After scouring the internet, I noticed that almost every article on transformational festivals and every festival calendar predominantly focuses on those taking place in North and Central America. The phenomenon has its origins in the US, so it’s no surprise the movement there is growing so rapidly, and these days there are new events in nearly every state making it rather hard to keep up.
For this reason, I decided to compile a list of transformational festivals in Europe, as there are new ones popping up in beautiful forests, beaches, and national parks across the continent, yet many people are unaware they even exist. Below is my pick of the year – if you have other suggestions, feel free to let me know.
Where? Doñana, Spain
When? 25.04 – 30.04
Why? One of the best-kept secrets of the European festival scene, Transition is an open air tribal gathering that takes place in Doñana National Park. It provides a space to explore the ancient ritual of Trance Dance for five days, with the idea being to ‘transition’ in to a new dimension and raise your state of mind and being. With its focus on community, it’s an especially good one to visit for solo festivalgoers, who are welcomed with open arms at the Unicorn Camp. Kids and OAPs can enter for free.
Where? Attard, Malta
When? 31.05 – 3.06
Why? Earth Garden is Europe’s best-kept music festival secret, meaning you’ve probably never heard of it, though it’s been going for ten years. 2018 marks its official international launch and, seeing as Malta has been named one of Europe’s capitals of culture for 2018, this seems like a good time to visit. Pets and kids welcome.
Meadows in the Mountains
Where? Polkovnik Serafimovo, Bulgaria
When? 7.06 – 10.06
Why? Meadows in the Mountains prides itself on on its beautiful natural surroundings and the native community that inhabits the area. Local residents host attendees in the Rhodopian Mountains, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular festival locations in the world, and the organisers strive to use the festival to promote green and sustainable methods; everything from the stages to the shacks are sustainably sourced from the bordering forests. MITM is not about big names, and the artists that play tend to be unsigned, underground musicians from Europe.
Where: Zernez, Switzerland
When: 27.6 – 1.07
Why: In a conservative country like Switzerland, transformational festivals really are a breath of fresh air. Burning Mountain provides an open canvas where you can leave your marks and connect with others away in a setting that is renowned for being one of the most beautiful locales in the country. Here, it is all about participating, rather then consuming, an interaction best achieved through commitment and sharing. And dancing of course…
Where? Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
When? 26.06 – 1.07
Why? Often dubbed the Burning Man of Germany, Fusion is certainly one of the most unique festivals in the world, as there simply don’t appear to be any real rules. This year will be particularly special because the organisers of Fusion decided to take a break in 2017, meaning expectations for the 2018 edition are high. Like many of the festivals on this list, there is no advertising and to be in with a chance of buying a ticket, you have to register in advance and just hope that you’re one of the lucky ones selected.
Where? Between Zaragoza and Lleida, Spain
When? 3.07 – 8.07
Why? The aptly named Nowhere, a week-long event in the Spanish desert, is about as close to the Nevada experience as you’ll get in Europe. This rule-free experiment in creative freedom and self-expression started in 2004 with just 35 people, who wanted to find a place to hold hold a decompression party after Burning Man. Fourteen years on, it now attracts roughly 2,000 festival-goers from across the globe. Anyone can play at Nowhere, so if you fancy taking to the stage, just bring your kit.
Noisily Festival of Music and Arts
Where? Leicestershire, England
When? 5.07 – 8.07
Why? Utterly unpretentious and with a strong emphasis on having good, old-fashioned fun, Noisily is the UK’s leading Psychedelic music festival, showcasing unique local and international DJs. Each July, 4,000 revellers flock to a beautiful woodland set deep in the English countryside, where they totally let go for the next four days. Besides the music, the fun-loving crowd and friendly, intimate feel of the festival would be my main reasons to go.
