No roads, no cars, no stress: Gili Air, Indonesia

We spent an absolutely wonderful few days on Gili Air – white sands, crystal clear waters, shade provided by palm trees, and one of the most beautiful sunsets you will ever see. We can’t wait to go back!

Gili Air is one of the three very small Gili Islands located off the north west coast of Lombok, Indonesia. The other two islands are Gili Trawangan, where you’ll find younger backpackers and all night parties, and Gili Meno, which is incredibly peaceful and underdeveloped. We felt that Gili Air sounded like a good mix of both – more amenities and bars than Meno, but a more relaxing vibe than Trawangan.

Depending on where you’re coming from, Indonesia can be an expensive place to get to. The boat over from Bali also cost more than I was expecting. While the islands can be more expensive (almost everything has to be shipped over) it’s still an incredibly affordable place to stay.

What to do in Gili Air

Gili Air
Gili Air

Sunbathe, swim, cycle, chill out. If you wake up early one morning (it will be hot but not unbearable like later in the day) grab a bike and do a full loop around the edge of the island to see some amazing views and have a nose at some of the more luxurious places to stay. There are also a number of diving and snorkelling tours available.

Where to eat and drink on Gili Air

Dolcemare Reasturant – this place serves absolutely amazing food. It is run by a couple from Italy and wowthey know how to cook! I had the gnocchi and the chocolate cake and they were both wonderful. The service is excellent and the setting is beautiful. They also have some gorgeous imported wines which are expensive compared to other drinks, but worth it if you want good wine to go with your meal. Overall it is more expensive than most other places on Gili Air but you will not be disappointed if you eat here. You can also stay here as we did – more details below.

Mowie’s Bar – the dinner and cocktails we had here were very nice. The service is good (not a given on Gili Air) and to eat at such a beautiful location is amazing. Plenty of vegetarian options – the tacos were delicious.

Gili Air sunset
Gili Air sunset

Krishna Sunset – the service was very slow, the prices weren’t clear (our bill was much higher than we thought) and there was barely a drop of alcohol in my cocktail. The location is amazing, especially for the sunset, but there are lots of other bars next to it with equally amazing views and good happy hour deals with much better service.

One of my cocktails tasted so non alcoholic that I sent it back three times with no improvement, and eventually went up to the bar myself and looked at the rum they were using. The bottle didn’t smell of alcohol at all, and when they poured more in my drink it made no difference. It wasn’t until they opened a new sealed bottle and added a shot of that that there was any alcohol taste – perhaps the other bottle was watered down?

Where to stay on Gili Air

Accommodation on Gili Air
Accommodation on Gili Air

Dolcemare ResortWest Nusa Tenggara – this place is absolutely gorgeous. From the moment we checked in until we left we were made to feel so welcome and looked after; nothing was too much for the owners or the staff.

I cannot overstate how AMAZING the breakfast was. Every day we had muesli, yoghurt and a platter of fresh fruit, followed by eggs any way you like, followed by a pancake of your choice (plain, banana, Nutella etc). This all came with whatever drink you wanted (fresh coffee, tea, smoothies, juices etc) and bread and cake. It was all made fresh to order and was absolutely delicious. We never once needed to buy lunch – especially as if there’s things you can’t finish e.g. the fresh bread and cake, they will put it in a little box for you to take away.

The room was wonderful, great air con, very clean and comfortable. Our private veranda space was really lovely. The pool is great and unlike a lot of pools on Gili Air is long enough for you to do lengths, and it has a lovely waterfall at the end to give you a back massage.

The place itself is located a little back off the beach front which means it’s much quieter than the places there (good for sleeping!), but it’s only a 100m or so to the beach which is the perfect spot to watch the sun set.

There is also a restaurant on site. We had dinner there one evening and although it was expensive it was worth it – absolutely delicious.

You can also take bikes to ride around the island for free – as many other places charge 50k+ a day for rental this can make a real difference to the cost of your trip.

Anyone looking for a wonderful stay on Gili Air in a beautiful bungalow with attentive staff and amazing breakfast – this is the one for you!

Getting to and getting around Gili Air

Once you’ve made the international journey to Bali or Lombok, it’s time to get on a boat. The journey from Lombok is much much shorter and costs less.

We got the service run by Ekajaya from Padang Bay in Bali (there are five companies), and it was pretty horrendous. It was still worth it to get there, so don’t let what comes next put you off!

We arrived at the time we were supposed to, but the boat didn’t leave for another two hours. We were left standing outside with loads of other people from all the different operators, being sold water at super inflated prices, and being shouted at when we tried to leave the area we were herded into. Once we got on the boat they went so fast (presumably because they were running late) that the boat was leaving the water’s surface then crashing back down. I was not the only one who looked (and felt) very ill. Take a fan, pop some sickness pills, and concentrate on the horizon. Oh, and hope they choose a better film for the bumpy ride – watching the world shake in the San Andreas movie was not helpful.

img_0725Once you get off the boat there will be men with horses and small carriages who will offer (sometimes quite forcefully) to take you and your luggage to your accommodation and pay for the privilege. It is very likely that where you’re staying is within a 10 minute walk – contact your host ahead of time and ask for directions.

Once you’ve checked in, it’s all about walking and cycling. There are no roads so no cars. You can rent bikes from lots of places – where we stayed they were included in the price.

If you have any questions, want help planning a trip to Gill Air, or have an idea for a guest blog please email contact@talbahtstravels.com.

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