Most vibrant events for the cultural traveller: Bali festivals
Some of us travel to find perfect serenity; a secluded resort neatly concealed from the outside world by a wall of dense vegetation; an expansive body of bright blue water, flanked by a long and lonely beach, with not a soul in sight.
If you travel with your significant other, you probably know this scene all too well. And while the peace and privacy that Bali’s luxury resorts serve on a silver platter is utterly delicious, there are some of us who crave colour, chaos and complete immersion Balinese culture. That is after a drawn out morning in the spa, of course.
There’s no better way to immerse oneself in Balinese tradition and connect with its beautiful people than through unique and vibrant festivals, when the streets light up with smiles and Bali’s true spirit and traditions come alive.
It might take some coordination to organize your holiday to coincide with these dates, but if culture is what you seek, culture is what you’ll get at these annual festivals in Bali.
Bali festivals: Bali Spirit Festival
The Bali Spirit Festival is a modern celebration of yoga, music and dance. Now in its 8th year, this progressive festival was founded by Robert Weber, a musician and filmmaker who carefully curates the festival music lineup to bring spiritually inspired musicians from around the world to the heart of Ubud.
In 2012 the festival attracted 6,000 holistic travellers from 50 countries across the globe, and over 1,000 Indonesians who hopped from their respective islands to attend the event. Evening concerts take place at the Agung Rai Museum Art outdoor stage, fusing Bali’s tradition and contemporary sounds with international music genres.
This festival has quickly become one of the best yoga festivals in the world according to the South China Morning Post; it’s an energetic event that captures the essence of Bali’s spiritual culture and thriving sense of community.
The next festival will be held in Ubud on the 29th of March until the 3rd of April 2016.
The Sanur Village Festival celebrates Sanur’s culture and heritage, engaging visitors with a vast line up of programs and activities including the Sanur Kite Festival, Sanur Auto Festival, fun run, beach clean ups, cultural parades, fishing competitions, music, food and more.
In its 10th year, regular festival participants say the festival gets better each year. There are a wide variety of activities for kids and the whole family, and it’s held during a time of year when the days are cool and the nights are balmy.
The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, held in Bali’s artistic and cultural heartland of Ubud, is Southeast Asia’s most renowned literary event. The festival celebrates extraordinary stories and amplifies brave voices at the forefront of global issues and big ideas.
Leading writers, thinkers, artists and performers from across Indonesia and all corners of the globe will come together over five full days of events to celebrate knowledge and the arts, education, wisdom and science.
The 2015 festival will be held from 28th Oct – 1st November 2015. Visit the official website for more information.
Bali festivals: Bali Live International Jazz Festival
The Bali Live International Jazz Festival is one of the biggest Jazz Festivals in the world that showcases both local talent and international artists. The Jazz Café in Ubud is the festival’s unofficial institution, with the bar being the first live Jazz venue in Bali when it opened in 1996.
The five-night program starts with pre-event performances across a selection of live music venues around Bali; Jazz Café in Ubud, Uma Cucina in Ubud, Ryoshi House of Jazz Seminyak, SOS Anantara Seminyak, Hard Rock Café in Kuta, Beachwalk Shopping Centre Kuta, Mozaic Beach Club Kerobokan, Sundara Restaurant in Jimbaran, Le Meridien Hotel Jimbaran and Nusa Dua Beach Hotel in Nusa Dua.
The main concert is held on the last day of the festival at Taman Bhagawan, an iconic and idyllic ocean front venue in Tanjung Benoa.
The Bali Live International Jazz Festival was held in March. Visit the official Bali Live Festival website for 2016 festival dates.
Bali festivals: Bali Kite Festival
The Bali Kite Festival is an annual international kite festival where traditional giant kites are made and flown competitively by teams from the villages of Denpasar.
The event is a seasonal religious festival intended to send a message to the Hindu Gods to create abundant crops and harvests.
For a romantic twist, take a stroll on Sanur Beach where you can get a great view of the colourful kites sailing across the sky and hear the faint echos of the gamelan orchestra.
The Bali Kite Festival is held each year in July at Padang Galak, Sanur Beach.
Bali festivals: Rice Harvest Festival
The annual Rice Harvest Festival marks the end of the Bali’s harvest season. Visitors are welcome to join in on the festivities and sample traditional cuisine cooked in honor of Dewi Sri, the Rice God.
As part of the celebration the Negara Bull Races, a Balinese tradition, is held in Perancak at the end of the festival, where water buffaloes are decorated with ornate and colourful headdresses and compete in races.
The Rice Harvest Festival is held in each year in May in various locations around Bali. Simply ask around to find out what’s going on in your area.
Bali festivals: Bali Art Festival
In its 37th year, the Bali Arts Festival takes place between June and July at Bali’s Art Centre in Denpasar, revolving around a fresh, central theme each year. The festival is celebrated for a month, beginning with a parade attended by the Indonesian President.
Cultural groups from Indonesia, as well as the USA, India, Korea and Europe, participate in the event, performing daily dance, music and cultural activities as well as fringe fairs that crop up to make the most of the influx of crowds and activities.
Dates are June 13 to July 11, 2015, and the theme “Jagadhita: Strengthening Public Welfare”.
Have you experienced any of these festivals? Leave a comment below, we want to hear about it!