The first part of the month is busy in Bali as a fair bit of Australia arrives for Christmas and New Year holidays. Europeans searching for warmth also arrive in large numbers.
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
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.
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 NewYear 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.
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 Festival
Held in early March at the Jakarta Convention Center, this huge festival attracts acclaimed international artists (including Natalie Cole in 2015). This is a major event on the cultural calendar and each year the list of luminaries on the performance list grows.
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 papiermâché monsters that go up in flames. Held in March or early April.
A relaxed time in Indonesia sees few crowds anywhere.
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.
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.
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.
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 dragonboat 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.
Erau International Folk & Art 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.
A good month for travel with few crowds and many good deals. It’s the start of the rainy season in Java and Bali but in recent years there has been less rain.
Races Bull racing is the major sport on Pulau Madura, the island off Java. Teams compete throughout the year to see who will go to the finals held every October in Pamekasan. These competitions feature over 100 racing bulls and legions of fervent fans. Note that the festival is associated with animal welfare issues.