Where: Lichterfeld-Schacksdorf, Germany
When: 5.07 – 9.07
Why: This friendly, laid-back festival keeps things cosy with just 10,000 attendees on a beach roughly 127km from Berlin. Feel tends to have a very versatile line-up, which is kept secret until just a few days before the start of the festival, as the organisers want you to make the journey for reasons other than the headliners. The fact that you camp on the beach itself is just the icing on the cake.
Where? Trigance, France
When? 12.07 – 15.07
Why? As the only festival in France on this list, Festival Harmonic is your chance to step out of your comfort zone and dance to Psybient, Downtempo, World Music and Dub with French hippies in the countryside. Besides the music, you can attend workshops and conferences and watch a variety of performances. With alluring lines such as “Come with your heart, Harmonic will do the rest” and “We are happy to inform you that you will be happy!”, you’re bound to feel the love at this delightful little gathering.
Nation of Gondwana
Where? Grünefeld, Germany
When? 20.07 – 22.07
Why? Nestled in a forest with a small lake roughly 60km from Berlin, Nation of Gondwana is truly a hidden gem and, though it may be a recurring hotspot for Berliners, very few people outside of Germany will have ever heard of it, despite the fact it’s been running for twenty-four years. Whilst many other German festivals are growing rapidly, NoG’s organisers choose to keep theirs small on purpose and do not speak to the press or advertise the event in any way.
Where: Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
When: 22.07 – 29.07
Why: Boom is festival that has stayed true to its values; it is totally independent, with no sponsors, no government loans and no commercial bail-outs. This way, the organisers are free to do as they please and they choose to focus on creating a space where people from all over the world come together to experience an alternative reality. They focus on combining music, art and culture with sustainability, using their own resources and contributions from “Boomers”. Moreover, Boom is a biannual festival, so if you don’t attend this year, you’ll have to wait until 2020!
Where The Sheep Sleep
When? 26.07 – 30.07
Where? Veluwe, Holland
Why? There are regional Burning Man events all over Europe, but what’s different about Where the Sheep Sleep is that the Dutch burners actually set up an affiliate of Burning Man called Burning Man Netherlands, a non-profit organisation that aims to extend the culture and core principles of Burning Man into a larger world. Tickets go on sale from April 1st.
Where? Dádpuszta, Hungary
When? 30.07 – 05.08
Why? One of Europe’s biggest open-air gatherings, the mighty O.Z.O.R.A. Festival is an absolute must for anyone who, like me, is nuts about flailing their limbs to Psy, Techno and Acid House. If you’re not then don’t fret, there are plenty of other musical styles on offer, as well as an array of workshops on everything from alternative massage therapies to batik. There really aren’t any words to describe Ozora; you simply have to go to find out what all the fuss is about yourself.
Where? Hopton Court, England
When? 30.08 – 3.09
Why? Founded by the Audio Farm crew, who are well-known for their legendary electronic nights in Manchester and North Wales, One Tribe makes a nice change from the money-hungry festivals that dominate the UK’s festival scene. Independent throughout, One Tribe is a non-profit, non-corporate organisation, with all the money from ticket sales going to The Green Paw Project, a charity that works to save the lives of helpless animals in third world countries- if that’s not reason enough to go, I don’t know what is.
To be confirmed…
Where: Secret forest location, UK
Why: Aespia has a very interesting concept – you meet in London, hop on a blanked-out shuttle bus and get whisked off to a a secret forest location for a 24-hour celebration of art and escapism. It’s special because it provides the backdrop and materials, and invites you to become the artists. Upon entering the woods, you pass through “limbo”, where you drop off your bags and phones and change into art overalls, before preparing to create a live piece of art on a giant three-dimensional canvas.
Where: Vestiena, Latvia
Why: As far as music festivals of any kind go, Ezera Skanas is definitely one of a kind. Set in the middle of a lake, musicians play on rafts and people paddle out in darkness then, as the first light appears, the music begins and the listeners drift to find a good spot. It gets very little publicity and is deliberately kept a secret, making it all the more enticing.
Written by: Milly Day