Lombok’s most popular tourist destination, the Gili Islands (or just the Gilis) came to the attention of the wider world as a backpacker mecca in the 1980s and 1990s.
This is still true to some extent, and the islands are still a fixture on the Banana Pancake Trail. But times are changing, and there is now an array of glamour options on the islands, especially so on Gili Trawangan. The islands are very relaxed and laid-back, with countless little beachside cafes, restaurants and bars serving a variety of tastes in local and international cuisine. Best of all, there are no cars or motorbikes to disturb the peace.
There are increasing numbers of westerners living on the Gilis, and operating businesses ranging from dive companies to resorts. There is a strong environmental focus as the reefs were damaged in the past. While previously most people came to dive, snorkel and party, now a wider spectrum of visitors including families and couples are enjoying the islands. The focus remains on the beach and in the sea. There are also many options to wine and dine, visit a spa or hang out and meet new friends.
Strictly speaking, the name “Gili Islands” is rather redundant as gili simply means “small island” in Sasak, but the name has stuck and is universally used and understood in Lombok.
There are also some other islands off Lombok called Gili Something, eg. Gili Nanggu and Gili Gede, but these are located to the southwest near Lembar, quite a distance from the “main” Gilis.