Travel in Indonesia is usually stereotyped by Bali and the Phi Phi Islands, with their full moon parties and night markets overrun with tourists. While often cited as one of the prime examples of a natural paradise ruined by mass tourism, not all of Indonesia has lost its magic and charm. For those in the know, a new underdog has been up-and-coming as the next best thing to happen to Indonesian tourism.
Three remote islands—Gili Air, Gili Trawangan, and Gili Meno—make up the Gili Islands, a trio 180km east of Bali that harken back to what Phi Phi Island used to be. Popular amongst backpackers, they are still relatively unknown compared to its other beach-laden neighbours. Here are ten good reasons to make the Gili Islands your next getaway destination:
1. Pristine waters and coral reefs dominate this area, and if you're a diver or snorkeler, you've pretty much found heaven. Sea turtles, colorful parrotfish, black-tip and white-tip reef sharks and more call these waters home. There's also a Japanese shipwreck off of Trawangan for seasoned divers, accessible by dive boat.
2. The islands are famous for their turtle conservation efforts, especially Gili Meno. Join a rehabilitation program and handle baby turtles, or swim alongside full grown ones underwater.
3. There are great reef breaks along the shores for budding surfers to give wave-riding a try.
4. The lack of a crowd here means clean, warm, crystalline blue water and plenty of space.
5. The Gili Islands boast a quieter, laid-back atmosphere in comparison to Bali, especially the smallest middle island of Gili Meno. Beachside cafes, quaint restaurants and bars serve native and international cuisine, with few tourists to jostle with.
6. Especially refreshing is the lack of cars or motorcycles. Bikes and cidomos, small horse-drawn carriages, are the only modes of transportation around here, adding to the community-centric vibe.
7. You can also ride horses in the water. Need we say more?
8. No longer just a backpacker destination for the early-twenty-somethings, there are a variety of posh options if you're looking to get a spa treatment or glam hotel. Ombak Sunset Hotel on Gili Tranwangan, the biggest island, is known for its wooden swing structures in the water as well as its stunning hotel.
9. But if you do crave the social backpacker vibe, head to Gili Air, the Easternmost island.
10. End your days by catching the sunset from Sunset on the Hill on Gili Tranwangan. The unique vantage point provides panoramic views extend from the Gilis to Lombok and Bali beyond.
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