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10 unexpected and bizarre festivals you need to go to

Go against the grain

  • Dave Turner, Jaguar Bingham & Olivia Mastin
  • 20 February 2018

Gone are the days when hosting a festival just meant setting up a couple of stages on a fuck-off farm or untouched green space. They still happen like that, obviously, but more and more festivals are popping up all over the world, hosting parties in locations and spaces that wouldn't be the first thing you'd write down on a mind map.

We've pulled together some spots to tick off the bucket list, so have a read below and decided for yourself if you want to do the same.


What could be more breathtaking than a 12-hour techno party on the cavernous shores of Lake Kleifarvatn in Reykjavík, Iceland? Cave raving is just one of the highlights which makes the Taktfakt weekender so special. Revellers head here to take in the stunning surroundings just as much as the music, losing themselves in deep blue water, smooth black stones and dramatic coastlines. The festival is curated by Carmen Jóhannsdóttir who has been throwing parties under the Taktfakt guise since 2011, and with it celebrates the finest electronic acts that Iceland has to offer. The 2016 edition saw OHM, LaFontaine, Hidden People and GusGus take to the decks which made the experience all the more magnificent. JB

Festival Forte

The archaic castle of Montemor-o-Velho is the home of Portugal’s Festival Forte which returns in August and brings with it the sounds of Helena Hauff, Mumdance, Lena Willikens, plus an exclusive opening performance from Pantha Du Prince. The stage is lit up with mind-blowing visuals and spectacular art installations, making Festival Forte a destination for audio-visual innovation. With a focus on sustainability, the festival ensures the beautiful national heritage site is preserved by methods such as using a cashless system, reusable cups and compost toilets. Festival Forte sets out to be a haven for education and discovery and it does so with impeccable grace. JB

Festival Forte takes place from August 30 to September 2

[Photo: Sleeklab]


In June Disney’s very own dance music festival, Electroland, returns for a second year. The event will see big name DJs take over the Disneyland Paris site with Bob Sinclar, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Afrojack on the bill. The result? They’ll combine music with magic as their audience enjoys rides, lights and projections on The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror to the sound of a pumping bassline. Apparently last year’s headliner Steve Aoki dropped The Lion King’s ‘Circle of Life’ – setting the scene for Disney lovers and music lovers alike. Depending on what kind of music you like, of course... JB

Electroland takes place from June 29 to 30

5001 Festival

Brand new this year, 5001's taking place in a nuclear bunker about 30 miles outside of Berlin. Built in 1983, its rundown aesthetic is a perfect match for the artists on show, with Francois X and Shlømo among those booked for the three-day August party. Apparently it's able to withstand chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, though, so we reckon it'll handle a rattling of beats just fine. We've got the Projekt 5001 organisation to thank for this place still standing as it's been preserving it in the best way possible since its closure in 1993.

5001 Festival runs from August 17 to 19

Magnetic Fields

We described Day Zero’s stage as “palatial”. As beautiful as that is, when it comes to breathtaking festival setups, what’s better than a palatial stage? Try an actual palace. Set in Rajasthan every December, Magnetic Fields is literally inside a 17th century Indian palace. Guests can even stay in one of the rooms as their accommodation, part of the royal palace suite package for around £357. Both Ben UFO and Special Request pumped some salacious bass into the royal residence’s courtyard at the end of last year, line-up curation having consistently been one of the festival’s many strengths.

[Photo: Zacharie Rabehi]

Day Zero

Organised by Crosstown Rebels head honcho Damian Lazarus, Day Zero takes place in a patch of Mexican jungle steeped in Mayan culture. The festival celebrates “the day that the Mayans considered to be the end of the world” and makes an outdoor club floor out of dense wilderness, interspersing the tropical woodland with palatial stages of found foliage and anchoring them with traditional performers and light shows that turn the spot into a scene from Avatar. With acts like Damian and DJ Three consistently on the bill, you know the choice of tunes are in good hands. OM

Day Zero is taking a break in 2018

Tauron Now Muzyka

Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, Bonobo and Fever Ray have all performed at this one, located in and surrounding the infrastructure of a closed coal mine – the ultimate industrial rave setting. Each year performances flood the colossal 19th century spot with coloured light displays from its towering ceilings, also packing out the festival’s amphitheatre and auditorium. As a first gig in Poland for many, Nowa Muzyka is a rousing showcase of the country’s music, fashion, art, food and architectural history. OM

Tauron Nowa Muzyka takes place from June 28 to July 1

Secret Solstice

The timing of this Icelandic festival means it doesn't get dark at all. Honestly, it's a guaranteed 96 hours of daylight with a genre-defying line-up. This year sees Stormzy, Bonnie Tyler and Skream appear on the bill, but we're not here to gush about who's playing, it's where we'll be partying. Secret Solstice offers a chance to move your feet in Langjökull, Europe's second largest glacier, and the Raufarhólshellir tunnel which formed after a volcanic eruption around 5,000 years ago. These aren't open to absolutely everyone, though. Only a handful of tickets are available.

Secret Solstice takes place from June 21 to 24


Remember those rumours of Burial DJing at Unsound in 2015? Well, the set in question, which Hyperdub suggested was probably Kode9, took place in a former salt mine-turned-ballroom 100 metres underground. Beautifully carved out, there's a definite feel of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider to it, only with regal chandeliers dangling from the roof above. And it's only a 20-minute train ride away from Krakow, so you won't be searching for it for hours.


Distortion is Copenhagen's answer to Notting Hill Carnival, only it runs for four days opposed to the two-day Bank Holiday party in London. While street parties dominate the Danish capital for the first two days, Distortion Ø is the finale in the industrial waterside setting of Refshaleøen. House and techno artists play within the confines of shipping containers and there's even a party inside a climbing centre. Raving is a fitness activity after all.

Distortion takes place from May 30 to June 3

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