Best time to visit Indonesia

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When is the best time to visit Indonesia?

With temperatures hovering around 28 degrees Celsius, Indonesia is a year-round destination. The best time to visit Indonesia ultimately depends on what you want from your trip. If trekking is high on the agenda, then you’d want to avoid the wettest months – typically January and February – when many of the volcano hikes are off limits.

However, temperatures remain high during the wet season and rainfall is limited to short downpours. So you trip spoil won’t be spoiled, particularly if you want to visit temples and museums.

May through to October is dry across most of the islands for hiking and biking among rice fields and bathing in waterfalls. Prices soar and crowds swell during the peak tourist months of July and August, though, and again over Christmas and New Year.

Our comprehensive guide on when to go to Indonesia will help you to plan your trip.

Best month to visit Indonesia

The best months to visit Indonesia are May, June and September, during the shoulder months of the dry season (outside Maluku and Papua). You’ll get clear days but the islands won’t be as crowded or expensive as during peak season (July and August), nor as hot and humid so ideal for long hikes and cycle rides.

The dry season is excellent for diving and surfing, though the best time to travel to Indonesia depends on which part of the archipelago you’re visiting. The prime months for diving off the coast of Bali, Lombok and Komodo National Park are April to September, while the optimum conditions for diving around Maluku and Papua are from October to April.

When to visit Indonesia in winter

It is easy to find good deals in low season – October to April – and you can travel with little advance booking (except at Christmas and New Year). Despite frequent downpours, temperatures hover around 30 degrees, and a big plus is that the islands are less crowded and cheaper.

Visiting Indonesia in December — February

January and February are the wettest months in Indonesia, though the rain isn’t relentless; you’ll still have warm, sunny days, briefly interrupted by sporadic downpours.

Christmas and New Year are extremely busy and expensive, though the festive season is the best time to visit Indonesia for raucous parties.

When to visit Indonesia in spring

May is one of the best months to visit Indonesia, at the start of the dry season but free from the hordes of summer tourists.

Visiting Indonesia in March — May

The tail end of the rainy season is the best time of the year to visit Indonesia for natural beauty, as the jungle and rice paddies at their most lush, while rain showers are increasingly few and far between.

Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, kicks off at the end of March or beginning of April, which is a great local experience though the celebrations make getting around Bali impossible as everything shuts down. Wellness travellers may like to stick around in Ubud in April for the Bali Spirit Festival, the largest yoga, art and music festival in Asia.

May is the perfect month to make the most of Bali’s excellent surf on the southern coast of Uluwatu, Seminyak and Canggu, though temperatures can hover around 30 degrees Celsius.

When to visit Indonesia in summer

June is the best month to visit Indonesia in summer, before the European summer holidays begin. It is not a good idea to travel to Indonesia during peak tourist season, between July and mid-September, when prices soar and rooms can be fully booked for weeks on end.

Visiting Indonesia in June — August

While June has warm, dry days that are perfect for outdoor pursuits, July sees crowds swells across the islands and in turn prices soar.

Culture-seekers may like to time their visit with the Bali Arts Festival, which runs from June through to mid-July. June and July have the most consistent surf, so you can expect waves to be crowded, especially in Java and Bali.

Though August is the busiest month across most of Indonesia’s tourist hot spots, particularly Bali, there are beach parties and festivals galore. It is also possible to escape the crowds by heading to lesser-trodden towns and beaches.

When to visit Indonesia in fall

September is one of the best months to visit Indonesia, when the summer chaos has dissipated. Still dry and sunny, it’s a peak time for land-based activities.

Visiting Indonesia in September — November

The hordes of tourists begin to head home in September but the warm, dry days linger, making it a good time to visit. November sees the rainy season kick off with brief showers.

Climate in Indonesia

The whole Indonesian archipelago is tropical, with temperatures at sea level always between 21°C and 33°C, although cooler in the mountains. In theory, the year divides into a wet and dry season, though it’s often hard to tell the difference. This is increasingly so with the effects of climate change, which has already altered seasonal patterns, sometimes shortening and concentrating wet seasons. Very roughly, in much of the country, November to April are the wet months (January and February the wettest) and May through to October is dry.

Best time to visit Bali

Bali is balmy year round, with temperatures hovering in the high twenties, and only cooling slightly around centrally located Ubud and the mountains. October to April is wet season and though you’ll battle rain showers, it is easier to find good deals and you can travel easily without advance booking (except Christmas and New Year).

