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Gili Islands &Lombok on a shoestring

Updated: Feb 6, 2018

Gili T, Gili Meno, Gili Air - it sounds like the beginning of a rhyme, but it is actually 3 Indonesian Islands, all with different vibes and personality. With some of our best friends from Denmark, we toured the Gili's for 5 days at a 3 star hotel, a private villa and a luxury hut on the cliffs. Hear Philip's story from the Indonesian paradise, where cars are banned!

Content by Philip Juul Nyegaard / Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul

Above was our view from one of our stays, the villa in Gili Trawangang, but first, let's rewind a little. Some of our closest friends in Denmark had come to Singapore to visit for 2 weeks, and my mum and dad and their parents, wanted to go somewhere special, where we'd create great memories for our two families. They had heard about the Gili Islands, and how these 3 islands outside of Lombok, was meant to have a laidback, less developed paradise feel, yet all islands being different.

We flew to Lombok from Singapore, drove for 1,5 hours, and then got a 20 min. boat over to our first stop, Gili Air. In the sofa you can get a glimpse of Ella and playing chess - here we'd just arrived to Grand Sunset Hotel and quickly got into the slow life of the Gili's: swimming in the pool, playing table-tennis, chess and playing on the beach.

While writing this, it's been over 2 years since we went with our friends to the Gili's, but I remember clearly that the hotel had a great restaurant, called Scratch, where we spent most of our meals and sat on their swings (instead of chairs) in the bar! I also remember, that you didn't see a car at any of the Gili's. If you wanted to get anywhere, you had to bike... or get a horse carriage!

On one of the first days, we took a carriage around the island to see the the rest of the islands, but although Grand Sunset is away from the busy part, Gili Air isn't that busy - it's known for being easy-going, and the 'chilled', but still happening island of the 3. Quite a few backpackers, but not the party scene like Gili T and not the honeymoon feel at Meno.

The Gili's is a divers spot, and especially by Gili Meno, as this is the place is the turtle heaven! As we weren't quite old enough to do prover diving with scuba tanks, we went on a small boat-tour to Gili Meno with our snorkel and masks. Gili Meno is the most low key of the three islands, not many hotels or restaurants, mostly couples and at the time, a little too quiet for us kids. Perhaps this is why the turtles like it so much!

We didn't see many, but we did see a couple of turtles when snorkelling! And a few was very exciting, as all us kids had only ever seen turtles on land - seeing them swim, made us realise that their reputation of being "slow movers", is a bit unfair!

The beach was also great, but the one thing that did surprise us a bit, was the tide. Not that it bothered us a great deal, but both at Gili Air and Gili T, our mornings and late evenings were spent looking at a lot of dead coral. This might be because the spots with less tide are located in the crowded areas, and we'd chosen accommodation a little off the beaten track, but you have to keep it in mind, when you are planning to swim or snorkle or do other water sports.

I guess there was one good thing to be said about the low tide - you can watch the sunset, while doing yoga in the sea!

We spent 3 days at Grand Sunset and after 2 nights in slightly cramped rooms for a family of 4, we were looking forward to our next stop at Gili Trawangan. Here, we'd rented a villa through Air B'n'B, with 4 rooms for our 2 families, our own pool and and private beach!

Coral Flora was owned by an Italian who had then booked staff to look after the house, as she herself was living in Bali. The place was nice and cozy, and the staff would cook us breakfast and tidy and clean the place so much that we felt like royals!

The villa was a playground for me, Sienna and our friends - so much space, our own pool and no one would tell us to be quiet!

The beach was right outside our door, and we spent hours there, just playing uno on the sundecks or looking for crabs by the rocks. Only thing I wished we'd remembered, were some wet shoes for the coral - especially at low tide when we still wanted to explore, but the surface was a little too rough on the feet!

At night we'd sometimes order takeaway, but a short walk away, there were some upmarket hotels and nice restaurants and the walk there. I remember sitting outside on the beach under these Frangipani trees at this really nice restaurant - and also walking to the restaurant and seing this: !

Not a car in sight, no noise, only this volcano in the horizon. And yes, you can look over to Bali, so this is in fact the Mount Agung volcano, the one that is erupting as I'm writing this! But no eruption back then, and surprisingly quiet at this end, when you think that Gili Trawangan is known to be the 'party-island' of the 3 Gili's. But, then you just have to walk the other direction...

Mum and dad were pretty happy to have chosen Coral Flora, because what you see here, is not what met us 500 metres down the road. Here, the hostels and restaurants are back to back and the narrow beach is crowded with tables, people and long tail boats. We didn't go there at night, but just from our day trips, you could tell where the party was, and being two families, we didn't need to join.

Spending 2 nights here with our friends, was too short, the best ever! To have your own villa where you can play games and talk without distractions, also meant that you didn't feel he age-gap between us and the other kids so much, and to spend time with my godmother like this, was new and really great!

But, our Gili adventures were short and had come to and end, our two families hugged and goodbye'd, and for the remaining holiday we headed off to two separate locations on Lombok.

Our family could only afford one night in our last location, as it was a major treat! Mum and dad had had this hotel recommended by so many people, that they insisted on trying it out. The Lombok Lodge it was called.

And even though we were only 4 and 5, Sienna and I could see that this was indeed pretty special. Located on a cliff, looking over to our Gili's, Lombok Lodge felt like Denmark in warm and tropical Asia. The furniture and design of the houses seemed like something from our holidays at home and the rooms were stocked with toys, films and sweets for us kids feeling like home and never wanting to leave the room

Our 24 expensive hours here were enjoyed to the maximum! The food, the pool and yes, the room left us wanting more!

Wouldn't you, if you had take-away like this, while your parents went next right next door for their dinner? ...yes, we were home alone, although they did come to check up on us every 10 minutes...

We will always remember Lombok & the Gili's. The turtles, the horse carriages, the beaches, the villa, the Lombok Lodge but most of all, to be on holiday with such good friends from home, having these memories for the rest of our lives, is what I still remember the most.

Goodbye from all of us - and thank you for reading my story!


Flight return Singapore-Lombok, 2,5 hrs. one way.

Lombok Airport - Pier: taxi, 1 hr, 30 min.

Pier - Gili Air, boat, 25 min.

Boat between Gili's: 10 min.

Gili Trawangan - Lombok Lodge, boat, 30 min.

REASON: We'd been to Bali and heard that Lombok was a low key, much less touristy Bali. Also we liked the idea of island hopping and staying in islands with no cars.

ITINEARY: October 2015 - 2 nights Gili Air, 2 nights Gili Trawangan, 1 night Lombok

PRICERANGE: 3 very different budgets, that doubled as we changed locations.

STRETCH: 5 nights and 6 days

PHILIP: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Hotel Grand Sunset, Gili Air:

Villa Coral Flora:

Lombok Lodge:

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