Festivals and events are an integral part of Balinese life and a huge part of the mysticism and allure that sets Bali apart from other Islands. What makes Bali so unique, enthralling and captivating is its inhabitant's faithful adherence to their beliefs, deities and traditions which, to the benefit of visitors to the Island. Manifest themselves in the form of colorful festivals and cultural events which are staged all year long. Look at nine of Bali's greatest festivals :


When : 23 - 27 March
Where : Batuan, South of Ubud

The Bali Spirit festival is a major international yoga, dance and music celebration held over five inspiring, transformational days and featuring performances from some of the world's leading creative masters. This spiritually charged event promises life changing, fun filled days that merge the spirit of Balinese art and culture with yoga, dance, music and international cultural collaborations. If you are a devotee of Classical Hatha Yoga, traditional Javanese dance or just hungry for a memorable experience, then this festival is definitely for you.


When : June, date yet to be announced
Where : Tenganan Pegringsingan

This ancient religious festival is held annually on the fifth month of the Tenganan calendar (Sasih Kelima), or June on the Gregorian calendar. If you want to partake in this most authentic of Balinese experiences, you will find the Usaba Sambah being held in the village of Tenganan Pegringsingan, the ancient village home of the Bali Aga, who are believed to be the original Balinese. Tenganan's Bali Aga observe different rituals and hold different religious beliefs from the majority of Balinese. Today, the village is one of the Island's main tourist attractions, delighting visitors with rare and colorful cultural gems such as double woven ikat cloth and the Perang Pandan (or Mekare-kare in local language, in which locals duel each other using clubs of thorny pandanus leaves). Another attraction is the Maling-malingan, an ancient albeit elaborate game of thievery during which locals role play village thieves during the festival.


When : 11 June - 10 July
Where : Mainly in Denpasar

This mega festival runs for a full month and celebrates the arts and culture of Bali and beyond. The festival features trance performances from remote mountain slopes, forgotten or recently revived village dances, food and offerings contests, classical palace dances, odd musicals, contemporary arts from the dance schools of Denpasar, as well as contemporary dance performances from other Islands and from abroad. The Bali Kite Festival, an international kite festival held in the Padang Galak area of Sanur, also takes place at this time and giant kites (a whopping 4 x 10 meters in a size) are flown competitively by teams from the villages of Denpasar.


Galungan and KuninganGALUNGAN & KUNINGAN
When : 6 - 16 July
Where : Various places

Galungan is the largest and most important festival in Bali and celebrates the victory of Virtue (Dharma) over Evil (Adharma). You should not miss this one at any cost, as it spans a full ten days of revelry and boasts the huge variety Balinese's culture. Vibrant colors will be on display everywhere, boisterous parades with prancing barong (dragon dances) will be ambling from temple to temple and village to village, elaborately decorated penjor (tall bamboo poles ornamented with woven coconut leaves, fruit, cakes and flowers) will stand outside the entrance to every house, and the Balinese themselves will be decked out in their finest clothes and jewels. In short, Galungan is the quintessential Balinese festival. It is also believed that during this ten days period the Balinese Gods, including Sanghyang Widi, the supreme deity, descend to earth to enjoy the festivities. The last day of the ten day long festival, which is known as Kuningan, is the most important. It is the climax of the Galungan and brings the festival to a close. Kuningan is a day for prayer, and a special ritual ceremony is also held to bid farewell to the Gods who then return to heaven. On this final day (16 July), offerings of yellow rice and special dishes are made, whilst every family compound and temple is decked with ornaments and looks truly amazing.

When : Sundays, between July and October
Where : Jembrana

The annual Makepung Bull Races, which you will find up in Negara, Jembrana, are part of a traditional Balinese event that marks the end of the rice harvesting season, which is usually in June or July. The races are held on Sundays between July and October and are like nothing you've ever seen before, with water buffaloes decorated with ornate and colorful headdresses racing each other whilst the "jockeys" attempt to coax the beasts along a one track course. It's all good fun and well worth a look if you're in the area. Held in Perancak, a little way from Negara, good food and various celebrations add to the carnival atmosphere of this colorful and fun event.


When : 2nd week of October
Where : Nusa Dua

Aimed at boosting tourism in the popular Nusa Dua resort enclave, the week-long Nusa Dua Festival is basically a community celebration involving all of Nusa Dua's various businesses and staff from the area's hotels and resorts. Expect over 1,000 people in traditional Balinese dress and mass gamelan orchestras, along with new and exciting cultural performances commissioned from local communities all across Bali especially for the event. Best of all, entry to all performances, exhibitions and cultural workshops is free.


When : 19 - 22 November
Where : Sanur

Not to be outdone, the fishing village of Sanur boasts its very own Sanur Village Festival, a family oriented, four day long party featuring a full program of traditional performances, cultural parades, live jazz, street bazaars, art shows, bonsai exhibitions, food festivals and a range of water related sports and activities. Taking place down on Sanur's Sunrise Beach and enjoying the full support of both the regional government and state departments, this year will be the sixth annual Sanur Village Festival. The festival is being held in conjunction with National Horticulture Week.

Ubud writers and readers festivalUBUD WRITERS & READERS FESTIVAL
When : 5 - 9 October
Where : Ubud

October marks a fantastic, albeit confusing, month for visitors as they will be torn between two huge, international events. The first is the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, which this year will be held from 5 - 9 October (check with your travel agent for the venues or visit the festival's official website). The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is undoubtedly one of the top literary festivals in the world, and last year's event attracted well over 15,000 attendees, who came from all walks of life and who flocked to Ubud to exchange ideas, thoughts and perspectives on current world issues and literary trends. The festival brings together an eclectic group of writers, readers, artists and performances and you can be sure that you'll walk out of Ubud a tad smarter than when you first walked in.


When : 10 - 16 October
Where : Various places

The second festival to be held around October in Bali, fantastic film festival really shouldn't be missed. Since the first BALINALE, which was held in 2007, this delightful little festival has gone from being an underground, locals only, best kept secret type of affair into an international sensation packed with some of the most talented names in the industry today. Last year, the BALINALE screened the much anticipated "Eat Pray Love", which had been shot locally in Bali and which starred Julia Roberts. "Ocean Heaven" was crowned Best Overall Film and "The Social Network" won the award for Best Feature Film. So what top flicks are up for contention this year ? The only way to find out is to get yourself down to the horizon expanding BALINALE International Film Festival.



*All dates are subject to change without notice