How to choose the best festivals for you
With 7.4 billion people in over 200 countries, it’s no wonder there are over 6,000 unique celebrations worldwide. But there is only one life! How can you choose which one to attend? Let’s start with the basics. Categories overlap, especially as music, performing arts, and dance (as well as food and drink) play a large role in most events, but it is possible to divide them into 7 groups: music, theatre, cultural, film, books, sports, and eating. Now let’s take a look at some of them.
Many bizarre festivities fall under “culture”. For example, Kanamara Matsuri in Japan, where a penis is the central theme of the event; the Monkey Buffet in Thailand, where macaques (macaca monkeys) are served with more than 2,000 kg of fruity treats; and La Tomatina in Spain, where 100 tonnes of tomatoes are sold. This occurred in a massive street fight at the world’s largest food fight.
Sports festivals also offer a few surprises, such as the racing with stubborn dromedaries Down Under at Camel Cup, bottomless boat races in a waterless regatta on a dry riverbed in Henley-on-Todd in the Australian outback, and dirty mud dances after entering mudflat marathons at Boryeong Mud Fest along Daecheon Beach in South Korea.
Any quirky, bizarre or wacky parties around the world could fill books, so in this post I’ll focus on the most popular category, the one dedicated to music.
Select a music genre, a date, and a country and you’ll find headliners and DJs amid explosions of light and sound on gigantic stages in colossal arenas, in eerie remains of abandoned buildings, in fields that were once farms or pastures for cows, in ancient fortresses, along beaches or lakes, on top of mountains, or in deserts in the middle of nowhere.
Some of the best music festivals in the world (professionally promoted with rock, alt-pop, metal, and electronic genres) that are likely to continue for many years to come include:
- Sónar & Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain (bij Fira Gran Via)
- In Spain, Benicàssim (FIB) (langs de Costa del Azahar nr. Valencia)
- Glastonbury in Somerset, UK (on the fields of Worthy Farm, No Pilton)
- Coachella in Indio, California (in a desert valley in Southern California)
- Burning Man in Nevada, USA (in the Black Rock desert, nothing)
- Budapest, Hungary (on the Danube island of Budai-sziget)
- Ultra in Miami and around the world (US, Europe, South America, and Asia)
- Lollapalooza in Chicago, USA (in a huge park on Lake Michigan)
- Leeds & Reading-VK (Bramham Park nr. Leeds/a farm nr. Reading)
- Roskilde in Denmark (on Zealand island, not far from Copenhagen)
- Fuji Rock in Niagata, Japan (nr. Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture)
- Outlook in Pula, Croatia (at an abandoned fortress along the Adriatic Sea)
- EXIT in Novi Sad, Serbia (at Petrovaradin fortress on the Danube)
- DOUR in Dour, Belgium (on a creepy ex-industrial mining site)
- Bazant Pohoda in Trenn, Slovakia (at an old airport near Trenn)
- Boom Belgium (between Antwerp and Brussels) hosts Tomorrowland.
Reggae events are held in places you least expect, like Poland, and blues and jazz festivals delight cities like Montreal and Copenhagen, while classical extravaganza draws crowds to music citadels like Salzburg, Austria (Mozart’s birthplace), where ever since In 1920, gala concerts took place.
What is the best summer festival?
The best for families are Bestival or Camp Bestival in the UK; the best for adult debauchery might be EXIT in Serbia, Sea Dance in Montenegro and Bochum Total in Germany; the most high-tech for new music lovers might be Primavera Sound & Sónar in Spain; the most loved by metalheads are Rock am Ring & Amphie in Germany; and for EDM fans, there are many choices such as Ultra in Miami, Electric Zoo in New York and Tomorrowland in Belgium. There is no one ‘best’, just tools to help you choose the best one for YOU.
The UK Festival Awards are a good resource as the nominees are voted on by the general public via an online platform as well as by a panel of journalists and industry experts. Best Special Effects, Best Hospitality, and even Best Toilets (which is my personal favorite), Best Lineup of the Year, Best Newcomer, Best Overseas, Best Dance, and Best Family, but the biggest award goes to the best big festival. Winners include T In The Park (near Perth & Kinross-about 50 miles from Edinburgh) and Bestival on the Isle of Wight.
Another resource for choosing where to go and what to expect is Festinga, an online world festival guide with detailed information about each event and links to buying tickets and booking travel and accommodation. Fans can rate parties, upload photos and videos, and contribute stories.