Gili Meno—the Island Paradise I’m Still Dreaming About (Photo Essay)


When I visited Gili Meno, the smallest of Indonesia’s ‘Gili Islands,’ it was love at first sight. It was truly paradise—simply beautiful and beyond peaceful—which is why I can’t stop dreaming about it now.

Paradise: Gili Meno Island, Indonesia

Deciding Which Gili Island to Visit

Before I took this trip, I’d been in Indonesia for close to two months and was burning out on Bali (Ubud and Sanur), which was a bit too touristic and ‘tout-istic’ for me. I’d heard of the Gili Islands—a relatively famous archipelago of 3 islands—and was intrigued. I knew that:

  • Gili Trawangan is the largest and most-developed island in the chain—the place to go if you want to party and have decent wifi…
People Arriving at Gili Trawangan

People Arriving at Gili Trawangan, the largest island, which happens to be party-oriented

  • Gili Meno is the smallest and quietest–a true Robinson Crusoe getaway—great for honeymooners and people who want to truly enjoy their solitude…
  • Gili Air is medium-sized and quieter than Trawangan, but with a certain amount of action—the happy medium…

Gili Meno was the place for me! I took a speed boat from Amed, a cluster of fishing villages and black sand beaches in Bali (cool place to visit, by the way), and visited this island, which is close to Lombok, a much larger island to the east.

As soon as I arrived, I relaxed. There were no cars, no motorbikes (just horse-drawn carriages) and just a few non-aggressive touts. And so few people that it almost looked abandoned. My kind of place!

By the way, Gili means ‘small island’ in Sasak, the language spoken in Lombok, the island seen in the photo (in the not-so-far-off distance). Gili Meno’s population: approximately 500. The size: 2 kilometres long and 1 km wide.

You can walk around the island in about 1.5 hours, maybe just an hour. You can cut across it much faster. It’s that small.

I rarely saw more people than this; usually, a few or none at all!

Horse-Drawn Carriage, Gili Meno

A ‘cidomo,’ a horse-drawn cart–the only transportation on the island (other than walking)

How/Why This Island Is Still In My Dreams

I felt a profound sense of peace when I was there—as if I’d been doing yoga and meditating for a few weeks. I was also captivated by its beauty and magical atmostphere.

Some mornings now, home in N.J., just as I’m waking up, I see this island in my mind and relive my experience. I remember the mostly white, sometimes light peach-colored sand (during dusk) and the clear turquoise water…and what it felt like to be there…

Paradise: Gili Meno, Indonesia

My favorite spot on the beach…

I recall walking in the sand, finding a spot in the shade and entering the water that was not quite as warm as bath water…the way things would cool off and quiet down (if that was even possible–it was so quiet during the day anyway).

Flip-Flops in the Sand

Gili Meno Bungalow

Feeling Welcome

I also remember how warm and friendly the locals were…the way they rested in the shade during Ramadan…how often they said hello when I walked past…the chats I’d get into with those who spoke English. I felt welcome and comfortable.

This is Ari, one of the locals, who helped me find accommodations. The next day, I went on a snorkeling trip with him and his boss…

Ari, Local Man from Gili Meno

Ari, local who works on snorkeling boat

Woman Carving Pineapple

This woman did a lovely job of carving pineapples. Believe me, it tasted as good as it looks!

Me Enjoying Carved Pineapple

Me during one of many happy moments

The family from whom I rented a bungalow was really wonderful. They were fasting for Ramadan and during the day, they would rest on a colorful mat in this structure, which provided shade and a cooler temperature. They invited me to join them several times.

Family Resting in Shade During Ramadan

Friendly Sasak Couple, Gili Meno

Banana Pancake Breakfast, Gili Meno

Banana pancake breakfast that was included with the price of my room

Gili Meno Mosque

I can’t forget my snorkeling experience, either. That was fantastic. We went out to some deeper water and had to jump off the side of the boat to get in (I used a ladder). The fish I saw were so colorful…and the water was simply dreamy.

