In South Africa, summertime is festival time. And so is spring, autumn and winter! Yup, when it comes to going bos (that’s SA slang for “crazy, in a fun way”), our neck of the woods is right up there with the best of ’em. If you’re visiting from abroad, the best festivals in South Africa will make your trip, so you’ll want to make sure you factor at least one of them into your itinerary.
And we probably don’t need to tell you this, but the number-one accessory to take with you to every festival (aside from suntan lotion) is a pack of BOS Ice Tea. It makes the best mixer (check out our cocktail recipes) and also busts those hangovers!
Here’s our hand-picked list of the 10 best festivals South Africa has to offer, with a guide to where and when they usually happen.
1. For the Creatives: Design Indaba Conference & Festival
Often dubbed “The Conference on Creativity”, South Africa’s groundbreaking Design Indaba Conference & Festival is an annual smorgasbord featuring the very best of global creativity, all on one mind-blowing platform.
Every year since its inception in 1995, this inspirational initiative curates a programme of musicians, speakers, film and design exhibitions, giving a podium to the very best of the international and African creative industries.
At Design Indaba Nightscape, a wonderland of art, music, food and exhibitions awaits, making it clear why Design Indaba Conference & Festival has become such a firmly entrenched and respected institution on the global creative landscape.
- Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg
- When: Usually February, but check the website
- More info: www.designindaba.com and www.designindaba.com/tags/nightscape
2. For the Lilo Lovers: Up the Creek Music Festival
Think one river, three stages, a maximum of 2 500 revellers and all the live music and stand-up comedy your festival-loving heart can handle. Up the Creek is South Africa’s second-longest running outdoor music festival. It all goes down annually in early February on the banks of the magnificent Breede River, about 23 km from the historic town of Swellendam.
Pack your beers, hat, sunscreen and lilo, canoe or even your bathtub (true story!) and head for the banks of the Breede River, where the cream of SA music, chilled vibes, short queues and all the sun-drenched fun you can handle awaits.
- Where: Swellendam, Western Cape
- When: February
- More info: www.upthecreek.co.za
3. For the High on Lifers: Holi One Colour Festival
Inspired by the original Indian Holi fest (but not related to, or associated with Holi fest), South Africa’s vibrant Holi One Colour Festival is all about promoting and celebrating concepts of togetherness, as well as the colour and joy of everyday life.
Think thousands of joy-filled souls all gathered together, sharing in music, dance, performance art, visual stimulation and rather a lot of brightly coloured, powdered paint throwing.
Originally a Hindu festival, Holi celebrates the arrival of spring and fertile soils, the blooming of love, forgiveness and the mending of broken relationships. With the exact date of the festival determined by the lunar calendar, the throwing of powdered paints in all the colours of the rainbow is central to this exhilarating, joy-filled gathering.
- Where: Cape Town and Johannesburg
- When: Usually March, but check the website
- More info: holi-one.com
4. For the Jokers: JHB International Comedy Festival
The largest independent international comedy festival in Africa, the Johannesburg International Comedy Festival (JICF) is a side-splitting feast of comedy running over six hilarious, jam-packed days.
The festival is proudly hosted in association with South Africa’s Department of Arts & Culture and features the cream of SA’s funny men and women, as well top comedians from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sudan and further afield.
Visitors to the Johannesburg International Comedy Festival will get to experience top local comedians doing their thing, including Jason Goliath, Rob van Vuuren, Mpho Pops, Kate Pinchuck, Kagiso Lediga and Tracey-Lee Oliver.
- Where: Johannesburg, Gauteng
- When: March
- More info: jicf.co.za
5. For the Eco Warriors: Reforest Festival
This inspiring festival is a Greenpop initiative, welcoming all ages for a three-day tree-planting celebration of note. Think land restoration, eco workshops, talks, classes, yoga, star-gazing, art, theatre, yummy food and dancing under starry skies to live music and DJs and you start to get the picture.
Reforest Fest is Greenpop’s biggest annual tree-planting event, previously held at Platbos Forest Reserve where, since 2011, a total of 85,645 trees have been planted. As this area is now almost fully replanted, Reforest Fest has moved across the road to Bodhi Khaya, where the tree-planting fun continues as part of a broader ecosystem restoration management plan in development by the Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy.
- Where: Gansbaai, Western Cape
- When: April
- More info: greenpop.org/reforest-fest
Did you know: Through our reforestation, urban greening and sustainable development partnership with Greenpop, BOS plants and maintains one tree for every 2 000 units of BOS Ice Tea we sell. To date, through this initiative, BOS has planted over 30 000 trees – and counting!
