How do I survive Nyepi Day in Bali? Should I still visit when the whole island literally shuts down for a day? These are just some of the questions travellers often have who’ve heard about the single most unique day in Bali, which is celebrated like no other holiday on the entire planet (that we’ve heard of, anyway). If you’ve never heard about the ‘Saka New Year’ celebrations, you can read all about it here, together with all the lively processions leading up to this solemn day, and the celebrations afterwards. Nyepi occurs on a different day each year, based on the ancient Saka Calendar on the night of a new moon, usually in March or April.
Basically, the day of Nyepi can be one of the most unique experiences one can ever have in Bali. It’s one of the most enjoyable 24 hours with clean air and ‘zero emissions’, when nature takes a rest free from human activity. The new moon also offers rare night skies without light pollution to enjoy. Contrarily, to others – particularly the adventurous and those willing to tour and see more of the island – it can spell disaster. You can’t fly in, fly out, or hang out as usual. Here’s how to survive Nyepi Day in Bali; just some tips for enjoying Bali’s Day of Silence.
Ngurah Rai International Airport is perhaps the only international airport in the world that totally ceases its operations for a full 24 hours every year. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) are issued annually for Nyepi, from 06:00 to 06:00 the following day. Due to the closure, all flights both arriving and departing from the airport will be inoperable. It’s always a good idea to plan your flights in or out to avoid the actual Nyepi date. In other words, arrive early – perhaps in time to watch the lively parades of Nyepi Eve! Read More...
Hotels in Bali are well geared up to offer their guests the best experiences during Nyepi, which basically confines them to their resort grounds, as traveling is one of the four restricted tenets (called Catur Brata Penyepian) of the Saka New Year celebration in Bali. Guest activities within higher end resorts can be enjoyed as usual, ranging from swimming, kids’ club facilities for the little ones, to tailored in-house activities such as resort garden fun and games, designed especially for the day. Read More...
Watch the Melasti Processions leading up To Nyepi
Several (between 3 to 4) days leading up to the turn of the Saka New Year and its full day of silence, Balinese Hindus get into lively procession mode. Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place. It is one of the best times to capture on camera one of the most iconic Balinese images in motion – the sight of brightly-clad devotees carrying elaborate parasols, banners and small effigies against the blue sky and rolling surf. It’s certainly a cultural spectacle.
See the Parade of Giants on Nyepi Eve
‘Ogoh-ogoh’ are giant papier-mâché effigies creatively built to depict demons, locally referred to as ‘bhutakala’. These can measure up to six metres in height, built by different youth groups in competitive spirit. The best creations are paraded throughout village streets on Nyepi Eve, complete with loud gamelan accompaniments and often with bamboo light torches adding to its dramatic effect. Traffic in the main resort areas is usually rerouted, so it’s best to also plan ahead on where you want to watch the parades. Central Denpasar, Kuta and Ubud are popular hotspots.
Stock Up on Snacks + DVDs
Visitors are exempt from the Nyepi restriction of lighting fire (for cooking – as long as the light and fire is not visible from outside your room or villa), so it’s okay to stock up on snacks or food for your kitchenette. The same goes for in-room entertainment such as DVDs (entertainment and other luxuries are also restricted among the Balinese during Nyepi). The local government has pushed for TV stations to cease broadcasting over Bali’s airwaves over Nyepi. Your hotel’s satellite channels will mostly remain available, including internet and Wi-Fi.
Nyepi is a great opportunity to make good use of its silence and seclusion, so why not spend some quality spa time with a full-day treatment? It’s a perfect time to reflect, reconnect and truly unwind. Check out our compilation of great spas in hotels in Bali, or consider these spa resorts for your Nyepi spa escape on the island. Again, you will find spa services only in your hotel during Nyepi. Read More...
Enjoy Stargazing in Complete Darkness
If Earth Hour is putting your lights out just for an hour, how about a whole island putting their whole lights out for 24 hours straight? With practically zero light pollution you’re in for the year’s most immersive night sky over Bali when the stars shine their brightest and the Milky Way reveals itself. You can simply pick a spot by the poolside to lay back and gaze at the wonders of the universe, or whip out your tripod and capture some stunning images.
Watch the Smooching Festival in Sesetan the Day After
Bali has its handful of unusual sights and this festivity is easily one of them. Omed-omedan is held the day after Nyepi, a day otherwise referred to as Ngembak Geni. It isn’t an island-wide occasion. Rather, it only takes place on one of the roads in the village of Banjar Kaja, Sesetan in southern Denpasar. The whole village community descends to cheer on participating youths who get in line for the ritual – an affair of ‘push and pull’ between the girls’ side and the boys’ side. Pre-arranged couples coming of age line up to eventually be pushed towards their partner on the other side, to eventually ‘kiss’ and embrace for a very brief moment... before cheerfully being pulled apart again. The scene gets crazier as the participants and asphalt become drenched with the elders seemingly enjoying their role spraying and dousing the crowd.
Escape Bali Altogether
If you’re the adventurous type and don’t want to be confined to the limits of a villa compound or hotel grounds, then you can consider hopping to a nearby island where Nyepi isn’t observed. The Gili islands seems to be the most popular choice for island-hopping escapes from Bali. You can arrange for the last boat leaving from Sanur, Padangbai or Benoa Harbour for the Gilis. Some say that the Nusa Islands is a second option, however it is a Balinese island where the cultural and social restrictions of Nyepi may still largely apply.