In the old days you knew where you were with a festival – they mainly revolved around mud, sanity-threatening scrumpy and sleep deprivation – if you were lucky. These days there's everything from gourmet food to doom yoga on offer, all happening in some of the most stunning settings the four corners of the globe have to offer. There's even some music on too, apparently. Let our team of writers guide you through their top tips for a truly in-tents experience this year.
Weds 30 - Sun 3 June
There’s no denying the importance of Primavera. It continually surpasses expectations with its pulling power, drawing in the world’s best. It's a one-stop shop to see all the acts that pepper the end of year lists with a strong showing of artists from major and independent labels. This year Arctic Monkeys and Lorde are big draws, but as the coastal festival hub is reasonably close to Barcelona's centre, there’s some great things happening around the Raval area after the shows. Apolo club especially holds some great afterparties and a walk on the beach first thing in the morning before the crowds gather ought not to be missed.
Sat 02 June - Sun 03 June
Situated on the gorgeous Suruga Bay coastline, this sprawlingly eclectic festival is a worthy showcase of contemporary Japanese artists, with some idiosyncratic international touring acts thrown in for good measure. Leave your expectations of geisha girls and naff J-pop boybands at the gates though; the programme incorporates a raft of eye-opening homegrown hip-hop, indie, progressive electronica and even jazz. Special mentions for thundering native headbangers Okamoto and the awesomely-awkwardly-named Chris Dave and the Drumhedz. Don’t forget your lighter for the uber-spiritual ‘candle time’ at the close of both days’ revelling
Meadows In The Mountains
Rhodopes Mountains, Bulgaria
Thurs 07 - Sun 10 June
This bijou intimate festival is up in the mountains of Bulgaria, so it’s well off the beaten track, and attracts a modest-sized but extremely engaged audience. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and the long journeys from the airport can put people off, but it’s well worth the trek. With music playing right through to sunrise, this is a stunning place to let your hair down. Over its eight-year lifespan, Meadows has grown very slowly, cultivating one of the richest and most beguiling atmospheres of any festival on the planet. This year’s lineup includes Just Jack, Alice Phoebe Lou and Max Pope.
Donnington Park, England
Fri 14 Jun - Sun 16 Jun
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For big impact headliners, no other festival in the UK matches Download this year. Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osbourne lead the charge with California metal heavyweights Avenged Sevenfold the trailing headliner. Thanks to some bemusING Twitter updates, we’ve seen the festival has spent the last few months trying all manner of bizarre publicity stunts such as doom yoga and heavy metal spin class, which is a shame - it should sell out on the back of its bookings alone, as even further down the bill it’s strong. Note Switzerland’s Zeal and Ardor especially, who are tearing up the metal rulebook and earning some prestigious fans in the likes of Corey Taylor and Prophets of Rage along the way. .
Thu 18 July - Sat 20 July
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Barcelona based festival of cerebral daytime goings-on and hands-in-the-air nightly raving can expect to smash last year's record attendance of 123,000 punters. The daytime leg is hosted at a downtown conference centre – outdoors in the Catalan sun for the most part – and will boast, alongside various art exhibits and multimedia bits and bobs, sets by Laurent Garnier, Black Coffee and Museless. By night revellers pile into shuttle buses and out to an industrial estate on the edge of town to catch artists including Gorillaz, Diplo, LCD Soundsystem and Thom Yorke.
Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
Fri 22 June - Sat 30 June
If you fancy taking things back to basics, this north African celebration of the mystic, mythical and mandolin-led might just be for you. Now in its 24th year, the festival has adopted the theme of ‘Ancestral Knowledge’, and will welcome music from local Islamic traditions as well as Jesuit, Hebrew and Gregorian, with work from as far away as Bolivia. Certainly it’s not a festival to attend if you fancy getting wasted with your pals, but the fragrant evenings and atmospheric Berber singing echoing through the ancient city bazaars are well worth experiencing least once in your life.
