What’s the greatest party you’ve ever been to?
I feel lucky to say it’s a tough question for me to answer — I’ve been blessed to attend fabulous festivals, join in colorful celebrations and enjoy wild nightlife all over the world. But there’s no question that the playground-for-grownups Tomorrowland would make it somewhere near the top of the list. My four days at Tomorrowland Belgium were one of the highlights of my year in 2014, and so when my fellow festival lover Heather tossed out the idea of attending the Brazilian version in 2016, in the end I just couldn’t say no.
In fact, I planned an entire six week trip around it.
Not familiar with this fancifully named festival?
The original Tomorrowland in Belgium celebrated its twelfth anniversary this year and is consistently ranked as one of the most lusted after festivals in the world based on ticket demand. Its success inspired two spin offs, the Georgia-based Tomorrowworld USA, which has been suspended indefinitely after a three year run, and the Brazil-based Tomorrowland Brasil, which we attended in its sophomore year.
While some aspects felt comfortingly familiar, the difference in setting between Europe and South America is obviously a vast one not just geographically but culturally, and we had wildly unique experiences at each.
A few common threads? A wonderland-like environment, endless hours of music, and thousands of people trading digital devices for dance floors, if just for one weekend. Festival joy is universal!
We certainly couldn’t go back to pitching a tarp after the unrestrained luxury of our last Dreamville experience, so for the second time we splurged on prime festival property — a little Dream Lodge to call home for four nights. As this particular aspect of Tomorrowland is shrouded in internet mystery and a frequent topic of desperate queries on raver message boards, I’ll again be dedicating a full post to an MTV Cribs-style behind-the-scenes tour of our personal glamping playground. Spoiler alert: it was ótimo.
That said, our Dreamville experience, like Tomorrowland Brasil as a whole, was not without snafus. Tomorrowland Belgium was frankly a pretty faultless event, and so we were taken aback by some of the organizational disasters, language barriers and general frustrations we encountered in Brazil. I’ll get into more details as my coverage continues, but suffice it to say the more festivals I attend — especially different years or versions of the same event — the harder it is not to compare them.
While a very smart person once opined that comparison is the thief of joy, the number one question I got over and over again upon returning from Tomorrowland Brasil was, “how does it compare to Belgium?” Considering the substantial cost and effort required to attend a festival like this, it’s a fair question to ask — and I’ll do my best to answer. (Likewise, I’ll get into comparing the differing Dreamville experiences in that upcoming post.)
Let’s start with the setting. The beautiful weather and gorgeous natural setting were one of the major plusses of Tommorowland Brasil over Tomorrowland Belgium. We had a fairly cloudy, muddy few days in Boom, and by contrast Itú couldn’t have been sunnier. And with rolling mountains and verdant green in every direction, we truly felt that we were in South America.
However, nature also doled out one of our unexpected frustrations of the festival, which was an insanely early sunset time of 5:45pm. Combined with poor lighting in the campground, it made logistics a little tricky — we vastly preferred the summer Belgian sunset time of 10pm, but I’ll get more into those details in my upcoming Festival Survival Guide.
On the man-made side of things, Tomorrowland Brasil is around half the size of Tomorrowland Belgium, with six stages as opposed to twelve. The Seussian stages, environments and design details of Tomorrowland are unmistakable. I can’t imagine how much fun it would be to bring this festival to life!
We talked to a few other festival goers who had attended both version and found the smaller size disappointing, but personally we didn’t mind the more compact version — for two girls who like to do and see everything, it was almost a relief and a little less overwhelming! As for the stages themselves, a few we recognized from 2014, as they are shipped over and reused from the Belgium festival.
Tomorrowland Brasil was delicious. We spent the long weekend checking off an endless to-eat and to-drink list of local treats and goodies — which were surprisingly well priced, for festival food! I’ll be doing another dollar for dollar full price breakdown of the festival just like I did for Tomorrowland Belgium, but one thing we both noted was how much more affordable food and drink felt at the Brazilian edition. It was very much appreciated, as it made it a little easier to splurge guilt-free on things like a nice breakfast at the Dream Lodges and champagne toasts at The Gathering.
Like many other festivals around the world, Tomorrowland has gone contactless and we loved the simplicity of tapping our bracelets for each transaction instead of hassling with tokens.
One element I loved at both Tomorrowlands and have yet to see at other festivals I’ve attended around the world are the character actors who appear at random moments and in sporadic tableaus. Their costumes, makeup, and dedication to never breaking character were nothing short of fabulous.
The crowd at Tomorrowland Brasil is — and I hope this won’t shock anyone reading — heavily South American. Yes, we did meet festival goers from all over the world, but the vast majority were from Brazil and neighboring countries.
