Most people have heard of the annual Burning Man Festival held near Reno in the US each year. Some people have been lucky enough to go but for most the high costs and limited number of tickets makes it a struggle. Luckily a number of Burning Man regional festivals are held each year in different countries around the world, all smaller and less costly to attend. Nowhere Festival in Spain is Europe’s version and I went this year for my sixth time.
For those that have never attended a burner event the format is quite unlike that of any normal festival. For a start there are no performers, no schedule and no VIP areas. Instead everyone contributes to the festival in any way they feel comfortable. People create art, volunteer to build and maintain the festival, perform, DJ or just join in with the party. No one gets a free ticket and no one is paid for their work. This complete shift in reality combined with the unto 40 degree daytime heat took time to get used to last year but I felt more prepared and excited as I arrived on site this year beer in hand.
The festival revolves around core principles outlined on the Burning Man website. The key ones are radical self reliance and no commerce which means that with the exception of ice, absolutely nothing can be brought or sold on site and people are expected to bring everything they need with them or source it from the local town.
When is nowhere Festival and how much does it cost?
As of 2017 the festival is in its 16th year and is normal held in early July. In 2020 is scheduled to be held between (tbc).
Tickets are sold in different price tiers with cheaper tickets available earlier on and limited in number. There is currently no cap on ticket sales and tickets are available on the gate. People with low income can also apply for heavily discounted tickets and children also get in much cheaper.
Ticket prices for 2020 have not been announced but in 2017 they were as follows:
Level 1: 300 Euros
Level 2: 200 Euros
Level 3: 120 Euros
Level 4: 135 Euros
At Gate: 270 Euros
Children <14: Free
Low-income Level 1: 80 Euros
Low-income Level 2: 80 Euros
You can book tickets on the Nowhere Festival website.
Where is it and how do you get there?
The location of the festival is in farmlands about 20km away from the town of Sariñena. Although quite small the town has a supermarket, pharmacy, DIY store, tobacconist and general shop, making it the focal point of peoples supply runs. It also has a swimming pool which tends to get quite busy towards the end of the week and people seek relief from the sun.
Getting to Nowhere Festival is quite easy. Sariñena has a train station and you can take a train from Barcelona via Lleida taking around 3.5 hours. Low cost airlines also fly to the nearby city of Zaragoza Spain and you can take a train from there. Finally, on the two days before and after the festival, coaches run people between the site and Barcelona and Zaragoza also dropping people at the airport.
Where do people camp?
There are two options when it comes to camping at the festival. People can free camp in a designated area of the site. This means they bring their own supplies and can also arrange for their own generator if they wish.
The other easier and more social option is to join one of the barrios at the festival. Think of these as big well organised camps, usually run by someone with experience of a burner event. In 2017 there were 24 barrios ranging in size from 10 to 80 people and some were open to anyone while some were more extended groups of friends with a few newbies.
These barrios are organised and run separately from the festival and most charge a barrio fee which usually covers all the food, water, electricity and alcohol needs of everyone in the camp.
Each barrio is based around a theme and you can expect barrios to host workshops and have parties. Some of the bigger barrios invest a lot of money in good sound systems and alcohol to give away and become the centre of the nightlife.
I camped with Ubertown again this year, the biggest and loudest barrio at the festival. Last year I went to the festival 5 days early to help build the barrio and this was almost as fun as the festival itself. I got to play with power tools and build cool things all with a beer in hand and fun people around me.
What else is there?
For those not completely wrecked by hangovers there are daily workshops Nowhere Festival. Anyone can run a workshop on any subject. Everything from yoga, to poetry writing to the exploration of sexual fetishes is covered and Middle of Nowhere, a large marque in the centre of the site, acts as the main meeting point for these workshops alongside a few other structures and the various barrios that make up the site.
Radical self expression is another core theme of the festival. As such as the week goes on art installations spring up all over the site. Some are big, some small, some you can interact with and others just look cool. Costumer is a big thing as well. By the end of the week, you’ll find it hard to spot anyone wearing normal clothes; instead it will all be animal costumes, bold makeup and neon paint.
What’s the atmosphere like?
Hedonistic would be the most accurate description of the event. While it’s not true for everyone most people indulge heavily in alcohol and drugs are fairly openly used (although not encouraged). Towards the end of the week music plays almost non-stop all day and night and most people are running on zero sleep.
Friday and Saturday are the big nights and most people stay up until dawn just to see the beautiful sunrise from the cliffs just behind the site. I was up there with my iPhone to take a panoramic shot.
But there is definitely a quieter side to the festival. As it expanded the party barrios are now located in downwind sections of the site giving people the chance to walk away from the noise if they want. The number of art projects is increasing each year and there are lots of workshops allowing people explore spirituality and sensuality. Nowhere Festival is a sex-positive event meaning there is quite a lot of it hidden in plain sight and the ‘Touch & Play’ barrio that started last year run workshops that let people explore the kinkier sides of their sexuality.
Despite brutal hangovers I managed to attend an acroyoga workshop which involves balancing people on your body and making pretty shapes out of yourselves. Great fun if a little painful on the limbs while you get used to it.
Post by Gloria Pacheco – I’m a writer and travel blogger living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I am a fan of travel, fitness, and food. I’m also interested in politics and DIY.