Desert Festivals to Visit Around The World
Desert festivals might be some of the hardest to come by, and not just because those barren spaces are few and far between. Raving in 100-degree weather is just something that most people wouldn’t dream of, and it might seem even more improbable in such a remote location. So, why do ravers take to these arid sandscapes to dwell in the desert for days on end?
Despite the unforgiving environment, desert landscapes make for some of the best festivals in the world. Often without any towns or cities within earshot for miles, the lack of noise licenses allows for larger than average sound systems with no time constraints. Deserts also provide a completely blank slate meaning they can play host to any kind of creativity or blueprint, whether stages, art installations, or campsites. After dark, once the heat settles over the planes or dunes, it’s high time to let loose, and party as the dry daytime air subsides, creating the perfect starlit setting for any eager raver.
So, with that, let’s dig into some of the best desert festivals across the globe - and no, it’s not just Burning Man!
Monegros Desert Festival, Spain
We’re kicking off this list in Europe - an unusual spot considering the continent’s vast greenery. In the dusty region of Aragon, Northern Spain, a growing community sets up shop in the Monegros Desert, where the eponymous festival takes place. By day, festival-goers take shade under enormous fairytale-esque mushrooms, later lit up by trance-inducing lights transforming the space into a psychedelic oasis. Monegros Desert Festival is known for its prodigious lineup too. Promising one of the most exciting performances of the year as Wu-Tang Clan take to the stage in July 2022, accompanied by a slew of DJs including Adam Beyer, Charlotte De Witte, Seth Troxler, Maceo Plex, and more. This year’s event falls on July 30 for a full-frontal 24 hours.
Over in the Sahara Desert, early summertime event Transahara kicks off this year on May 13th-17th deep in the barren zone amongst the “mythical dunes of Merzouga.” With a traditionally psytrance lineup, this South Moroccan festival is a great escape for fans of higher-tempo tunes. Yet, previous lineups have included house and techno artists whose soundscapes fit for the mystical desert environment like John Aquaviva, Nitin, Matt Caines, and D-Nox. Due to the fragility of the ecosystem surrounding the venue, the festival is capped at 1500 and accommodations in one of five hotels and camps nearby. Accommodations are quite reasonable ranging from $30-80 a night. Transahara beautifully fuses art, music, and culture for a grand celebration under the starlit sky every spring.
Burning Man, Nevada
Photo Credit: Michael Holden
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without Burning Man. It might be the first one that comes to mind when you think of desert-based festivals, but many don’t know the full ins and outs of this unusual event. As thousands of people - 80,000 to be exact - make the pilgrimage each year to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, festivalgoers land in the barren metropolis of Black Rock City surrounded by art installations, burning structures, adventurous outfits, and a heck of a lot of bicycles. Black Rock City doesn't have traditional stages, the music is instead hosted by sound camps that each add their own artistic aesthetic to the dusty environment. Soundcamps like the fire-laden Opulent Temple, Debouchaerous day party Distrikt, and Carl Cox led Playground have hosted some of the biggest names in house and techno, including Carl Cox, The Martinez Brothers, and Joseph Capriati.
Previously dubbed ‘India’s craziest music festival’, Ragasthan has a lot to live up to - and it does. The three-day camping event takes place in the medieval trading town-turned-desert of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, just off the border of Pakistan. Boasting a lineup of both electronic and indie music, India’s top-tier festival also includes cinema screenings and fly-by art on top of late-night DJ sets from the likes of Christ Burstein, Bemet, and more amongst the mystical landscape. Ragasthan takes place each year in February to ease away those winter blues.
AfrikaBurn, South Africa
Burning Man's sibling festivals are called regional burns. Founded on the same 10 Principles of Burning Man (Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy) they give the worldwide community a chance to relish in its spirit closer to home.
Afrikaburn is the second largest regional event after its sibling festival Midburn in Israel. And it's a worthy contender. Originally taking place on Stonehenge farm, AfrikaBurn later moved to South Africa’s Quaggafontein, where it sets up a similar event with the same ethos as Burning Man. The experiencial festival is said to be a ‘playground without politic’ bringing together the South African Burner community. This year’s event kicks off in the Western Cape province on April 25th until May 1st.
Desert Daze, California
California’s Desert Daze Festival has consistently had one of the better lineups over the past few years in the arid, mountainous destination of Lake Perris. Though more a beach than a desert festival, this dry setting has previously hosted the likes of Floating Points, Boards of Canada, Flying Lotus, plus a few pop, rap, and rock numbers. Desert Daze takes place annually toward the end of the year to avoid peak summertime heat, but with a lake just metres away, there’s always room for a quick dip. Expect some more magic in the desert this year from September 30th until October 2nd.
Sandbox is a once-in-a-lifetime event taking place mid-summer. As the sun hangs low over the Gouna Red Sea next to Egypt’s El Gouna desert, almighty lineups including Folamour, Palms Trax, Mella Dee, Sweely, and more play to intimate crowds. The desert plane hosting Sandbox sits next to the turquoise waters of the red sea, making it the perfect respite for anyone seeking some time away from the unforgiving heat. This year’s dates are currently unconfirmed, although you can bank on a glorious weekend somewhere in mid June.
Day Zero, Israel
Finishing off our selection is Israel's Day Zero festival hosted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Masada, not to be confused with the festival’s second event held in the jungle of Tulum. As termed by the festival itself, Day Zero is ‘a convergence of mysticism, music, natural wonder and apocalyptic sentiment’, set amongst the scenic desert space in the heart of Israel. Here, you can find a bill of impressive house and techno artists from all over the globe with previous residents including DJ Tennis, Black Coffee, Four Tet, and Dennis Cruz amongst others. Day Zero celebrates 10 years this year kicking off on September 23rd, 2022.
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