That was the question we asked each other before travelling to Bali: shall we spend a couple of relaxing days at the touristic Gili Air or perhaps the undeveloped Nusa Lembongan?
Well, it really depends on what you are looking for.
After my stay at both Gili Air (one of the three Gili Islands) and Nusa Lembongan, I have a clear winner and it is Gili Air but please note that both are good choices, it is just a personal preference.
Nevertheless, I´m going to tell you some pros and cons.
Why should you choose Gili Air?
- You can walk everywhere
- If you don´t want to walk, you can rent a bike
- Loads of cool restaurants and bars
- Food is delicious (bargain if you spot an opportunity, mainly if you are on the opposite side of the island, taking the pier as a reference)
- You can rent a kayak and visit the neighbour island Gili Meno to see turtles. If you don´t feel that adventurous, you can paddle around the island and stop time to time to snorkling
- Beaches are breath-taking: white sand and pure blue sea and great for snorkel
- Lombok coffee is better than Bali coffee, with a little touch of cinnamon
- There are party nights but only 3 days per week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or during full moon. Make sure your stay in the island is at least during one of those nights, otherwise it´s similar to Nusa Lembongan, everything closed after 10-11pm
- If you are a party animal, this is not your Gili. Try Gili Trawangan instead. I can´t tell more about Gili T, as we didn´t have time to try both
- More touristic, although you can find less crowded spots
- It´s more expensive than Nusa Lembongan (both food and fast boat)
- Takes longer to get there (around 2-3 hours from Padang Bai pier in East Bali)
Why should you try Nusa Lembongan?
- It is more authentic and less touristic
- It´s more laid-back, so you can really find your piece of heaven
- If you are a bike lover, that´s your island. Rent a motorbike and explore the island yourself (make sure you bring an international driving licence with you)
- The fast boat is cheaper and quicker (around 30 minutes from Sanur Beach in South East Bali)
- If you are afraid of driving a motorbike, then this island is not your best choice
- Perhaps too laid-back. Restaurants and bars close very early (around 9-10pm)
- Beaches are not amazing but better than Bali itself though
If you decide to go to Nusa Lembongan I highly recommend you to stay at Kawans Inn. They also offer the best coffee I have tried in Bali (thinking of European style caffee latte of course) and the best omelette ever!!
Of course if you have enough time visit both and make your own assessment.
See you around witties!