Rock in Rio Lisbon
Sat 23 June - Sun 24 June
Fri 29 June - Sat 30 June
As the title suggests, this colourful festival began life in Brazil’s famous party city. Nowadays Rio and Lisbon trade hosting duties on alternate years, with 2018’s event in Portugal boxing off some pretty massive names over its two-week stretch. The first weekend sees Muse and Bruno Mars share headlining duties, while the second (as yet not sold-out) weekend boasts The Killers and Katy Perry at the top of the bill. The lush setting of the appropriately-named Bela Vista Park will also host some more low-key world music, banging dance tunes and a nice family area if you’re lumbered with sprogs.
Montreal Jazz Festival
Thu 28 June - Sat 07 July
Last year some two million punters descended on this gorgeous city to enjoy around 500 gigs boasting artists of the stature of Bob Dylan and legendary bluesman Buddy Guy. This year Herbie Hancock, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Seal and Bonobo will be setting the downtown area alight, while cute sideshows like an orchestra- accompanied screening of Dreamworks films including Kung Fu Panda and Shrek make it fun for all ages. Heavyweight musical muscle comes from from Steve Swallow and the National Jazz Orchestra of Montreal, plus local cuisine and Quebec’s famous hospitality. No wonder last year we called it the best city centre festival on earth.
Montreux Jazz Festival
Fri 29 June - Sat 14 July
One of the best-respected and most ambitious jazz festivals in the world, the thought-provoking and challenging line-up of Montreux Jazz Festival also make it one of the most useful entry points for jazz obsessives and total noobs alike to dip their toes in. Exploring new players in the field, as well as old timers and legends – plus heavy-hitters from the mainstream such as like Jack White, Iggy Pop and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – we think it’s a bucket-list happening for anyone even mildly curious in the genre. Look out for Morcheeba, Chilly Gonzales and jazz crossover star Jamiroquai.
Sat 30 - Sat 07 July
One of the strangest but most exciting festivals we’ve ever seen, the campsites alone are like something out of Moonrise Kingdom, except with mammoth soundsystems instead of flags in the ground. This seven-day Danish event, which invites the audience to make their own communities, setting up camps that are more than just tents, cultivating improvised tribes and participation in the process of building shared havens. This world-renowned European festival is a short train journey from Copenhagen, but a lifetime away from modern, glossy Scandinavia. This year’s lineup includes Eminem, Gorillaz, David Byrne and Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli).
Weds 10 - Sun 14 July
When it comes to partying hard (like, proper hard) you’re in good company in Kiev. Chemical Brothers, Morphine Suffering and Nothing But Thieves set the high-ABV tone, and there’s zero worry when it comes to stumbling about in search of a decent afterparty as gallons of dirt-cheap hooch is passed around. Local acts are also out in force, making this a fine opportunity to sample the local culture of this oft-misunderstood former Soviet satellite. And by local culture, we do mean booze.
Thu 11 July - Sat 13 July
Solid all-rounder in the mid-European, mid-sized festival stakes, Pohoda – meaning, roughly, ‘wellbeing’ – this year welcomes big name talent from St. Vincent to The Chemical Brothers, Ziggy Marley to Glass Animals plus our own beloved Everything Everything and Blossoms. Last year the organisers won an award for sustainability, which is always nice, and with their thoughtful and diverse theatre and chin-scratching lecture programme, reliably baking-hot weather, friendly atmosphere, chilled vibe and keenly-priced local beer means we can’t really recommend this one highly enough. Go. Camp. Meet nice people. Enjoy.
Træna , Norway
Thurs 05 - Sun 08 July
Held on the Træna islands' archipelago, this festival is perhaps the most remote festival you’ll ever attend. To get there you take a boat 40 miles from northern Norway to a speck of an island named Husøy. Think blue arctic waters teeming with life, rugged and a stony shoreline accented by alien-looking, vertiginous granite fjords that appear to literally pierce the leaden skies. Anyway, the setting makes the Traena islands a special spot for camping and revelling, and there’s even a stage inside a cave on the neighbouring island. The main acts on the bill are mostly Norwegian. Moddi is a standout as is Sassy 009, who just nailed their Great Escape show. Set course for the north.
