16 Destination Festivals Better Than Coachella, Burning Man + Outside Lands

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The summer festival has become de rigueur. Hell, even Gap and Bloomingdales are sporting mannequins adorned in what's become known as festival attire (short shorts, something crocheted, a reusable water canteen, a piece of cultural appropriation—you know the drill). As the series of annual rites of passage take place across the country (Bonnaroo, Coachella, Outside Lands, Governor's Ball, Lollapalooza, and, yes, Burning Man are among the largest), music festivals especially, are becoming interchangeable, featuring rotating rosters of the same bands (with a surprise must-see here and there) and offering much of the same experiences—artisanal culinary zones, locally grown booze camps, upcharged VIP retreats, and digital detox areas.

But, what if you could find a summer festival that wasn't just a cookie-cutter mega music festival? One that might focus on music on a more intimate scale, or on meditation and yoga, or on, something really specific, like say, reading? These festivals do exist, and we're here to tell you about some of the lesser known, but equally brilliant festivals around the world taking place this summer.

APRIL

Walpurgisnacht (Germany)

(Walpurgisnacht; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

Ancient traditions live on in this festival rife with symbolism dating back to the 8th century. The name means “Witches' Night," and it's all about fighting back winter on a mountaintop to welcome spring and new love. Thousands of people come from around Germany to dress up as witches, light bonfires, and express their budding amorous feelings by leaving decorated sticks in peoples' gardens (it's the original May Pole). Basic witches can head to similar celebrations that take place in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. // April 30, 2016: Mount Broken (Germany), lonelyplanet.com

MAY

Hay Festival (Wales)

(Hay Festival; photo courtesy of Hay Festival)

Over 25-years-old, the original Welsh gathering is the perfect spot for the literary set. Imagine days' worth of public readings, lectures, and round-tables all centering around literature in a bucolic setting. It's like a library on a picnic ground. Subfestivals for kids and teens run concurrently throughout the week-long event, and there are plenty of quaint B&Bs and campsites to host your stay. Sister festivals take place in Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, and Spain. // May 26-June 5, 2016: Hay-On-Wye (Wales), hayfestival.com

Summer Camp Music Festival (Illinois)

(Summer Camp Music Festival; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

Located just off Goose Lake in central Illinois, Summer Camp is the granddaddy of jam band festivals, anchored each year by multiple sets by Umphrey's McGee. It's pure Midwestern chill: accommodations are tent camping in the woods, and each day starts with an early morning kickball game. The relaxed vibe encourages performers to interact with the fans out in the fields and in the woods, and there's a separate section called Make A Difference that is all about raising consciousness and education to help attendees learn how to make a difference in their own communities. // May 27-29, 2016: Chillicothe (Illinois), summercampfestival.com

JUNE

World Bodypainting Festival (Austria)

(World Bodypainting Festival; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

Immerse yourself in a weeklong fantasy where the human body becomes a magical canvas. This festival combines highly skilled artists, hot volunteer models (female and male), and a charming lakeside resort town that doubles as a weeklong catwalk and chic late-night party scene. It's a visual spectacle that sees competitors from nearly 50 countries create trippy, mind-blowing living paintings. If you're lucky enough, you might even be selected as a volunteer model yourself. // June 27-July 3, 2016: Pörtschach am Wörthersee (Austria), bodypainting-festival.com

Boi Bumba (Brazil)

(Boi Bumba Festival; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

It takes a multi-day journey by boat deep into the heart of the Amazon to reach this folkloric festival. The event combines the story of a peasant couple who kill a bull with a Vegas-style performance of hundreds of elaborately costumed singers and dancers to create a frenzied competition between two troupes (Caprichoso versus Garantido) in the realms of magic realism. It's an excellent opportunity to go off the grid and connect culturally with local performers who spend the entire year preparing for the dance-off. And that boat you rode in on will most likely serve as your hotel, as accommodations are scarce. // June 24-26, 2016: Parintins (Brazil), boibumba.com

Sonar Festival (Spain)

(Sonar Festival; photo courtesy of TOC Hostels)

Truly the ultimate in brainy music festivals, sun-drenched Sonar immerses attendees fully in the art of sound and music, especially electronica. Founded by a music journalist and his partners, Sonar splits between big public performances and intimate and educational workshops, TED-style talks, music lessons, and more—all in and around history-soaked Barcelona, so you know it lasts into the wee hours of each day. Headlining this year is electronica godfather New Order. // June 16-18, 2016: Barcelona (Spain), sonar.es/en

Haro Wine Festival (Spain)

(Haro Wine Festival; photo courtesy of Agencies)

Wine fight! A traditional bota bag is your BFF during this fest. The leather-covered bladder holds the wine you'll be shooting down your throat, streaming at other revelers, and getting refilled all day with the regional vino tinto. The event is in commemoration of a border dispute that has since evolved into a purple, drunken free-for-all. Everyone wears white, but that doesn't last long. // Jun 28-30, 2016; Haro (Spain), wine-fight.com

What The Festival (Oregon)

(What The Festival; photo by Daniel Zetterman)

