Top 5: Desert festivals

Winter blues? Fear not: there's plenty of desert decadence to melt them away — these festivals amid the sand dunes feature everything from yoga at sunset to camel racing

By Connor McGovern
Published 27 Dec 2017, 08:00 GMT, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 15:07 BST
Riding camels in the desert

Beyond Sahara, Morocco
2–5 March 2018
We don't do boring, say the organisers. They're not lying. As far as grand entries go, a 36-hour trek on camels through the Atlas Mountains beats rolling up in a souped-up Hummer. It's a fitting welcome to the high-flying hedonism that ensues at the desert camp, where the rippling sands of southern Morocco are transformed into a dreamy, bohemian-meets-Bedouin playground. There's zany disco dodgeball to set the tone, with authentic Berber cuisine on the menu. Next up, try yoga at sunset and cocktails by the campfire, accompanied by tales from tribesmen. And, if you've still got the energy, the night ends in true festival style with parties until dawn under the stars.

Jaisalmer Desert Festival, India
29–31 Jan 2018
Northern India's Thar Desert stands in stark contrast to this eccentric festival which unfurls around the imposing walls of Jaisalmer. From camel racing and fire dancing to folk music and turban tying, this three-day bash is a lively one. Stay for the moustache competition, where a macho Mr Desert is crowned.

Midburn Festival, Israel 
14–19 May 2018
Inspired by Burning Man, the five-day Midburn Festival springs up like an oasis in the Negev Desert with creativity and community. Forget pumping bass and headline acts; this is all about art.

Rotary Henley-on-Todd Regatta, Alice Springs, Australia 
18 Aug 2018
Replace the Thames with arid terrain and you have this Aussie offshoot that mimics Henley, with regatta races — including bonkers BYOB (bring your own boat) competitions — played out on terra firma.

Burning Man, Nevada, USA
26 Aug – 3 Sept 2018
From the sun-baked expanse of the Black Rock Desert emerges Black Rock City, the temporary brainchild of the festival's revellers who come for community, art and self-expression. The shindig returns this year, going all 21st century with the theme 'I, Robot'. 

Published in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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