Thurs 05 July - Sun 15 July
The first thing you should understand is that it isn’t all blues acts. Nope. From Passenger to Bryan Adams, to Ghostface Killah to Foo Fighters to Courtney Barnett, the Bluesfest largely a guitar-led affair, but with enough diversity to keep everybody happy (that’s the Canadian way after all). It’s situated in the Lebreton Flats area so you can gaze moodily across the river to Quebec, or wander through the Fort, neck a few beers and even mooch around an autograph tent. The weather’s usually lovely in July, and Canadians are unbelievably friendly. If you do fancy blues, swampy local lads MonkeyJunk are the ones to watch. .
Gøta, Faroe Islands
Weds 11 - Sat 14 July
The Faroe Islands are spectacular: the highest sea cliffs in Europe make for a dramatic coastline and the interior is sparsely populated with some low rugged peaks. G! Is held on Eystroy island, one of 18 major islands that make up the archipelago that’s populated by just over 50,000 people -that’s less than the Isle of Anglesey. Three vilages collectively known as Gøta are host and it's here you'll find a stage on a sandy beach where bands from, predominantly Nordic countries and a smattering of other countries roll in to play, with standouts including Harlem Gospel Choir, Rag 'N' Bone Man and a Faithless DJ set. Aside from the music, decadent beachside hot tubs and barbecue pits will fuel the party spirit, while in the day excursions to villagers’ homes and the only record shop will give you a state of island life that’ll stay with you for years to come. A unique, special event worth shelling out for.
Banffy Castle, Romania
Weds 18 - Sun 22 July
Savour the delicious bragging rights of telling everyone you’re off to party in a spooky 15th-century castle in the heart of Transylvania. The line-up this year includes Jessie-J, The Horrors and Damian Marley, but there’s loads to get your teeth into (like vampires, geddit?) around the site, including giant chillout zones, cutting-edge gadget demonstrations and lashings of cheap Romanian hooch. There’s even an on-site branch of Lidl so you can get nosh on the cheap. Jolly touring international party Elrow will also be there, always guaranteed to get the blood pumping. Muahahaha.
Splendour In The Grass
Byron Bay, Australia
Fri 20 - Sun 22 July
Because it’s so expensive for big acts to schlep Down Under on a whim, the few bigger Aussie festivals are usually ridiculously stacked with names. And Byron Bay’s Splendour is no exception. Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Vampire Weekend and DJ Khaled lead the A-list, while a solid British showing from Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches and The Wombats, all well chosen for more-or-less-guaranteed sunshine and a 100% up-for-it crowd. Now in its 18th edition, the event boasts a solid comedy lineup plus worthy lectures, mammoth chill-out zones, craft workshops and plenty for families to keep them cheerful amid the raucous sunburnt masses.
Milhoes De Festa
Fri 20 - Sun 23 July
The ability to pick out the best alternative bands makes Milhoes De Festa a refreshing change from the Groundhog Day nature of many European festivals. Pigs x7, Cocaine Piss, Shame, Bad Breeding, and Bitchin Bajas, who made an incredible album with Bonnie “Prince” Billy are among our top picks on the list. It’s a line-up you won’t see everywhere this summer. The setting is atypical of the ATP-esque nature of the lineup. Travelling sun-shy psych and alt rock fans, usually found in grungy basement venues, will have to brave the pool-side stage next to some lean, bronze-bodied locals. Worth the burn, though.
Naeba Ski Resort, Japan
Fri 27 - Sun 29 July
Alright, first things first. It’s an absurd mis-conception that Bob Dylan is disappointing live. Having caught him in Montreal last year, he came across how you’d imagine Frank Sinatra had if only he’d chosen to stay in his living room and read beat poetry whilst huffing opium. Anywhoo, rant over, he’s worth coming to FUJI Rocks for is what we’re saying. Not to mention Kendrick Lamar, N.E.R.D., Jon Hopkins, Anderson all having it large at this arrestingly loopy Japanese ski-resort party.
