Music Festivals Worth Travelling For

Travel Feature

White Mountain Festival


'In dust we trust' - Oppikoppi

About a two-hour drive north of Joburg is Northam. The town boasts a veldskoen of farmers. A few kroegs. Some bored housewives. And that’s it. But come August, and this little town is all kinds of awesome as it plays host to one of the country’s most hedonistic music festivals attended by 20 000 revellers. Rock ‘n roll in the bosveld was never designed to be pretty: expect dust, chilly nights and make-up melting days. Artists are the cream of the crop with at least one international act.  What are you waiting for? Tickets from R600.

Rock, jazz, folk or electronic sounds - South Africa offers a large variety of outdoor music festivals. There's something out there for everyone, you've just got to know where to go!

Bring: Essentiale, fire wood, water.

Leave: Fido. Drunk, hungry festinos will braai almost anything marginally smaller than a Hobbit.

WIN one of three tickets to Oppikoppi 2013. Go to onRoute's competition page to enter

Other ROCK fests not to be missed:

Rocking the Daisies in picturesque Darling (3-6 October), completely sold out last year. So snap up an early bird ticket for around R550. 


"Break out the ukuleles" - White Mountain Festival

If you’re looking for a relaxing break, infused with acoustic jams, over the Heritage Day long weekend (20-24 September), then the White Mountain Festival in central Drakensberg is guaranteed to be just the ticket. Gentler than Oppi, the artists swop their electric guitars for acoustic ones, which is great as you get to hear the softer side of rock bands like aKing and Prime Circle, or blues acts like Dan Patlansky. Expect quirky, passionate melodies. There are also culinary comforts like craft beer and an array of tasty food stalls peddling wares from potjie, to gourmet pizzas and chin dribblingly-good shawarmas. Tickets from R450.

Bring: Money (there’s no ATM – but you can draw in Estcourt).  

Leave: Your Bump house CD collection.

Other FOLK fests not to be missed:

You’ll find SA’s most laidback festival in scenic Lothair, Mpumalanga: Mieliepop (1-3 November). Expect fishing (catch, kiss, and release), hammocks, impeccable facilities and no cellphone reception. Which means your boss can’t bug you. Bliss! Expect some rock crossover too. Tickets from around R600.


 "Play it again Sam" - STRAB

The Subterranean Rhythm & Blues experience was spawned when a group of blues-loving scuba divers flavoured their dive weekend at Ponta Malongane (the southern tip of Mozambique just 15 kilometres from the Kosi Bay border post), with some live music. This year (22-26 May) about 20 bands are expected to perform. You have the pick of accommodation – everything from rudimentary camping, to rondavels, beach log huts and even comfy guesthouse digs – the cost of which is additional to the R650 ticket price. Another ‘nice to know’ is there’s a border transfer service for 4X4-less festinos (R200 return).

Bring: Cozzie, mozzie spray and passport.

Leave: Scuba gear. You can rent kit there and explore the wondrous reefs that fringe Ponta.

Other JAZZ/BLUES fests not to be missed:

Every year on 2 January (TweedeNuweJaar), a tsunami of colour snakes through the CBD streets when the minstrel troupes parade through. Grab your parasol and follow their lead – this one’s free! 


'Music with meaning' - Earthdance

Earthdance is the largest synchronised music and dance festival in the world. Over 80 countries partake, culminating in a simultaneous joining together in a prayer for peace. So it’s not all beer swilling and thrashing about to DJs, there really is kindness behind the beats. The whole point is to harness music, dance, technology, prayer, education and people-power for peace and humanitarian aims. But what’s a festival without music? At Earthdance there’s no shortage of beats and when you’re done dancing, head over to the healing area where you can book a massage. There are even workshops and talks (focused on environmental and social concerns, naturally).

Bring: Your tie-dye

Leave: Your neck tie

Other ELECTRONICA / TRANCE fests not to be missed

Vortex (6-8 December) promises a psychedelic adventure in a private mountain sanctuary, 270 km’s from Cape Town. The forest offers shaded camping for every tent, not to mention a glossy river for dips. Tickets from R280,


JUST PLAIN ZANY: Modelled on the performance art spectacle known as Burning Man in the States, AfrikaBurn takes place from 1-6 May in the lunar-landscape of Tankwa Karoo. Much like its eccentric muse, AfrikaBurn is a temporary community based on radical self-expression and self-reliance, so you need to bring everything – all the amenities you’ll need to survive:  food, water and shelter. AfrikaBurn works on a gift economy so don’t be surprised if the Merman on giraffe stilts, with a disco ball around his neck and a soufflé on his head, suddenly drops down and offers you a slice of said soufflé. Tickets from R300.

OVER THE BORDER: Nestled in Ezulwini Valley, the House of Fire is Swaziland’s premier nightspot. It’s a surreal higgledy-piggledy mishmash of concrete and mosaic and this is where, once a year, the ‘Big Deals’ like  Siphokazi, Johnny Clegg, VusiMahlasela, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Mi Casa, The Brother Moves On and other musical virtuosos converge to entertain the family-friendly throng at the Bushfire Arts Festival (31 May-2 June). Tickets from R150 upwards.

CLOSEST TO WOODSTOCK: Splashy Fen germinated in 1990 with a makeshift stage and generator, but instead of the anticipated trickle of music lovers, a few thousand descended. And what with the rain (this is the Underberg), the mud, the toilets (or lack thereof), it’s a wonder Splashy ever took off! Must be all that free love, either that, or the ‘Karma-Free Pizza’ on sale. Nowadays infrastructure is sophisticated and some 10 000 music faithfuls pitch up to enjoy SA’s closest thing to Woodstock and rock out to everything from acoustic to rock to folk to traditional Zulu Maskandi and electro. Don’t forget your wellies! (28 March-1 April). Tickets from about R575.

WIN three sets of double tickets to Splashy Fen 2013. Go to onRoute's competition page to enter