Festivals are the equivalent of a musical buffet; all of your favorite acts are suddenly in one place for one fixed price. During those endless summers – which always seem like they’ll last forever but never do – it doesn’t get better than a real-life juke box rotation of the songs performed live as you stand in the midst of thousands people who share the common goal of just having a good time. Of course there’s also the lines, the outdoor bathrooms, and the potential for heat-stroke or dehydration, but there are always pros and cons.
Even though festivals, for the most part, trade in the intimacy of smaller venues, it’s an equally experiential and different way to see your favorite artists – especially when you add a dash of wanderlust. If you’re already saving for passes or accommodations, why not put away a little extra and do a bit of traveling? Going the destination festival route double checks the bucket list: you get to vibe to great music and explore a new city…at the same damn time.
To get things started, we’ve compiled a list of 13 spectacular festivals happening in unique locales across the world. A few offer intimate, small crowd settings and a short act list while others chart enormous attendance rates and multiple main stages; it’s well worth having both experiences. Take a look at the best music festivals worth a plane ticket below.
Even though it’s going on five years strong, Sandbox remains a bit of a hidden gem. Located in El Gouna, an Egyptian town off the coast of the Red Sea, the easy access to both land and water make outdoor activities like kite-surfing, sailing, diving, hiking and horseback riding readily available to guests looking for something more than a quick music fix. Boutique hotels, shopping and dining are also a prominent fixture of the sleepy town. For those with concerns regarding bouts of political unrest in Egypt, El Gouna is far from the capital city of Cairo where many of the disturbances tend to occur.
Location: El Gouna, Egypt
Dates: May 4-6
Notable Acts: TBA
Sun, sand and deep, deep house – that’s what attendees of SXM can expect. Though it’s only going into its second year, SXM has already been heralded as one of the leading electronic and dance music destination festivals. The crowd is blessedly small, particularly in relation to mega-events like Coachella or Mawazine which see hundreds of thousands of visitors. Scaling down works in the organizers’ favor; they’re able to carefully curate truly one-of-a-kind day-to-night experiences that take place at a number of different venues all over the island. It’s basically a scavenger hunt, music festival and tropical vacation all rolled into one.
Location: Saint Martin
Dates: March 15-19
Notable Acts: Âme, Black Coffee, Thugfucker, Honey Dijon and more
Epizode is another new arrival to the festival circuit – the first edition took place this January. After an overwhelmingly positive response the event organizers immediately set about planning a follow-up for 2018. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of house or electronic, Epizode is worth checking out purely for its location. Phú Quốc is Vietnam’s largest island; it’s also famed for having year-round temperate waters, alabaster sand, untainted natural beauty and a vibrant local food scene that offers endless epicurean adventures. The festival organizers have said they want attendees to feel as if they’re in a dream, and with Dali-esque sculptures rising from sun-kissed waters it’s easy to take part in the fantasy.
Location: Phú Quốc Island, Vietnam
Notable Acts: Konrad Black, Julian Perez, Wagon Repair, Crosstown and more
Primavera launched in 2001 and has since grown from a humble DIY effort to a festival behemoth that has seen some of contemporary music’s most iconic names cross the stage. Today, the four-day event draws over 195,000 visitors to 18 different stages where over 250 acts keep a song in the air from sunrise to sundown. Aspiring foodies and culture buffs will also have plenty to uncover should they choose to peruse Barcelona’s historic streets, eateries, markets and cultural centers.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Dates: May 31 – June 4
Notable Acts: Frank Ocean, Flying Lotus, Death Grips, Slayer, King Sunny Adé and more
Mawazine in Rabat, Morocco, is probably the largest world music festival you’ve never really heard talked about. Boasting a record-breaking attendance of around 2.5 million people at its peak – that’s triple the population of Rabat- the event serves as a cultural landmark that positions Morocco’s capital city as a musical haven for all. In the past, Mawazine has drawn ire as some Muslim groups believe the influx of party-ready attendees is at odds with the values of Islam, a religion the majority of the country prescribes to. Regardless of what you believe, there’s no denying that the eight-day music binge successfully (and peacefully) brings together millions of guests and hundreds of artists from all over the world. It’s a surreal setup that allows disparate groups to occupy the same spaces while bonding over their similarities rather than their differences.
Location: Rabat, Morocco
Dates: May 12-20
Notable Acts: TBA
Most of the millennial and generation Z groups grew up thinking of Cuba as that close-but-distant island nation that Americans weren’t allowed to visit without very special permission. Of course, the history of Cuba and the United States’ inexorably intertwined relationship held complexities most of us, to this day, only grasp on a very surface level. In June of 2015, the years of back-and-forthing came to an end when both nations reached an agreement that allowed for the re-opening of embassies, effectively making travel a possibility again. In 2016, several airlines added Habana to their roster, and Musicabana Festival was all too happy to accommodate the influx of curious visitors. The inaugural event was billed as a Cuban dance and cultural experience featuring some of the country’s leading artists. Though the first year was scaled back a bit due to last-minute difficulties, performers like Diplo still came out to enthusiastic audiences. The roster this year still hasn’t been completely announced but stay tuned…
Location: Habana, Cuba
Notable Acts: TBA
Launched in 2008, Outlook was formerly a rather intimate affair that attracted a more experimental ilk of festival goer. However, in 2011, the festival officially gentrified. Organizers increased the amount of stages and acts, drawing double the amount of people the event had previously enjoyed. The move also drew a few complaints from loyal attendees who appreciated a more curated, small-scale experience. In all honesty, it’s little wonder Outlook’s attendance rate skyrocketed so quickly: the festival takes place in the now-toppled ruins of Fort Punta Christo, which overlooks the Adriatic Sea. With live acts taking place in abandoned tunnels or on the bones of centuries-old structures, it’s basically every childhood pirate adventure fantasy come to life.