Weds 29 July - Sun 02 Aug
In recent years Croatia has become Europe’s spiritual hub for dance music, with dozens of different festivals setting up camp up and down the friendly sun-kissed nation. But perhaps the best of these festivals is Dimensions. Established by the same squad behind reggae-and-dub-flavoured Outlook Festival, Dimensions was about giving a broader outlook to all different brands of electronic music. Working alongside heritage sites to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences (party in a 4,000-year-old coliseum, anyone?), this is a must-attend event at least once in your life. This year’s line-up boasts sets from Kraftwerk, The Comet is Coming and Moodymann.
Fri 03 – Sun 05 Aug
Located in the beautiful environs of the Three Valleys Pond, just outside of Katowice, Poland’s long running OFF Festival always boasts one of the most adventurously assembled line-ups. A gourmet treat for music lovers, you can expect up and coming domestic talent such as the mighty ARRM and Coals rubbing shoulders with established international talent, this year including The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Charlotte Gainsbourg and M.I.A. Alongside panel discussions with industry figures and outdoor film screenings, OFF Festival is also celebrated for its approach to cuisine with a dedicated dining area that boasts not only local Silesian food but also a quality selection of vegetarian and vegan nosh.
Thurs 09 - Sat 11 Aug
Considering only 7,000 people attend this festival in Germany’s stunning lower Rhine Valley, the line-up is incredible. Ariel Pink, Kevin Morby, and Lewsberg are among the best of over 60 acts playing across six unique stages, including the 1000 capacity Spiegel tent, a mirrored wooden dance tent from the 1920s. Line-up aside, there’s a sacred feel to Haldern as the campsites become a centre for weekend long parties that become joyously untethered to happenings outside – and this happy energy seems to rub off on the bands, who will relish the change of pace compared to the conveyor belt feel of bigger festivals.
Castelbuono, Sicily, Italy
Thurs 09 – Sun 12 Aug
Now in its 22nd year, this well-established Sicilian festival is held in the city of Castelbuono in the province of Palermo. Much of the event’s considerable appeal lies in the breathtaking locations that host the performances. Think historic courtyards, ancient cloisters and sun-kissed piazzas that transform into festival stages – not to mention the centrepiece medieval castle which gives the town its name. This year’s lineup welcomes headlining turns from The Horrors, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Radio Dept as well as sets from Aurora, Shame and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. So plenty of black against the twinkly Mediterranean palette.
Weds 01 - Sun 05 Aug
Amsterdam has a forest. Who knew? Why not go to a festival and get to know it. Holland is stacked with great festivals and reasons to party all year round, obvs, but the most revered on the international stage is probably Dekmantel. This year Four Tet, Thundercat, Joy Orbison and Errorsmith are the take-homes from a line-up that is there to party, and apparently they’re setting up a brand new ‘UFO’ stage that promises, wait for it, “to foster darker and more experimental sounds that usually blossom in intimate clubs.” So yeah, it’s gonna be a good’un.
Happy Valley, Oregon
Fri 03 - Sun 05 Aug
If you’re heading to Portland, Oregon then you should time it with this camping festival held at the heavily-forested Pendarvis Farm, which is just half an hour out of downtown. The site enjoys breathtaking views of the glaciated Mount Hood volcano, and in-keeping with the natural beauty the music selection is soulful, rootsy, and laid-back. Catch desert blues legends Tinariwen, Broken Social Scene, and Colter Wall – possessed of the greatest baritone in modern country. With its commitment to sustainability, great local produce, wellness and artfully decorated stages, Pickathon a multi sensory experience for those who wear the badge of hipster with pride.
Weds 08 - Tue 14 Aug
If you like a no-nonsense big line-up then you’re in for a treat at this mammoth event, situated on an island in the Danube River that runs through the heart of beguilingly baroque Budapest. Just to name a few, there’s Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, Dua Lipa, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, Liam Gallagher, Stormzy, Lykke Li, The War on Drugs, Fever Ray, Wolf Alice and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Those names are worth hopping on a jet for, and it’s honestly so vast you can have an incredible time without seeing a single one of the big names. Sziget your ass over there.
