Whether it’s unique cultural spectacles or huge annual festivals, Bali’s calendar of events is always buzzing. Here we share the major highlights of 2023 that you won’t want to miss; it’s a way to look ahead and mark them in your schedules to plan any trips or visits well in advance. Here are the biggest events in Bali 2023 and when they will be taking place.
Biggest events in Bali 2023 organised by month:
Galungan and Kuningan
4 – 14 January 2023
The Galungan and Kuningan ceremonies are the most important religious celebrations of the Balinese pawukon calendar. The entire Galungan festival refers to the ten days starting from Galungan and ending on Kuningan, celebrated on a cycle of 210 days.
On Galungan, deified ancestors come down to our earthly realm from their spiritual abodes – they thus must be welcomed with entertainment (music and dance), prayers and offerings. It is a celebration of good over evil. Even before Galungan day comes around, the streets will already be prepared. The first signs are the penjor, beautifully decorated bamboo poles that line every street. Penjor are symbolic: its arching top represents Mt Agung, its long trunk represents a river that flows down to the oceans and a sanggah or shrine is at its base where offerings are placed. One of the ritual events in Bali you should witness.
Find out more here: nowbali.co.id/story-of-galungan/
Chinese New Year
22 January 2023
Bali has a rich history with China, best known through the tales of the ancient Balinese King Jayapangus, and his Chinese queen, Kang Cing Wie. This period saw Chinese culture being adopted in Bali, including Buddhist teachings, and for centuries Chinese descendants have lived among the island’s own inhabitants. As a result, one will find ornate Chinese temples known as ‘klenteng’ across Bali, or shrines inside Balinese temples, which will be packed with worshippers on Chinese New Year – a significant moment on Bali’s calendar of events. Red candles and incense sticks will burn bright as they pray for prosperity, alongside placements of Bali’s canang sari offerings showing a real amalgamation of cultures.
You’ll find Vihara Dharmayana in Kuta, the Vihara Satya Dharma in Sanur, Klenteng Caow Eng Bio in Tanjung Benoa, and Ling Gwan Kiong in Singaraja, to name a few. These are open to the public.
Of course, feasts and celebrations can be found around Bali too, with barong sai dragon dances, fireworks and ang pao envelopes galore.
Head to nowbali.co.id/chinese-new-year to see a list of events and offers to celebrate the occasion.
Anniversary of Denpasar
27 February 2023
Denpasar will burst with colour as the island’s capital celebrates its anniversary, marking its centuries-long ‘birthday’ since it was considered an official settlement back in 1788! What is now a bustling urban city started as a simple market centre, which is where it gets its name: den meaning north, and pasar meaning market.
Merriment will take place around Puputan Square, the verdant park area that surrounds the Bajra Sandhi Monument, commemorating puputan, a mass suicide of Balinese warriors and royalty back in 1906, who preferred to die than surrender to the invading Dutch. The celebration of the Anniversary of Denpasar will showcase a number of competitions as well as cultural performances, community games and parades on this day.
21 March 2023
The night before Nyepi is also special. It is the observance of Pengrupukan, or the Ngrupuk Parade, where the youth villages of the island parade their ‘ogoh-ogoh’ on the streets. Gigantic and impressive effigies of demons that tower up to 12 metres high, paraded with music, flair and festivity. This spectacle makes for one of the most lively ritual events in Bali.
Ogoh-Ogoh takes the form of demons, witches and ghosts — inspired by the bhuta kala (or lesser demonic forces), as well as the leyak black magic witches and other haunting local folklore. Thus, they are often frightening and grotesque, though sometimes humorous.
The purpose of the ogoh-ogoh statues is to clear and purify the streets of evil and negative forces; said to accumulate at the main crossroads of villages. This was done in a folk-based ritual called Ngerupuk (a kind of exorcism), which previously only involved noise and torches. Around the ’80s, this evolved, and the tradition of making and displaying these ogoh-ogoh was introduced.
The making of these effigies – ranging from 2m in height to a whopping 12m – is planned months in advance. They are often created by the youth of the Banjar village community, becoming a central communal activity.
Read more about the parade here: nowbali.co.id/ngrupuk-monster-parade/
Nyepi – Day of Silence
22 – 23 March 2023
One of the most important dates on the Balinese calendar is Nyepi, the day of silence. Balinese Hindu ceremonies follow two calendars, the pawukon calendar (210 days) and the saka calendar (354-355 days). Nyepi marks the first day of the new saka calendar year.
This is a truly special time to be in Bali because on Nyepi the entire island observes a full 24 hours of total stillness. The four main rules of Nyepi, called ‘Catur Brata Penyipian’ (four meditations of silence) are: Amati Geni: no fire and light, Amati Karya: no working, Amati Lelungan: no travelling, Amati Lelanguan: no entertainment. And that is precisely what happens. The airport shuts down, no one must leave their homes, no noise is permitted, and no light must be seen from the outside. This will take place from 6am on 22 March to 6am on 23 March. It is a serene day of tranquillity and at night, with no light pollution, the skies shine bright with stars, especially as it is a new moon.
