25 Bucket List Dance Music Festivals Around the World
Phileas Fogg might have traveled the world in eighty days, but that's nothing; since 2014, I've been lucky enough to experience around 300 festivals—40 odd a year in some of the most unique, rare, beautiful, and breathtaking locations around the world. As an international PR expert and festival specialist, and travel lover, I have worked on around 450 festivals in that time and seen the market explode.
It used to be good enough to throw up a tent, book a couple of middling names and get a burger van on-site for a weekend of muddy music fun. But now, people want more. They need more than just music - they want wellness, thought-provoking talks, stoning local cultures to explore, historic architecture, exclusive beaches, and accommodations fit for a queen.
Promoters around the world have got wise to this and consistently upped their game in recent years. Now, you have a wealth of choice, a wide range of budgets, and festivals in every weird and wonderful corner of the globe. I've been to most of them at least once, so I thought I would share some insights on what makes each one unique.
With the whole island's infrastructure having been rebuilt after a devastating hurricane, SXM hosts stages on beaches and jungle clearings, and they are truly breathtaking. Draped in magical fauna, you can swim in nearby jungle clearings and partake in sunset parties, villa parties, and more. All are stunning ways to have fun in this bit of Caribbean paradise.
Held in Turin, Italy, Kappa FuturFestival is world-famous for being one of techno's finest events. Thousands come together each year to dance in an industrial setting that perfectly suits the music and gives the nod to techno's roots in Detroit. Beyond the huge main hangar is a second stage with housier offerings and plenty of green spaces on which to chill.
2022 Lineup: Seth Troxler, Hot Since 82, Amelie Lens, Adriatique, La Fleur, Doc Martin
Iconic sets that soundtrack a flame-red sun as it rises from the horizon. Intimate parties in a steamy jungle amphitheater surrounded by deep greens and hanging vines. Afternoon dances around a glistening pool in the hot sun. Welcome to Ocaso, deep in the Costa Rican jungle. It is one of the most revered and soul-enriching festivals in the world each January and will expand in 2022.
2021 Lineup: Sublime With Rome, Birds of Mind, Maga, Isiah Martin, Ameme, Hoomance
Art With Me is an immersive experience that combines art, music, workshops, wellness, and cultural experiences into a multi-day journey to inspire change through impactful creative encounters. It happens in Miami and boasts local and international gastronomic gatherings, visual art installations, large-scale art pieces, renowned photographers and interactive exhibitions, children's programs and ecological awareness practices, thought-provoking panels and discussions, and much more.
2021 Lineup: Ben UFO, Jayda G, Eris Drew, Octo Octa, and DJ Harvey
The Life and Death and Innervisions collaborative party Rakastella is all about love—love for music, love for one another, love for exotic locations, and the unpredictable magic that occurs when good people dance to cultured sounds. It has multiple stages that all have their own unique visual identity and diverse DJs from all corners of the underground.
Labor Day Weekend is always special with Electric Zoo in town in New York. It is set against an iconic skyline, with vast stages rising up out of Randall Park. Mixing up supersized EDM acts with tasteful techno and house offerings, it is a colorful and cinematic city festival experience.
This boutique festival in Norwich is curated by the one and only Craig Richards, Fabric resident, and long-time electronic hero. He always lines up a real creme de la creme of electronic talent from a broad array of genres. Importantly, the production focuses on making the music sound as good as possible in a range of secluded spots in the woods. It's a real heady favorite.
Located on the breathtaking Isle of Anglesey, this chill festival boasts lake and forest views along with some of the prettiest sunsets in the UK festival scene. A well-kept secret with a real kick, Gottwood is an annual celebration of the electronic underground that always makes an indelible impression and has a cozy family feel.
2022 Lineup: Craig David, TS5, Marco Carola, Loco Dice, Joseph Capriati, Deborah De Luca, Michael Bibi, The Blessed Madonna, Apollonia, Sonny Fodera, Jamie Jones
One of the favorite UK festivals for those who like a BIG experience, We ARE FSTVL brings a mix of chart-toppers, dance music stars, and plenty in between. It is officially the largest festival in the capital and boasts myriad stage hosts such as big brands like Paradise, Defected, Glitterbox, Circoloco, Abode, Bassjam, PIV, and Centreforce.
2022 Lineup: Adriatique, Dixon, Seth Troxler, Solomun, Gerd Janson, Maceo Plex, Sven Vath
This is the techno festival known the world over for being the biggest and arguably the best. It mixes up the finest music with the newest technology and is an annual gathering of famous faces and hardcore techno fans. But the production is what always takes the breath away - it is supersized, futuristic, and truly awe-inspiring.
Epizode quickly became one of the most respected and essential experiences of the year. The carefully curated week-long showcase is a cultural spectacle that runs around the clock and makes you the lead role in a one-of-a-kind film unfolding on the blissful beaches of Phu Quoc, an island paradise hideaway off Vietnam's West coast. With a soundtrack from returning favorites and exciting new names such as Ricardo Villalobos, Apollonia, Loco Dice, as well as plenty of Russian and Asian artists, this is a magnificent way to enjoy an island paradise.
UNUM plays out on the beautiful Albanian Riviera with a world-class lineup. The festival really shined a spotlight on the last untapped corner of Europe: Rana e Hedhun, in the town of Shengjin, on the idyllic Albanian coastline. Music plays both the day and night, so you can expect blissful sunrise and sunset parties and parties as well as a wealth of water sports, local culture, rich food and drink offerings, and a music-loving crowd from all corners of the world. There are also isolated bays and gold-sand beaches to explore, and all with the stunning Albanian Alps in the background.
