10 summer festivals you've probably never heard of
From Iceland’s kooky Secret Solstice to Morocco’s ethereal Sacred Music Festival, there are plenty of great music events to experience this summer
Because of the scorching heat, summer in the UAE is a time when the live music scene dies down.
But in Europe, Asia and Africa, it is when the party is just getting started. Next month, summer music festival season begins, with hundreds of artists criss-crossing the globe to play at events that are as eclectic as the music on offer.
While the big-name festivals such as the UK’s Glastonbury and Spain’s Benicassim are well known and favourites among travelling music-lovers, there are plenty of other great options out there, with festivals being held everywhere, from fortresses to lush valleys and lake resorts to the beach.
Here’s a list of 10 festivals worth checking out:
May 24 to 26: Bushfire Festival
Where: Mbabane, eSwatini
Headliners: Blinky Bill, Eme & Moonchild, Buddy Masango and Ali Bombo
Why go? Despite running for over a decade, it is only in recent years that Bushfire is getting the credit it deserves. Held within the Malkerns Valley, the eco-friendly festival in the country formerly known as Swaziland has won numerous awards for its sustainability practices. With many camping and glamping options on offer, the festival’s music line-up is built around the twin pillars of “tolerance” and “passion”. As a result, more than a dozen international acts are flying to the event, covering a variety of genres – from Nigerian hip-hop to Colombian folk – to showcase how music can overcome any language barrier and bond us together.
How to get there: It takes eight hours to fly to Johannesburg, South Africa from Dubai. Then take a 50-minute connecting flight to Mbabane. For more festival details, go to
June 6 to 9: Meadows in the Mountains
Where: Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria
Headliners: C W Jones, Rafael Da Cruz and Ego Ella May
Why go? This is the rare festival where you don’t mind that the music is not the star of the show. Set amid a jaw-dropping mountain backdrop, the festival could be viewed as a wellness camp with a lot of music. As well as the four stages, which will host more than 30 DJs playing a tasteful selection of electronic tunes, there will be yoga classes and art workshops, educational sessions on plant-based medicine and chanting ceremonies. This truly is a music festival to soothe the soul.
How to get there: Flight time to Sofia from Dubai is five hours and 20 minutes. It is a three-hour-and-20-minute drive to the site. For more details, go to www.meadowsinthemountains.com
June 14 to 22: Sacred Music Festival
Where: Fez, Morocco
Headliners: Sami Yusuf, Marcel Khalife, Baharia and Anuna
Why go? It’s a unique music event concerned with the otherworldly. Back for the 25th time, the festival is a beautiful meet-up of artists, scholars and those interested in spirituality for a series of nightly concerts and daytime discussions. Because of its higher mission, the festival has managed to bring in some great names over its two decades of existence, from rock icons Jon Baez and Patti Smith to Ravi Shankar. Best of all, it is held in the city of Fez, which arguably remains the intellectual and cultural capital of Morocco.
How to get there: Flight time to Casablanca from Abu Dhabi is eight hours and 10 minutes. Then, it is a three-hour drive to Fez. For more festival details, go to www.fesfestival.com
June 21 to 23: Secret Solstice Festival
Where: Reykjavik, Iceland
Headliners: Black Eyed Peas, Robert Plant, Martin Garrix, Patti Smith and Rita Ora
Why go? To hear a mind-bendingly diverse range of music in a beautiful city where the sun never sets. Under the almost 24-hour daylight of Iceland’s summer, this colourful bunch of acts will provide a suitably kooky atmosphere.
How to get there: Flight time to Reykjavik from Dubai (with a connection) is 10 hours and 20 minutes. For more festival details, go to
July 2-7: Jazzablanca Festival
Where: Casablanca, Morocco
Headliners: Franz Ferdinand, Calypso Rose and Maceo Parker
Why go? The boutique city festival provides a solid mix of travel and entertainment. Held across two venues, the festival offers both indoor and outdoor shows featuring a selection of modern and legacy acts from the rock and jazz worlds. Musicians can also benefit by signing up in advance to attend a masterclass by some of the headlining acts.
How to get there: Flight time to Casablanca from Abu Dhabi is eight hours and 10 minutes. For more festival details, go to www.jazzablanca.com
July 4-8: Exit Festival
Where: Novi Sad, Serbia
Headliners: The Cure, Carl Cox, Greta Van Fleet and Skepta
Why go? This is a festival of contrasts as the dark and abrasive sounds of the headliners will be heard echoing throughout a beautiful 18th-century Petrovaradin Fortress. The festival has built a reputation for its eclectic line-ups, which include rock, electronic and hip-hop acts. The gigs are played over more than two dozen stages located within the fort, which also features moats, trenches and tunnels.
How to get there: Flight time to Belgrade from Abu Dhabi is five hours and 40 minutes. For more festival details, go to www.exitfest.org
July 26-28: Fuji Rock
Where: Naeba Ski Resort, Japan
Headliners: The Chemical Brothers, Sia, Thom Yorke, Janelle Monae and Death Cab for Cutie
Why go? Simply because it is the biggest music festival in Asia. Held in a vast space in the Japanese countryside, nearly 200 kilometres from Tokyo, the festival offers a strong line-up of rock acts away from the hustle and bustle of Japan’s capital city.
How to get there: Flight time to Tokyo from Abu Dhabi is 10 hours, then it’s a two-hour drive to the site. For more details, go to www.fujirockfestival.com
August 1-4: Afro Nation
Where: Algarve, Portugal
Headliners: Wizkid, Davido, IAMDDB, Steflon Don and Ms Dynamite
Why go? This is the new kid on the block. With the European festival circuit flush with rock, hip-hop and dance music, the inaugural Afro Nation is a breath of fresh air as it focuses on Afrobeat and dance hall. It’s set in the beach city of Algarve, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, and the festival’s line-up is rich in variety and scope, with sets taking place on the main stage and even on a boat.
How to get there: Flight time to Lisbon from Dubai is eight hours and 40 minutes. For more festival details, go to
August 16-18: Lowlands
Where: Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands
Headliners: Tame Impala, Twenty-One Pilots, New Order and Billie Eilish
Why go? Despite the high music pedigree, Lowlands Festival is about more than just the tunes. Located in lush fields one hour from the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, the event fashions itself as more of an alternative arts festival with plenty of exhibitions, markets, restaurants, an outdoor gym and even a barber’s shop. The point here is to listen to some great music and enjoy a bit of the Dutch countryside.
How do I get there? Flight time to Amsterdam from Abu Dhabi is seven hours. For more details, go to www. lowlands.nl
August 23-24: Uprising
Where: Bratislava, Slovakia
Headliners: Elephant Man, Horace Andy & Dub Asante Band and Smiff N Wessun & Champion Sound
Why go? Because it’s Europe’s premiere reggae festival and is all about the vibes. Held in the picturesque lakeside summer resort of Zlate Piesky, Uprising brings together the biggest acts from Jamaica in addition to art and yoga classes and a reggae-inspired street art market. And, of course, there will be plenty of jerk chicken available at food stalls.
How do I get there? Flight time to Bratislava from Dubai is six hours and 15 minutes. For more festival details, go to www.uprising.sk
Updated: April 11, 2019 04:01 PM