6. For the Legend Seekers: Splashy Fen Music Festival
Splashy Fen has a unique claim to fame: it is South Africa’s longest-running music festival. But it’s also so much more than that. Set within a world heritage site (the legendary Drakensberg), Splashy Fen offers revellers a range of music, art, people, life, love, and fun, fun, fun – all going down over the Easter long weekend in one of our planet’s most breathtakingly beautiful natural settings.
Starting out way back in 1990, Splashy Fen has built up a rock solid reputation as one of South Africa’s most legendary music festivals, welcoming over 150 000 fun-loving festival freaks to date.
- Where: Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal
- When: Mid-April (Easter long weekend)
- More info: splashyfen.co.za
7. For the Escapists: AfrikaBurn
An official Burning Man regional event, AfrikaBurn is a madcap community of (mostly) South African burners, coming together for one hot, heady week of off-the-wall creative expression against the inspiring backdrop of volunteer-and-gifting culture.
The goal? Bringing forth art, art and more art in a make-shift city of tented theme camps. Think breathtaking performance, mind-blowing costumes, mutant vehicles, creative expression – and as much music as your eager ears can handle.
AfrikaBurn has been taking place annually during the last week of April at Quaggafontein in the gritty, Mad Max-esque Tankwa Karoo since 2007. The point of it all? “…to generate a society that connects each individual to his or her creative powers, to participation in community, to the larger realm of civic life, and to the even greater world of nature that exists beyond society”.
- Where: Quaggafontein, Northern Cape
- When: April/May
- More info: www.afrikaburn.com
8. For the Oyster Hunters: Knysna Oyster Festival
South Africa’s lush, verdant Garden Route, stretching along the coast of our breathtaking southern Cape region, has a well-deserved reputation as one of our country’s most beautiful places.
The crown jewel of this 300 km stretch of paradise is surely the quaint, historic seaside town of Knysna, home to the ancient Knysna forest, Knysna lagoon, Knysna seahorse and, quite famously, the scrumptious Knysna oyster.
Visitors to the fabulous annual foodie fest that is the Knysna Oyster Festival enjoy a jam-packed programme that includes walks through the mystical Knysna forest, swims in the Knysna lagoon and surrounding rivers, golf at award-winning estates and lots (and lots!) of delectable Knysna oyster sampling.
There are also all the usual festival staples on offer, including live music, comedy shows, market stalls and lots of opportunities to try out local delicacies and some of the finest South African wines.
- Where: Garden Route, southern Cape
- When: July
- More info: knysnaoysterfestival.co.za
9. For the Genre Busters: Rocking the Daisies Music Festival
One of the highlights of the Mzansi festival calendar has to be Rocking the Daisies, Cape Town’s biggest outdoor gathering. This springtime celebration of fun, sun and the very best of local (and just a sprinkling of international) music sees over 25 000 revellers gathering for three fab days of music and fun.
Daisies, as it is affectionately known by locals, takes place annually in early spring at Cloof Wine Estate, situated just outside of Darling, a quaint little town in the Cape Floral Region, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
Widely touted as one of the best festivals in South Africa, Daisies is known for its wide musical offering that caters to just about every taste. Whether it’s folk, rock, indie, house, hip hop or drum and bass that floats your boat, you’re bound to find something to get your party started among Rocking the Daisies’ many stages.
- Where: Darling, Western Cape
- When: October
- More info: rockingthedaisies.com/CPT/
10. For the (Art) Cultists: Afropunk
Originating in 2005 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in the US, Afropunk focuses on creativity, whether coming from the stage or the audience, and it’s more about “how colourful you are, than what colour you are”.
This annual, multicultural-experience music festival takes place at Constitution Hill in SA’s city of gold, featuring fashion, film, art, and live music produced by a line-up of artists of colour, featuring the likes of Lauryn Hill, Ice Cube, and Lenny Kravitz.
Afropunk’s expressed purpose is the fostering of an influential and inspired community of young people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, speaking through art, film, music, lifestyle, fashion, sports, photography and more.
- Where: Johannesburg, Gauteng
- When: December
- More info: afropunk.com/festival/joburg
Go BOS at One (or All!) of the Best Festivals in South Africa
So, now you know where it’s all happening festival-wise, Mzansi-side. Our country’s awesome, sunny climate makes it an excellent year-round destination for exploring all the best festivals in South Africa.
As always, keeping well hydrated at any outdoor festival is just the sensible thing to do.