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Crystal-clear waters, beach clubs and no vehicles make the Gili Islands three little paradises in the Indonesian sea.

But which is the best Gili Island to visit? What are the differences between these three islands? Which is the best Gili Island for snorkeling?

In this article, we will try to help you figure out which one is right for you and answer the question “which is the best Gili Island to visit?”

The Best Gili Island to Visit: Size and Distances

The Gili Islands are a group of volcanic islands surrounded by coral reefs located east of Bali, next to Lombok in Indonesia.

The archipelago comprises three islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. They are small islands, where the only means of transport available are bicycles, horse-drawn carts or… your own legs! In these three little paradises, you can be sure to escape the noise of traffic, which you may have already experienced in Bali!

Gili Trawangan (referred to as Gili-T) is the largest of the three islands, while Gili Meno is the smallest. However, the difference in surface area is not significant: a walking tour of Trawangan takes about an hour and a half, while Gili Meno takes about an hour.
Renting bicycles can drastically reduce travel time, allowing you to reach any part of the island in no more than ten minutes.

In conclusion, all three islands are relatively small, so it doesn’t matter which Gili you choose in terms of size.

Choosing the best Gili Island for snorkelling: coral reef and sea

The sea in the Gili Islands is beautiful everywhere, the beaches are white or golden sand and the water is crystal clear.

However, if you’re looking to snorkel in a beautiful coral reef, there is only one answer to the question ‘Which is the best Gili Island for snorkeling?’ : Gili Meno. This small island boasts several locations with stunning coral gardens teeming with colourful fish.

However, the main attraction is the majestic bask nest located off the west coast. Tourists from neighbouring islands flock to this breathtaking spot daily before continuing their snorkelling adventures at various other points around the island. Being able to stay on the island will enable you to enjoy the peaceful moments when the daily tourists have not yet arrived, allowing you to appreciate the stunning coral reefs.

If you are interested in diving, there are several diving centres on the other two islands that offer more services.

In conclusion, if you wish to snorkel in the Gili Islands, staying on the island is highly recommended and the best Gili Island for snorkeling is Gili Meno.

However, if you are a diving enthusiast, Gili Air or Gili Trawangan may be more suitable due to the additional facilities available.

Isole Gili quale scegliere? Pesci pagliaccio con anemone e corallo durante snorkeling a isole Gili in Indonesia - the best gili island to visit

Clown fish in the sea of Gili Islands

The best Gili Island for fun and nightlife

If fun and nightlife are a must-have for you, surely the answer to the question “Which is the best Gili Island for having fun?” is very simple: Gili Trawangan is the island for you.

In Gili Trawangan there are night parties almost everywhere, from beach clubs to clubs on the beach or even on boats that leave in the afternoon and return at sunset. To give you an idea, in the evenings you can hear the sounds of Gili Trawangan even in Gili Meno.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Gili Meno, where you will not find beach parties, DJ nights etc., so if you are looking for absolute tranquillity and silence, Gili Meno is perfect. This is not to say that there is nothing going on: a typical Gili Meno evening includes an aperitif while watching the sunset, dinner in a beach club and a cocktail at the end of the evening with some live reggae music. It was on this island that we met a local band, famous throughout Gili, called Brotherhood(HERE is their instagram page and their top track for you to listen to while you finish reading the article).

Gili Air is exactly in the middle: there are beach parties (not every night and not in every club, but still every week) and there are also romantic dinners on the beach and tranquillity.


The best Gili Island: restaurants and shopping

All three islands offer a variety of restaurants and clubs along the beaches, with mainly warungs inland.
Traditional Indonesian dishes are always available, as well as freshly grilled fish of the day. Additionally, there are a few places that serve international cuisine, such as popular hamburger spots on all three islands. Overall, the islands are fairly equivalent in terms of food options.

However, if you are interested in dining at non-traditional restaurants such as Italian, Mexican or Indian, you will not find any options in Gili Meno. In contrast, Gili Air and Trawangan offer plenty of choices.

Regarding shopping, there are very few stores in Gili Meno. Therefore, if you are looking for souvenirs like a magnet for your fridge, you may struggle to find one. In Gili Air, there are several shops along the road from the harbour and some areas along the beach. However, Gili Trawangan offers the most variety in terms of shopping and establishments.

Therefore, from a shopping perspective, Gili Trawangan is the best Gili Island, although Gili Air still has a lot to offer!

Isole Gili quale scegliere? Ristorante con tetto di paglia di cucina locale alle isole Gili in Indonesia - the best gili island to visit

Local restaurant in Gili

Isole Gili quale scegliere? Aperitivo al tramonto sulla spiaggia con sole sul mare alle isole Gili in Indonesia - the best gili island to visit

Sunset aperitif in Gili

Isole Gili quale scegliere? Cena sulla sabbia in ristorante alle isole Gili in Indonesia - the best gili island to visit

The evening at Gili...looking at another Gili!

The best Gili Island to visit: number of people

The most crowded island is Gili Trawangan while the one with the fewest people is Gili Meno.
Gili Trawangan is soooo crowded and, especially in the evenings, confusion reigns supreme, most of the people who frequent this island are guys who go for the nightlife.

In Gili Air there are definitely fewer people, with a mix of people ranging from young people to families and couples. You will never find yourself in the middle of the crowds, but still at sunset time and in the evenings there is movement, especially in high season! So, based on crowding, our personal answer is that Gili Air is the best Gili Island to visit in terms of number of people.

Gili Meno is the island of couples and tranquillity, at sunset time you will have no problem taking photos without anyone standing between you and the horizon and during daylight hours it will not be difficult to find long stretches of beach free of tourists.

So, in this case the answer to the question “Which is the best Gili Island to visit?” based on crowding is that it depends on what kind of context you are looking for!

In conclusion, which is the best Gili Island to visit?

As you may have guessed, these three islands are similar but also different in some respects. In general, there is no absolute best or most beautiful one, so the choice has to be made based on what you like and what you are looking for from your holiday.

We visited Gili Air and Gili Meno and our answer is that we generally liked the former better, but little Meno won out in terms of the sea and the reef.
We avoided Gili Trawangan, because the main reason for preferring this island to the others is precisely the nightlife and we were less interested in it, but if you like the nightlife and being around people this is the island for you.

Gili Air is better served than Gili Meno, the accommodation is of a slightly higher standard (unless you go to the luxury hotels) and there is a fair amount of people.
Gili Meno is the island of tranquillity and relaxation, snorkelling and romantic dinners on the beach.

All in all, considering all the aspects we have mentioned, our answer to the question “Which is the best Gili Island to visit?” is Gili Air!

Our final advice is to see at least a couple of islands and not stop at just one, considering that 3 or 4 days on one island is more than enough!

We hope you enjoyed this article and that it clarified your thoughts on the pros and cons of each island in the Gili archipelago. If you would like more information on Indonesia and Bali, we suggest you to stay connected with us, we’ll publish soon more articles about Indonesia, enjoy the read and as always… trip to try!

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