Snorkeling boats, Gili Meno

I’m itching to return to Gili Meno, but not for a few years because I’d want to see other parts of Indonesia and revisit some friends in other parts of the country. It’s too soon since I was there just last year.

Gili Meno Island, Indonesia

Gili Meno Island, Indonesia

Your Thoughts? Reactions?

Looking at these photos while writing this post, I actually got choked up. There’s something about this island, its natural beauty and the people, that really moved me.

I am 100% sure that I will return. I worry, however, that it may be overdeveloped. I recall seeing construction when I was there. Hopefully, I’ll be back before it changes too much.

Is there an island you keep dreaming about?

Do you have an island that you dream of visiting or one that you have visited and now can’t stop dreaming about? If so, which one? What made it so special for you?

Have you visited any of the Gili Islands?

If so, which one and why? If you visited Gili Meno, then you know that it’s is an entirely different world–one of true peace and serenity.

Which of the 3 islands would you choose to visit?

If you haven’t been to this part of Indonesia and could visit one of the Gili Islands, which one would it be and why?

View of Lombok from Gili Meno Island

What I saw when I arrived at Gili Meno

Can’t Get Enough?

Interested in reading more posts about Indonesia? Click here.

Want to see more photos from around the world? Here are the other ‘photos of the day‘ (people, places and things) from several continents.

Like unusual photos? Check out my ‘trippy travel photos.’ The post begins as a game and ends as a learning experience. Enjoy!

22 Responses to Gili Meno—the Island Paradise I’m Still Dreaming About (Photo Essay)
  1. Annie of TravelShus
    July 9, 2013 | 4:54 pm

    i loved gili meno so much. We did a vow renewal on a completely empty beach overlooking Rinjani. Just my husband and I. I will always hold Meno in a special place…
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Photo Inspiration: The San Francisco BayMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 9, 2013 | 11:36 pm

      Hi, Annie. That is SO cool. What a wonderful place for something so special. I loved it there as a solo traveler, but I can imagine it as being great for a romantic situation, too. Wow.

      So what led you guys there? I’m curious. Had you been there before?

      • Annie of TravelShus
        July 10, 2013 | 4:11 pm

        I had been eyeing on websites and in guide books all along our RTW. We knew we wanted to do a vow renewal on a beach since our actual wedding was more vineyardy. It was really nice in Meno – very low key and amazingly beautiful. Bought a jeweled coconut box trinket for a sand ceremony and still have it, filled with Meno and Gili T sand, on my mantle in Brooklyn. I love looking at the white and pink specs when I miss Indonesia….
        Annie of TravelShus recently posted..Photo Inspiration: The San Francisco BayMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          July 13, 2013 | 1:17 pm

          I love the idea of the coconut box for a sand ceremony–how cool!

  2. Maria
    July 11, 2013 | 9:12 pm

    Gorgeous water. Soooo relaxing to just look at the photos – I’d be comatose if there. ha!
    Maria recently posted..Wordless Wednesday – Liquid ArtMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 13, 2013 | 2:56 pm

      Yes, very relaxing…comatose is a good word for it. I was so chilled out!

  3. Traveling Ted
    July 15, 2013 | 4:35 pm

    Beautiful photos. I can see why you were talking so enthusiastically about Indonesia at TBEX.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..A sunset tour kayaking to the Cleveland skylineMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 16, 2013 | 10:23 am

      Thank you, Ted. I’ll never forget this island!

  4. Danny Delnison
    July 19, 2013 | 12:25 am

    Beautiful place to go. Looks like you very happy at there! Yeah, i will go to there soonnnnnn!

    • CB Driver
      July 20, 2013 | 11:28 am

      Hi, Danny. It’s is gorgeous and I was very happy there. I can’t wait to return. If you go, enjoy! :)

  5. Tom @ Waegook Tom
    July 19, 2013 | 3:11 am

    This looks lovely, although as you know, I need my city culture or I start to go a little crazy. It’s somewhere I’d go with the bf, although not alone. I think the medium-sized Gili island would be the one I’d likely head to.