Sun 12 - Sun 19 August
Fleadh Cheoil has taken place in some form or another in Ireland since time immemorial. This traditional folk music event brings in over 300,000 people a year to assorted towns, large and small, across the Emerald Isle. The week-long programme is one of the most fizzing sensory experiences you’ll find anywhere on earth, with every pokey pub and vibing venue alive with the sound of sessions that’ll rumble deep into the night. Changing town every few years to stay fresh, the festival helps celebrate the unique heritage of Ireland and its distinctive trad sounds.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Thurs 16 - Sun 19 Aug
Green Man is a haven for interesting and well-curated line-ups. This year sees the likes of Fleet Foxes, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear join the esteemed list of bands who have plied their trade at the foot of the Black Mountains. As well as cracking tunes, there’s also a plethora of great cinema, talks and science activities to explore, as well as a mouth-watering showcase of Welsh grub and (natch) plenty to wash it down with. But it’s the community around the festival that makes Green Man such an exciting place. This welcoming vibe makes Green Man easily our favourite UK fest.
La Route du Rock
Fri 17 – Sun 19 Aug
Located in the north west of France, La Route du Rock is an alternative music festival that’s been in existence for nearly 30 years. Specialising in the best of indie rock, the festival combines established names with the best in up and coming talent. With regular ferries from Poole in Dorset and Portsmouth in Hampshire, flights with Ryanair and trains from pretty much anywhere in mainland Europe, it’s a doddle to get to. On top of that, the campsite boasts free showers and is but a short walk from the festival site. Punk figurehead Patti Smith, singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, the magic fingers of Nils Frahm, The Black Madonna’s DJing skills and top Paul McCartney b-side impersonators The Lemon Twigs are among the artists gracing this year’s line-up.
Rock al Parque
Sat 18 - Mon 20 August
South America’s largest free-of-charge rock festival was first established in 1995, and this year returns to the Colombian capital’s Simon Bolivar Park. When we say ‘rock festival’, by the way, we’re not kidding. If you’re into hairy lads making a massive racket with guitars this event was made for you. Despite not having much in the way of big names on the lineup for 2018, a quick glance at the roster should tell you everything you need to know about the tone of event – Suicide Silence, Dark Funeral, Bulletproof and the immortally named Cattle Decapitation from the United States. Yeah. *Makes rock-horn hand gesture*
Black Rock Desert, Nevada
Sun 26 Aug - Mon 03 Sept
The Black Rock Desert, with its ethereal mind bending quality made all the more surreal at sunset, is transformed annually by Burning Man, America’s most famous and, perhaps, most parodied festival (not many festivals get an American Dad dig). Community spirited, open-minded people are best suited to travel there and be one of the 70,000 people in this pop-up city, with the most extraordinary happenings. You’re not limited to lager, chai tea and some limp radio friendly bangers here. You’ll meet people who challenge prudish norms and values, rag around vehicles camouflaged as animals, rave all-night, see eye-popping sculpture, and engage in an increasingly rare form of exchange: as there’s no shops you’re encouraged to be self-sufficient with the basic water and food supply - and everything else you consume is based on gift exchange. This extraordinary way of living is a draw in itself.
Thurs 06 – Sun 09 September
Already famed as the source of the Nile, Jinja in eastern Uganda is nowadays acquiring a new reputation as the home of the Nyege Nyege festival. Roughy translated as "the irresistible urge to dance" (and, honestly, “horny, horny”) in Swahili, tying the two together should give you a good idea of what to expect. Focusing on contemporary African music from across the continent, expect booty-shaking slabs of kuduros, kwaito, Afro house, hiplife, Tuareg rock, Arab tech, Morrocan bass, zouk bass, soukous, balani, funana, swhaili trap and Tigrinian blues. Judging by previous line-ups, you’ll be dancing for four solid days. Yowsa! Yowsa! Yowsa!
