Bali is a magical island offering an incredible experience for beach-goers, surfers, spiritual journeyers and relaxers.
What if I were to tell you that the ‘magic’ is all thanks to a special ceremony that takes place once a year to keep the demons away?
Falling on a new date each year – depending on the Balinese calendar – the Balinese New Year takes place with a week’s worth of ceremonies, rituals and parades. The most famous and captivating of these days is Nyepi or ‘the day of silence’. Unlike anything in the Western world, the whole island ‘shuts down’ with the airport closing, people being banned from the streets and the use of electricity or flames highly discouraged.
The island falls into 24 hours of meditation, reflection and silence.
Here are some of my tips and tricks to celebrating Nyepi in Bali.
What is Nyepi?
Nyepi Day in Bali is a time for self-reflection before the New Year begins. The third ceremony in the week’s events, it is the headliner and one of the oldest rituals in history.
After 2 days of purification and balancing rituals, the Nyepi celebration begins with an Ogoh Ogoh parade. Ogoh Ogoh are towering statues made of bamboo and paper-mache created by each separate banjar – or village – representing different evil figures with gruesome bulging bodies, terrifying faces, scary lighting and wide grotesque eyes.
These monsters are danced around the streets by local groups of men in grand parades with rhythmic music creating an air of tension and anticipation. Lunging into the crowds and twirling in circles, the young men leading the statues make a show of terrifying the onlookers and running around in a careless manner – leading the evil spirits away from the towns to nearby cemeteries.
In a dramatic ending, the detailed and unique statues are burned as a symbol of self-purification.
In 2020 the parades were cancelled due to COVID-19. This could happen again in 2021.
When the clock strikes midnight, seclusion day in Bali starts but the mandatory silence doesn’t begin until 6am. For a full 24 hours everyone must stay off the streets, electricity is prohibited and any loud noise will be reported to the local pecalang – or village security – with the chance of punishment. The blackout allows the demons to pass overhead believing that everyone has abandoned the island for another year of contentment and safety.
As a foreigner, it is an unbelievable experience to witness.
What are the Rules for Nyepi?
- Everyone on the island – including Hindus, Muslims, Christians and tourists – are expected to respect the rules of the ceremony.
If you are travelling to Bali over Nyepi, make sure not to plan any hotel changes, trips or excursions. Any activity outside of your accommodation will be shut.
- You must stay inside your accommodation.
If you are caught on the streets without special allowance or an emergency, you will be punished by the local pecalang.
- Avoid using electricity, lights or open flames.
If you are staying in a private villa, it is your responsibility to ensure you do not use any electricity, light or flame – gas stove – throughout the full 24 hours of Nyepi. Hotels will have provisions and rules in place for guests to follow.
- The Internet will be shut off across the island.
This includes Wi-Fi and data roaming. Don’t arrange any meetings, nomads!
- The airport will be closed.
You will not find any flights available on the day of Nyepi. Early morning flights the following day should be avoided as travelling to the airport could be difficult on closed roads.
Restaurants, cafes, stores and supermarkets will be shut. Make sure you stock up on snacks and meals – that don’t require cooking – before Nyepi Day.
How to Prepare for Nyepi
Know the date!
As the date changes each year, the first important thing to do is know when Nyepi is! In 2021, Nyepi will fall on the 14th March. Mark it in your diary!
Find the perfect accommodation
Spending Nyepi solo can be lonely. Gathering with some friends in a luxurious villa, or shacking up in a resort for the 2 nights can make Nyepi your own personal staycation. Check out below some of the best spots to stay – and special Nyepi package discounts coming soon!
Stock up on groceries
Speaking from personal experience, you don’t want to leave this to the last minute.. You will be stuck with random flavoured chips and lesser known mies. You never know how many snacks you may want in 24 hours, be over prepared rather than under-stocked! Remember to make sure nothing will need cooking.
What to do During Nyepi
Read that book!
We all have a book that has been sitting on our dresser for way too long without even reading the first line – Nyepi Day is the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and read. Although no-one will be coming by to check if you are watching Netflix, it’s nice to honor the ritual and stay away from using electricity. Disconnect and get stuck into a new novel.
If you are a digital nomad who is expecting to work on the date on Nyepi, think again. It’s more than likely you won’t have a reliable internet connection. Be sure to sign off from any jobs you are supposed to be doing and let them know you won’t be contactable – a great excuse for a day off!
Relax around the pool in the sun
One of the benefits of Nyepi happening on a tropical island is being able to enjoy the heat during the lock-in. Unwind in the sun with no guilt.
Have a DIY spa day
Time to put all those spa experiences to good use and have your own at-home pamper session with your loved ones. Try out face masks, manicures and massages using the skills you’ve picked up during your treatments.
Where to Stay During Nyepi
As a visitor, you aren’t expected to spend the whole day in meditation like the local Balinese, but you will need to stay as quiet as possible. Spending a whole 24 hours alone sounds like a dream to me – introvert, here – however, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Grab some friends, and check out these Nyepi approved villas for a relaxing, calm and beautiful silent day.
Private Villas to Stay For Nyepi
Away from the Crowds in Ubud – Villa Madie
On the outskirts of Ubud, Villa Madie is a beautiful, modern getaway with a private swimming pool, stunning rice paddy views and comfortable living areas. Arrange for your favourite snacks and Indonesian dishes to be available upon arrival so you don’t need to worry about stocking up, or running out of food on Nyepi Day.
With friendly staff, it is a great place to spend your first silent day in Bali with friends.
Just Steps from the Beach in Canggu – The Hidden Tree
You may not be able to visit the beach on Nyepi Day, but being just steps away to spend your first moments of freedom on the sand sounds great to me!
The Hidden Tree is a beautiful and quiet getaway filled with comfortable furnishings that make you quickly feel at home. With a private pool and luscious gardens, you can relax around the gardens and soak in the undisturbed peace.
In the Heart of Town – Luscious Tropical 6BR Villa
Just because you need to be peaceful, doesn’t mean you need to run and hide into the hills. Stay slap bang in the middle of town ready to watch the Ogoh Ogoh parade and retreat back to your luxurious accommodation.
This luscious tropical 6 bedroom villa is close by to all the best things in Seminyak including Double Six beach, shops and restaurants.
Hotels & Resorts to Stay For Nyepi
If you want a more catered Nyepi experience, then a hotel or resort will be a much better option for you. With specialised Nyepi packages available closer to the date, you can hide away from the demons in a cosy hotel room with room service and international TV channels.
Here are some of my recommendations –
Luxurious Jungle Resort – Ubud Valley Boutique Resort
With a selection of private villas overlooking expansive jungle views with private plunge pools, Ubud Valley Boutique Resort is a tropical paradise where you can escape the hectic crowds that precede Nyepi and spend a relaxing time with your loved ones.
Thanks to its resort service you don’t need to worry about stocking up on groceries, the hotel will arrange everything you need and keep you in check with the ceremony rules.
Overlooking the Beach – Anantara Resort Seminyak
From a simple suite to a private pool suite, Anantara Resort has an option to suit every budget. Providing meals, activities and in-keeping with the ceremonies rules, you can spend your traditional silent day overlooking the ocean from your private balcony and enjoying restaurant catered food.
If you have to remain inside for 24 hours, why not do it in luxury!
Check back here closer to the big day – March 14th – for some amazing Nyepi accommodation deals!
After our quarantines throughout 2020, 24 hours at home will be a breeze – with a mystical, magical edge.
Keep your lights off and let the demons fly overhead.
– Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi!