13 August 2014 by Sarah Came

Top music festivals in South Africa

If you want a total escape, there is no better place than a world in the wilderness created by a music festival.

Sunset at Oppikoppi. Image courtesy of Vark1

With our stunning landscape and equally beautiful weather, there are few better places to find a spot for a weekend far away from real life. Here are some of the best-loved music festivals in South Africa, in no particular order:

Oppikoppi. Image courtesy of <a href= Oppikoppi. Image courtesy of Christoph Lenz


One of the essential pilgrimage destinations for music lovers throughout the country, Oppikoppi has been rocking South Africa’s socks off for 20 years.

Oppikoppi is a contraction of the Afrikaans phrase 'op die koppie', which translates as 'on the hill'. Oppikoppi was named for the koppie (hill) that dominates the festival’s location. The wildness of the surrounds is striking, and anyone who has been to Oppikoppi will tell you that the dust, thorn trees and harsh landscape are an essential part of the experience.

Oppi, as it is affectionately known, began in 1994 as a rock music festival, but since then more genres have been included, and there are now six different stages playing all sorts of music, including a trance-type stage in its own world on the other side of the koppie.

The dusty city pops up every year in Northam, Limpopo province, during the second weekend of August.

Rocking the Daisies

One of the Western Cape’s most famous festivals, Rocking the Daisies is a high point on the South African music calendar. It is even conveniently held in 'Rocktober'.

Particularly popular with those with a bit of a flower-child spirit, Rocking the Daisies is a festival of love and laughter, as well as music. It’s not just about the hippies, though; you will also hear dance, rock, jazz, drum’n’bass, and many other genres.

However, it’s hard not get swept up in the flower power when you are camped next to a gorgeous lake in the Cloof Wine Estate, Darling, and surrounded by friends, good music, and Rocking the Daisies’ eco- and social-friendly initiatives.

Rocking the Daisies. Image courtesy of <a href= Rocking the Daisies. Image courtesy of Damien du Toit


If Rocking the Daises doesn’t sound like your jar of whisky, try Ramfest. The 'Real Alternative Music Festival' might be young compared to some of the other festivals on this list (it only began in 2007), but it still packs a serious punch.

If you like music in the metal/rock/punk family, you should be there. And no excuses! It’s not too far (it is held in both Cape Town and Johannesburg), and shouldn’t be too expensive as it’s held not long after December bonus time, in early March.

Some of the bands that have played Ramfest include Trivium and In Flames. Like the other festivals, however, Ramfest doesn’t only cater to one music taste: you will find electronica, drum’n’bass and other genres too.

Splashy Fen

Sunset at Splashy Fen. Image courtesy of <a href= Sunset at Splashy Fen. Image courtesy of Damien du Toit

The organisers of Splashy Fen are obviously doing something right, as the festival has been making KwaZulu-Natal’s Easter weekends more interesting since 1990.

Splashy Fen is the longest-running music festival in the country, and still one of the most famous. The founders of splashy fen, Peter and Almary Ferraz, originally thought it would be a small festival with a few musicians, campfires and music-lovers.

The first Splashy Fen was beyond the Ferrazes' expectations, and since then Splashy has grown to be one of the most important events on the South African music calendar – but it still retains its relaxed folk roots.

Splashy Fen is a family-friendly festival, and as well as various rock and folk acts, there is also a crèche, children’s entertainment programme, and an arts and crafts market.


Although it isn’t technically only a music festival, AfrikaBurn should be on any list of amazing festivals that happen in South Africa.

AfrikaBurn is the South African version of the US’s Burning Man, and it is a celebration of all that is creative and beautiful. Every year around April/May, AfrikaBurn turns a small part of the Karoo into Tankwa Town.

Tankwa Town is like no place on earth – massive statues towering above the desert are its skyscrapers; theme camps its homes; people in all kinds of dress-up costumes its citizens; and 'mutant vehicles' traverse its 'streets'.

AfrikaBurn isn’t just about visual art; citizens also perform music and create party camps.

A 'mutant vehicle' at AfrikaBurn. Image courtesy of <a href= A 'mutant vehicle' at AfrikaBurn. Image courtesy of anitab79

Earthdance Cape Town

The South African music scene isn’t completely dominated by rock and alternative music; there is a strong trance culture as well.

Earthdance, in Cape Town, is just one of the many Earthdance parties that are held globally at the same time every year. As well as being a trance music festival, Earthdance is a festival of peace and good.

At a point during the festival, all the Earthdance events across the world hold the 'Global Link-Up' event and play the Prayer for Peace music track. The global link-up is synchronised with all the other festivals, during which festival-goers all over the world focus on creating peace of all kinds and on all levels.

Hula-hooping at Earthdance. Image courtesy of Andrew Newdigate Hula-hooping at Earthdance. Image courtesy of Andrew Newdigate

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