We’ll start by stating the obvious – Bali is fantastic. The island offers great beaches, fantastic parties and year-round surfing. But despite all this, there is still so much more to the region that just this single island. Indonesia is, after all, made up of tens of thousands of islands each with their own unique flavor and culture. Luckily, there’s plenty to discover just a stone’s throw away from Bali.
If you want to explore Indonesia beyond Bali but don’t have a ton of time on your hands, this tiny island just off the south-east coast of Bali might just be the perfect destination. Nusa Lembongan offers relaxed beach vibes away from the crowds. The island is a very peaceful alternative to noisy Kuta as there are little to no cars. It’s also a good place for indulging in some water sports. You can try diving, stand up paddling or surfing. You can reach Nusa Lembongan by catching a 30 minute boat from Sanur.
Lombok offers many of the same attractions as Bali – minus the crowds. Though tourism is picking up here too, so far Lombok has maintained a relatively low-key vibe. Lombok offers fantastic, unspoilt beaches and it’s a great place for trying out water sports such as parasailing, jet-skiing and diving.
South Lombok in particular is a dream destination for surfers. Climbing the imposing Mount Rinjani is not for the faint of heart, but the views from the top of this volcano are well worth the hike. Lombok will also help expand your view of Indonesia as it is a dominantly Muslim island as opposed to flamboyant Hinduism you’ll encounter in Bali. You can catch a ferry to Lombok from Padanga Bai in eastern Bali. There are also plenty of speedboats that run between the two islands, though some visitors prefer catching the 30 minute flight from the Ngurah Rai International Airport instead.
The Gilis are a cluster of three tiny islands just off the coast of Lombok. Though the three Gilis are typically lumped up together, they’re not all the same. Here’s the breakdown:
Gili Trawagan is the largest of the three and receives the most visitors. It’s also known as the party island.
On the other end of the spectrum you have Gili Meno which is the smallest of all three and also the quietest, frequented by couples and families.
If you want to experience the best of both worlds, Gili Air is the middle man regarding both size and liveliness, with a bit of a bohemian vibe thrown in. You can reach the island of your choice by catching a boat from Lombok or directly from Bali where most people depart from Sanur or Padang Bai.