Bali is absolutely gorgeous year-round, but there are certain times that make visiting this island absolutely magical. You’ll want to be aware of the local customs and celebrations to make sure you make the most of your vacation and don’t miss any quality sightseeing time.
Spring in Bali
Spring in Bali is an ideal time to visit before their busiest season starts in June. One of the most important spring customs in Bali is Nyepi, a sacred day devoted to giving the island a break from 364 days of human activity. It is usually held around March, is highly anticipated, and yet has often caught tourists off-guard. It is known as the Balinese Day of Silence, and for 24 hours, everyone on the island (including tourists) is expected to stay inside, with near-absolute silence. Even the airport shuts down. However, the locals have figured out the trick: party the night before and spend Nyepirelaxing (and recovering) in your home/hotel room. So, plan your activities accordingly!
The Ubud Food Festival and The Bali Spirit Festival both take place in March/April in Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud, and reflect the island’s spiritual way of life. The Ubud Food Festival brings local/international chefs and food personalities together, aiming to share Indonesia’s rich culinary culture with the rest of the world. Food-lovers can visit kitchen stage demos and attend talks presented by famous experts like Indonesia’s William Wongso. The Bali Spirit Festival is a seven-day event filled with workshops, concerts, markets, and other fun events. Visitors who want to explore different dimensions of their spiritual selves flock to Ubud annually, making this a staple for yoga lovers, hypnotic dancers, and holistic healers. If you’re feeling the flow, book your trip during this special time on the island.
Vesak, also known as Waisak Day, is celebrated annually in Indonesia on the full moon of the month of May and commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. The release of sky lanterns is one of the most impressive moments on Waisak Day as spectators witness the beauty of the glowing lanterns against the night sky. If you’re in Bali in May, this is something you shouldn’t miss.
Summer in Bali
Summer is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year in Bali and is filled with festivals. If you like action, you must venture to Tenganan Dauh Tukad, a village east of Denpasar. Every June, during Perang Pandan, you can see teenage boys duel in the streets as they physically exhibit their rite of passage into manhood.
The Bali Art Festival is a monthlong celebration that showcases the best of Bali’s native heritage and is held from the second Saturday of June through mid-July. Traditional theater, modern performances, culinary exhibitions, and a whole gamut of art forms will be on display, from shadow puppets to paintings. Every day, there’s a different lineup, so you’re sure to see something new and interesting every day that you attend!
The Bali Kite Festival is another festival, and it’s held in late July/early August at Padang Galak Beach near Sanur. There are so many designs to behold – wild animals, boats, dragons – all competing for their piece of the sky and a possible cash prize. Be sure to confirm the festivities beforehand, as winds need to be favorable.
Galungan, a time when the Balinese believe the spirits of the dead roam the earth, kicks off a 10-day, Bali-wide celebration honoring the gods. The Balinese show a warm welcome to spirits with rituals in both their homes and local temples. They give small offerings intended to restore the balance of dharma over adharma (the good over evil). It follows the 210-day Pawukon calendar, so it’s held twice a year with different small holidays leading up to the big day. During this 10-day period, gods and ancestors are believed to descend to Earth for the festivities. The last day of the 10-day festivity is Kuningan, a day for prayer and honoring ancestors. It usually falls at the end of July or beginning of August and is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for tourists!
Every August 17th commemorates Hari Merdeka, Indonesia’s Independence Day, and is always a big celebration. Not to be confused with Malaysia’s Hari Merdeka on August 31, Indonesia’s Independence Day is completely separate. Transportation can halt during Hari Merdeka since many roads and town centers are closed down, traffic gets rerouted and clogged, and buses may be short on staff while their drivers enjoy the holiday. Flights can get more expensive as people travel home for the holiday, so you’ll want to plan ahead and find a nice place to stop moving for a day or two to enjoy the festivities.
In August, the Sanur Beach Community hosts a full week of food, water sports, environmental awareness initiatives, and more at the Sanur Village Festival.
The Bali Marathon is also held in August, and runners can enjoy the challenge of flat roads and rolling hills as they zoom through several East Bali villages.
Fall in Bali
From late July to its final, main celebration in November, the Makepung (buffalo races) are held in a series of events throughout the late Summer and Fall seasons. Farmers compete on harvest fields temporarily transformed into racing courses while they drive teams of water buffaloes. It’s truly a festive time!
September to October marks the designated time for the Lovina Festival in the village of Kalibukbuk Beach, North Bali. With performance arts exhibitions galore, this fun festival is highlighted by towering fruit and flower offerings.
September is also the time of the Balinale, or Bali International Film Festival. Award-winning fiction, documentaries, features, and short stories are shownin select theaters and often accompanied by special talks from writers and directors. It’s a real treat for film buffs.
In October, Nusa Dua Fiesta is another weeklong celebration of arts, culture, food, music, and sports. Making it an especially fun time are the cooking and mixology competitions held by local chef associations and the island’s top bartenders.
October or November also features the Bali International Triathlon, which regularly highlights an Olympic distance course for male and female divisions. This fun event is perfect for avid runners, amateurs, and families. It’s great for those who want to stay fit during their vacation.
In October, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival attracts literary experts and word nerds from all over the globe with workshops, book launches, youth programs, and the like.
Winter in Bali
Winter in Bali slows down a bit, and tourists can really enjoy exploring on their own and enjoying the holiday seasons. Since the island is Indonesia’s unofficial art and handicraft center, Christmas shopping is a must. It’ll be hard to decide what to bring back for everyone. Shadow puppets, batik cloth, and handmade furniture are top choices. Silver jewelry, natural soaps, aromatic oils, wooden carvings, woven bags/baskets … so many gift ideas! Bali’s array of upscale boutiques, galleries, and rustic handicraft workshops make the island literally a shopper’s paradise!
Although Bali is a Hindu island in a predominantly Muslim nation, there is an active Christian community with plenty of Catholic and Protestant, English-speaking churches that will give you a warm welcome. Check their websites for details on Christmas services, if you’d like to attend.
The whole island typically turns into a huge party for those staying during New Year’s Eve. You can check out one of the local restaurants that usually feature a special holiday menu or you can opt to have a small private party with family and friends in your own rented villa. Fireworks can be seen in locations all over the island – and often, throughout the night!
While January is filled with heavy rains, the Chinese New Year celebrations in February help bring the beautiful winter season to a fiery close. Chinese New Year in Bali can be such a delight, with all the exquisite and colorful decorations, masks, dances, and celebrations. And, because the Chinese New Year embodies feasting with family, Bali’s restaurants help solidify the festivities by hosting lion dances made complete with “pop-up” dumplings on the beach.
No matter when you decide to visit Bali – or what you desire to celebrate – there are plenty of choices and activities to make your venture to the “Island of the Gods” one for the books. As long as you plan ahead of time and are aware of any public holidays and closures, your visit to Bali is bound to be filled with incredible memories.
Let us help you plan a trip to see all the life Bali has to offer!