6 Festivals in Indonesia You Should Visit

October 20, 2015 Thalia Yanuar

Waisak. Photo: Imam Hartoyo via Flickr

Indonesia has some amazing festivals that shouldn’t be missed, so if you’re planning a visit to our beautiful archipelago it wouldn’t hurt to plan your trip around one of these must-see events. Here we list the events to cross off your list, whether it’s a religious or dance music festival, or a carnival or a literary gathering. Here’s an extra tip: if you want to attend them all without breaking bank, you might want to check if they are still accepting volunteers to help out. 

Vesak (Waisak) Festival

Vesak, or Waisak in Indonesia, is a Buddhist celebration of life, death, and the moment Siddharta Gautama became Buddha Shakyamuni. In Central Java, Vesak is celebrated by Buddhists with festivities starting with an evening procession at Mendut temple, continuing onto Pawon temple, before finishing off at the majestic Borodubur, site of the single largest Buddhist complex in the world. At the end of Vesak, the Buddhist monks release hundreds of flying lanterns to the sky, making this a grand scene you don’t want to miss.

Jember Fashion Carnaval 

Big, loud, colourful and inspiring, the Jember Fashion Carnaval is Indonesia’s very own version of Rio’s Carnival. Local fashion designer and educator Dynand Fariz came up with the idea of JFC in 2005, and it has been a huge success ever since. Annually held in the East Java city of Jember every August, JFC is a fantastic parade where local creatives outdo each other with their extravagant designs of traditional Indonesian costumes for a fabulous spectacle worth visiting for.

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 

The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is an annually held literary event where you’ll get the chance to sit with leading writers, thinkers, artists and performers from all around the world. One of its founders, Janet De Neefe, came up with the idea of holding literary events at her restaurant Casa Luna just one year after the first Bali bombings as a healing project to reclaim Bali from the terrorists by celebrating extraordinary stories. UWRF has various programs throughout the day, including talks, book launches, cultural workshops, children and youth program, yoga, and even cooking classes where you can learn how to cook authentic Balinese food.

Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival

Jazz lovers might want to schedule their trip to Jakarta around March when the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival takes place. Past acts include Eric Benet, Incognito, Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Daniel Sahuleka, Jamie Cullum, and Stevie Wonder to name a few.

We The Fest

Brought to you by the same people in charge of Djakarta Warehouse Project and Sunny Side Up!, We The Fest is an urban summer festival held annually in Jakarta. With food, fashion, music, and the audience being the major highlight of this festival, the city is always abuzz when We The Fest comes into town. International musicians like Kimbra, Passion Pit, Darius, Panama Music and many more performed this year, and we’re excited to find out who’s going to be on the stage next year.

Galungan Festival

Though the Balinese are known for their many upacaras or religious ceremonies, Galungan Festival is definitely the most important religious festival of all. Held throughout the whole island, the festivities last for a ten-day period, when it is believed that the Balinese gods descent to the earth to celebrate with the villagers. This is Balinese culture at its most beautiful, as you’ll see a parade of Barongs and villagers prancing around from temple to temple and village to village as they celebrate Galungan with the gods. A colorful and magical experience you’ll be glad to have witnessed.

Contributed by: Gyscha Revrita Rendy

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