16 festivals in Indonesia to learn about the culture and traditions of the nation

Festival of Indonesia

When you consider a vacation in Indonesia, you should understand that there are beautiful beaches and lush greenery, colorful clothes and delicious food, exciting dancing and inspiring music.

After all, it is a multicultural country that is rich in traditions. Various festivals are held throughout the year, making it an interesting place for tourists.

Come see 16 of Indonesia's best festivals for a taste of its culture.

Rambu Solo - Sending the Dead to the After-life

When to visit: July to September

It is a funeral ceremony designed to send the dead spirits to the afterlife. The festival includes many exciting funeral rites performed by the family to reduce their misfortunes after death.

Rambu Solo

There are several processions, such as mo Paulo (transportation of the corpse to the burial site). A buffalo is traditionally sacrificed, and it is believed that the buffalo will guide the spirit into the afterlife.

Read also: Bali scuba diving: everything you need to know

2. Nyepi - The Day of Silence in Bali

When to visit: March

This festival is dedicated to the Balinese New Year. Although the date varies each year, it is usually held in March. "Nyepi" translates to "day of silence" and includes fasting, meditation, and prayers.


Usually the headlights are turned off (or dimmed), travel is reduced to a minimum, and no work is done on that day. In fact, this is the one day of the year when the Bali airport is practically closed.

In some villages in Bali, ogo-goos (demonic statues made of bamboo and cloth) symbolize negativity. They are present at the ceremony before they are burned in the local cemetery. In India, Niyepi is celebrated as the festival of Ugadi.

3. Bau Nyale Fishing Festival - Fishing out the Legendary Nyale

When to visit: February or March

Every year during February or March, hundreds of people flock to Lombok to attend the Bau Nyale Festival. It comes from the name Bau, meaning "to catch," and nyale, a type of sea worm.

Bau Nyale Fishing Festival

The legend of this festival in Indonesia tells of the mythical princess Mandalika, who drowned in the waters of Lombok, trying to avoid marriage by transforming herself into a nyala (a worm-like fish) to return each year.

These fascinating fish appear in Indonesia only during these months, and locals catch them with great enthusiasm. It is believed that eating the worms (usually fried with banana leaves) will make men energetic and women as beautiful as a princess.

Read also: Music of Indonesia - 6 beautiful traditional musical forms

Baliem Valley Festival - Mock-War Amongst the Papua Tribes

When to visit: August

This Indonesian festival is unique to the people of Papua, the many islands in Indonesia's eastern province. It includes the staging of a fictitious war, as war is believed to be a symbol of prosperity and fertility.

Baliem Valley Festival

More than 20 tribes in Indonesia come together for this festival, which lasts for 2 days. In addition to false warfare, there are dances performed to traditional Papuan music called python. Pig racing is also quite common at this time.

5. Dieng Culture Festival - the Dreadlock Shaving Ceremony

When to visit: August

In central Java, the children on the Dieng Plateau have an amazing genetic structure. When they reach puberty, their straight hair begins to form dreadlocks. When this happens, they wait until August each year to have them shaved in a ceremony that is the heart of Indonesia's Dieng Cultural Festival.

Dieng Culture Festival

This dreadlocking ritual is traditionally known as Ruwatan Anak Gombel. Along with the ceremony, paper lanterns are released into the sky and puppet shows are held. Java comes alive in these moments, and tourists have a great time enjoying the exciting atmosphere of the island.

6. Waisak (Vesak) - Observation of the Life of Buddha

Vesak is an important Buddhist holiday not only in Indonesia, but in every country where there are Buddhist communities. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. In India it is called the Buddha Purnima.


The action takes place on the day of the full moon in early May, although it is sometimes celebrated in June. In Indonesia, monks and pilgrims leave the Mendut temple at Borobudur in central Java, carrying with them the sacred fire from the village of Grobogan and holy water from Jamprit springs.

When they reach the Borobudur temple, they circle the temple three times in a clockwise direction before receiving blessings from the guru. Then they release paper lanterns into the sky to symbolize the enlightenment of the universe.

7. Pasola - Jousting Festival of the Sumba People

When to visit: February or March

In the western part of Sumba is the Indonesian Pasola Festival, held every year in February or March. It is a knightly festival in which participants ride on horseback without saddles and attack each other with wooden spears called hola.

Read also: Top 5 best resorts in Bali for recreation


In fact, the word "pasola" comes from the word "chola. According to legend, the holiday is celebrated in an attempt to help a local village leader, Vaivuan, forget his wife who left him for a new lover.

The people of Sumba celebrate Pasola to ensure a good harvest.

8. Galungan - Indonesian Festival Celebrating Good Over Evil

Galungan is a Hindu festival in Indonesia, closely related to Diwali in India. Although the dates of the festivals are different, they both celebrate gratitude to God, ward off evil demons, and invite ancestral spirits to Earth to the family home.


Galungan marks the victory of good over evil. Throughout Indonesia, streets are decorated with bamboo poles, called penjor, with offerings (usually rice, bananas, and coconuts).

On these days a pig or chicken is sacrificed and family members are visited. The end of Gulangan is called Kuningan, which is widely celebrated at Sakenan Temple, followed by rituals and dance performances.