Read more at nowbali.co.id/nyepi
23 March 2023
Known as the kissing ritual, Omed-omedan is celebrated on the day after Nyepi (the silent day) to welcome the Saka new year. Known as the kissing ritual, Omed Omedan is exclusive to Sesetan Village, Denpasar, when the bachelors and bachelorettes aged 17-30 of Sesetan gather on the area’s main street for a one-of-a-kind celebration.
Divided into two groups (men vs women), they will take position and face each other; at a given signal, both sides will approach the centre of the street, and male participants will pull and kiss (sometimes forcefully) the female participants while the rest of the villagers in the audience pour buckets of water over them. It is said to be a celebration of fertility.
Ubud Open Studios
27-29 April 2023
Having debuted with great success in 2022, Ubud Open Studios makes it much-anticipated return this year adding an extra day to their uniquely crafted experience that grants exclusive access into Bali’s renowned creative industries.
Ubud Open Studios aims to showcase the wealth of the town’s creative industry by giving the public exclusive entry to the studios of renowned artists, designers and craftspeople. What’s special about Ubud Open Studios is that the masters and maestros themselves will be present over the three days. This gives participants the rare opportunity to meet with the minds of acclaimed creators, a chance to learn and discover their approaches, processes and ways of thinking. Workshops and private learning experiences are also available in selected venues.
With over 50 studios – ranging from painters, architects, designers, photographers, ceramicists, weavers and more – participants can organise their own daily schedules and explore each at their own pace. This format allows participants to handpick the creatives they’re truly interested in: design-enthusiasts can visit top architects; craft lovers can shortlist glassblowers, carvers and leatherworkers; artists can find painters and illustrators.
Find out more at ubudopenstudios.com
This East Bali event will highlight a variety of competitions, exhibitions and art and culture parades. Traditional Jukung wooden boat races using wind power will also be held to showcase the skills of the local fishermen.
Bali Spirit Festival
4 – 7 May 2023
The highly celebrated BaliSpirit Festival held in Ubud sees thousands of yogis descend on the island to take part in one of Asia’s biggest yoga festivals. It was founded in 2008 by The BaliSpirit Group, best known for the Yoga Barn, and has become a destination event for both international and national participants interested in yoga, health and wellness. This is easily one of the biggest events in Bali in 2023.
The festival has two distinct sides. During the day, a plethora of yoga, breathwork, martial arts, meditation, talks and healing workshops take place, with renowned practitioners leading sessions. There’s community music, markets and lots of amazing food, with lots for families to take part in. At night, the festival transforms into a world music wonderland, with an atmosphere filled with positivity, warmth and good times.
Find out more at: balispiritfestival.com
Bali Arts Festival (Pesta Kesenian Bali)
Mid-June – Mid-July
Held annually, the Bali Arts Festival, locally known as Pesta Kesenian Bali, was first held in 1979 by the late Professor Ida Bagus Mantra. It is the cultural highlight of the year, where for a whole month all aspects of art are on display. Everything from traditional dances, costume parades, art displays and exhibitions and musical performances are expected here as different banjars (village communities), sanggars (art groups) and districts compete against one another.
The majority of events and performances are held at the Taman Werdhi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar, but the program also extends to the Indonesian Institution of Arts (ISI) Denpasar, the Bajra Sandhi Monument, amongst other venues in Bali’s capital.
The Bali Arts Festival kicks off with an extraordinary parade on the streets of Denpasar, in front of the Bajra Sandhi Monument. This stunning opening event marks the beginning of a month-long celebration of Balinese culture, including art, music and literature, across the island.
Mekare-Kare (Pandan War)
June – July 2023
One of the most spectacular, visual spectacles on Bali’s cultural calendar is mekare-kare, better known as the ‘pandan wars’. This takes place in Desa Adat Tenganan Pegringsingan, a ‘Bali Aga’ (ancient Balinese) village in Karangasem, where customs and way of life are quite distinct from most of Bali. The community predates the influences of the invading Hindu-Javanese Majapahit Empire, whose culture has dictated much of the island’s identity.
In Tenganan Pegringsingan, the pinnacle of the year is on the fifth month of their ritual calendar, normally June or July. This is the month of Usaba Sambah, a month-long ceremony filled with prayers, sacred dances, sacrifices, ceremonial foods, ritual swings, and gatherings, all ending in the ‘climax’ of mekare-kare. During the two days of mekare-kare, the village comes to life: villagers are out in the traditional dress – prized geringsing cloth – with ceremonial offerings throughout the day. At around midday, the stage is set as the men take their turns to face an opponent with bunched, thorny pandan leaves in one hand and a rattan shield in the other. They fight to grate the skin of their opponent with the sharp thorns of the pandan. A blood sacrifice to honour Dewa Indra, God of War, their principal deity. It’s a wild and raucous affair, and an exciting cultural event to witness.
Ubud Food Festival
30 June – 2 July 2023
Over three jam-packed days, Ubud fires up its stoves and cooks up a delectable food-focused festival filled with flavour! Celebrating cuisine of all kinds, from Indonesian to international and fine dining to vegan, the town buzzes with a programme comprised of cooking shows, workshops, culinary discussions, dining experiences, film screenings and parties.
