Burning Man has earned its status as a festival mecca for revellers (and rightly so). But not everyone can make the pilgrimage to Black Rock City year after year.
Factoring in your ticket, travel, costumes, transportation, and everything else it takes to be radically self-reliant (the only things you can purchase at BM are coffee and ice) can make the experience unattainable for many people.
So what’s another option? Here is not an exhaustive list (but pretty damn close).
Festivals like Burning Man
These are festivals like Burning Man minus the supermodels and tech-bros lost in the desert trying to find themselves. So first up, we have.
Waking Life (Portugal)
If you’re looking for an experience on par with Burning Man, Waking Life Festival is described as:
“A space for artistic experimentation, spirited self-expression and collective imagineering of the type of society we could cultivate if there was freedom…”
Taking place in Crato, Portugal, this is a comparable festival to Burning Man, which takes place in Europe. Similar to the other festivals in this list, there is an emphasis on community, expression and art.
Assistance during the festival is also voluntary, emphasising art installations, performance art, and creative camps.
Waking Life is set along a beautiful lakeside. Making it a unique quality for festivals usually in deserts, so this one can be considered an oasis in the list.
Afrikaburn (South Africa)
This is a Burning Man regional, which means it’s a sister event. Although not equal in size, Afrikaburn keeps its numbers significantly lower at around 10,000 attendees. This festival also takes place in the beautiful Karoo in South Africa.
It’s equal parts isolated and exciting with a mix and melting pot of characters, mutant vehicles and themed camps.
What’s great about this festival is that its smaller size means you can get your bearings quicker. The Binnekring (the Afrikaans word for the shape of the campsite layout) can be likened to a crop circle, which seems fitting for the otherworldly experience of being immersed in the desert for a week.
Just like Burning Man, you’re in the desert. No reception. No water. Nothing! You have to take everything you need with you and leave nothing behind, no MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) as it’s known to burners (the name for attendees).
Get your weird and wonderful costumes ready because this one’s a blast. Themed camps serve weed tea every day at 5 pm (known as ‘high tea’) and an open-top double-decker bus blasting music into the dust.
Watch out for mutant vehicles (decorated vehicles), and be sure to explore all the incredible artwork around because it won’t be there the whole time.
Each night there’s a ‘burn’ where an artwork gets burned to the ground, and burners howl and cheer.
Next up is another Burning Man regional known as…
Kiwiburn (New Zealand)
Kiwiburn is a bit far-flung since it takes place in New Zealand, but it’s got the same vibe as Afrikaburn and Burning Man. Although, like with Afrikaburn, this one is a smaller scale that probably has more of a community and sense of self-expression than Burning Man has now.
The effigy burns every January for about 5 days but accepts volunteers year-round to help with the organisation. These kinds of volunteers at Burning Man are also known as rangers, and volunteers are the lifeblood of these festivals.
Interestingly, this sister event doesn’t occur in the desert (New Zealand doesn’t have any), so they’ve swapped sand for some luscious greenery.
Speaking of Burning Man regionals, we move to another alternative to Burning Man in Israel.
Expect equally whacky dress, art, community, and musical acts. A 6-day event held in the Negev Desert and the only one in the Middle East, this is a not to be missed event.
It’s the second-largest regional event outside of the US (after Afrikaburn), so you’ll have the chance to share this transformative time with over 8000 other revellers.
- Radical inclusion
- Communal effort
- Civic responsibility
- Leaving no trace
- Radical self-reliance
- Radical self-expression
A list of Burning Man regionals wouldn’t be complete without a bush doof (the Australian word for a party that takes place in nature – most likely, the Outback). That would, of course, be:
Burning Seed (Australia)
Australia has their version of Burning Man in the Matong State Forest. Which, of course, is going to be one hell of a good time.
Its location has been affectionately named Red Earth City for the reddish colour of the Outback’s soil. So what else is there to say for a party with a bunch of Australians that coincides with labour day? Well, mate, we’re not here to f**k spiders.
