In today’s over-saturated music market, we live in a world with more festivals than we can ever dream to attend. It therefore becomes important, when making the all-too-familiar choice of where to travel to next in the pursuit of good music, to focus not only on the acts billed but also on the uniqueness of the experience as provided by the festival surroundings themselves.
Long-running and debuting festivals alike are continuously striving to offer what others can’t: unique locations which in themselves become a selling point for anyone potentially making the trip. From castles to ore mines, idyllic beaches to the desert, we have listed below some of the most unique festival locations in the world.
Black Rock City, Nevada – USA
While no one will be surprised to see Burning Man on this list, it goes without saying that the annual gathering at Black Rock City takes place in one of the most unique locations in the world. The temporary community erected in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada has been getting together since 1986, reaching numbers of up to 70,000 in 2015. The annual event takes place between last Monday of August and the first Monday in September, with emphasis on community and art and memorable sets by the who’s who of today’s electronic dance music scene including the likes of Carl Cox, Lee Burridge, DJ Tennis and Thugfucker.
Mayan Jungle and Ruins, Tulum – Mexico
There is no denying that Day Zero has evolved into one of the most anticipated dance music events of the yearly calendar for industry professionals and fans alike. Taking place in the Mayan jungles and ruins that surround Tulum in Mexico, Day Zero is arguably Damian Lazarus‘ biggest artistic creation and most popular party to date, boasting magical cenotes, mesmerizing sunrises and fantastic art installations. As far as sheer location goes, it is hard to beat a true art-inspired Mexican jungle complete with the magic of the Crosstown Rebels‘ touch. Last year’s line-up included BLOND:ISH, Fur Coat, DJ Three and of course label head Damian Lazarus.
Fort Punta Christo, Pula – Croatia
This UK Festival Award nominated event takes places at and around Fort Punta Christo, a mid-eighteen century fort on the Croatian coasts surrounding the town of Pula. Festival-goers at Dimensions are treated to day-time beach sets, boat parties and performances in a true Roman Amphitheater. Those attending the four-day event in August this year will be able to witness music by Massive Attack, Octave One, Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock, Rødhåd, Hunee and many others.
Sherwood Forest, Rothbury (MI) – USA
To be considered the most magical of Insomniac events is quite the feat. Pasquale Rotella and his team take pride in transforming their event venues into true works of magic, with Electric Forest leading the way. For four days every year, Sherwood Forest in Michigan is transformed into a bedazzling festival setting worthy of the best fantasy novel. While the line-up focuses on jam bands and EDM, it still delivers a good selection of house music with Bonobo, Gorgon City, Dusky, Josh Wink and Way Out West (Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren) all slated to play this year.
Guam – US Territory in Micronesia
A dance music festival in Guam? That’s right. About to celebrate its fourth year as the premier electronic festival on the island, EIF has cemented the presence of dance music in Guam with lineups that feature top-notch artists from Asia, international touring DJs and local favorites. Surrounding the festival grounds are some of the most beautiful beaches of Micronesia, making this one of the most sought-after party destinations for industry peers and electronic music fans from as far as Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad – Serbia
Officially labeled as the “Best Major European Festival” at the EU Festival Awards of 2013, Exit is held annually at the Petrovaradin Fortress in the Serbian city of Novi Sad. The festival began as a student movement that fought and promoted freedom and democracy in Serbia and is now one of the top festival destinations of the world. The fortress located on the banks of the Danube River has housed internationally-acclaimed artists of impressive stature, with The Prodigy, Bastille, and Wiz Khalifa set to join Marco Carola, Nina Kraviz, Mind Against and Solomun for this year’s edition.
Castle of Montemor-o-Velho – Portugal
Festival Forte is Portugal’s hidden gem, a cutting-edge electronic music festival with groundbreaking visual arts inside the walls of the Castle of Montemor-o-Velho, a heritage site in Portuguese history. The lineup this year is compact, yet perfectly curated, with German trio Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann and Rødhåd all scheduled to represent techno alongside Silent Servant, Rrose, Truncate, and many more.
Zrce Beach, Pag – Croatia.
Five days and nights, and over 100 artists spread between pool, beach, boat and after-parties at Zrce Beach in Croatia. Located on the island of Pag, Hideout is set in one of the most picturesque festival location of the Mediterranean, coupled with music by heavyweights of techno and house such as Jamie XX, Adam Beyer, Joris Voorn, Eats Everything, Jackmaster, Skream and Seth Troxler
Dalhalla Amphitheater, Rättvik – Sweden
A true destination festival, Into The Valley is truly located in the middle of nowhere. Well, a former limestone quarry in the middle of nowhere to be precise. Situated about 280 km northwest of Sweden’s capital of Stockholm, the festival can be reached via bus from a small collection of nearby towns – a trip attendees will be making this year to catch music by Ben UFO, Bicep, Bella Sarris, Dixon, Four Tet and Joel Mull among others.
Niigata – Japan
Imagine natural Japanese surroundings, Funktion One sound and DJs playing in tepees. That’s Labyrinth, as boutique as a festival can get: attendance is limited with 95% of tickets only purchasable within Japan and the sound both experimental and techno. In 2010, Resident Advisor dubbed it “one of the most lauded festival experiences in the electronic music world,” and with plenty of reason. Last year, the tepees were manned by some of the most revered names of the international electronic music touring circuit, including Scuba, Voices From The Lake, Donato Dozzy, Peter Van Hoesen as well as Atom™ & Tobias.
Chintheche Inn, Lake Malawi – Malawi
An annual three-day festival on the shores of Lake Malawi, Lake of Stars attracts over 3,000 attendees with musical guests representing Africa as well as the United Kingdom. Last year Time Out named Lake of Stars as having the most beautiful festival location in the world, thanks to the backdrop of the third biggest lake of the continent. The acts that play Lake of Stars receive little to no compensation, allowing the the local economy to benefit from the $1 million generated during the weekend.
