Bali, otherwise known as the Island of the Gods, is the top travel destinations in Indonesia. Combining incredible history with an exotic, spiritual culture, Bali offers something for everyone. Best of all, the island is truly beautiful, boasting everything from lush green forests to mountains to white sand beaches. While Bali is a bucket list destination for many, don’t forget about the many islands near Bali that are just as exciting and scenic.
About 280 km (170 miles) from Bali is Moyo Island, which is located just north of the island called Sumbawa. Moyo Island is relatively remote and mostly undeveloped, save for one luxurious resort. As a result, Moyo Island is the epitome of a luxurious escape for those who want to see a less crowded, more natural side of Indonesia, but who also want to make the most of upscale amenities. Most of the island is covered in the Moyo Island Hunting Park, where there are no buildings and plenty of wildlife. The entire coastline of the island is a marine conservation area, making it ideal for those who enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling.
One of the islands directly south of Bali is called Nusa Ceningan. Accessible by a bridge from two neighboring isles, Nusa Ceningan is small but absolutely worth a visit. Many of the local residents are involved in seaweed farming, and you’ll definitely want to see them harvest the seaweed while you’re there. If it is breathtaking scenery that you’re after, head to Blue Lagoon for the ultimate photography destination. For those in search of adrenaline, Mahana Point is a must-see spot. A bar at the top of the point offers exceptional views, and many visitors jump off the cliff into the clear, deep water below.
The large island west of Bali is called Java, and it is where you’ll find major cities like Jakarta. If you want to experience the rich cultural history and heritage of Indonesia, Java is an unforgettable place to go. Many guided tours from Bali can help you hit the Javanese highlights in just a day or two, taking care of the logistics along the way. You might explore ancient Hindu temples like Borobudur or tour amazing structures like the Sultan’s Palace, the seat of Indonesian royalty. Volcanoes, temples, and beaches are just a few of the appealing attractions that Java has to offer.
West of Bali is Komodo Island. As you might anticipate based on the name, Komodo Island is home to many Komodo dragons, the world’s largest lizard. Much of the island is part of the Komodo National Park which also includes the islands of Rinca and Padar, creating a preserve for the local wildlife and their habitats. You can get to Komodo Island via ferries, and many visitors come on guided tours from Lombok though a tour from Bali is also possible. Although the animals on the islands are a big draw, the surrounding sea is also wildly popular for scuba diving. In particular, the reefs off the coast of Komodo Island house sharks and even manta rays.
The largest of the Nusa Islands off the southern coast of Bali is Nusa Penida. Daily ferries and private speed boats bring you from Bali to Nusa Penida, and most visitors come for secluded beaches and a less touristy vibe than much of Bali. Crystal Bay boasts pristine white sand, clear water and great snorkeling, making it one of the busier beaches on Nusa Penida. If you’re looking for more secluded spots, plan a walk to the limestone caves of Goa Giri Putri or go birdwatching in the lush Tembeling Forest. As is the case for much of Indonesia, scuba diving opportunities abound.
The third of the Nusa Islands near Bali is Nusa Lembongan, a destination that is quickly earning a reputation for breathtaking scenery without a lot of tourism infrastructure. Jungut Batu is the busier beach, a favorite of surfers and budget travelers. More privacy can be found on the south of the island in places like Devil’s Tear, where low cliffs provide spectacular views over the water. In addition to an abundance of beaches, Nusa Lembongan is home to seaweed farms, mangrove forests and the impressive Hindu Puncak Sari Temple.
Just off the coast of Lombok is a collection of islands known together as the Gili Islands. One of these is Gili Air, the island closest to Lombok. Gili Air has a reputation as the most relaxed of the Gilis, and it is a mecca for outdoor activities. Scuba diving, snorkeling and freediving are all popular off the coast, and a rich underwater life and beautiful coral reefs give you plenty to see. The local culinary scene revolves around fresh grilled seafood, and while nightlife is minimal, there is always an open bar and some live music to enjoy.
Gili Meno is the middle island in the Gilis, and it is largely known as the most romantic spot in Indonesia. As a result, it is often couples that come to Gili Meno, and it is a prime honeymoon destination. In addition to cocktails at sunset and romantic strolls on the beach, Gili Meno is ideal for animal lovers. Taman Burung is a fantastic aviary, and at Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary you can watch turtles and their young safely make it to the beach. There are several spots around the island where you can take PADI certification classes to start scuba diving, or you could opt to rent snorkeling equipment right from beachside vendors.
If Gili Meno is for romantics and Gili Air is for intrepid travelers, then Gili Trawangan is for nightlife lovers in search of a good party. Trawangan is the largest and most popular of the Gili Islands, and there is always something going on there, day or night! During the day, you can take yoga classes or try scuba diving, or you might opt for surfing lessons and a boat tour. At sunset, however, the island truly comes alive and everyone starts to let loose. Plenty of bars and clubs host party nights, ensuring there is always something going on until dawn.
Lombok is a large island east of Bali, and it is a diverse and scenic spot to explore on vacation. On the south of island, you’ll find the beach town of Kuta, where surfers gather. Almost a world away from the same-named beach town in Bali, Kuta offers spectacular beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. In North Lombok, a less visited part of the island, you can hike to the summit of Mount Rinjani, admire some of the many waterfalls in the area or take a ferry over the Gili Islands. For a busier, urban atmosphere, head to Mataram, the island’s largest city. In Mataram, you can tour an 18th century palace at Mayura Garden or embark on a culinary street food adventure with a stroll along Jalan Udayana.