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The world’s best music festivals that aren’t Coachella or Glastonbury

Music festivals have become a social custom, a ritual of sorts.

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The music festival is a beautiful invention -- a place to release yourself, kitted out in flamboyant outfits as live bands invigorate the atmosphere. Everywhere you turn, gleaming smiles catch your gaze as punters share a dreamlike ambience and sense of community. 

It’s a time for fun and relaxation, there’s no judgement or pressure -- it’s one of the only occasions where you can live in the now and momentarily ignore life’s bubbling burdens. Such extravaganzas decorate the corners of the globe as people seek an avenue for frivolity. Looking far and wide, the likes of Coachella and Glastonbury jut their heads out of the pack, but there’s so much more to the international scene. Join us as we dive deeper, exploring the best music festivals that stand apart from the big two. 

Primavera Sound

Barcelona’s Primavera Sound expanded to Porto, Portugal in 2012 and continues to solidify its reputation as a seminal exploration of rock music. Primavera punters are die-hard and truly understand the music before them -- Shellac, Mazzy Star and Ty Segall perform and no underground band is a stranger. On top of that, Barcelona’s Parc del Forum setting is magnificent -- the stunning Balearic Sea lining its boundaries with magnetic charm.

Spain and Portugal during May and June

Fuji Rock

Often seen as an accurate barometer for our own Splendour In The Glass bill, Fuji Rock is a stellar music festival of all genres. It goes down each year at the Naeba Ski Resort in Japan and has welcomed all the biggest acts that first come to mind -- Gorillaz, yes. Red Hot Chili Peppers, yes. Foo Fighters, yes. Over 100,000 attend each incarnation but as you wander across natural streams and through deciduous rainforests in pursuit of the next stage, its sheer enormity won’t cause concern.     

Goes down in Naeba, Japan during July

Cappadox

As much a pilgrimage as a festival, Cappadox is the stuff of fantasies. Like Bear Grylls stumbling across a forest rave during an expedition, everything from nature walks, gastronomy, bike riding, yoga and music combine to create a spectacle like no other. As you witness live sets from the confines of a cave, swing around and peruse the natural beauty of Cappadocia, it’ll take you somewhere far, far away.

Arrives in Cappadocia, Turkey during June

Tomorrowland

Punters of Tomorrowland are EDM lovers and adorers but if you’re not into the hard beats, there’s still so much to be gained. It’s a visual sensation with vibrant, otherworldly instalments decorating the festival site while Tomorrowland’s appending city, DreamVille is awash with art and food and provides a home when the party stops. The lineup never disappoints -- Armin van Buuren and David Guetta always return while Afrojack and Martin Garrix have performed multiple years.

Takes over Boom, Belgium during July

Dekmantel

From the mainstream Tomorrowland to the underground Dekmantel, this foray of techno, house and disco arrives in the Amsterdam forest annually during August. It’s a crate-diggers dream with the likes of Motor City Drum Ensemble, Four Tet, Masters At Work and Jon Hopkins having fired up their turntables in the past. Punters groove and dance all day and night, this is one hell of a time.

Amsterdam, Netherlands during August with another event in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Lollapalooza

Lollapalooza is a global juggernaut of the music festival scene sprawling five countries. Each year, the behemoth takes over Chicago, Santiago, Sao Paolo, Berlin and Paris across different dates and with slates boasting everyone from Kanye West to Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, it’s hard to contest its widespread brilliance.

USA, Chile, Brazil, Germany and France with instalments from March to September   

Eaux Claires

The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon came together in 2015 with an ambition to shine a light on the Wisconsin music industry. Set amongst the Eau Claire woods, the brainchild was designed to be more than just a place to see bands but rather “an experience and a village”. Dessner and Vernon curate the lineup themselves so there’s always a stellar selection of artists -- Sufjan Stevens, Erykah Badu and Vince Staples are just a few of the performers to stop by.

Wisconsin, USA with dates changing year-by-year  

Burning Man

Black Rock City is like Star Wars’ lawless planet Tatooine -- a desert world ruled by meddlers from all crevices of the universe. It comes to life once a year, hosting the ambitious, exceptional music extravaganza, Burning Man. As more than 60,000 people flood the Mojave Desert, installations reach for the sky; standing the height of skyscrapers as punters revel in their extravagance. There’s no main stage here, all the music is self-produced, nevertheless the likes of Diplo, Skrillex and Carl Cox have stepped behind the decks in the past.

Each year across August and September in Nevada, USA 

Comunite

Mexico is known for its cenotes -- a spellbinding natural phenomenon created by meteor showers millions of years ago. It’s pretty much a small lagoon filled with natural spring water and they make a great location for a rave. Located between Tulum and Playa del Carmen, Comunite takes over the Parque Dos Ojos cenote during January. Romare, Carl Craig and James Holden have performed at an extravaganza which invites you to dance and dance and dance some more.

Comes to Tulum, Mexico each January

Getting a little toey in your office chair? Check out our guide to travelling Mexico. Maybe you're in need of a holiday.