So if you are up for a bush doof experience with the Aussies on a long weekend holiday, Burning Seed will be well worth the quest to get there!
Now we turn to some other festivals that are not Burning Man regionals but also follow the cash-free, self-expression, and community feel.
Shambhala Music Festival (Canada)
Again, the desert is swapped for lush greenery, but the sense of community is all there. Taking elements of artwork and theme camps and channelling them into stages is what Shambhala does best.
This one is more focused on music geared toward the revellers wanting to attend Burning Man for the music and immersion in nature.
Electric Forest (Michigan, USA)
Known as Burning Man in the forest, where you can expect to see humans dressed as butterflies and a participatory artistic culture that lends itself more to a Tim Burton version of Burning Man.
Festivals like Burning Man in Europe
Okay, now let’s get into some festivals in Europe, which means they’re far more affordable if you are reading this on the continent (and probably better).
In northern Spain, between Zaragoza and Lleida and following the 10 principles of Burning Man, Nowhere is another festival for radical self-expression and an artistic, creative outlet.
Nowhere is what Burning Man would have been before going mainstream, so be sure to attend before it becomes all about flashy installations and swelling crowds of people.
Some of the usual features from other transformational festivals of radical self-reliance like group meditation and techno. But its smaller crowd will mean the community feel among the nobodies (the name for festival-goers) will be largely intact.
It’s one of your best bets for experiencing a festival like Burning Man in Europe as it’s the most official European regional and was started by a group that attended Burning Man years ago.
Fusion Festival (Germany)
Now, if Berghain is anything to go off, this one will be pure hedonism. But, remember that radically self-reliant festivals aren’t for everyone, so if you like creature comforts, this German substitute won’t offer it.
The lineup of electronic music at Fusion is the stuff of legend. And so is their insane word of mouth marketability. You can only buy solo tickets for this event, so it forces you to interact if you are lucky enough to snag one.
Seriously. Just check their Instagram and see how little they care about being commercial. And they sell out of tickets for every iteration, without fail.
Come rain or shine. People are here to party. So get ready to unplug from the grind and witness the German version of Burning Man.
Meadows in the Mountains (Bulgaria)
This is a special gathering in the misty mountains of Rhodope, Bulgaria. A more carbon-conscious affair which in a review is described as
“Rather than redefining the idea of a festival, Meadows is a reminder of what a real festival is.”meadowsinthemountains.com
Which says everything you need to know. Prepare to frolic in the hills and connect with nature, accompanied by some great beats. Meadows In The Mountains is one of the best boutique music festivals in Europe.
After a two year break, Terraforma is back at Villa Arconati and promises exciting electronic music. During its hiatus has strongly pondered and is actively focusing on emissions neutralisation for the festival’s future editions.
It’s a space where music, art and nature converge and is a must-attend if you’re looking for a festival like Burning Man in Europe.
Is Coachella like Burning Man?
You may wonder why I’m mentioning Coachella in an article about Burning Man-inspired festivals. Well, it’s a fairly common question among would be first time burners.
Simply put, no Coachella is not like Burning Man. Firstly Coachella takes place on the lush polo fields of Palm Springs in California. Burning man is in the Black Rock desert of Nevada.
Secondly, Coachella is a massive corporate sponsorship event. A burn is probably the farthest thing from corporate.
And thirdly, they serve two completely different ideals. Coachella is and always has been a music festival at its core. While Burning Man is a community experiment that encourages participation and radical self-reliance.
People often mistake Burning Man for a music festival. And while there is a solid musical element, its core principles are centred around the 10 principles I mentioned earlier.
The festival world is full of Burning Man alternatives if you know where to look. And after reading this, it’s safe to say you have found what you are after.
The cost of Burning Man has become somewhat prohibitive to revellers from outside the US. Luckily these events all offer a similar (and some would argue a better) experience at a fraction of the cost.
Plus, travelling around the world to attend Burning Man carries a sizeable carbon footprint. However, the festivals featured in this list all do a wonderful job at sustainability. And if you are on the hunt for sustainable music festivals, then Regional Burns are a great option.
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