The Ubud Food Festival presents a real potpourri of experiences and people: renowned international chefs come to host fabulous collaboration lunches and dinners with Ubud restaurants; and local food heroes, from innovators to producers, showcase their work. Main events are centred at the ‘Taman Kuliner’ festival hub, with food and drink markets and free shows, and all around town, a variety of venues host a wealth of different events. This is one of the most favourite events in Bali, especially for food lovers of course!
Find out more at: ubudfoodfestival.com
Makepung Buffalo Race
July – October 2023
One of the biggest pulls of Bali’s most western region, Jembrana Regency, is Makepung. This is a unique tradition that has its roots in Bali’s agrarian way of life, where locals compete in a one-of-a-kind chariot race with water buffalos. Races begin around July, culminating with the ‘Jembrana Cup’, taking place around October, though dates vary every year.
The race is one of pride and honour, often amongst the farmers showing off the stock of their powerful buffalos, normally their partners in ploughing the fields. Decorated in full pomp for the occasion, and then tied to equally colourful chariots, participants will race around a 2km dirt track in dramatic fashion. It is a real community event, one that will take place in spite of tourist visitors. It is a tradition observed and continued by the agrarian west of Bali.
Ubud Village Jazz Festival
This is a festival made by lovers, for jazz lovers! Ubud Village Jazz Festival came to life in 2013 and since then has presented a real ‘pure’ musical event in the artistic surrounds of Ubud, Bali. One of the favourite music events in Bali every year.
Normally the event takes place in mid-August over two days and creates a beautiful setting on the traditional grounds of the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA). The world’s top jazz performers hit the stage, with a truly eclectic line-up of musicians, composers, singers, and performers each presenting their own form of the genre. The music is complemented by a bazaar and food and drinks market throughout the day and night, plus a great roadshow of performances around Bali leading up to the festival.
Find out more at ubudvillagejazzfestival.com
Sanur Village Festival
The most anticipated event of Sanur, and certainly one of the biggest community events in Bali, is the Sanur Village Festival. Sprawled along the beach will be a smorgasbord of food, markets, bazaars, sports events, artistic showcases cultural performances and lots of music. Taking place from morning to night, the agenda of this several-day event is jam-packed with activities for young and old of all persuasions.
You’ll find yoga, water sports, a jukung boat parade, a kite festival, photo competitions, environmental initiatives and even talk shows taking place through the day; towards the evening, the energy changes with dances, live bands and beer and wine tents creating a real buzz. There’s a strong focus on being locally inclusive, with food and beverage offerings ranging from local eateries to five-star tastes, all at great prices. It’s an opportunity to jump into the real melting pot of the Bali community, the traditional and the modern coming together.
Find out more: sanurvillagefestival.com
Held in Kalibukbuk and Kaliasem villages, Lovina Festival reflects the beauty of Lovina Beach with its sparkling black sand and breathtaking sunset. During the festival, you can enjoy collaborative music performances, Bungbung traditional dance, puppet shows, cultural parades around the villages in Lovina, and even parties at Kaliasem Beach. The festival highlights are the fireworks show and the cultural parade, in which the local communities take part. It overall blends the beauty of nature and culture.
Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
18 – 22 October 2023
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary Edition, this world-renowned literary festival will be returning to a fully in-person program that will no doubt see some of the world’s most celebrated writers, authors, thinkers, speakers and more join this milestone moment. This is festival is one of the longest-standing events in Bali.
The festival is comprised of a whole range of formats from panel discussions to literary lunches, long table dinners, walking tours, cocktail parties and performances. And, whilst the ‘stars’ of the festival are indeed authors and writers, it is the topics of conversation, the discussion on both local and global issues that they engage in, that makes this gathering so very interesting.
Whether you’ve read a novel or the latest hit biography is beside the fact; many of the panel discussions will cover intriguing themes, and the writers – whose very job it is to delve deep into an issue – share their expertise and findings with the audience. Of course, avid readers and budding writers have the chance to listen and engage with top authors, join workshops and meet a community of like-minded, worldly festival-goers.
At night, UWRF transforms into a spectacle of entertainment. Poetry performances light up the stage, local musicians pump up the atmosphere, and screenings of independent movies are played to a captive audience.
Find out more: ubudwritersfestival.com
Makepung Lampit Race
Different from the regular Makepung Race, Makepung Lampit is held in wetlands, where a pair of buffalos pulls the Lampit, or the wooden board, on muddy terrestrial. Inspired by the Balinese agriculture culture, Makepung Lampit signifies the gotong royong culture, where everyone is helping each other. In the villages, everyone is helping with the land levelling process to prepare for the harvesting season. This tradition initiates Makepung Lampit.
Penglipuran Village Festival
A festivity taking place at one of Bali’s most serene villages, Penglipuran Village Festival is a celebration of Balinese arts through cultural parades, traditional dance competitions, traditional cooking competitions, and many more. Located in the Bangli Regency, Penglipuran Village is an example of Bali’s authentic village compounds, retaining the original layout of its housing compounds and indeed a traditional way of life as well. If you love cultural events in Bali, pencil this one in!