Location: Pula, Croatia
Dates: September 7-10
Notable Acts: Dizzee Rascal, DJ Shadow, AJ Tracey, Wiley, Giggs and more
An OG of the festival world, Roskilde was birthed in the early ’70s thanks to the ingenuity and determination of two high school students. Since then, the onetime gathering of the hippies and flower children has expanded to encompass global acts spanning across disparate genres and age groups. And, if you have any qualms about forking over your hard-earned cash, know that Roskilde is a non-profit festival whose funds go towards initiatives geared toward benefitting children. The festival itself is run by a tiny staff who are supported by thousands of unpaid volunteers when peak days come around.
Location: Roskilde, Denmark
Dates: June 24-July 1
Notable Acts: The Weeknd, Foo Fighters, A Tribe Called Quest, Bryson Tiller and more
Way Out West Festival
Gothenburg’s flagship three-day music binge boasts an eco-conscious angle that will convince your most aggressively environmentalist friends that extravagance in nature doesn’t always come at a catastrophic cause. Way Out West was the first festival in Sweden to attain KRAV certification, KRAV being a watchdog organization that regulates sustainable agriculture. Like a few of the larger-scale festivals on this list, WoW tends to skew towards popular music, bringing rock, hip-hop electronic and dance artists with heavy radio plays to its main stage.
Location: Slottsskogen, Gothenburg, Sweden
Dates: August 10-12
Notable Acts: Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Young Thug, Lana Del Rey, Danny Brown and more
Sonar has been snatching wigs and taking names since 1994 when it launched as an experimental new format for dance and electronic music. The creative hub-cum-festival is spread across two locations – one active during the day and the other at night. In addition to live performances from emerging and established names, Sonar also offers homegrown events and development sessions geared towards connecting fellow creators and honing their skills. It’s an opportunity to work, play, eat and indulge in some of Barcelona’s top-notch nightlife over the course of a few short but exciting days.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Dates: June 15-17
Notable Acts: Arca, AJ Tracey, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Little Dragon, GAIKA and more
Nos Alive Festival
Every July, Lisbon, Portugal becomes a hub for rock, indie, R&B and pop music as the city’s NOS Alive festival provides three days of sun, song and sand to eager attendees. Boasting global headlining acts like The Weeknd and Foo Fighters, NOS Alive has become Lisbon’s premier summer festival, drawing thousands of spectators from across Portugal and the world. They come for more than the lineup too – the festival is set alongside the Tagus River, a strategic ten minutes from many of the city’s best beaches, bars and surf spots. On top of that, the festival took a pledge to join the zero waste movement in 2012, adding an extra angle of eco-consciousness that just kind of makes you feel good about yourself. Camping is also an available amenity should you so choose.
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Dates: July 6-8
Notable Acts: The Weeknd, Depeche Mode, Imagine Dragons, Foo Fighters and more
Fuji Rock Festival
A true nature lover’s event, the Fuji Rock Festival offers plenty of opportunities for putting on that spare pare of Wellies, camping out in a good old fashioned tent and practicing all equivalents of communing with the natural world. Although it’s billed as a rock festival, and was started as such in 2005, Fuji has grown to accommodate a number of cross-genre acts including Sampha, who will be a headliner following the release of his debut album this year. For those who like to plan their route, know that the festival offers a total of seven stages – the green stage being the largest with a capacity of 50,000, so expect a lot of bodies. The grounds also double as a ski resort so the trek between stages can be long and prone to the whims of mother nature, but if that’s your beat you’ll be 100 percent at home.
Location: Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Dates: July 28-30
Notable Acts: Aphex Twin, Major Lazer, Sampha, Lorde, Björk and more
If you’re wondering what Ja Rule has been up to, well, he’s busy being the brainchild behind a brand new music festival called Fyre – assumedly because it takes place at Fyre Cay, and it’s supposed to be fire. The location also has a pretty scintillating history – it has housed outlaws like Blackbeard and Pablo Escobar over the course of history. In addition to challenging the typical festival format with activities like treasure hunting – which could actually earn you precious jewelry and cash – there will also be relaxing yoga sessions, and of course, music. G.O.O.D. music to be exact; Kanye West and company have been named the festival’s headlining acts. Celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Alessandra Ambrosio, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski have already confirmed their attendance, although we’re sure they skipped the $1,500 general admission weekend ticket and went straight for the VIP.
Location: Fyre Cay, Bahamas
Dates: April 28-20 & May 5-7
Notable Acts: G.O.O.D. Music, Major Lazer, Disclosure and more
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