With its rice fields, ancient temples, lush jungles, and beaches, there’s no denying that Bali is an incredible place to visit and live in! But it isn't even close to being the only beautiful destination in Indonesia. If you plan on being in Bali for a while, there’s also a whole list of other gorgeous Indonesian islands that are often overlooked (and happen to be reachable in less than a few hours)! These are some of the best weekend trips from Bali:
NOTE: getting to a handful of these destinations will require taking a fast boat. Fast boats are usually operated by private companies, and these companies don’t always share the same departure and arrival locations on every island. Make sure to check ports before booking.
The Nusa Islands
The Nusa Islands are made up of three small islands just southeast of Bali. They’re known for their relaxed atmospheres, sandy beaches, and spectacular landscapes.
Nusa Penida is the largest of the Nusa Islands. If you’re on the hunt for some breathtaking sea views, visit Broken Beach, Angel’s Billabong, Crystal Bay, or the instafamous skyhigh viewpoint above Kelingking Beach. Can’t resist the those azure waters? Take your underwater experiences to the next level by diving through an underwater temple at Temple Point. On land, you can hike through the Tembeling Forest to the vibrant Tembeling Natural Pool, and don’t skip a visit to the sacred Goa Giri Putri underground temple too.
Nusa Lembongan is a great deal smaller than its neighbour, Nusa Penida, but it also offers loads of activities for adventure hunters and relaxation seekers alike. For some quality beach time, you can pay a visit to Mushroom Beach, Jungut Batu Beach, or Dream Beach. Alternatively, you can go on a calming kayak ride through the island’s mangrove forests. If you’re staying on Nusa Lembongan for longer than a day, check out the Devil’s Tear and tide pools for one of the island’s best sunset spots. Ever wanted to give surfing or freediving a shot? You can on Nusa Lembongan!
Nusa Ceningan is the smallest Nusa Island, and it is partially sandwiched between Penida and Lembongan. The easiest way to reach Nusa Ceningan is by crossing “the Bridge of Love” from Lembongan. Once on Ceningan, make sure to visit to the island’s mesmerizing Blue Lagoon. To get your adrenaline going, go cliff jumping at Mahana Point or take a ride on the Abyss Zipline at Ceningan Island Resort.
Getting to the Nusa Islands:
The Nusa Islands can be easily accessed by fast boats from Sanur or Padang Bai. For travelers in and around Denpasar, I recommend catching a boat from Sanur since the coastal town is only a 30-minute drive from the heart of Bali’s capital.
When visiting Nusa Penida, fast boat trips from both Sanur and Padang Bai can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. If you’re planning on bringing a vehicle to Nusa Penida, you’ll have to take the public ferry from Padang Bai, and this journey can take around 2 hours.
Fast boats to Nusa Lembongan from Sanur and Padang Bai take approximately 30 to 50 minutes. As mentioned, Nusa Ceningan can be reached by foot from Nusa Lembongan, and attractions on these two islands are all within walking and cycling distance.
The Gili Islands
The Gili Islands, are also made up of 3 islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. They’re just northwest of Lombok and are famous for their stunning beaches, turquoise waters, and spectacular sunsets.
On top of lounging and strolling along the Gilis’ sandy beaches, you can cycle, snorkel, scuba dive, and kayak around the islands. The Gilis are the perfect place to go if you’re on a mission to escape Bali’s hustle and bustle for a few days. Electric scooters and bicycles can be used for transportation, but otherwise, the islands are vehicle-free.
Each Gili Island caters to a slightly different crowd:
The largest Gili Island, “Gili T”, is known for its party scene, and you’ll find a multitude of bars hosting weekly parties. On Gili T, you can also indulge on some tasty dishes at the island’s Night Market (open every evening).
Gili Meno is located between Gili T and Gili Air. It’s the smallest of the three islands and is quite a bit quieter than Gili T. The island is popular amongst couples, so Gili Meno may be your island of choice if you’re looking for a romantic getaway. Even if you’re not, keep in mind that many people claim Gili Meno has the best beaches of the three.
