Wonderland.

MEADOWS IN THE MOUNTAINS

Dancing on the clouds: Bulgaria’s magical best-kept secret is a modern-day utopia.

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 sunrise

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 sunrise
Lara Maysa

Right now, the sky is rose pink with watercolour pools of orange in the surrounding clouds. A crowd is dancing tirelessly on a hill that seems to verge out into a misty oblivion. At about 6am, the fog begins to melt away right underneath our very feet, and all at once, breathtaking views begin to come into focus. And you realise what we are all here for. A cheer erupts from the euphoric crowd as the sun slowly curls into the horizon. The setting is Meadows in the Mountains in Bulgaria, which will be turning a decade old next year – and which, so far, is the only festival that has managed to create that promised snippet of utopia, where so many others have fallen short.

Here are 7 reasons that Meadows is one of the festival circuit’s best-kept secrets…

Set the scene

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 beehive

Pasco Photography

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 beehive
Pasco Photography

A flight to Sofia or Plovdiv later, and you’ll find yourself winding hypnotically up the Rhodope mountains, zipping past pine trees and blankets of green. And up on the mountains themselves, the views are absolutely unparalleled. In the camping areas, tents slope down hills, obscured by trees, and wooden look-out points (or the stingray as we called it) soared above high drops. At one point, a thunderstorm let a threatening crackle out, rippling around all the trees around us – terrified cheers sounded up into the air, giving the feeling of being in another dimension, where we were very much at the mercy of nature.

Dress to impress

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 outfits

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 outfits
Lara Maysa

A week before heading off to the festival, we decided that a quick Instagram investigation was in order, just to decipher a general gist of wardrobe ideas. But the truth is, no social media platform can really give you an indication of the absolute heavenly, hellish freedom that is Meadows. Intricate bejewelled head garlands. Taxidermy-style rabbit ears. Red velvet robes. Head-to-toe lace. And even some revellers go completely topless aside from some conveniently-placed spray paint (top tip: no hugs when the sun is shining). The best way to go? Ask yourself the question before you go, who do you want to be? Do it, and you’ll fit right in.

Set the stage

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 stage night

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 stage night
Lara Maysa

Intimacy is the first thing that comes to mind when considering a 2,000-small festival. But the truth is, the setting of Meadows felt tiny sometimes and vast at others, thanks in part to the incredible stages that we hoisted up and down hills to get to. The Wood Stage felt like a down-the-rabbit-hole foliage-covered paradise. The main stage was a sloping dance floor great for beating the crowds and getting some fresh air. The red-top tent was a hedonistic disco dance palace. The Palace stage was a teensy tower at the bottom of a steep hill, made for the all-night birds. And the Sunrise Stage was for anyone who wanted to see the sun empty itself all over the sky come 6am.

Ware the wild things are

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 stalls

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 stalls
Lara Maysa

Word of advice. Bring money, because you will shop. Heading up from the campsite, all of a sudden you’re met with a barrage of wooden shop blocks and even blankets on the floor with people displaying their colourful wares. Vintage clothing, handmade jewellery, eco glitter makeup (to get you party ready), textiles, artwork, and even stick and poke tattoos (get there early to book in for the next day). And that’s not even going into the food, with drifting aromas from the food stalls amalgamating together and dispersing into the mountainside air. As a meat-eater, you know the food is good when you find yourself chowing down on vegan fried pakora and sriracha mayo for the third day in a row. Bliss.

Home away from home

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location
Lara Maysa

If camping isn’t for you (don’t worry if it is; there are plush green meadows at your disposal), the accommodation available just outside the festival, a little bit down the mountain, is the epitome of charming. A limited amount of housing is just a 5-minute shuttle bus away, with the Bulgarian locals opening their traditional houses up to festival-goers. I mean, the amount of good a soft bed and a decent shower do for your energy battery and stamina – we couldn’t praise it enough. Bonus? The owner of our house made us coffee, fried eggs, and tomato kidney beans every morning (well, afternoon).

Green party

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location eco-friendly

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location eco-friendly
Lara Maysa

Upon arrival you’re urged to purchase a steel flask (emblazoned with the signature MM) as well as a camping tin mug. As part of the festival’s attempt to keep the yearly shindig as environmentally sustainable as possible, none of the bars serve disposable cups, so it’s all about re-using everything. This was the first year that cute metal pocket ashtrays made an appearance, for sale and to stop cigarette butts polluting the mountaintop soil and water. Food waste was composted and eco-poos were set areas for… well, you know – all to aid the festival’s permaculture projects and tree-planting.

Active duty

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location dancing

Lara Maysa

Meadows in the Mountain Festival 2019 location dancing
Lara Maysa

As cringy as it sounds, Meadows in the Mountains is not just a festival, it’s truly a full body experience. If you think you’re just going for some DJ sets and a boogie, you’re sorely mistaken. On the top of the mountain, open yourself up to sound healing, Bulgarian folklore classes, storytelling, open mic sessions and foraging workshops – literally the tip of the iceberg of some of the activities to take part in.

Spa, spa away

Orpheus hotel in Bulgaria

Lara Maysa

Orpheus hotel in Bulgaria
Lara Maysa

Post-festival blues are a universally soul-destroying thing, but most people will agree that most bad feelings can be softened with a spa trip (or after-party, depending on how you view it). As part of the yearly Meadows tradition, revellers head to 4-star Bulgarian health spa Orpheus post-festival on Monday morning. A swimming pool, massages, and no doubt a little bit of a farewell party await.

Words
Maybelle Morgan
MEADOWS IN THE MOUNTAINS

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