Being a diverse country of origins and religions, the festivals in Indonesia have a good mix of cultural events and ceremonies. Check out the top 18 Indonesian festivals not to be missed all year round; as you can see, you will never be short of choices.
With more than 230 million people, even the ‘minorities’ people will have large enough celebrations. Here you can find religious events from Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and the rest more local festivals, ceremonies, or arts and cultural events, some celebrated by the nation while most unique to regional areas or regions.
Nyepi, which means “Day of Silence, is the day of the Balinese New Year, commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) based on the Balinese calendar; therefore changes every year but generally in March. On this day, you will find everything is closed in Bali, as it is a day of fasting and meditation. But on days preceding it, you will see the people of Bali scrubbing, cleaning the status of Gods, praying, holding ceremonies, and various other rituals. Read more on Nyepi in Bali Festivals. Due to the popularity of Bali, this is one of the most visited festivals in Indonesia.
Toraja Funeral Ceremony
At Tana Toraja, you may observe their famous Toraja Funeral Ceremony. The Toraja people, who live in the highlands of South Sulawesi, do elaborate and fascinating funeral rites to send the spirit of the dead to the after-world to prevent misfortune on the deceased family. Usually, Torajans from all over Indonesia return between July and September to celebrate these annual funeral rituals. This is arguably one of the most unique festivals in Indonesia.
Baliem Valley Festival
This Baliem Valley festival is unique only to the Papua people, tracing its root in the belief held by the various local tribes that war is not just a conflict but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Celebrated in August, the main event is the mock war between the local tribes, with more than 20 tribes, each with 30-50 people clad in traditional clothing and fighting gear. There are also side performances and attractions of local traditional games, dances, and local food showcases. It is a vibrant and unique festival in Indonesia, originating from the Baliem Valley of indigenous culture.
Yadnya Kasada (Kesodo) Ceremony
Yadnya Kasada, also called Kesodo, stands as a time-honored Hindu tradition embraced by the Tenggerese community, a distinctive ethnic subgroup within the Javanese culture. In August, hundreds of thousands of Tenggerese will gather at the famous Mount Bromo, an active crater in East Java, Indonesia. Asking for blessings and another year free of eruptions, the people will present offerings of rice, vegetables, fruits, animals, and other local produce to the God of the Mountain. It is also one of the well visited festivals in Indonesia as it is set in a popular tourist spot, Mount Bromo.
The Pasola Festival in Indonesia is a thrilling cultural event celebrated by the Sumba people in the eastern part of the country. It features intense mounted spear-fighting competitions where skilled horsemen engage in battles, hurling wooden spears at each other. Held for four weeks in various locations across East Nusa Tenggara, the Pasola Festival showcases Sumba’s rich heritage, bravery, and ancestral beliefs. This renowned jousting festival attracts visitors worldwide to witness the exhilarating spectacle, a traditional Sumba ritual sport aimed at appeasing spirits and ensuring a good harvest. It is one of the festivals in Indonesia that is not to be missed!
Indonesian Buddhists will usually observe this special day sometime during the full moon of May / June to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Gautama Buddha. During Waisak in Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, the day will be grandly celebrated by thousands of monks and pilgrims. Centred at the three Buddhist temples is the ceremony of walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.
This important Hindu festival in Bali, is celebrated for the coming of the gods and the ancestral spirits to dwell in the home of their descendants. During this festival, Hindus will drive off evil spirits with incantations and firecrackers while expressing gratitude to their Gods by inviting them to earth with celebration, offerings, dancing, and new clothes. Lasting for ten days involves decorating homes, offering prayers, and organizing ceremonies to honor ancestral spirits. Galungan is a time of cultural unity and spiritual reflection, showcasing the rich Balinese Hindu traditions. It is one of the festivals in Indonesia where you can witness the celebration in the open.