2022 Lineup: Aurora Halal (Live), Avalon Emerson, Bambounou, Chaos In The CBD, DMX Krew (Live), Eclair Fifi, Fatima Yamaha (Live), Four Tet, Leon Vynehall
Junction 2 has grown into a globally recognized event with an underground cult following since 2016. It is known for merging the natural beauty of the local green fields, rambling rivers, and woodland pathways with hidden enclaves as well as superb production values and impeccable sound.
2022 Lineup: Billie Elish
What do you need to know about this that you don't already? It is basically the size of a small city, with all manner of adventures to be had in the various different parks from music to art, food to theatre, comedy to workshops. The lineup is the biggest in the world, the location is the rolling green hills of Worthy Farm, and it all has an eco-conscious ethos. Get involved.
Moga is a unique and authentic experience on the Moroccan Atlantic coast in a town called Essaouira that is known for its history and heritage. More than 40 artists perform on three stages in a truly exceptional spot. Music lovers spend three unforgettable days at SOFITEL Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa and enjoy the magnificent swimming pool, stroll through the olive garden, relax in a natural swimming pool, and then continue the party at the So Lounge.
2022 Lineup: Amelie Lens, Airod, Ben Sims, Ben UFO, Alan Fitzpatrick, Dax J, Eats Everything, HAAi, FJAAK, Ejeca, Eris Drew, Maceo Plex, Man Power, Marcel Dettmann
Terminal V has a real claim of being one of the biggest raves in Europe. It takes place at the 20K capacity Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh and has an interconnected array of warehouse spaces that feature vast stages from some of techno's leading brands. The party is famous, not only for massive lineups of edgy techno talent but also for going one step beyond with the production.
2022 Lineup: Ame, Anna, Ben lock, Dixon, Dax J, Chris Liebing, Adriatique, andhim, Andrea Oliva
Another jewel in the crown of the Croatian scene, Sonus, allows you to rave on during your perfect summer vacation. Five days and nights of parties happen in three world-renowned open-air clubs at the now-famous Zrce Beach in Novalja, Croatia. Brought to you by the iconic Cosmopop brand, it excels at the details and never fails to serve up a mouth-watering mix of underground names.
2022 Lineup: Camelphat, Sonny Fodera, Jayda G, Jamie Jones, Eats Everything, Sam Divine, Skream
If you want an all-out rave with lots of high energy and like-minded music lovers, then this one's for you. It was one of the first festivals to set up camp in Croatia and kick-started the festival revolution there. It still leads from the front with three stunning open-air beach clubs and a who's who of globe-trotting headliners from house, techno, bass, drum & bass, grime, and more.
Sunwaves is one of Europe's best-loved electronic music festivals, and for good reason. Across 24 editions, the Romanian event has remained true to its underground ideals. It hosts world-class minimal DJs like Ricardo Villalobos and has long, unending beach parties that are backed by iconic sunrises and sunsets. It's one to send shivers down the spine, for sure.
2022 Lineup: Audiofly, Luciano, Ricardo Villalobos, Mathew Jonson, Behrouz, Guy Gerber, Bedouin
This is a classy affair for real heads. It takes place in the Swiss alps with two fantastic stages - one up the mountain with a greenhouse-like arena that offers lewis of the alps and one at the foot of the hills. Both have technologically advanced light and sound, and there is a wealth of gourmet food, local culture, and skiing to enjoy when you aren't dancing. The likes of Acid Pauli, Apollonia, Jamie Jones, Len Faki, DVS1, Marcel Dettmann, Pan Pot, Raresh, Black Coffee, Ricardo Villalobos, and Seth Troxler all play.
I lived in Leeds for five years. It's where I first got into the industry as a PR. Mint was one of the city's best clubs, and it quickly grew to take on a second venue and then start its own festival. Now the best dance music event in the north of England, it has just been set up at a new green location in rolling farmland just outside the city. Multiple stages with mega-production featuring a who's who of dance talent from Ricardo Villalobos to Eats Everything.
Florence is a particularly beautiful spot in Italy, making for a superb setting for this most celebrated open-air event. Each year the event turns the world-famous Visarno Arena into one of Europe's biggest parties. It brings a large international following and only the most prominent names techno—a real beauty.
This annual conference is a real hotspot for dance music business. It hosts hundreds of talks, workshops, showcases, and more and is a place to meet up with everyone else in the industry in some of Amsterdam's best spots. It is also an endless series of cutting-edge parties in various locations with a real who's who of DJ talent all playing, hosting their own label parties, and much more, all in a beautiful city. What's not to love?
Is this the most famous festival in the world? It is undoubtedly one of the best. If you don't know, Burning Man sets up a whole self-sustaining village in the middle of the Nevada desert with gigantic art structures, an array of mobile dance floors via art cars, and people riding about the playa on bikes. Everyone camps in their own unique way, and money is second fiddle to bartering. The music is world-class, and the whole experience is unlike anything else.
2022 Lineup: Claude VonStroke, CloZee, Gorgon City, Markus Schulz, Ferry Corsten, Sofi Tukker, Barclay Crenshaw, Dombresky, John Summit, MitiS, Walker & Royce
January 20th through 24th sees Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas sail for the 33rd time in 18 years and now with $120 million in amplified upgrades and luxurious onboard amenities. These include a world-class dining experience with over 12 restaurants and bars like a high-end steakhouse, hibachi and sushi, Italian, a sports bar and arcade, Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, and more. As always, there will be 96 hours non stop music from more than 60 acts as the ship sails from Port Canaveral's Space Coast to Labadee's Private Paradise.