Gräfenhainichen – Germany
Melt! finds its home in Ferropolis, or “the city of iron” as many like to call it – an open museum of old huge industrial machines. Once a year in July, the grounds are transformed for a weekend of music that sees fans traveling from all over Europe and beyond to attend. The music programme is eclectic, as this year’s lineup proves. Big live acts such as Disclosure, Bob Moses, Two Door Cinema Club and Chvrches will be joined by Black Coffee, Cosmin TRG, Floating Points, Maceo Plex, Maya Jane Coles and Kode 9 for what is considered to be one of Germany’s biggest outdoor festivals.
Essaouria – Morocco
This coming October, the port city of Essouria in Morocco will house the inaugural edition of MOGA – a brand-new three day festival that promises electronic music and visual arts. The city, which features bygone battlements and eye-catching surroundings, is used to shoot scenes taking place in the popular TV show Game of Thrones. Die-hard fans of the series who attend MOGA will be able to enjoy the yet-t0-be-released lineup in the natural settings of the Daenerys Targaryen-ruled cities of Astapor and Yunkai.
Norberg – Sweden
Started in 1999, the three-stage festival showcases various facets of electronic dance music, including techno, experimental, avantgarde, acid, and breakcore. Norbergfestival is held in and around an abandoned mining area, its main concert building once used as the pithead frame for the extraction of iron ore. Around 90 artists perform at the festival every year, with past acts including Skream, Paul Woolford, Perc and Max Cooper.
Redwoods forest, Piercy (CA) – USA
If you drive four hours north of San Francisco on the 101 in the middle of July, you will reach Cooks Valley Campground – a small oasis tucked under the majestic Redwoods and home of Northern Nights Music Festival. The boutique fest goes an entire weekend with almost non-stop music spread across four separate stages, including all-day programming by the Eel River as thousands party on floats for the entire afternoon.
Gorge Amphitheater, George (WA) – USA
Most recently, Sasquatch! has been held on Memorial Day Weekend, with a diverse lineup that unites rock, hip-hop, electronic music and more. Situated near the Columbia River, the Gorge Amphitheater is a 27,500-seat outdoor concert venue that has been labeled by The Wall Street Journal as, “one of the most scenic concert locations in the world,” on top of winning Pollstar Magazine‘s award for ‘Best Outdoor Music Venue’ for a grand total of nine times.
Reykjavik – Iceland
Secret Solstice has been making headlines world over for a few extremely good reasons. Firs, this year’s lineup includes Radiohead, Of Monsters And Men, Deftones as well as top electronic acts like Apollonia, Jamie Jones, Midland and the Visionquest trio. Second, they announced the availability of the most expensive festival ticket in the world at $1 million USD and third, but not last, festival-goers will experience music in some of the most unique settings of the Scandinavian island including from within a dormant volcano, inside a glacier and in a geothermal lagoon.
Mayrhofen – Austria
Truth be told, there are plenty of snow-related festivals springing up both in the United States and Europe. But if we are going to be truthful, it has to be said that Snowbombing is the biggest and most organized of them all. Situated in a ski resort on the Austrian Alps, this year’s selection packed house, techno, drum & bass and beyond in a massive line-up headlined by The Prodigy, Fat Boy Slim, Sven Väth, Groove Armada and Andy C. And that’s without mentioning the never-ending talent below the fold that joined for a packed extended weekend of snow and quality music.
Mamaia Nord, Romania
When you hear Sunwaves you immediately imagine never-ending sets, after-after-parties and the type of music only the best of Romania’s techno elite can master. Remember Marco Carola’s infamous 24-hour set? It was at Sunwaves. Located in the beautiful setting of Mamaia’s beach on the Black Sea, Sunwaves spans 5 days of music with a lineup that focuses heavily on Romanian talent but also gives space to illustrious guests such as Ricardo Villalobos, Guti, Seth Troxler and Zip. It also offers some of the cheapest festival tickets in the entire world, with third-tier prices reaching the low figure of 38 Euros, or $43 USD.
Saint Martin – Netherlands Antilles
This year saw the arrival of a new festival in the Western Hemisphere. A week before Miami Music Week, techno and house music fans from around the world flew into the Caribbean island of St. Martin for five days of SXMusic. The first-year event saw plenty of the world’s underground electronic music industry attend before heading to Florida, thanks to beautiful settings and music by heavyweights Maceo Plex, Adriatique, Guy Gerber, Dubfire, Audiofly and more.
Katowice – Poland
Nowa Muzyka is the first and only outdoor festival to be staged in a post industrial surrounding of a closed down coal mine that boasts an entirely intact infrastructure available for all visitors. Contemporary music and this unique setting have proven to be a successful formula, seeing that this Polish festival has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. “Nowa Muzyka” means “new music,” a testament to the goals of the festival’s founders to highlight cutting edge up-and-coming artists with each lineup.
Træna – Norway
To reach the festival on the islands of Husøya and Sanna, attendees have to take a ferry from the mainland in Lurøy, Norway. Stages change yearly, and have in the past included an ancient cave, a church with blacked-out windows (to block out the moonlight which shines 23 hours a day) and tents. Each year, the entire community of about 500 citizens participates in organizing this magical experience on a setting that borders with the Arctic Circle.
Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison (CO) – USA
While Red Rocks doesn’t house a festival per se, it is one of the most beautiful settings in the world for live music. An open-air rock structure near Morrison, Colorado, Red Rocks is known for its naturally acoustic surrounding, and has been the home of artists such as The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Depeche Mode, U2 as well as a selection of top electronic artists.