7 Wildest Transformational Festivals

From Burning Man to Shambhala Gathering

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Burning Man
Scott Lodnon7/7

Burning Man

Where: Black Rock City, Nevada

When: August 28th to September 5th

Why go: The granddaddy of them all, Burning Man is the mecca and measuring stick for transformational festivals around the world. Somehow a San Francisco costume troop called Cacophony, along with various anti-establishment artists and miscreants, turned the idea of setting fire to a large wooden man in the middle of an inhospitable dried lakebed into a thriving cultural hot spot. Now run by a non-profit organization, 70,000 Burners from every walk of life converge on Black Rock Desert annually. Beer-drinking NASCAR fans party next to shirt-cockers on ecstasy. Body paint, titty-tassels and tutus are everywhere. Fire spitting, beat pumping party wagons lit up like Eighties arcade games prowl the playa. There are over 2,000 free classes, workshops and events. Theme camps offer instructional sex classes, free condoms, make-out parties and group showers. A solitary man in a Ferby costume serves cold pickles from a cooler attached to the back of his bike. Tibetan monks teach meditation workshops. Cirque du Soleil performers offer acrobatics classes. Internet billionaires run around naked. Thousands of women ride their bikes topless at the "Critical Tits" parade. The list goes on and on. If you can dream it, you can do it at Burning Man. Chances are someone will be there to do it with you or is already doing it and all you have to do is join in.

If you're a Burning Man virgin, which nearly a third of festival attendees tend to be, remember to bring something simple and small to share with people as part of Burning Man's unique gifting economy (tiny bottles of Siracha and hand sewn dust masks were some favorites last year). The only things for sale are coffee and bags of ice, so come prepared. Also, leave no trace: If you brought it in with you, take it out. The entirety of Black Rock City fades back into pristine desert after the weeklong festival.

Official website: burningman.org