Gili or Nusa Penida: Which island to choose?

Have you got bored in Bali and would like to change the scenery? Nearby, there are wonderful corners of Indonesia that will captivate you! Gili and Nusa Penida are islands that are well-known to both tourists and travelers. These are two gems next to Bali that are worth including in your travel itinerary. Moreover, both destinations are completely different and uniquely special. Which one to choose? In this article, we will discuss the features of the Gili and Nusa Penida islands, how to get there, and what to see.

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Gili islands

Gili is a group of three small islands located off the coast of Lombok. They are renowned for their beautiful beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and the opportunity to engage in excellent diving and snorkeling. Gili is also referred to as the Turtle Islands, as if you are a fan of snorkeling, it's unlikely that you'll be able to avoid encounters with these adorable creatures while exploring the underwater world.

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Gili Trawangan is the largest island in the group, hosting the majority of hotels and restaurants. It is also considered the liveliest and most vibrant. Gili Air is slightly smaller and more tranquil, often chosen by families with children or those seeking spiritual practices. While there are still parties on this island, they are not as extensive as those on Trawangan. Gili Meno is the smallest, quietest, and most secluded island, with the least development.

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Administrative Structure of Gili

Gili is administratively part of Lombok Island. The population is primarily Muslim. Here, you won't witness Balinese religious ceremonies or celebrations like Nyepi, the Balinese New Year. Tourists who prefer not to stay indoors during Nyepi often choose to go to Gili, where there are no such restrictions.


A pleasant and relaxed atmosphere prevails on all three Gili Islands. It encourages you to forget about all worries and problems.

The islands are small enough to be easily explored on foot. There are no cars or motorcycles; instead, tourists move around on bicycles, creating a joyful mood that is immediately shared by everyone who comes to Gili.

Here, you'll find a clean and calm ocean, beautiful beaches with white sand, cozy cafes and bars, along with stunning views of the peaks of Bali and Lombok volcanoes.

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Typically, Gili experiences less rainfall than Bali. So, if you happen to encounter rain on the Island of the Gods, you might consider seeking shelter from it on Gili.

Activities on Gili

Gili is a destination primarily known for beach relaxation and marine activities. There are no prominent landmarks on the islands themselves; the attractions are submerged underwater, making it a magnet for divers and freedivers.

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Snorkeling and Diving

The Gili Islands are surrounded by coral reefs that protect the islands from large waves and serve as a home to a rich marine life. Local waters are inhabited by several species of sea turtles and more than 3500 species of other marine creatures. Divers are also drawn to underwater sculptures scattered across the seabed, such as sunken scooters and the famous "Nest" sculpture.

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Exploring the underwater world of Gili can be done through a marine excursion, where you'll be taken to the ocean's most beautiful snorkeling spots.

Moreover, Gili is the perfect place to experience diving. There are tours available for both beginners and experienced certified divers alike.

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Getting around Gili is all about hopping on a bicycle – it's the go-to way to explore the island. You can easily rent a bike at any hotel for a seamless and enjoyable island adventure.

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Horseback Riding

You have the option to arrange a horseback ride and take a sunset stroll along the coastline.ья.

Water Activities

You can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), glide across the calm ocean surface, or try something more adventurous like wakeboarding.


On Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, there are yoga centers where you can join sessions. While they may not be as stylish as those in Bali, the relaxed atmosphere of these small paradise islands compensates for it.

Parties and Concerts

Take an evening stroll along the Gili Trawangan waterfront, and you'll find parties catering to every musical taste. Gili Air also hosts parties and acoustic concerts, so there's no chance of getting bored in the evenings.

Yacht Excursion

Life on Gili is laid-back, but for those who appreciate luxury, an evening yacht cruise with snorkeling and a champagne dinner at sunset would be an exquisite choice.

Accommodation Options

On Gili Air and Gili Trawangan, you'll find a vast array of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget, ranging from simple homestays to stylish and Instagram-worthy hotels. While there are fewer options on Gili Meno, it's still possible to find luxury resorts.