Fri 21 - Sun 23 Sept
Full details TBA
This event, a sister festival to Estonia’s truly eye-opening Tallinn Music Week, is set to host its inaugural event this year in the city of Narva in North-Eastern Estonia, which is at the Russian border. The line-up will feature international big hitters, cult names and up-and-comers, along with some of the best cutting edge acts from Estonia, Russia and Nordic countries. Gigs are set to be held at the grandest industrial architecture complex on Kreenholm island, with views out to the picturesque River Narva and the silhouette of the Ivangorod Fortress over the border in the background. Aside from music, expect talks and debate as part of the Bazar opinion festival, public art and picnics. The broader aim of starting the festival was to create tools for the Narva community to enhance collaboration and entrepreneurial thinking and to empower the young and creative people. It's also a way to open up another dimension for collaborating with the creative community in Russia.
Weds 24 - Sun 28 Oct
Once a year the blue city of Jodhpur in Rajastan hosts the UNESCO-backed RIFF or Rajastan International Folk Festival. With Mick Jagger among its patrons, this blessing of rock ‘n’ roll royalty has helped it become a staple among middle class Brits looking for a hearty dose of cultural capital. But that shouldn’t induce cynicism, as there’s an amazing experience worth chasing. Over 250 of the most innovative musicians from all over India play shows at the foot of the imposing 500-year-old Mehrangarh Fort. The line-up is yet to be announced but judging by last year you’ll gain a sense of the diverse musical and cultural heritage of this sub-contintent like never before.
Lake Perris, California
Fri 12 – Sun 14 October
Now approaching its seventh edition, Desert Daze harkens back to an age when festivals were for freaks, weirdos and heads rather than snot-nosed brats celebrating their exam results or paunchy parents with posh pushchairs. Akthough they’re all welcome here too, mind. Located in the impressive setting of Lake Perris, an artificial body of water 480m above sea level and ringed by hills and small mountains, the festival’s third-eye-opening line-up will include headlining sets from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Tame Impala. Mercury Rev will perform their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs alongside turns from Ty Segall and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. Cosmic, brah.
Visa For Music
Weds 21 - Sat 24 Nov
Sure, you’ve been to The Great Escape or Reeperbahn in Europe but chances are you haven’t been to Morocco’s Visa For Music, the first music market in Morocco focused on Africa and the Middle East. It’s an opportunity for industry and fans who are looking to discover great new music to unearth hot new artists. According to its founder: “Visa For Music was born from a paradox: the great effervescence of music creativity in Africa and the Middle East versus the lack of structure and resources in this sector in these same regions.” So there.
Le Guess Who?
Thurs 08 - Sat 10 Nov
Le Guess Who? benefits from being independent and not having to compromise when it comes to assembling the best line-up. As well has having a handle on the most innovative, original music with progressive ideologies out there themselves - Serpentwithfeet, Mudhoney, and Colin Stetson are among the best there this year - they invite prestigious artists with avant garde leanings to curate its wide range of stages. This year its four curators are Devendra Banhart, Moor Mother, Shabaka Hutchings and actress/activist Asia Argento. Argento’s picked out the most recognisable artists in The Breeders and Lydia Lunch. Plenty to explore beyond them, too.
Weds 05 - Sun 09 Dec
People trust Transmusicales’ booker Jean Louis Brossard. Acts that would struggle to sell out smaller London venues get up to 5,000 punters here. It truly is an essential launch pad in a band’s career, as well as neatly serving as a great blow-out for locals who mostly indulge in the Sonar-by-Night feel of the electronic stages.. This year’s line-up is sure to be a great place to start refreshing your record collection. It’s mostly held in an air hanger just out of the city of Rennes, but the shows in town that go on during the day and early evening get you warmed up nicely. Saturday’s food market do mean oysters and cheese too.
Rhythm and Vines
Gisborne, New Zealand
Thurs 27 - Mon 31 Dec
Here’s the place to say farewell to 2018 and provoke ultimate envy on your social channels. The most hyped festival of the year in New Zealand hosts an amazing line up and serves as (to all intents and purposes) the first place geographically to welcome in the new year on earth. With long summer southern-hemisphere nights in the sizzling environs of Gisborne on the nation’s far east coast, you’ll find yourself in just the right mood to enjoy sets from the likes of Schoolboy Q, Big Shaq, Mura Masa and Giggs.
Words: Andy Hill, Julian Marzsalek, Cai Trefor, Robbie Wojciewcowski
Photos: Press / Shutterstock