Jakarta. In 2019, the Taj Mahal in India will return after a yearlong restoration, the Petra Museum in Jordan will finally open for public, and Germany is set to celebrate 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
How about Indonesia?
From Sabang to Merauke, the country of 250 million people also has plenty to offer throughout the year. The Tourism Ministry has listed 107 festivals that will take place in Indonesia from February to December. It is only the first week of 2019, but we know some of you are already planning which places to go this year.
Here is our pick of cool Indonesian festivals that you won’t want to miss this year.
Cap Go Meh Festival, Feb. 5-19
Cap Go Meh or lantern festival is celebrated by Chinese-Indonesians all over the country, and in Singkawang, South Kalimantan, it takes a peculiar form.
Every year on Cap Go Meh, Singkawang hosts lively and colorful parades, which are famous throughout the country.
For weeks, streets and buildings in the city center are decked out with red lanterns.
Singkawang’s Cap Go Meh festival will be held this year from Feb. 5 to Feb. 19, the last day of the Chinese New Year or Imlek.
The literal meaning of “Cap Go Meh” is “the 15th night.” That’s why the festival peaks 15 days after Imlek, when the full moon will be at its brightest.
Another tradition makes Cap Go Meh in Singkawang very special: a parade of the ancient Tatung ritual.
Tatung is performed to repel misfortunes, shoo away spirits and cleanse the town and its temples from evil.
People performing the ritual will be put under a spell so they can perform dangerous stunts like piercing themselves with steel wires, sticking huge nails through their cheeks, stepping on sharp blades or slitting their tongue with a sharp knife.
The spine-chilling ritual is definitely not for the squeamish and children may need to be accompanied by their parents.
Horas Samosir Fiesta, March 7
Blessed with outstanding natural splendors and fascinating culture, the island of Samosir is located right at the center of the magnificent Lake Toba in North Sumatera.
The beautiful island this year will host the Horas Samosir Fiesta.
Started in 2014, the annual festival offers a string of events including music shows, cultural festivals and sporting competitions.
This year the festival will feature three international events: Samosir Music International Festival, Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) Championship Asia cycling race and Samosir Lake Toba Ultra Marathon.
The local government has recently completed major infrastructure upgrades in the region including new toll-roads, an airport and seaports.
Crossing over to Samosir Island – once the bane of many backpackers’ trips since the old rickety ferries were so unreliable, not to mention deadly – is now easy. Two “ro-ro” ships that can fit up to 3000 passengers and 35 to 40 cars will now dock in Parapat on the edge of the lake and take tourists to Tomok or Tuk-Tuk on the island.
Free car services are now also available from the new Silangit International Airport.
Festival Teluk Tomini, April 1-10
Festival Teluk Tomini (Tomini Bay Festival) will return to Parigi Moutong in Central Sulawesi this year.
The nine-day festival will kick off on April 1 and feature many events including a marathon race, an underwater photography competition, food exhibitions, sailboat racing, beauty pageant, craft days and a painting competition.
Runners will want to join the Equator 10K race when you can run and take in all the natural beauty of Parigi at the same time.
The festival’s cooking competition has always been one of its main highlights.
In 2016, the district broke an Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI) record for having the largest number of contestants in a competition to cook the traditional dish Lalampa, a glutinous rice cake filled with cakalang (tuna) wrapped in banana leaf.
Last year, the Tomini Bay Festival attracted a total of 400,000 domestic tourists and 5,000 overseas tourists.
Bintan Triathlon, May 7-9
If you enjoy physical challenges, the Bintan Triathlon might be the perfect event for you. Open to both amateurs and professionals, the annual triathlon has become one of the most awaited in Asia.
And bring your kids, too. The triathlon offers activities for everyone from parents to children.
Located just 55 minutes by ferry from Singapore, Bintan offers the perfect backdrop for an ultimate triathlon experience. Then you can stay a few extra days to recuperate and relax.
Before and after the race, a string of activities are also available on the island: yoga, boot camp sessions, sunset swim, island rides, massages, beach party and a kids’ club that includes sunset soccer for kids.
If being healthy is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this will be the perfect time to put Bintan Triathlon in your bucket list.
For more information and registration visit https://www.bintantriathlon.com/rates-registration/
Yadnya Kasada Bromo, June 17-19
Mount Bromo in the Bromo Tengger-Semeru National Park is one of the most visited attractions in East Java. Apart from its deserts and natural splendor, Bromo also has a unique culture not seen in any other parts of the country.
