With 7.4 billion people in over 200 countries it’s no wonder there are more than 6 thousand unique celebrations around the world. But there’s only one lifetime! How can you choose which to attend? Let’s start with the basics. Categories overlap, especially since music, performing arts and dancing (as well as eating & drinking) play a major role in most events, but it’s possible to divide then into 7 groups: Music, Theatre, Cultural, Film, Book, Sports and Food. Now, let’s explore a few of them.
Many bizarre festivities fall under ‘culture’. For example: Kanamara Matsuri in Japan where a penis is the central theme of the event, and the Monkey Buffet in Thailand where Macaques (macaca monkeys) are served over 2,000 kg of fruity treats, and La Tomatina in Spain where 100 tons of tomatoes are heaved in a gigantic street brawl at the world’s largest food fight.
Sports festivals offer a few surprises too, like racing stubborn dromedaries Down Under at Camel Cup, and bottomless boat competitions in a water-free regatta on a dry riverbed at Henley-on-Todd in the Australian outback, and dirty mud dancing after running in mudflat marathons at Boryeong Mud Fest along Daecheon Beach in South Korea.
All the quirky, bizarre or madcap celebrations around the globe could fill books, so in this post I’ll focus on the most popular category, the one devoted to music.
Select a musical genre, a date, and a country and you’ll find headline bands & DJs amidst explosions of light and sound on gargantuan 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, at the top of mountains, or on deserts in the middle of nowhere.
Some of the best music festivals around the world (professionally promoted ones featuring rock, alt-pop, metal & electronic genres) that are likely to continue for many years to come, include:
- Primavera Sound & Sónar in Barcelona Spain (at Fira Gran Via)
- Benicàssim (FIB) in Spain (along the Costa del Azahar nr. Valencia)
- Glastonbury in Somerset UK (on fields of Worthy Farm nr. Pilton)
- Coachella in Indio USA (in a desert valley in Southern California)
- Burning Man in Nevada USA (in the Black Rock desert nr. nothing)
- Sziget in Budapest Hungary (on Óbudai-sziget island on the Danube)
- Ultra in Miami USA & Worldwide (USA, Europe, S. America, & Asia)
- Lollapalooza in Chicago USA (at a huge park on Lake Michigan)
- Leeds & Reading – UK (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 fort along the Adriatic Sea)
- EXIT in Novi Sad Serbia (at Petrovaradin Fortress on the Danube)
- DOUR in Dour Belgium (at an eerie ex-industrial mining site)
- Bazant Pohoda in Trenn Slovakia (at an old airport near Trenn)
- Tomorrowland in Boom Belgium (between Antwerp & Brussels)
Reggae events are held in places you least expect like Poland, and blues & jazz fests enrapture cities like Montreal & Copenhagen, while classical extravaganzas draw throngs to music citadels like Salzburg Austria (Mozart’s birthplace) where gala concerts have been ongoing since 1920.
What’s the most awesome summer festival?
The best ones for families include Bestival or Camp Bestival in the UK, the best ones for adult debauchery may be EXIT in Serbia, Sea Dance in Montenegro, and Bochum Total in Germany, the most high-tech ones for new music aficionados are perhaps Primavera Sound & Sónar in Spain, the ones most loved by metal heads include Rock am Ring & Amphie in Germany, and for EDM fans there are many choices like Ultra in Miami, Electric Zoo in New York & Tomorrowland in Belgium. There’s no single ‘best’, just resources to help you choose the best one for YOU.
The UK Festival Awards is a good resource because nominees are voted for by the general public using an online platform and also by a panel of journalists and industry experts. Categories include Best Special Effects, Best Hospitality and even Best Toilets (which is my personal favourite), Best Line-Up of the Year, Best Newcomer, Best Overseas, Best Dance and Best Family, but the biggest award goes to the Best Major Festival. Winners have included T In The Park (near Perth & Kinross – about 80 km 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 on each event as well as links to buying tickets and booking travel & accommodation. Fans can rate fests, upload pics and videos, and contribute stories.