Bali is more than just sea, sun, and sand. Coming to Bali can feel like embarking on a train full of events.
From traditional ceremonies and festivals to crazy parties. No matter what month you visit , you will likely encounter at least one or two of Bali’s unique events as they are held consecutively from January to December.
Perhaps it is time to calibrate your schedule with our Calendar of Events.
January is when the Balinese show their respect for knowledge by conducting a ceremony for the goddes of wisdom, Saraswati, in which offerings are laid before ancient manuscripts, Wedas, and other books. Following Saraswati Ceremony, two other traditional ceremonies are also performed, Pagerwesi for strengthening one’s fortification against evil and Siwa Ratri for worshipping Siwa.
The anniversary of Denpasar is celebrated every February with music and cultural performances. The people of Bali’s capital gather around ‘Cultural Festival Celebration of Denpasar’s Anniversary’ venues to commemorate the founding of their beloved city.
Held annually in March several days prior to Nyepi, Melasti is a Balinese-style pilgrimage performed to purify the world. People walk from their village, bringing heirlooms, to obtain Tirta Amerta or “The Water of Life” from either a lake or the ocean, which is believed to be the source of life itself. The ritual of collecting the water of life symbolizes the cleansing of all sins and bad karmas of the past year.
On Nyepi Day, the people of Bali give the Earth a nice well deserved rest; all activities are stopped, including airports and markets, etc., and the Balinese stay in their houses, not doing anything except meditating. (The sky is incredibly clear at night!)
Right after Nyepi, go to Sesetan Village in Denpasar to enjoy a unique cultural event called Omed-Omedan, in which the youth of Bali, boys and girls, gather in an open field, pair, and then kiss one another, while the crowds pour buckets of water over them.
March in Bali is even more festive with Bali Spirit Festival, a whole month of yoga, dance, and music performances.
April is the best time for you to experience the traditional ambiance of the Island of the Gods, when it is decorated with penjor and accented with yellow throughout the celebration of Galungan and Kuningan Day. Local people will gather at banjar to perform duties and women go back and forth walking in a row while carrying goods on their heads. To get more an even more authentic experience, try visiting the hinterlands.
From June to August, Bali becomes a giant venue for many festivals, including the Bali Arts Festival in which there are so many parades and art exhibitions where you can enjoy performances of long-forgotten traditional dances, rare cuisines and offerings, and workshops of all kinds of traditional Balinese arts. Bali Mandara Mahalango Festival, held from early July to late August, gives exhibitions of both classic and modern art works.
In August there are also festivals in Jembrana, Buleleng, Sanur and Jazz Market By The Sea. But, among all of the events held between June and August, perhaps the most anticipated is Mekare-kare or Pandan War of Tenganan Village. Usually performed around the first half of June, it is to honor the God of War, Indra, where two warriors fight using spiked pandan leaves as their weapons.
As the weather gets clearer and clearer in September, colorful kites will hover over our heads at the Bali Kites Festival. Go further north and you will be amazed by Taman Sukasada Ujung Festival and Lovina Beach Festival. Moviegoers are free to stay in Denpasar to enjoy Denpasar Film Festival.
After an easy ride to the eastern part of the island by your motorbike, you will discover countless world class waves which are going to get your adrenaline pumping. The perfect time to surf is around October when rain rarely falls. But if you are not an aquaphile and prefer the fresh air of highlands—and love reading, perhaps—you can go up north to Ubud, where you can take part at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, either in the audience or as a volunteer, and mingle with your favorite authors.
Perhaps Bali is too tiny for a Formula 1 or motoGP race. But no worries. In November another kind of race titled “Makepung Race Jembrana Cup” is held in Jembrana Regency. It is quite different from any other vehicle race—water buffaloes are the ‘engines’. This tradition is strongly related to the fact that Bali is one of the most important producers of rice around the archipelago. The Makepung cart-race symbolizes the act of carrying harvest to each farmer’s house.
The chain of festivals continues in December: Pemuteran Bay Festival, Denpasar Festival, Penglipuran Village Festival, and Pandawa Beach Festival. And though crazy parties are held daily in Bali, they are going to be more intense with the approach of New Year’s Eve on December 31st. Cozy clubs along Kuta Lanes, Legian, and Seminyak will be packed with people dancing and enjoying their Bintangs. The music is going to be louder and the nights are going to be lit by fire dancers. December will reach its climax with people blowing their paper trumpets and shouting “Happy New Year!”
Text by: Fuji Adriza