Ramadan is an important Islamic month of fasting observed by Muslims worldwide. It is a time of spiritual reflection, increased devotion, and self-discipline. Lasting for 29 or 30 days, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset. The purpose of Ramadan is to purify the soul, seek forgiveness, and deepen one’s relationship with Allah (God). Muslims also engage in additional prayers, recitation of the Qur’an, acts of charity, and strive to strengthen community bonds during this holy month. Ramadan concludes with the festive celebration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of fasting and a time of joyous feasting and gratitude.
Ramadan nights are filled with vibrant activities. Many cities come alive after sunset with night markets, street performances, and cultural events. It’s a wonderful time to explore the local nightlife, enjoy live music, traditional performances, and even join in on traditional games or entertainment.
This is when the Muslims commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, with a week-long festival of gamelan performances and a parade of floats. Eid al-Fitr is a joyous celebration marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month. Muslims gather for prayers, exchange greetings, give to charity, and enjoy festive meals with family and friends. It is a time of gratitude, forgiveness, and strengthening community bonds. Tourists can experience vibrant traditions and join the festivities, gaining insights into Islamic culture and values.
Independence / National Day
The Indonesians will celebrate their Independence Day on the 17th of August, their biggest national festival. Usually, there will be a grand parade before the President in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Flag-raising ceremonies, parades, cultural performances, and other national pride and unity festivities mark the occasion. Indonesians often wear traditional attire, decorate their homes and public spaces with red and white, the colors of the Indonesian flag, and participate in community activities.
Despite only 8% of the population who are Christian, it is still a significant amount of people, with it being a famous festival and a national holiday in December. Here you will find the usual Christmas celebrations of markets and shops selling gifts and accessories while many places organize parties and celebrations.
Specific places for Indonesia festivals:
Jalan Jaksa Festival
In the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, you may at least find a festival worth a visit. It usually takes place in July / August, when you can find the street closed to all traffic and replaced with food stalls, craft workshops, street artists, and musicians. You may try food from various Indonesian specialties while immersed in the rest of the art shows, like traditional martial art combat or Betawi orchestra. You may also find batik-making workshops in the midst of it all. Jalan Jaksa is also a popular place to stay in Jakarta *.
Festival Teluk Kendari
Partying and dragon-boat races will be in April in Sulawesi’s Kendari Bay.
In August, you can find many vivid bidar (canoes) races in Sumatra’s Sungai Musi.
Bali Arts Festival
Indonesia’s largest annual celebration of art and culture, with a full month (between June-July) of daily performances, art exhibitions, dances, food, and other cultural offerings. Read more about this famous Bali Arts Festival. It is essential to search for a cheap Bali hotel a couple of months before this festival since they will increase their rates a few weeks to a month before.
Yogya (Jogja) Arts Festival
You will find shows and exhibitions in Java’s cultural capital Yogyakarta from June to July. The Yogyakarta Art Festival is a vibrant celebration of art and culture in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It features diverse performances, exhibitions, and workshops, showcasing the region’s artistic talents and promoting cultural exchange. It attracts artists and audiences worldwide, contributing to the dynamic art scene of Yogyakarta.
This annual festival, held in Lampung, celebrates the volcanic island called, you guessed it, Krakatoa. The town will have performances, an elephant procession, and various dances. The event’s finale is a trip to the active volcanic island itself.
Bau Nyale Fishing Festival
In February or March, hundreds of people will rush to Lombok to glimpse the first nyale (worm-like fish) at the huge fishing festival. The indigenous Sasak people of Lombok will commemorate a mythical princess who had to drown in these waters to escape a politically arranged marriage. This festival is held simultaneously with the season of these worm-like fish, where they are caught and eaten roasted in banana leaves with much enthusiasm. It offers a fascinating glimpse into local traditions and the close bond between the community and nature, making it one of the must-visit festivals in Indonesia.
In conclusion, the top festivals in Indonesia not to be missed showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage. From the colorful parades and traditional rituals to the captivating performances and delectable cuisine, these festivals offer an immersive experience for visitors. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the vibrant traditions and celebrate alongside the welcoming Indonesian people.