Words by Aislinn Corbet
Festivals are not what they used to be.
Back in the day it was all about the music; today it is about the experience. Organisers are pulling out all the stops to offer the ultimate festival experience and festival lovers are paying attention.
From the wild jungles of Borneo to the dusty desert of Nevada – festivals are springing up all around the world in some of the most spectacular locations with features that border on absurd.
These are some of the best (and unusual) festivals around the world that are worth the jet lag.
New Orleans, United States: Mardi Gras
There ain’t no party like Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Mardi Gras (a.k.a. Fat Tuesday) is a time for wild indulgence before the fasting rituals of Lent begin. In New Orleans that entails parades of elaborate floats, street parties that go on into the night, and an atmosphere you won’t be able to resist getting pulled into.
The French Quarter is the indisputable heart of the festivities, but celebrations happen in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, and Lake Charles too. It begins in January and culminates on 25 February.
When: 4 January to 25 February 2020
Where: Throughout the city
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio Carnival
Rio Carnival is known as O maior show da Terra – “The biggest show on Earth”. But nothing can prepare you for just how big it is.
The entire city becomes a wild, heaving party. It is football fever but with extravagant floats, dancers, and costumes instead.
The greatest samba schools in the country come together to battle it out for a grand prize in samba parades at the Sambadrome. The streets become parties called “blocos”. And when night falls, grand balls and lavish parties take over the nightclubs and bars.
When: The Friday before Ash Wednesday (21 February to 29 February 2020)
Where: Throughout the city
France & Belgium: Tomorrowland
Tomorrowland is that festival people talk about for months afterwards. But for good reason – it is one of the best electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the world.
Tickets often sell out within minutes of going on sale.
Camping villages with food stalls, shops, BBQ zones, and chill out areas are set up around elaborate stages alight with pyrotechnics and live performances by the crème de la crème of DJs.
Tomorrowland happens in different cities across the world, but the satellite event is in Belgium. There is also a winter Tomorrowland.
When: France – 14 March to 21 March 2020 | Belgium – 17 to 19 & 24 to 26 July 2020
Where: Alpe d’Huez, France | Boom, Belgium
Copenhagen, Denmark: Distortion Festival
What started as an unknown underground event is now one of the largest annual gatherings in Europe. Distortion is a massive street party that takes over several neighbourhoods in Copenhagen for 5 days in June. But the atmosphere is unlike anything you have ever experienced before.
Young and old come together for a week of electronic, reggae, and dub music in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. For 5 glorious days, the whole city unites to have a good time.
When: 3 June to 7 June
Where: Nørrebro, Vesterbro, and Refshaleøen
Somerset, England: Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury Festival is one of the most well-known and well loved music festivals in the world.
It is a 5 day long festival that was influenced by hippie morals of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Over the years it has mushroomed into an enormous music and performing arts festival with stages and art installations set up across vast stretches of the English countryside.
The festival hosts everything from comedy, theatre, circus, and cabaret performances to legendary bands and musicians. The full line up for Glastonbury 2020 has not been released yet.
When: 24 June to 28 June 2020
Where: Pilton, Somerset, South West England
Ostrava, Czech Republic: Colours of Ostrava
Colours of Ostrava, or simply Colours, is a family friendly festival that has hosted some of the biggest names in music. 2020 will see Twenty One Pilots, The Lumineers, Youssou N’Dou, Tones and I, and Sigrid grace its stages – of which there will be 21.
Colours is known for being a melting pot of music genres and its incredible venues. This year it will be held at Dolní Vítkovice, an ironworks heritage site that dates back to 1828.
When: 15 July to 18 July 2020
Where: Vítkovice (Witkowitz)
Sarawak, Malaysia: Rainforest World Music Festival
This music festival
Rainforest World Music Festival is a 3 day music festival that happens amongst the tropical rainforests of Borneo. It has gained a reputation for its hypnotic sounds and performances.
The festival is all about discovering new music and bringing the different sounds of the world together for a few days of musical exploration and appreciation. It will introduce you to music as you’ve never heard it before.
When: 10 July to 12 July 2020
Where: Sarawak Cultural Village, Sarawak, Borneo
Various Locations: Lollapalooza
The idea of Lollapalooza was conceived by Perry Farrell in 1991 as a farewell tour for his band, Jane’s Addiction.
It was such a hit it has become a recurring event in Chicago and expanded to various other countries around the world – Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden, France, and Germany.
Lollapalooza spans 4 days of rock, metal, punk rock, hip hop, and electronic music (among others) from legendary bands and incredible known, and unknown, musicians.
When: Various dates
Where: See upcoming dates for Lollapalooza 2020 (https://global.lollapalooza.com/ )
Winchester, England: Boomtown Fair
Boomtown Fair is one of the most immersive festivals in the world.
It is part carnival part fantasy world made up of themed districts, each with its own performers, experiences, extravagant stages, and musicians from just about every genre.
Festival goers are even encouraged to visit the costume shops and dress up and partake.
The organisers are also committed to doing good with the profits – a portion is donated to the various charities and initiatives in Winchester (where it’s held).
So far, the line-up for Boomtown Fair 2020 includes Flogging Molly, Caravan Palace, Candi Staton, and Kano.
When: 12 August to 16 August 2020
Where: Matterley Estate, near Winchester, Hampshire
Nevada, United States: Burning Man
What started as a bonfire ritual on a summer solstice night in 1986 has since grown into an entire community for bohemians, free spirits, and artists to experiment with art and enjoy pure freedom.
The festival and community are influenced by 10 principles: radical inclusion, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy, and leave no trace.
Mutant vehicles, burning structures, and radical displays of self-expression are trademarks of this dreamy festival in the desert.
When: 30 August to 7 September 2020
Where: Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Kraków, Poland: Unsound Festival
If you’re into experimental music and performing art – this is for you.
It is produced by a non-profit organization and deals with “evolving and mutating forms of music, as well as related visual arts”. The festival is known for its radical sounds and performances that explore and bend genres and rules.
Unsound Festival happens in various cities around the world, but the medieval town of Kraków is the birthplace of this one of a kind music and performance art festival.
When: 4 October to 11 October 2020
Where: Various venues