Gili Trawangan

When Indonesia is under consideration as a holiday destination, it tends to split into two separate desires, first the one to explore, to take in the cultural identity of the country and experience its history; secondly to relax and spend some time by the beach or pool.  

Beach holidays obviously form a huge proportion of holiday travel, especially from the more northern countries who can’t guarantee sunshine during the summer months and can guarantee wind, rain and snow during the winter ones. The desire to escape somewhere with certain sun and sand is evidenced by the sheer number of places from which to choose, all over the world. It merely depends how much a traveller wishes to spend, how far they want to go and the type of experience they are seeking. 

As far as Indonesia is concerned, Bali is clearly the most famous and most popular destination. For certain countries like Australia, it is the nearest overseas beach option, but the range of nationalities present indicates the popularity of it rather abundantly. Of course Bali possesses a number of different types of experience, from the nightlife of Kuta and Seminyak through the bars and restaurants of Sanur to the quieter north and west of the island. 

If Bali is by far the biggest draw, then Lombok is the next one on the list. With its own airport or boat transfer from the mainland, it offers a more exclusive experience, and particularly for couples. It’s still a developed destination, but isn’t in the same league as the heart of the Balinese resort areas. 

But what about another option? The Gilis have always been the alternative, albeit much less well known and a rather different experience. There will be some who choose a different island each visit, and some who come only the once. As ever, it depends what is being sought. 

Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three, with its sisters Gili Meno and Gili Air also offering a tourist experience. Small they may be, with Trawangan only 3km by 2km yet it’s not a complete retreat, the main – indeed only – street is active, with bars, restaurants and shops aplenty. But nor is it so busy you couldn’t tell the difference, there are no roads as such, only dirt tracks to form the street, and no traffic. Getting around is done on foot, by bike or by cimono – a horse drawn cart that most visitors will use at least once if only to carry their luggage. The cimonos aren’t especially cheap by local standards, journeys costing around 100,000 rupiahs each way – £6 in British money. Of course that’s relative, as it’s hardly going to break the bank, but by local standards it’s a touch pricey. 

Where you stay depends on budget, preferences in nightlife and where you wish to be on the island. Sunset over the sea does require being on the west of it for example.  

As with so many destinations there are the obvious places to go and the less obvious ones. Some are put off by feeling that a place might be too remote and too quiet. For the time being at least, Gili Trawangan straddles that divide nicely. 

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