Oh, Oregon. Leave it to our northern neighbors to create a small festival (crowds might tip over 5,000) that combines caring, wading pools, and after midnight comedy shows, plus keen live performances by the likes of Thievery Corporation. Now in its fifth year, WTF is a truly chill experience on Wolf Run Ranch, far enough outside Portland that you'll probably lose cell service. // June 17-20, 2016: Dufur (Oregon), whatthefestival.com


JULY

Rath Yatra (India)

(Rath Yatra Festival; photo courtesy of Holiday India)

Festivals often times have their roots in something deeply spiritual. Take Rath Yatra, a Hindu festival that takes place in a northern Indian beach town. It's considered one of the most auspicious of holy days and draws in nearly a million pilgrims and tourists each year who come to pay witness to three sacred statues carried from the Jagannatha temple through the town on chariots. It's a mad, colorful—and crowded event—that Hindus consider one of the four events necessary to attend to achieve salvation. // July 5-6, 2016: Puri (India), rathyatra.org

Wanderlust (California)

(Wanderlust Festival; photo courtesy of Nourish My Dirt)

Head to Tahoe to get in touch with yourself at this multi-day fest dedicated to yoga, spirituality, and holistic living. It's SXSW for the crunchy set, where lakeside classes on acroyoga, healing, and healthy lifestyles are the focus during the day, yielding to chill concerts (Moby is a regular performer and attendee) and pool parties at night. The crowd skews female. It's a nice counterpoint to the bro-fest you'd expect from any large mainstream music festival. And, if you can't make it to Tahoe, Wanderlust is a moveable fest with locations in Hawaii, Whistler, Queensland, and more. // July 14-17, 2016: Squaw Valley (California), wanderlustfestival.com

Boryeong Mud Festival (South Korea)

(Boryeong Mud Festival; photo by Kim Hong-Ji via Reuters)

Thousands of people descend on Daechon Beach each year to get down and dirty celebrating the healing properties of the special mineral-rich soil found there. It's all about the mud with events ranging from full on mud fights and mud wrestling matches, to the more serene facial masks and hot mud baths. Not to worry about cleaning up, since the promoters install hundreds of shower stalls—or you can just take a swim in the Yellow Sea. // July 15-24, 2016: Boryeong (South Korea), mudfestival.or.kr


AUGUST

La Tomatina (Spain)

(La Tomatina Festival; photo courtesy of La Tomatina)

What better way to work out any unnamed aggressions than with a giant, city-side food fight? Travelers come from around the world to pick up their share of the nearly 150 tons of tomatoes that are trucked in annually so they can hurl them at their nearest neighbor. Splat! The entire battle lasts only an hour, kicked off by the tolling of the church bell and the launch of a rocket. By the end, the streets are an ankle-deep sea of tomato juice. // August 31, 2016: Bunol (Spain), latomatina.info

Oppikoppi Festival (South Africa)

(Oppikoppi Festival; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

Oppikoppi (Afrikaans for “on the hill") is a three-day music festival located in the red-dusted veldt outside Kruger National Park, the world's top safari site. Over 20,000 attendees really rough it to take in days of South Africa's biggest acts. Performances take place on the weekend, but the tent city grows into existence the week before. To fill the time, you can expect some serious partying and the festival's annual nude Olympic-style competitions. // August 5-7, 2016: Bosveld (South Africa), oppikoppi.co.za


SEPTEMBER

Festival Number 6 (Wales)

(Festival Number 6; photo courtesy of Fest 300)

Why Number 6? This strange resort town was the setting for the short-lived 1960's cult classic and psychedelic television series The Prisoner, whose main character was named Number 6. The festival features headliners such as Hot Chip and Noel Gallagher, but it sets itself apart by celebrating the absurd with midnight torch-lit parades, live games of hangman, and all sorts of Welsh kookiness. Not into the music? Then take a hike in the woods or try some standup paddleboarding on the adjacent lake. // September 1-4, 2016: Portmeirion (Wales), festivalnumber6.com

Scottish Highland Games (Scotland)

(Scottish Highland Games; photo via Wikipedia)

Ach! Such feats of manliness. Throwing logs. Training dogs. The blowing of the pipes. This event is actually a series of competitions that take place across Scotland. Can't make it across the pond? A large parallel event takes place in Pleasanton on the same date, where you can get your fill of men in kilts. // September 3, 2016: Braemar (Scotland), shga.co.uk

Vegetarian Festival (Thailand)

(Vegetarian Festival; photo courtesy of YouTube)

The name belies the true nature of this most macabre of festivals. Its rooted in a specific Chinese superstition that suffering and abstinence will lead to salvation. And, oh, how the participants suffer, where the devout pierce their skin in any number of elaborate and gruesome ways. Pins, needles, knives, swords—you name it—are stuck through the skin of participants (all under medical supervision), who then parade through the streets of Phuket to display their attempts at purity. The piercings are an attempt to invite Taoists to possess them as the climb into the spiritual plane. There is plenty of blood, so this one's not for the faint of heart. // September 2016: Phuket (Thailand); phuketvegetarian.com

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