Traveling throughout Indonesia was one of the best experiences of my life. The lush green landscape, crystal clear water, and white sand beaches make for an absolutely stunning landscape. The region has so much to offer from outdoor recreation to cultural history.
Although I didn’t travel throughout the entire country, I had the opportunity to travel through the islands around the central/eastern region and I have condensed a list to some of the best and most breathtaking areas as a guide for your travels!
Although Bali can be very touristic at times, the island is incredible and definitely worth a visit. The best way to get around and away from the crowds is to rent a scooter and explore the island yourself! There are a lot of tour packages available but that means traveling in a large group of people – which can have both positive and negative aspects. Exploring by scooter allows you to find new, hidden spots or get to the popular destination before the crowds!
Some of my favorite spots were the Tagallalang Rice Terraces, the area surrounding Ubud, and surfer town of Canggu!
There are three small islands clustered northeast of Bali: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. They do not allow cars, scooters, or motorized scooter of any sort – which allows for a one-of-a-kind experience! My favorite way to get around the islands was by bicycle or just walking. They are each a short boat ride from one another but are extremely different based on atmosphere and tourists crowds.
Gili T is the most popular island of the three and is known for the nightlife. The island is crowded and speckled with bars and restaurants all along the beach. Spend the day lounging on a comfy beach chair with a drink in hand or take a boat out to one of the dive sites! Gili T is known for the vibrant nightlife, with parties along the beach each night.
Although many people have a good experience here, this island was my least favorite for a variety of reasons and preferences. In my opinion, the island is a bit dirty and crowded which takes away from the experience of being on a small island. Upon arrival by boat from Bali, I was shocked to see the open exploitation of the horses on the island. Since there are no motorized vehicles on the island, the main source of transportation for most people is by horse and carriage. The horses are left is a heart-achingly condition, malnourished and chained to their carriage – even during the night… As an animal conservationist, this left a really bad taste in my mouth and could have altered my perspective and experience on the island. I did not take part in the animal cruelty and instead opted to bike and walk everywhere I went. I encourage anyone going to the island to do the same as the island is small enough to do this with ease.
Another note – it is stated that the coral reefs around the beaches make for amazing snorkeling. This is not true. Unfortunately, most of the coral reefs surrounding Gili T have been destroyed by tourists. When snorkeling, diving, or swimming, remember not to touch the coral or creatures in the area. Do not pick stuff from the reef to keep as a souvenir. These activities are practiced all too often and have depleted the once thriving coral reefs all over the world.
The smallest of the three island is perfect for a quiet, secluded escape. Because of my experience of Gili T, I decided to head on a boat to Gili Meno and was pleasantly surprised. I rented a small villa in the jungle landscape and ended up extending because I like it so much! Gili Meno was exactly what I was looking for from a small island – secluded, amazing beached, peacefulness, and still rugged and wild landscape. There was minimal wifi so it was a total escape from the real world. I spent my days exploring the island, swimming and recharging from almost half a year of on the go traveling through Southeast Asia.
The happy medium between the two islands – with the restaurants and bars available comparable to Gili T but the quiet more peaceful vibe of Gili Meno. Spend the day diving or snorkeling or just enjoying the beach life. Spend the evening dancing or having a pint at one the chic pubs or clubs!
Lombok… surfer’s paradise. I had tried surfing while in the Philippines but truly fell in love with the sport while in Lombok. I stayed in the hippy beach town on Kuta and spent my days testing out my surfing skills on a variety of beaches surrounding the area. Other than surfing, there are countless hiking trails and amazing sites to see within the rugged landscape.
Nusa Penida is one of those places that just takes your breath away from the moment you arrive. Although it is picking up in the tourist scene with the viral pictures going around, I had the opportunity to explore the island while it was still very secluded.
Most people traveling in the area go to the other islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. Knowing these islands are both very crowded, I decided to go to the island less traveled – and it was worth it! Seen from my enthusiasm over Gili Meno, I absolutely adore finding secluded, private spots where tourists are still the minority.
The only way to get around the island is to rent a scooter, grab a map, and go explore for yourself! This island is one of my favorite places in the entire world – I cannot recommend it enough! Although, take note that it is fairly difficult to get to a lot of the sites and therefore requires a high fitness and endurance level! My favorite sites on this island are Broken Beach, Angel’s Billabong, and Atuh Beach!