    And now I’m craving pineapple.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Czech Food: Prague’s Must-Eat TreatsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 20, 2013 | 11:27 am

      Ah, so maybe Gili Air for you? That makes sense. The serious party place might work your nerves. A lot of foreigners, some loud (I would think), and probably too many from your own country (which some travelers would rather not encounter).

      Re: the pineapple…it was fantastic!

  6. Frank
    July 19, 2013 | 8:01 pm

    Great post Lisa!
    Gili islands on my list for the near term and you’ve just sealed that Gili Meno would also be the place for us. Hmm, the only thing I’m worried about is missing my beer – how traditional is Gili Meno?
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted..3 bars with the best views in Old MontrealMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 20, 2013 | 11:26 am

      Thanks, Frank! Gili Meno has beer and over alcoholic beverages. I was there during Ramadan and had a few drinks. I don’t think the bars are open super late, however, and it’s a pretty quiet place.

      For me, it was perfect. I have a feeling you’d love it!

      And if you go and get a little bored, you can always relocate to Gili Air. :)

  7. Penny Sadler
    July 20, 2013 | 10:54 am

    I can see why you want to go back! No brainer.
    I’d go to the party island. :)
    Penny Sadler recently posted..The Colors of ItalyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 20, 2013 | 11:25 am

      Hi, Penny. Yes, a no brainer–for sure! The party island, huh? I understand. If you’re in the mood for fun (vs quiet), Gili Trawangan would be the best choice! :)

  8. Indri Arsy
    July 25, 2013 | 7:34 am

    thank you for sharing the article about Indonesia, i should go there soon. have you ever been to Pulau Seribu, Jakarta? there is lots of island. i hope if you go to Jakarta, i’m gonna show you. don’t worry about traffic jam 😀
    Indri Arsy recently posted..The trees knock on their windowsMy Profile

  9. flipnomad
    August 14, 2013 | 4:33 am

    Oh wow! Looks like a very beautiful beach! I haven’t been to the Gili Islands yet and this post makes me wanna go now! :-)

    Safe Travels Lisa
    flipnomad recently posted..How to Stay Aware of Email Frauds while TravelingMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 15, 2013 | 9:46 am

      Thanks! It was one of the best I’ve ever been to. Not only was it beautiful, but the people were super friendly. Miss that place!

  10. fery
    June 10, 2014 | 3:30 am

    Meno is one of 13,487 islands of Indonesia. Mostly they have beautiful beach, white sand, coconut tree, rocks and so on. If you fond of diving, you should go to Wakatobi, Raja Ampat or Sabang/Weh. You will see the gorgeous underwater scenery. Even though they are tourist spots, but you can cast away from the crowd by strolling along the beach area that still quite or sit on the porch overhanging bungalow which stand on the shoreline, made of wood and bamboo. No offense, that’s why I’m really proud being Indonesian

    • CB Driver
      June 10, 2014 | 6:47 pm

      Hi, Fery. I’d be proud, too! I don’t dive, but I snorkel. I’d love to see some of the other islands. Maybe I’ll return someday and do that. Thanks!

  11. bali wood house
    July 4, 2015 | 6:24 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Asia. Regards

Leave a Reply to Danny Delnison

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

CommentLuv badge

Trackback URL

Like this blog?

Get my book!


follow the bus

Join Our Facebook Fan Page



don't miss the bus! sign up for the monthly newsletter
Chicken Busology
Learn more about chicken buses by checking out these links:

Chicky Bus: The Real Story: Join me on a wild 12-hour chicken bus ride through Central America. Meet cheese smugglers and other characters. 

Chicken Bus Q & A: I answer all the questions you might have about chicken buses, but were afraid to ask. 

Want the quick fix
Watch the YouTube video to the right of this box. Vicarious thrills guaranteed!

come ride a Chicken Bus