7 Festivals Taking Place in Bali in 2022
Bali attracts visitors with its beaches, spas, food, temples, and volcanoes, but it also hosts a busy schedule of festivals and events that celebrate the island’s unique culture and traditions. They’re a great opportunity to meet local people and join in with their celebrations. Here are seven events to look out for in Bali in 2022.
Nyepi and Balinese New Year, March
Balinese New Year celebrations span six days, and at the centre of the festivities is Nyepi. But rather than being a raucous event, Nyepi is in fact the Balinese "Day of Silence", a public holiday involving silence, self-reflection, fasting, and meditation. The island comes to a standstill, with most activities forbidden, including work, entertainment, and travel. The streets are empty, and there's very little activity or noise. Tourists are not exempt, with beaches off limits and shops and businesses closed.
Nyepi takes place on the third day, and there are plenty of livelier events going on during the other days. On the evening before Nyepi, Ogoh-Ogoh parades take place, during which the men and boys of each village head through the streets — accompanied by sounds including gamelan music, claxons, and drums — carrying huge effigies of scary creatures, which are then ritually burned to symbolise the eradication of evil. The day after Nyepi, Ngembak Geni, sees the resumption of daily life, and more celebrations and rituals take place.
Saraswati Day, March and October
Saraswati Day, which takes place every 210 days according to the Balinese calendar, celebrates Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, and learning. The day before the celebration, people clean and dust their books in preparation, then on Saraswati Day itself, wherever people are, whether at work, at home, or in the temple, they make offerings to Saraswati. These offerings are usually placed inside books to demonstrate the importance of learning. Because all books are considered as being offered to the goddess on Saraswati Day, people avoid reading or writing in them during on the day. Then in the evening, it's common to head to a temple to read religious books to honour Saraswati. The celebration of Pagerwasi, which takes place three days after Saraswati Day, is held to protect knowledge from evil (Pagerwasi means “iron fence”).
Ubud Food Festival, April
Indonesia is one of the world's most populous countries, and its thousands of islands are home to a diversity of cultures and produce. A great opportunity to learn more about the country's diverse cuisine is the annual Ubud Food Festival. The 3-day event showcases the food of Indonesia, the country’s innovative chefs, and the wonderful array of ingredients available there. The festival features cookery demonstrations, food tours, talks, workshops, markets, and cooking classes, as well as live music and other performances. You can also of course visit Ubud’s many eateries, which range from street food stalls to fine-dining restaurants, where you’ll learn that the country offers much, much more than just satay, nasi goreng, and beef rendang.
The 10-day festival of Galungan celebrates the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma). Balinese Hindus believe the gods come down to earth to join in the celebrations, and the spirits of the deceased will return to their homes, so leave offerings for them — look out for penjor: tall poles decorated with fruit, leaves, and flowers, that are put up outside homes around the island.
During Galungan, Balinese visit temples and travel to see extended family. There’s also a Ngelawang ceremony in every village to banish evil spirits. Galungan climaxes with Kuningan, the day on which supreme deity Sang Hyang Widhi arrives to bless everyone, before all the gods and ancestors return to their own realm. This is followed by Manis Kuningan, a day devoted to fun and celebration. Galungan takes place every 210 days.
Bali Arts Festival, June-July
Bali Arts Festival showcases the traditional and unique arts of Bali. The annual event has been running since 1979, when it was launched with the intention of preserving Balinese culture and reviving the island's lost art forms. Today it features art, dance, handicrafts, puppetry, music, and much more, and performers come from villages and towns all over Bali; some even travel from elsewhere in Indonesia and overseas. The festival runs for a month, and starts with a grand opening parade at the Bajra Sandhi monument in Renon, in Denpasar, and many events take place at the Werdhi Budaya Arts Centre (also known as the Bali Arts Centre) in the Balinese capital.
Bali Kite Festival, July
In July, the weather in Bali is sunny and dry, while there’s usually a pleasant breeze. It’s the perfect time of year for engaging in a popular and traditional pastime on the island: kite flying. Bali Kite Festival celebrates the Balinese love of kite flying, while also serving as a festival thanking the Hindu gods for successful crop harvests.
The festival, which attracts visitors from around Indonesia and beyond, takes place near Sanur, on the coast close to Denpasar. Teams representing different villages fly spectacular Balinese kites often measuring around 10x4 metres (the tails can measure up to 150 metres long), and common shapes include fish, birds, and leaves. Prizes are awarded for various categories, including best launch, best design, and longest flight. Each team has 10 kite flyers and up to 70 other members who offer support by waving flags and playing Gamelan music.
Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, October
This annual 10-day literary festival attracts writers and book lovers from around the world to the town of Ubud. Events include literary lunches, readings, conversations, and panel discussions, as well as writing workshops in which budding authors can learn new skills and have their work critiqued. Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is widely considered Southeast Asia's leading literary festival. Each year's event has a distinct theme, and features Indonesian writers and international authors discussing their books, which cover all kinds of subjects.
Nick Elvin contributed to this post.