Whether you’re into sipping natural wine in the sunshine, blowing up your airbed in a sweaty two-man tent, sharing seasonal small plates on beautiful banquet tables, or dropping shapes ‘til dawn, you’re well catered for this festival season. Big or boutique, from Cornwall to Albania, take your pick from some of the best under the radar festivals…
FOR MOVERS AND GROOVERS: JUNCTION 2
7-8th June, London
Upping its game in a pretty major way this year, Junction 2 takes over Boston Manor Park for two days this June, and is sure to be London’s hot summer ticket. An unmissable event for all electronic and house music fans, Junction 2 has worked up a seriously impressive line-up of international DJs and electronic acts who’ll descend on North London for this Friday-Saturday event. All about the music, it promises no short sets, only great sound, and no VIP treatments (aka, those who like their festivals complete with aromatherapy massages and luxury facials need not apply). Anyone who’s anyone in the electronic music biz has been billed, with highlights including Hunee, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Daphni, DJ Koze and Jeremy Underground. Camping isn’t offered, so prepare yourself for a late night ride on the Piccadilly line.
FOR PARADISE SEEKERS: KALA
12 - 19th June, Albanian Riviera
Dubbed ‘dance paradise’, Kala is a week-long event in Dhërmi, a postcard-pretty coastal village on the Albanian Riviera. Following its highly-prasied debut last year, it’s back for round two, inviting festival-goers to escape to hidden paradise on the Albian coast, where crystal clear waters and golden sands offer the most blissed out holiday-like festival experience you’re going to find. An esteemed line-up spans house, disco, soul and funk, with big names including Hunee, Jayda G, Honey Dijon, Theo Parrish and Inner City, and stages range from open-air clubs to secluded beach forests only accessible by boat. Chances are you’ll want to spend most of your day on the beach and in the glistening waters, but if you can drag yourself away, a tightly curated culture programme has been compiled to complement the music, along with plenty of sports and wellbeing activities helping keep you entertained through the week — hands up for snorkelling, kayaking, sunset yoga and beach massages. Leave the tent at home and hire a beach hut by the sea. No roughing it here. Kala also boasts a big sustainability drive, and profits go to support the local residents — aka, it’s no Fyre Festival…
FOR CURIOUS SOULS: ALSO FESTIVAL
5-7th July, Warwickshire
Set across 50 acres of pretty Warwickshire parkland, on the banks of a beautiful large lake, Also Festival guarantees to leave you wiser and more curious. The 3-day event focuses on big ideas and bold inspiration, with a 200-event strong programme, plus wild swimming, immersive dining, wellbeing activities, and audio adventures. Sign yourself up a ‘have-a-go workshop’, to try your hand at something new. There’s everything from tote bag printing to Vinyasa yoga, raft building, song writing, sketchbooking, paper marbling, gong bathing, ceramics workshops. As for music, things go from mellow to major, with all sorts to keep you entertained throughout the weekend including calm acoustic acts, cabaret and late-night DJs. Without doubt, a festival for nature-lovers, Also Festival is somewhere you can spend a weekend camping in the countryside with your mates, switch off your phone, leap into the lake to wake up in the morning, learn something new, and eat and drink under the stars.
FOR POP MUSIC LOVERS AND ECO WARRIORS: FLOW FESTIVAL
9-11th August, Helsinki
Hop over to Helsinki for a couple of fun filled days at Flow: a beautiful city festival set around a disused power station, which makes for a brilliant backdrop to an impressive roster of acts. Along with great acts — this year’s line up includes Erykah Badu, James Blake, Cardi B, Robyn, Tove Lo and Khruangbin — Flow Festival puts a real focus on sustainability, and is proud to be one of the world’s first carbon neutral festivals. There’s also art exhibitions on site, light installations, a pop-up cinema, and an array of delicious Scandi street street food. Perfect for those who want to dance and groove but also get a good night’s sleep, Flow Festival a 3-day event with programming that runs from mid afternoon to midnight — ideal for those wanting to squeeze in a bit of Helsinki sightseeing too. Course, the party does go on if you want it to. Follow the crowds to the clubs where post-festival sets continue well into the early hours, or embrace the more local way of seeing out a good night with a communal sauna party. No room for prudes here, it’s the Finnish way!
