Staying in a luxurious Bali villa is reason enough to make the trip to this charming Indonesian island, but there is more to be said for becoming a temporary local.
Over the last decade, Bali has become somewhat of a hub for events and festivals of all sorts where people gather from hundreds of different countries to come to share in a collective experience.
At any given time of the year, there is sure to be a festival that caters to your interests but we thought we’d put together a list of our favourites so you can book your stay to coordinate.
Bali Spirit Festival
Early April – Yayasan Bali Purnati, Ubud.
This annual festival is described as a celebration of global community, physical and spiritual well-being, world music, and the practice of yoga. The festival spans seven nights and six days but there is an option to buy a three-day weekend pass or simply attend for one day. If there’s a single music performance you’re hanging out to see then sometimes you can get a cheap ticket to only that show. If you’re staying for a few days, book your Bali villa for the end of the festival so you have a quiet oasis to land in after the high-energy experience with 7,000 other attendees. While ticket prices range from $30 to several hundred dollars, you can apply to be a volunteer or even for the odd paid job.
The venue is located about 20 minutes drive from the centre of Ubud with surrounding rice fields and a river flowing through the middle. You can expect to participate in all types of guided yoga and meditation classes such as Kundalini Tantra yoga, Shamanic yoga flow, Blindfolded yoga, Taoist Qigong and many many more.
Don’t know what any of that is? Doesn’t matter! Just show up with an open mind and heart. Other than the asana practice you can engage in dance parties and martial arts lessons, sound healing and breathwork, plus a multitude of seminars on various exciting topics. You can book in for a private healing session, eat from the organic and vegan food stalls, and peruse the ethically made jewellery and clothing. While there are visitors and presenters from all over the globe, the Bali Spirit festival dedicates an entire section to local Indonesian practitioners, artists, and musicians.
Sanur Village Festival
Late August – Sanur Village, South Denpasar.
For more than ten years in a row, the Sanur Village Festival has offered a five-day exploration of the beautiful Sanur culture including the usual music and food but also spiritual ceremonies and parades, beach clean-ups, fishing competitions and even its own mini kite festival and auto festival within the main event. The festival began in 2006 as an attempt to bring visitors back to the island after the bombings the year before and has since turned into one of the largest cultural events in all of Bali. Conservation efforts and perhaps a unique aspect of this particular festival which appeals to many conscious travellers. Other than the beach clean up, you will be able to partake in planting corals and endangered plant species.
While the festival attracts tourists from many countries, there is an aspect of national intention present. The locals have dubbed it “an awakening festival” for its efforts at unifying values of all Indonesians and of coming together to take care of the land, recognise cultural traditions, and support small local businesses. Entry is open to all with individual costs for food and special events.
Ubud Writers & Readers Festival
Late October – Taman Baca, Ubud.
Staying in luxurious accommodation in Ubud lends a lot of time for contemplating life, reading new books, and getting creative through journaling. If you can see yourself by the pool, pen in hand and tropical fruit smoothie by your side, then perhaps you’d like to book your Bali villa to coincide with this event. Since 2004, the Ubud Writers Festival or UWRF has been, as they say, themselves, “an annual pilgrimage for lovers of literature and conversation”. Each year a new theme is chosen, often relating to a particular Hindu deity. There are a hundred events to choose from that revolve around the value of meaningful dialogue and cross-cultural exchange in the form of hands-on workshops, invigorating performances, and literary lunches. There is another entire section focused on traditional food and cooking classes as well as several free events such as book launches and spoken-word offerings.
In addition to the incredible opportunities the festival provides its attendees, the UWRF has also created what is called the Emerging Writers Program. 15 Indonesian novelists, poets and playwrights are selected, flown to Bali, and are then guided in a collaboration to launch the annual Anthology. Of these fifteen, one lucky writer is offered the chance to take part in Australia’s Rising Stars writer’s program in Melbourne. Every year, the winning writer’s work offers the world a glimpse into the culture and lives of some of Indonesia’s most remote and unknown villages that many Australians will never see first-hand. Not only is this a rich and rewarding experience but it is a step towards inclusive communication between the people of the world.
Bali Rice Harvest Festival
May – Many locations around Bali.
Wherever you’ve booked your Bali villa, you will be able to bear witness to the annual festival that marks the end of the harvest season. Dewi Sri, the Rice God, is honoured on this day with various traditional dishes prepared as offerings to show thanks for the abundance throughout the year. As rice is harvested all over the island, you need only to ask around with the locals where you’ve booked accommodation and they will tell you when and where to meet in order to partake in the festivities. At the end of the festivals, many Balinese people join together in the village of Perancak to watch the Negara Bull competition in which the water buffaloes are adorned with the lavish dress and put to race.
When you are booking your Bali villa, be sure to check out the dates for the festivals listed above so you can make your trip that much richer and more vibrant. This island is full of cultural gatherings and celebrations so don’t hesitate to get amongst the action!