Perfect Weekend: 48-Hours in Gili Air, IndonesiaBy Faye Smith
Looking for a brilliant Gili Air island travel guide? Well, read on. Out of the three Gili Islands, just off the coast of Bali and Lombok, in Indonesia, Gili Trawangan – nicknamed Gili T – is definitely the most popular with its party tendencies, turtle sanctuaries and clear blue oceans. But many travellers and tourists don’t even bother to head to sister island, Gili Air which is the middle-sized one, closest to the Lombok coast line. This is a big mistake. It is breathtaking, relaxing and jam-packed full of experiences and places to wander, explore and relax in. Here’s how to do 48-hours in style on Gili Air, and discover more of our 48-hour guides here:
Gili Air Island Travel Guide: Day One
Breakfast is included in the price at most accommodations in Gili Air, definitely at Coconut Cottages which is a twenty to forty minute walk away from the mini boat port, depending on how hot it is and how many heavy bags you’re carrying on your back, or dragging through the soil. Make the most of pancakes, scrambled or poached egg on toast, fresh fruit and more alongside juice or tea. Every little helps whilst you’re travelling; it’s best to save your money for trinkets, souvenirs and day trips that create memories which last forever. Also, hire a bike for the forty-eight hours you’re here – or however long you plan to stay – as it is the cheapest and easiest way to get around the island. Bike hire can be anything between 30,000RP and 60,000RP per day which equates to around £1.70 and £4 per day!
Stop off at Gili Bliss for a juice refresh. This little café is so cute, extremely Insta-worthy and has the freshest juices going. If you’re a smoothie or nula bowls fan – even better if you’ve never tried one – this is the place to get your health on. Also available are salads and more brunch options, all of which are freshly made right in front of you as the kitchen is located within the seating area.
Grab a beach hut at a beachside restaurant or café (with access to a loo!) such as Why Not, Sunrise Gili Air, or somewhere along Hannah’s Beach and waste the mid-morning to mid-afternoon away doing absolutely nothing but soaking up the sun and snoozing in the shade. The beaches on Gili Air have the whitest sand with picturesque views of tranquil turquoise oceans that go on and on. You won’t want to leave. Ever.
Head to Coffee & Thyme for the best Soy Latte on the island and the top picks of vegan-friendly cakes, including carrot cake and banana bread. The coffee chocolate brownie is also as mouthwatering as it sounds. If you’re after something a little more savoury, the chicken nuggets are so good just as the crispy wedges are too! All the food and drink is presented in a lovely way by the smiliest, kindest people you will meet in Gili Air.
To get comfortable (and a good spot!) for one of the best sunsets you will ever see in your life, head to the western side of the island where there is a long line of restaurants to choose from. Some options are Ceria Restaurant and The Krishan Sunset. Sunset usually starts around 5.30pm and is pretty much the same throughout the year. The colours are beautiful, and if you can, find a swing in the ocean for that classic I’ve been to Indonesia photo.
Most evenings in Gili Air, there is an outdoor cinema screening which show films from classic westerns to the latest comedies. It is part of Hotel Ombak Paradise which boasts at having the largest pool on the island. It really is a stunning hotel which costs around £95 per night, so it is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, especially when you can get nights in Gili Air for less than a tenner! The outdoor cinema is completely FREE as long as you have a couple of drinks or some food. It is right on the beach; you will hear the waves lapping in the ocean and feel the warm sea breeze. That is perfection for me.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Gili Air around the beginning of April, there is a huge music festival called Air Festival which has seen the likes of Ricardo Ferriera, Dan Baartz and Mimi Love, alongside other international and local electronic acts, just this year! From daylight to after sunset, there is music playing with something for every single person, including families.
Gili Air Island Travel Guide: Day Two
Seeing the beautiful reef and turtle spotting is something I didn’t get to do during my time in Bali and the Gili Islands. However, it is recommended to go off the coast of Gili Air with local diving schools such as Blue Marlin Dive and 3W Dive. With these two companies, you can head out to sea at around 9am for a day of snorkelling, scuba diving or even free diving with lunch included and a return to land at around 4pm. Expect to see parrotfish, butterfly fish, snake eels and giant turtles! If you don’t want to commit yourself to a complete day of snorkelling, you can hire your own equipment too.
You can’t go to Gili Air and not head to the local craftsman shops as well as the market stalls and the westernised shops, complete with air con and an expensive price tag, but beautiful jewellery and garments. The wood and art stores owned by one or two men, who worked in front of the shop were my personal favourites. There, they had wooden jewellery boxes, miniature turtles and other figurines, stunning jewellery, amazing artwork and plenty more awe-inspiring craftsmanship. The fact that you could actually see the items being made made it a much better shopping experience, and lets you part with your money a lot easier. There is always room to barter with these shop owners, and especially those who run market stalls, but you end up wanting to pay the full price because they work so hard for it.
No Gili Air island travel guide would be complete without food. To finish your incredible weekend at Gili Air, head to a cooking class located just a stone’s throw away from the harbour. With a maximum of ten people pair class, Gili Cooking Classes, cater for everyone above the age of six and have vegetarian and vegan options using tofu and tempeh. Traditional Indonesian recipes are created such as Mie Goreng (fried noodles), Indonesian Yellow Curry and Chicken Taliwang – an island tradition, said to come from the village of Karang Taliwang.
I am remembering a heaven-filled few days from my trip there in April and I would return in a heartbeat! The people are so friendly and the beaches and food are fantastic. It doesn’t matter if you are a solo traveller, with your partner, a group of friends or your family, you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable experience.