If there’s any better form of escapism than getting weird in a field for a whole weekend with your dearest and dearest, I’m yet to find it. It seems you guys agree wholeheartedly. In our recent Instagram poll we learnt that 51% of you will be attending the world’s biggest and most-renowned festivals this year. Glastonbury, Tomorrowland, Ultra, Sziget and Reading and Leeds were your top choices.
However, 61% of festivals named in the poll were smaller, lesser-known parties. If you like the sound of fewer people, better food and less of a queue for the port-a-loos, here are our top 10 intimate festivals on the backpacker trail.
1. Flash Festival – Tuscany, Italy – 16th-18th May 2019
How does music, food and wine under the Tuscan sun sound? If you like your festivals idyllic, we’ve just found you a winner. Flash Festival takes place in Castiglion Fiorentino, between Florence and Rome, and is as quintessentially Tuscan as can be; surrounded by olive groves, cypress trees and renaissance towns. By day, sample farm to table delights made by local food vendors, and regional wines selected by Tuscany’s finest sommeliers. You can take yoga classes, go for bike rides through vineyards, lounge by the pool, or try your hand at pasta making under the eagle eye of real Italian grandmothers who know their stuff. When the sun goes down, the DJ’s come out, providing a soundtrack of electronic rhythms, disco beats and soulful grooves.
2. Valley Fest – Somerset, UK – 2nd-4th August 2019
When a festival dubs itself ‘the best tasting music festival in the South West’ you know you’re in for titillation of more than just your ear drums. Valley Fest is a celebration of all the tasty grub and booze that comes out of this corner of the UK, plus it’s an excuse to dance, learn and lounge around a lake. For one of the intimate festivals, Valley Fest has certainly pulled in the big names. Basement Jaxx, Razorlight and Tom Odell are all headlining. Head to The Tuck Inn for foodie magic prepared by local chefs, or the Yoga Shala for tai chi, disco stretch warm-ups, reiki and more. All classes are free.
3. A Festival called Panama – Tasmania, Australia – 8th-10th March 2019
If you like to keep your celebrations sustainable, A Festival Called Panama is speaking your language. This cashless, litter-free affair has been described as the ‘unicorn of festivals’, and is set in Tasmania’s Lone Star Valley within a 50-acre forest, beside a cider brewery (yes please). This year’s event saw DJs, spoken word, late-night cabaret and pop-up markets, plus a fair share of critically-acclaimed acts, including Methyl Ethel, Snail Mail and Shannon & The Clams. Sorry guys, but you’ve just missed out on Panama this year – get it in the diary for 2020!
4. Meadows in the Mountain Festival – Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria – 6th-9th June 2019
While 66% of you revealed you’ll be staying in hostels when you attend your festival of choice, how does camping in the woods on top of a mountain sound? Meadows in the Mountains takes place in June in Bulgaria’s beautiful Rhodope Mountains. In addition to partying above the clouds, banging DJ sets and theatre performances, well-being is at the core of the festival. You can enjoy several yoga classes per day – all with spectacular views, plus a whole host of workshops on topics like Ayurveda, tarot and plant-medicine.
5. Sacred Ground – Berlin, Germany – 12th-14th July 2019
Located in the countryside north of Berlin, Sacred Ground is another festival with a conscience. This free-spirited party is all about respect and love for nature, and celebrating community. Sacred Ground is curated by musicians Frank Wiedemann and Ry X, and is a homage to life’s true pleasures; art, nature and food. On the line-up this July you can enjoy The Teskey Brothers, Axel Boman, DJ Tennis and Curses.
6. Kala Festival – Dhermi Beach, Albania – 12th-19th June 2019
If you’ve not checked out the secluded beaches and clear waters of the Albanian Riviera yet, Kala Festival could be the perfect opportunity. Expect friendly folk, stages under the stars, and picture-perfect beach huts close to the shore. During the day, you can explore the delights of Dhërmi on foot with a guided hike, or a day trip to explore the hidden coves and beaches that dot the coastline. You can also get active with a spot of snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, or a spin on a pedalo. Enjoy a massage on the beach, or sunset yoga followed by a gong bath overlooking the Ionian Sea. Come night time, dance with your toes in the sand to the likes of Derrick May, Inner City and Hercules & The Love Affair.
7 . O Mato Festival – Manuas, Brazil – 6th-16th September 2019
The most intimate of all the intimate festivals is Brazil’s O Mato Festival, which welcomes just 100 attendees. The festival takes place at Cheiro do Mato, an eco-lodge set deep in the heart of the Brazilian rainforest, 200km north of Manaus. This is a festival experience unlike any other, set on an archipelago on a black water river, bordering the Anavilhanas National Park. Guests can sleep aboard boats, or in jungle camp. All food is taken care of by local chefs and pop-up street food vendors, serving Brazilian delicacies and South American classics. Spend your days wakeboarding, canoeing, exploring the jungle or learning about indigenous traditions, and your nights dancing away to a diverse line-up of international music. You can buy a five or ten day pass, and all food, accommodation and water is included – just be quick off the mark to secure your golden ticket.
8. Obonjan Festival – Northern Dalmatia, Croatia – 30th June-2nd September 2019
Obonjan is a festival with a difference, in that it lasts from June until September! The tiny island, located 6km off the Croatian coast, opens for the whole summer season, and there is a full timetable of activities to enjoy each and every day. Live music and DJs, talks and workshops, yoga and meditation – all this in desert island surroundings that will knock your socks off. If you’re in need of some serious R & R this summer, Obonjan has got your back. You’ll be able to enjoy reiki, massage and one-to-one healing sessions, as well as every type of yoga you can think of.
9. Kolorádo Festival – Szell Kalman, Hungary – 19th-22nd June 2019
For some serious flamboyance in a forest, check out Kolorádo Festival boutique weekend in Hungary, which merges ‘a love of music and nature’. There is some serious talent on this year’s line-up including Kurt Vile and the Violators, Ben UFO and R&B star, Kelela. Also, the arts side of the line-up offers some real treats. You can enjoy fashion shows, plays, opera and contemporary freak shows…plus, a weekend ticket is only £35.
10. Waking Life – Crato, Portugal – 14th-19th August 2019
If you’re feeling the call to disconnect from your busy daily life, Waking Life could be the option for you. Based on a beautiful lake in the middle of nowhere in the Portuguese countryside, attendees are actively encouraged to switch off the outside world and tune in to the environment and potential for interactions around you. This arts and music festival enjoys lakeside stages, art installations, immersive performances and workshops, plus DJs spanning all genres, from big-name techno to underground electronica.
About the author
Amy Baker is the author of Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America, and founder of The Riff Raff, a writers’ community that supports aspiring writers and champions debut authors. You can follow Amy on Twitter.