Lombok brings a quieter, more untouched pace in comparison to Bali. It is the gateway to the Gili Islands and the underwater life surrounding the island is a divers paradise. In contrast, Bali is much more developed, and tourism has a hold on the island, it also connects across to Nusa Lembongan.
So which island is the one for you?
Bali has some of the most Instagrammed and dramatic tourist sights like rice paddies, beaches, cafes and safaris. It welcomes a wide variety of people each searching for something different. With its large expat community, it has many different influences from outside cultures too.
Lombok, however, is still most notable for its beaches and remote tropical island feel. Here you will find it is less about visiting popular attractions and more about enjoying the natural landscape like Mount Rinjani, traditional villages, beaches and coves. The quieter pace of the island is perfect for those looking for an opportunity to slow down, while Bali's buzz brings nightlife, activities and adventure all week long. Of course, Lombok is not a secret anymore, and its tourism has certainly escalated, however not yet like Bali.
What about the difference in diving?
Well, Bali has a wonderful choice of diving locations, yet if you're a true dive enthusiastic, then, in this case, Lombok wins. Even if you just choose to snorkel, in the water below, you'll see turtles, rays, colourful fish and even sharks. While Bali requires a bit of travel to specific dive sites in order to see the same marine life, with much less visibility in the waters surrounding the island.
For the foodies, Bali wins this one.
With a choice of both Indonesian and Western fare, Bali caters well to dietary requirements like gluten-free or vegan. If nightlife is at the top of your list, then Bali will suit you better, with many bars and late-night events for you to enjoy. But if you're looking for a quiet escape away from busy bars and Instagram-worthy cafes, then Lombok will be perfect for you. There are not really any lounge bars or cafes that stay open until late in Lombok, yet for a late night celebration visit Gili Trawangan, known for being a party island.
And the final question is, what's the cost difference between Bali and Lombok?
Well, this one may come as a surprise as Lombok experiences less tourism; however, this affects its prices and in result makes it more expensive.
Why? Because food and drink need to be imported onto the island. The same goes for accommodation. You will notice cost increases on the Gili Islands too.
While both destinations are beautiful and worth visiting, what it comes down to is what kind of holiday you're looking for? If you're looking for a quieter, relaxing destination that you can explore the natural environment and local culture, then Lombok is for you. Otherwise, if you're looking for a bit of action, and a mix of culture and events, then Bali is for you.