Top Events

Bali's Galungan & Kuningan, dates vary

Pasola, February

Idul Fitri, July

Tana Toraja Funeral Festivals, July & August

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, October

January

The first part of the month is busy in Bali as many Australians arrive for Christmas and New Year holidays. Europeans searching for warmth also arrive in large numbers.

Garebeg

Java's three most colourful festivals are held annually in Yogyakarta at the end of January and April and the beginning of November. Huge numbers of people in traditional dress march in processions with garish floats all to the tune of gamelan music.

February

It's dry season in the east. This is a good time to hit dive and snorkel sites in Maluku and Papua, where the waters will be especially clear.

Pasola

Nusa Tenggara's biggest festival: vividly dressed teams of horsemen engage in mock, though sometimes bloody, battles in West Sumba. Often coincides with Nyale in Lombok, a huge fishing festival celebrated by the Sasaks.

Cap Goh Meh

Dragons and lions dance on Chinese Lunar New Year in ethnic communities across Indonesia. Some of the most colourful are in Singkawang, where these creatures dance alongside possessed Chinese and Dayak holy men during Kalimantan's biggest Chinese Lunar New Year celebration.

March

A good time to visit Indonesia as crowds are few and options are many. The rainy season is tailing off in Java, Bali and western Nusa Tenggara.

Java Jazz

Held in early March at the Jakarta Convention Center, this huge festival attracts acclaimed international artists. This is a major event on the cultural calendar and each year the number of luminaries on the performance list grows.

Nyepi

Bali’s major Hindu festival, Nyepi, celebrates a new year on the religious calendar. It’s marked by inactivity – to convince evil spirits that Bali is uninhabited. The night before sees community celebrations with ogoh-ogoh, huge papier-mâché monsters that go up in flames. March or early April.

June

A relaxed time in Indonesia sees few crowds anywhere. June tends to be very hot around much of the archipelago but the dry season is just around the corner.

Danau Sentani

Festival Danau Sentani features spectacular traditional dances and chanting as well as boat events, music, crafts and more. A highlight of Papua's north, it centres on lakeside Kalkhote, near Sentani town.

Danau Toba Festival

This week-long festival in mid-June features canoe races on Sumatra's famus crater lake as well as Batak cultural performances.

July

Although visitor numbers are high in Bali and other areas popular with tourists, July is often the coolest and driest time of the year outside Maluku and Papua.

Tana Toraja Funeral Festivals

A Sulawesi highlight and an excellent reason to visit the island. Held during July and August, the ceremonies often shock first-time visitors. Toraja working throughout the country return home for celebrations and funeral rituals.

Erau Festival

Every August thousands of Dayaks from across Kalimantan attend the Erau festival in Tenggarong, a vast intertribal party punctuated by traditional dances, ritual ceremonies and other events. It draws folk dancers worldwide; plan ahead to reserve space.

Idul Fitri

Idul Fitri is the traditional end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and this huge week-long holiday sees tens of millions of people travelling to their home villages or holidaying in places like Bali. Avoid travelling if possible. The date is slightly earlier each year.

August

Independence Day on 17 August sees a spectacle of parades and celebrations in Jakarta and across the country. You'll see school kids out practising their marching in the prior weeks. Note that Bali gets busy with Australians escaping the southern hemisphere winter.

Bidar Races

Spectacular bidar (canoe) races are held on South Sumatra's Sungai Musi in Palembang every 17 August and 16 June (the city's birthday). There is also a dragon-boat festival in Padang in July or August. Up to 60 rowers power these boats.

Baliem Valley Festival

A celebration of indigenous culture in Papua's Baliem Valley, with mock 'tribal fighting', full traditional regalia, dance and music. The festivities take place over two days during the second week of August.

October

A good month for travel with few crowds and many good deals. It's the start of rainy season in Java and Bali but in recent years there has been less rain.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

This Ubud festival brings together scores of writers and readers from around the world in a celebration of writing – especially that which touches on Bali. Its reputation grows each year.

Madura Bull Races

Bull racing is the major sport on Pulau Madura, off Java. Teams compete throughout the year to see who'll make the finals held annually in Pamekasan. These competitions feature over 100 racing bulls and legions of fervent fans. Note that the festival is associated with animal-welfare issues.

December

Popular tourist areas are very busy from the week before Christmas through New Year's. This is a busy time in Bali but prime time for diving in areas such as Maluku's Banda Islands.

Galungan & Kuningan

One of Bali’s major festivals, Galungan celebrates the death of the legendary tyrant Mayadenawa. Over 10 days the gods come to earth for the festivities. Barong (mythical lion-dog creatures) prance from temple to temple and village to village. Locals rejoice with feasts and visits to families.