If you're headed to Indonesia and are going to spend some time around this islands, but still want to decide where to spend more time, or which one to choose between these two, let me start by telling you they are very much different one from the other, and they're both worth the visit. Let me tell you all about them.
One of these islands offers complete relaxation and isolation from a busy lifestyle. Here you can find white sand beaches with turquoise water, shallow and no waves, so you can spend the day actually inside the water. You can find a large number of waterfalls, treks, beaches, restaurants and hotels with little tourism, so that's good for avoiding the crowds.
The other island offers a very wide variety of accommodation; from big resorts to small boutique hotels, from expensive and luxurious, to affordable and minimalistic. Also caters all types of food, you name it, it is on this island. Apart from the local delights, you will find western options to satisfy you when you've had enough Nasi Goreng. The catch? All these beautiful hotels and restaurants come with a big crowd and a waiting line.
Bali has become a very much desired holiday destination thanks to social media. Now, the most known part of this island is from the centre to the south. You will find beautiful and isolated places in the north, but the north is about three or four hours from the main touristy places like Canggu beaches and Ubud Monkey Forest. The centre and south are the places where you will find a gorgeous hotel pools where to take that amazing shot for your social media, a beautiful cafe with a catchy writing on the wall that says you're in Bali, and not to mention, waterfalls, swings, rice terraces, bars and beach clubs that are currently trending on Instagram.
Bali's best beaches are actually not in Bali main island, they are part of Bali, but happen to be in other islands. If you're looking for clear blue water and white sand, you will have to take a boat to either Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida or Nusa Ceningan. Here the look of the beaches is truly beautiful, but beware of swimming here, the current is very strong and the waves are huge.
On the other hand, Bali's mainland beaches are not as beautiful as you might think. Or at least that was my surprise. I found garbage floating EVERYWHERE! The colour of the water is dark green to brown, and the waves are strong, which is great to surf, but not to swim. Although, I do have to admit sunsets in Canggu are gorgeous.
Lombok is what Bali used to be a few decades ago. Lombok has way better beaches, way more waterfalls and way less tourism than Bali. You can still find resorts and western food in the area of Sengigi, and you won't have to wait in line for them. The roads here are amazing! The driving conditions are great! There is little or no traffic and you can get everywhere you want on a scooter. So if you're not staying in Sengigi, but want to go there for dinner, the road is very much safe.
Food here is super cheap. If it is already cheap in Bali, imagine how cheap it can get here. Apart from the well known Balinese dishes, Lombok has got its own regional food called Sasak. This food is spicier, not necessarily hotter, just with more flavour and spices, and truly delicious.
And have you heard about the Gili Islands? It is a group of three small islands with the best beaches ever, surrounded by a coral reef and lots of turtles, and yeah, they are part of Lombok, not Bali. The cheapest and fastest way to get to them is from Lombok, which actually has an international airport.
Truth is Lombok isn't as famous as Bali, so you will find everything here at half the price. Also, truth is tourism here hasn't exploded as it did in Bali, so although there will be someone that can speak English in your hotel, this doesn't apply to everywhere else, so be prepared to try and communicate with signals.
Honestly, Bali is an amazing place, I won't deny it. But it is way overcrowded. Perhaps it is time to go and discover some other of the 18,307 Indonesian islands, and I'm not talking about going too far away. Lombok is just a ferry ride away from Bali, so you can even visit both on the same trip.