Gili Air is more laid back than Gili T, but it still has a bit of a nightlife scene. It tends to be the preferred island for people in need of those relaxing island vibes AND opportunities to still join in on a party or two.
Getting to the Gili Islands:
You can reach the Gili Islands by taking a fast boat from Bali. Popular departure points for fast boats include Padang Bai, Amed, and Sanur. While the journey from Padang Bai can take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, the trip from Amed only takes around 45 minutes. If you’re traveling from Sanur, you can expect a longer journey that could last around 4+ hours.
(UPDATE: As of August 5, 2018, Lombok suffered a massive 6.9 earthquake, which has not only devastated the lives of the Indonesian people living there, but has also entirely prevented tourism at the time of this update. Depending on when you are reading this blog post, it would be wise to research the state of the island.
At the time of this update, aid on Lombok is desperately needed and can be done via sending donations here. This Go Fund Me is run by dear friends of mine and its legitimacy is confirmed. 100% of the proceeds are going to help the people of Lombok.)
The next “big” island east of Bali is Lombok Island. While you won’t be able to experience all of Lombok in a weekend, you’ll definitely get a taste of the island that will leave you coming back for more. Lombok is less touristy than Bali and is the perfect place for nature lovers. You can find pristine beaches, such as Mawun and Tanjung Aan, with surfable waves in the south, and jungle waterfalls, such as Air Terjun Benang Kelambu and Tiu Kelep, in the north. One of the islands most popular attractions is a multi-day hike up Mount Rinjani, which is Indonesia’s second tallest volcano. And it happens to be an active one too! From the top of the volcano, hikers can look down at a stunning, turquoise crater lake.
Getting to Lombok Island:
You can reach Lombok from Bali by boat or plane. Similar to the Nusa and Gili Islands, fast boats depart from Padang Bai or Sanur. Traveling from Padang Bai by fast boat can take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. The public ferry from Padang Bai can take around 5 hours. A fast boat trip from Sanur to Lombok lasts around 3 to 4+ hours. If you want to cut down on the time it takes to get to Lombok, you can catch a 30-minute flight from Ngurah Rai International Airport by Denpasar to Lombok International Airport.
Komodo National Park and Flores Island
If the name hasn’t already given it away, there’s one famous creature you’ll catch sight of in Komodo National Park: the Komodo Dragon. Visiting these large lizards on Komodo, Padar, and Rinca, (the national park’s larger islands), tends to be the area’s main attraction. However, komodo dragons definitely aren’t the only attraction. A huge variety of marine life in the area provides visitors with unreal scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities, and Komodo Island is also home to a rare pink beach.
Getting to Komodo, Padar and Rinca:
In order to reach Komodo National Park, you need to book a boat tour from Labuan Bajo, a coastal town on Flores Island. Labuan Bajo is home to Komodo Airport, which is the closest airport to Komodo National Park. Flights from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Komodo Airport take approximately 1 hour.
And then there's beautiful Flores…
When planning a trip to Komodo National Park, make sure to fit in some time for exploring the island of Flores. Flores is off the beaten tourist path, but impressive natural landmarks, such as Kelimutu with its three crater lakes and Cunca Rami Waterfall, are totally worth the visit.
Just west of Bali, you’ll find the more densely populated province of East Java. While the area is home to Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, East Java is also full of natural, historical, and cultural wonders. Popular attractions include hiking up Mount Bromo (an active volcano), catching sight of blue flames in the Ijen Crater, and visiting some of the province’s seriously gorgeous waterfalls (check out: Madakaripura, Tumpak Sewu, and Coban Pelangi).
Getting to East Java:
If you’re going on a weekend trip to East Java from Bali, you can opt to take a 30-minute ferry ride from Gilimanuk in western Bali to Ketapang in East Java. If you prefer to travel from capital to capital, you can just as easily book a 50-minute flight from Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport to Surabuya’s Juanda International Airport.
Which Indonesian island would you visit first? Have you already been to any? Share them in the comments!
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