Boats regularly travel between all three Gili Islands, so if you wish, you can easily explore the neighboring islands at any time.

How to get to Gili

Every day, fast boats depart from the Padang Bai port on the east of Bali.

The travel time is approximately 2.5 hours. Tickets can be purchased here.

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You can plan your trip independently or book a ready-made tour that already includes transfers, accommodation, meals, and snorkeling:

Gili Trawangan Tour

Gili Air Tour

Island of Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is a relatively large island southeast of Bali, known for its Instagram-worthy natural locations, ancient temples, and the unique opportunity to swim with giant manta rays.

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Administrative Structure of Nusa Penida

The island is part of the Bali province, with a population of approximately 150,000 people, mostly adherents of Balinese Hinduism. The culture, customs, holidays, and ceremonies here are similar to those on Bali.


Nusa Penida opened up to tourists relatively recently, and despite rapid development, the island still retains a wild charm. It is often described as "Bali 10 years ago." The infrastructure is not as advanced, and the roads can be challenging. Getting around the island is possible by scooter or car, but distances are quite substantial.

The island entices with its authenticity, breathtaking views, and exoticism.

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The weather on Nusa Penida is pretty much like Bali. More rainfall is expected from December to March, while it tends to be drier from April to November.

Things to Do on Nusa Penida

Travelers choose Nusa Penida if they seek an active exploration of the island's natural beauty.

Exploring Top Spots

Nusa Penida boasts Instagram-famous locations, such as the iconic dinosaur-shaped rock at Kelingking Beach, the natural arch and the unique Broken Beach, the paradisiacal Diamond Beach with its white sands and diamond-shaped cliff, and many more. A single day might not be enough to visit them all!

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Descent to Kelingking Beach

This will appeal to adventurers eager to test their mettle by descending the cliffs to reach the secluded beach. It won't be an easy feat, and swimming at the beach is not allowed, but the sensations of witnessing an untouched piece of land surrounded by cliffs are simply incredible.

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Snorkeling or Diving with Mantas

Some people purposefully travel to Nusa Penida to dive or snorkel with giant manta rays. These marine creatures are incredibly curious and completely harmless to humans.

To catch a glimpse of them, you can join a snorkeling excursion or embark on a diving tour.

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Searching for the Mola-Mola

Another extraordinary creature you may encounter during local dives is the colossal sunfish known as the "Mola-Mola." From July to October, it rises closer to the surface, drawing divers from around the world who come here to catch a glimpse of it.

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Beach Relaxation

Many beautiful beaches in Nusa Penida, such as Diamond Beach or Kelingking Beach, are not suitable for swimming due to high waves. Therefore, if you're looking to take a dip, it's worth carefully choosing a beach: Crystal Bay and Atuh Beach are perfect for this. Not only are they calm, but they are also incredibly picturesque.

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Ancient Temples

On the island, much like in Bali, there are numerous sacred places. For example, it's worth exploring the cave temple Pura Goa Giri Putri.

Trip to the Neighboring Islands - Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan

Near Nusa Penida, there are two more small islands boasting beautiful beaches, viewpoints, mangrove forests, fantastic snorkeling, and a tranquil atmosphere. These islands can be seen as a middle ground between Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands. If you wish to explore all three Nusa islands at once, we recommend checking out our two-day tour.

Where to Stay

On Nusa Penida, there are plenty of hotel and homestay options to suit every taste and budget.

Getting to Nusa Penida

There are two ways to reach Nusa Penida from Bali: a fast boat from Sanur (35 minutes) or a ferry from Padang Bai (a little over 1 hour). The second option is suitable if you plan to bring your own transportation or want to save a bit.

On our website, you can purchase tickets for the fast boat or book a ready-made tour.

If you prefer to explore the island at your own pace, we recommend booking a car with a driver.

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Гили и Нуса Пенида - два совершенно разных направления по своей атмосфере и природе. И каждое из них по-своему горячо любимо туристами. Если у вас есть такая возможность - рекомендуем включить их оба.

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