Mountain climbing and trekking are not advised in the wet months. The best time of year to visit Bali is May to June and September, when the weather is dry and warm but not too humid. May and June are the best months to visit Bali for diving and mountain climbing, though temperatures nudge the high twenties. Surfing on the west coast is excellent from April to October, while come November to March, the east coast offers better swell. Avoid Bali in July and August when tourist numbers surge and room prices rocket.

Best time to visit Lombok and Gili Islands

During wet season (October to April), you can expect lower prices in Lombok and the Gili Islands. If you’re planning to climb Gunung Rinjani, note that the mountain is closed to trekkers during the wettest months of the year, usually from late December to late March. It may be out of bounds at other times if the authorities consider conditions to be too risky.

The best time to travel to Lombok and the Gili Islands is in June or September when there is less rain and fewer tourists. Avoid peak summer and Christmas and New Year if you want to keep costs down and avoid the hordes.

Best time to visit Java

Expect cheaper prices and fewer crowds in Java from October to April, but the downside is intense, heavy downpours. The best months to visit Java are May, June or September when it is dry but without the humidity of peak summer. If you’re planning to hike Gunung Bromo, Gunung Penanjakan or Gunung Semeru, a visit in dry season is essential.

The highlights of the dancing year in Central Java are the phenomenal Ramayana ballets held each summer at Prambanan’s Open-Air Theatre. From May to October, the timeless Hindu epic is performed in its entirety, with the magnificent Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma temples serving as a backdrop. If you can’t travel within these dates, not to worry as individual episodes are performed sporadically outside this time.

Best time to visit Sumatra

In Sumatra it rains from October to January in the north, and November to February in the south. Many people visit for the diving, particularly around Pulau Weh off northern Aceh. If your main goal to explore the pristine underwater landscape, then the best time of year to visit Sumatra is between late April and early October. Surfing is another prime pastime on the island, with surfers flocking to the waves around Krui in June and July, when you get the most consistent swell. If you prefer to stay on land, you’re better off visiting in June or September to hike Gunung Sinabung or wander among the orangutan-filled forest of Gunung Leuser National Park.

Best time to visit Kalimantan, Borneo

The best time to visit Kalimantan is May to June or September, when you can traverse the waterways and venture off grid into its dense jungle on dry, sunny days. Stay on in September for the Erau Festival Tenggarong and you’ll be able to watch an astonishing display of indigenous Dayak skills and dancing.

Festivals in Indonesia

Religious festivals sweep throughout Indonesia’s Muslim, Hindu, Chinese and indigenous communities every year. Each of Bali’s twenty thousand temples has an anniversary celebration, for instance, and other ethnic groups may host elaborate marriages or funerals, along with more secular holidays. Many of these festivals change annually against the Western calendar. It’s a great way to experience cultural traditions and interact with locals, and festival dates can help you decide when to go to specific Indonesian islands.

  • Galungun, Bali. Takes place for ten days every 210 days to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
  • Pasola, West Sumba. Held four times in February and March, this festival to balance the upper sphere of the heavens culminates with a frenetic pitched battle between two villages of spear-wielding horsemen.
  • Nyepi, throughout Bali. End of March or beginning of April. The major purification ritual of the year.
  • Sekaten, Central Java. March or April. The celebration of the birthday of the prophet Muhammed includes a month-long festival of fairs, gamelan recitals and performances.
  • Erau Festival Tenggarong, Kalimantan. September. A big display of indigenous Dayak skills and dancing.
  • Funerals Tanah Toraja, Sulawesi. Mostly May to September. With buffalo slaughter, bullfights and sisemba kick-boxing tournaments.
  • Krakatau Festival Lampung, Sumatra. October. Five days of events highlighting Lampung’s cultural heritage, including Tuping Karnaval (Lampung Mask Carnival); part of the celebration occurs on the island of Anak Krakatau itself.
  • Kora Kora Festival, Maluku Islands. Traditional longboat races in the Maluku Islands, held in Ternate and the Banda Islands in mid-November.
  • Kasada Bromo, East Java. Offerings are made to the gods and thrown into the crater. Held on the fourteenth day of Kasada, the twelfth month in the Tenggerese calendar year (Dec).

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Rough Guides Editors
8/29/2020
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