9. Independence Day - Indonesia's Independence from the Dutch

When to visit: August 17

Indonesia became an independent nation on August 17, 1945. Every year this day is celebrated with great fanfare throughout the country. Parades are held in the capital, Jakarta, in front of the president at the Presidential Palace. People often raise flags in their homes.

Independence Day

Towns and villages hold friendly competitions such as sack races, rope races, and a traditional pole climb called pinyat pinang. Another memorable competition is kerupak, a crunchy Indonesian snack suspended from high ropes. Participants try to sit down the dangling delights faster, with their hands tied behind their backs.

10. Bidar Boat Race - Boat Race to Celebrate Independence

When to visit: August

This festival in Indonesia is celebrated together with Independence Day. It takes place in Palembang in southern Sumatra. Large boats made from deciduous trees are made throughout the year to participate in this special day. They can be from 20 to 30 meters long, decorated with bright colors and patterns.

Bidar Boat Race Festival

The boats are powered by nearly 70 racers, including the commander and striker. Watching these beautifully crafted boats race through the waters of the Sungai Musi is quite a spectacle!

11. Eid-Ul-Fitr - Islam's Prime Festival

When to visit: June

Indonesia is a country with a significant Muslim population. Eid (also called lebaran) is an important national holiday. All participants receive obligatory pay bonuses, and stores give special discounts and decorations during this time.


Traditionally, workers return home, and this homecoming is called mudik or pulang kampung. This is evident in Jakarta and Bandung.

Children are usually given small amounts of money in colored envelopes. Families spend the day having a communal feast consisting of dishes such as lemang, dodol, chambal goring, and cookies.

12. Cap Goh Meh - Chinese New Year in Indonesia

When to visit: March

Indonesia also has a large Chinese population, so the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated here. The Cap Go Meh festival is usually held in March, 15 days after Imlek, on the day of the full moon.

Cap Goh Meh

Fanfare and festivals take place in the major cities, with lantern parades, food festivals, and even a traditional lion dance called barongsay. It is believed that the gods themselves come down to Earth for Cap Goh Meh. The streets are full of dragon dancers, mediums, and chiromancers.

Some of the best places for this festival are Semarang and Bogor in Java, Singkawang in western Kalimantan, and Kermaro Island in southern Sumatra.

13. Lampung Krakatau Festival - Celebrating Mount Krakatau's Eruption

When to visit: June to October

This Indonesian festival is held in Lampung Province. It is designed to commemorate the eruption of Mount Krakatoa in 1883, which had catastrophic consequences for the island, where more than 70% of it was destroyed and a long layer of volcanic ash hung in the sky. It extended 4,500 km to New York and Norway.

Lampung Krakatau Festival

This festival began in 1991 as a way to celebrate the well-being of the island, and the province of Lampung comes alive at this time. It is held from June to October each year and consists of exhibitions, cultural events and even tours of the volcano.

14. Yadnya Kasada - Offerings Made to Mount Bromo

When to visit: May to September

Known as Kasada, the Indonesian festival is celebrated by the Tenggerese community in East Java. According to the Hindu lunar calendar, it is held on the 14th day of the month of Kasada each year.

From local legends, a godless couple was blessed by the gods with 24 children after praying on Mount Bromo on the condition that they sacrifice their 25th child to the volcano. Some variations of the legend suggest that the couple refused and the volcano erupted, taking the child with it.

Yadnya Kasada

Every year locals and tourists go to Mount Bromo and make sacrifices such as goats, flowers, vegetables, and even money. Other brave people climb into the crater, considering it a sign of good luck.

15. Jember Fashion Carnaval - Fashion, Extravagance and Exuberance Colour the Streets of Jember

When to visit: August

Officially recorded as a "carnival" (like the popular Brazilian festival), the Jember Fashion Carnaval takes place in East Java. It was inspired by the fashion week held by designer Dynand Fariz in 2002.

Jember Fashion Carnaval

In 2003, the first carnival consisted of a procession of dancers in extravagant costumes. This required months of preparation by hundreds of volunteers and thousands of participants, ranging from children to the general public.

The procession is usually along a four-kilometer runway, and it also has a fashion show.

16. Sekaten - Celebrating the Birth of Prophet Muhammad in Java

When to visit: November

Sekaten is an Indonesian festival celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The name comes from the Arabic word "syahadatain. It all began with Sultan Hamengkubuwan I, who was interested in promoting Islam in the region, and the festival began for invitees to learn more about the religion.


This has become a week-long festival consisting of traditional ceremonies, cultural events, and a popular night market. Special dishes such as sego gurih (plain rice with coconut milk, peanuts, shrimp, and chili peppers) and gugungan (sticky rice with peanuts, vegetables, peppers, and egg) are prepared to celebrate Sekaten.

These dishes symbolize the success and abundance of the kingdom of Java, and people scatter these dishes in their fields in hopes of a good harvest. Others bring the food home to their families.

Of course, these are just some of the many beautiful festivals in Indonesia. Get ready to immerse yourself in the local traditions of this magnificent island.

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