, no spluttering vans, it is pretty awesome. The lack of cars, motorbikes and trucks means that if you want to get around you gotta use your legs and walk or ride a bike. There’s also the option to hire a horse and cart* take you from the small port to your accommodation.
*A word of warning if you fancy this novelty mode of transport as I’ve heard that some of the horses are badly treated so please be aware and trust your instincts.
Hiring a bike is cheap, or free depending on where you’re staying. In my opinion getting on two wheels sounds idyllic but the reality is that on the sandy areas you’ll be red faced and struggling, especially in the heavy suffocating heat. Street signs look a little cray cray but Gili Air is so small that even the most geographically challenged will struggle to get lost.
There are plenty of places dotted along the shore to go and grab a decent meal. Try the strange looking but super tasty burgers at Mowies Bar as you watch the sun set, trying to get comfy on the bean bags or grab a loaded burrito and delicious cocktail at Mexican Kitchen. We got stranded here during a really heavy storm (turns out travelling in the rainy season may be cheaper but you’ll get used to the rolls of thunder & a torrent of rain pretty much every night) which was a happy accident as the food was SO good.
Scallywags is another must-visit restaurant. Grab a table on the beach and sink your bare toes into the soft white sand as you get stuck into the fresh fish barbecue and watch the sun set. Now doesn’t that sound blissful?
Watching the sun set is a big deal here and if you catch it on a clear evening you’ll totally agree why. Stay on the west side of the island to get the best views as you sip on your sundowner, that’s also where you’ll find the iconic swing set out into the warm waters so you can watch it turn from day to night in style. Such a genius idea!
// SLEEP //
There are plenty of places to stay from bargain homestays to five star luxe resorts dotted around the island. I couldn’t fault the service at SLOW private pool villas (check out my full review of our stay here). Wherever you stay it’s likely that you’ll be woken up by either roosters or a call to prayer which is played from a loudspeaker can be heard across the entire island.
// DO //
There are plenty of places that offer scuba diving trips, snorkelling and excursions to the other islands.
If you’re after some slight kitsch but hilarious evening entertainment then most of the big resorts will gladly meet your needs. Whilst we were there we saw a pretty awesome fire display and a less-so-great Chinese Elvis (Chelvis) impersonator.
Gili Air was a real highlight of our trip to Bali. I could have spent a lot longer getting immersed into island life but sadly we didn’t have the time. If you’re heading to Bali then you MUST get a boat over to this stunning place and experience it for yourself.
My advice would be to get over here as soon as you can as I’ve heard developers are eyeing up this little spec of paradise so the chilled out charm may not be around for long. Go, go, go!!