The Yadnya Kasada is a festival held on the 14th day of the Kasada Month in the traditional Hindu lunar calendar.
The main ceremony in the festival is held to honor Sang HyangWidhi, the God Almighty, Roro Anteng, the daughter of the Majapahit King and Joko Seger, the son of a legendary Brahman.
The ceremony and the festival are sacred to the Tengger people, the original inhabitants of the Bromo highlands who are believed to be the descendants of 13th century Majapahit nobles.
The unique ceremony is still celebrated today even though most Javanese have converted to Islam.
A month before the ceremony, Tengger people from numerous mountain villages scattered across the area will gather at the Luhur Poten Temple at the foot of Mount Bromo to perform a blessing ceremony.
On Yadyana Kasada, crowds will travel together to the mountain’s summit and throw offerings – vegetables, fruits, livestock, flowers and money – into the volcanic crater as a sign of gratitude.
To find out how you can witness the beauty of Mount Bromo and take part in the festival, visit https://tripwisatabromo.com/
Festival Pesona Bunaken, July 26-29
Bunaken’s majestic sea garden, which includes a jaw-dropping sea wall, will be the centerpiece of the Pesona Bunaken Festival, scheduled to be held in Manado in July this year.
There will also be a boat decorating competition, traditional Kolintang orchestra performances, Maengket dances and a food exhibition (beware, Manado is famous for its extremely spicy – and super yummy – food!)
If you enjoy a spot of scuba diving, Bunaken is a great place to be. With more than 20 world-class diving spots, divers will be spoilt for choice. Most of these spots are near Bunaken and Manado Tua.
Dieng Cultural Festival, Aug. 2-4
The magical beauty of the mist-shrouded highlands of Dieng Plateau in Central Java will be unveiled at the Dieng Cultural Festival this year.
Scheduled for Aug. 2-4, the event will take place in Dieng Kulon in the Banjarnegara district.
Entering its twentieth year, the festival will present a range of art and cultural performances and an exhibition of Dieng’s finest products.
More than 15 events have already been planned for the event, including a lantern festival, cultural parade, traditional art performance and culinary bazaar.
The three-day event will also feature a unique ritual called Ruwatananakgembel, shaving off dreadlocks on children with matted hair.
There is a camping ground in Dieng if you want to fully immerse yourself in the magical beauty of the highlands under clear starry skies.
Visit http://www.wisatadiengtour.net/2017/02/dieng-culture-festival-2017.html for more info.
Malang Flower Festival, Sept. 15
One of the biggest and most colorful events in Indonesia, the Malang Flower Festival, will return this year to showcase exotic flowers from across the archipelago.
Another highlight of the event is its costume parade, which will feature more than a hundred dancers wearing flower costumes.
Please be noted that most of the costumes are made from recycled materials to keep the festival environmentally-friendly.
Pesona Bahari Raja Ampat Festival, Oct. 7-11
Far (2700 kilometers away to be precise) from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta with its polluted air and congested traffic, you will find the pristine isolated paradise of Raja Ampat.
Situated off the northwest tip of Papua’s Bird’s Head Peninsula, Raja Ampat is a mini archipelago of nearly-unpopulated islands (except for a few well-appointed resorts) surrounded by thick jungles.
The archipelago comprises over 1,500 small islands, cays and shoals surrounding the four main islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool.
For underwater enthusiasts, Raja Ampat offers some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving sports.
There are over 9.8 million acres of land and sea, home to more than 500 types of corals, more than 1,000 types of coral fish and 700 types of molluscs.
The Raja Ampat Festival itself will feature photography exhibitions, traditional dance performances and tours to traditional villages.
For more information visit https://raja-ampat.biz/
Festival Budaya Cirebon, Dec. 28
Forget about bars and hotels. If you’re looking for something unique to celebrate the New Year, head to Festival Budaya Cirebon (Cirebon Cultural Festival).
Located right on the border between the provinces of West Java and Central Java, Cirebon is one of the most interesting and most multicultural cities in Indonesia.
Ming Dynasty plates adorn the walls of the Keraton Kasepuhan palace and the city’s Islamic cemetery.
Even its colorful batik (a far cry from subdued, earth-toned batik from Central Java) has strong Chinese influences that are reflected in a cloud-like pattern called “Mega Mendung.”
The festival typically features the traditional arts of Cirebon such as angklung bungko dance, wayang wong (wayang opera with actors) and fashion and food exhibitions.
Cirebon is easily accessible by car, plane or train. There are two large railway stations in Cirebon – Kejaksan and Prujakan.