FOR OUTDOOR TYPES AND HEALTHY HEDONISTS: GREEN MAN
15-18th August, Wales
‘Settle in. Relax. Explore’ reads the blurb for Green Man, a chilled out festival in Wales’ Brecon Beacons, which has been garnering more and more loyal fans since it kicked off as a tiny fireside festival way back in 2003. This year the line up is looking bigger and better than ever, with Four Tet, Father John Misty, Stereolab, Eels and John Talabot among the many keeping festival-goers’ spirits high. That said, Green Man much more than just music: it’s an open land of discovery. Set among miles of mountains, forests, waterfalls and rivers, it’s a serene and stunning setting for a whimsical weekend with everything from visual artists to performing arts, educational science workshops, stand up comedy, readings, and more. Host BBQs for your mates with fresh produce from the local on-site butcher, get stuck into the Settlement Pub Quiz, and cosy up around the campfire with marshmallows.Whilst the event itself runs over four days, festival-goers are encouraged to stay and camp all week to go beyond the festival grounds and make the most of the beautiful Welsh surrounds. Pack a stove, a sleeping back and settle into the outdoor life.
FOR DISCOVERING NEW MUSIC: ØYA
6-10th August, Oslo
Celebrating its 20th year, Øya has been growing steadily since its modest early days back in 1999. The five-day event takes place in Oslo’s beautiful Toyen Park, and offers intimate vibes with serious international appeal. As much as anything, the festival showcases just how strong Norway’s native music scene is, with homegrown acts aplenty (you’ll come back with Spotify playlists full of new faves) playing on the same stages as big international names including, this year, Robyn, The Cure, Tame Impala and James Blake. By night, the festival spreads across the city with Nighttime Øya taking you to some of Oslo's best clubs. There’s also a huge focus on sustainability, and plentiful great organic food and drink options. Go big and book a five-day ticket or go for a day ticket and combine it with a Nordic adventure — endless hours of light and balmy temps make it the most beautiful time of year to see the country.
FOR SCANDI STYLE FANS AND STRICT NON-CAMPERS: WAY OUT WEST
8-10th August, Gothenburg
Scandi style fans should head to Gothenburg for Way Out West, a city festival in Slottsskogen Park, which has made a name for itself for being one of the coolest, calmest city festivals with major international appeal. No mud and mosh pits here. A generation-spanning crowd dons your slickest Scandi garms, enjoy picnics on the grassy lawn outside before doors open, and enjoy the incredible acts in a respectable, sophisticated manner. This year’s line up includes Cardi B, Maribou State, James Blake, The Cure, Neneh Cherry and Stormzy — an eclectic mix with something for everyone. Music wraps up by midnight when you can either head back to your hotel or keep the party going at Stay Out West, further live music programming which takes plays in various late-night venues around the city. Gothenburg is a gorgeous city to explore, especially in the long, light summer months, so why not tack a few extra days on to your trip and get out and explore the Archipelago? The perfect place to recover from a few days of grooving.
FOR DESERT CAMPERS: ATLAS ELECTRONIC
28th August - 1st September, Marrakech
More commonly known for its souks and the Medina, Marrakech is also home to Atlas Electronic, an electronic music festival that’s gaining traction as one of the coolest, most cultured late summer weekends. Set at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, just outside Marrakech, Villa Janna Ecolodge serves as the most idyllic festival location — think swaying palm trees, olive fields, a desert camp, historical amphitheatre and large glistening swimming pool. What usually functions as a peaceful 32-person Airbnb becomes home to 2000 local and international artists and attendees for the course of the late summer weekend. The intimate, beautifully put together four-day festival will immerse you into cross-cultural experiences and encourages you to meet like-minded people, with unique programming spanning art, workshops, panel discussions, talks and music throughout the days and nights. It embraces Moroccan culture, and has some of Africa's best talent playing alongside some of the best international electronic acts. Wake up with a relaxing yoga session and later, cool off in the pool before getting stuck into some of the culture and the late-night music. On-site desert camping is Pinterest-worthy, with Moroccan rugs galore, lanterns and palm trees peppered around the place. Part holiday, part cultural retreat, just be sure to pack your sunscreen and your swimmers, it’s sure to be a scorcher.
FOR CITY-BREAKERS: NOVA BATIDA
13-15th September, Lisbon
If wellies and camping aren’t your vibe, how about a sunny city festival in one of Europe’s coolest capitals? Nova Batida returns to Lisbon for its second year, bringing three days full of music, art, and culture to the LX Factory — former fabric warehouses turned Lisbon’s most exciting creative hub. The eclectic line-up spans old school hip-hop, funk, soul and electronic music, with big names including festival favourite Four Tet, Friendly Fires, Jon Hopkins, Mr Scruff, and Midland. Music aside, there’s the rest of the cultural programming to get involved in, from surf classes to beach parties, rooftop yoga sessions, talks, debates and educational experiences. Leave the tent at home and enjoy the luxuries of a hotel stay instead.