We loved getting to know Brazilians we might otherwise not have had a chance to meet on our trip, like the group of doctors camping near us from Minas Gerais, or the young couple in our neighboring tent from Brasilia. Overall, we found that the people we met at Tomorrowland were more likely to speak some English than the general population of Brasil (logical as it’s an expensive experience that those who have also had a bilingual education are more likely to be able to afford), which was a treat for two helpless non-Portuguese speakers like ourselves.
However, as with the rest of our trip, we did often flounder with the language barrier. We often struggled to find staff with whom we could communicate, which made it difficult to gather basic information or get simple questions answered. Speaking Spanish did help, if I was able to find employees willing to humor my conversational Español. Maybe this is my English speaker privilege showing, but for an internationally marketed — and priced! — festival, we were disappointed in how difficult it was at times to figure out what was going on.
As usual, I arrived for a festival with a suitcase full of elaborately-planned and enthusiastically executed costumes. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the culture, but Tomorrowland Brasil attendees seemed slightly more into dressing up than their Tomorrowland Belgium going counterparts — so clearly, we fit right in.
One unique feature of Tomorrowland Brasil we were super excited about was the Fusion Pool Stage, based on a fabled pool party at the exclusive VIP area of Tomorrowland Belgium.
It was the only stage that had an enforced capacity, and we made the tactical error of waiting until the final day of the festival to tackle it and almost missed Mary Olivetti, the Brazilian DJ we’d come to see, entirely while waiting in line. Still, we had a blast once we got inside — and nabbed some much coveted matching sunglasses to boot. Mary’s set at Fusion, as well at Yves V’s late night set at the V Sessions stage, were my favorite from the weekend.
In contrast to Tomorrowland Belgium, due to the early sunset time in Brazil there are more nighttime festival hours than daytime ones. The closing night’s sunset over the mainstage was magical, as were the firework shows that wowed us each and every evening.
As usual, we found that while we ran around like crazy people over every corner of the festival grounds by day, after dark we focused most of our time on the main stage. On the final evening we even splurged on a VIP upgrade, which allowed us stunning views and the perfect vantage point to enjoy tributes to fallen artists Prince and David Bowie. The soulful Purple Rain renditions heard as the DJs onstage absorbed the recent death of a legend were some of my favorite musical moments of the weekend.
Musically, Tomorrowland Brasil features many of the same headlining artists as Tomorrowland Belgium. However, the musical styles were surprisingly different! I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to the music world and thus don’t tend to comment too heavily on this aspect of the festivals I attend, but in general feel confident stating that Tomorrowland Brasil was far more pop oriented and less hardcore EDM than its European cousin. For us, this was actually preferable. While we never had our “Kygo moment” at this festival — referring to seeing one our lifetime favorite artists live in 2014 — we overall preferred the music at Tomorrowland Brasil and found it more accessible and easy to dance to.
Final verdict? I’ll forever be grateful to Tomorrowland Brasil for bringing me to this beautiful country that I’d dreamed of visiting for so long. When Heather first proposed the trip I balked at the cost and hesitated over whether or not it was the right time to go. But looking back? I’ve got no regrets.
Festivals are a celebration of creativity and of connectedness, and those are to things I can never get enough of in my life.
Stay tuned for posts on budgeting, camping, and surviving at Tomorrowland Brazil!
Also in this series: Inside the Tents at Tomorrowland Brasil’s Dreamville • The Cost of Tomorrowland Brasil • The Complete Guide to Tomorrowland Brasil
What’s your camera setup for festivals?
Do you bring out the good ol DSLR or play it safe with just phone / gopro pics?
Hey Lauren! It’s a mix. Heather had her GoPro out the whole time and I switched between my dSLR (which I’m pretty sure this festival, I only brought out during the day) and my point and shoot (which I mostly brought at night but sometimes by day, too.) I definitely felt less pressure to have my camera all the time, this being my second Tomorrowland — it felt good at the time though I somewhat regret it now when I compare these pictures to the ones from Belgium, where I got some amazing night shots!
I have never been a party girl, have never been to parties but you my friend look like you had a bloody great time with lots of fun and great memories being made
We did indeed 🙂 And we looked forward to it for ages, too. It was a blast!
Your blog is making me crave a festival! Can’t wait to hear more about Tomorrowland Brazil!
I know! Just writing this makes me want to start planning the next one!
‘Sounds like so much fun!
I can’t wait to hear how different both countries really are lol! I can quite understand that Brazil would have more of a pop-feel whereas in Belgium, it would be a more house-music-trance-electro thing. Yep! That’s the way we roll in Europe!
Glad to have my very tentative musical observations confirmed, Victoria 🙂
Rocking that festival attire, yet again! SXSW, Austin is still top of the pops (been twice now, got hitched straight after it). I’ve never been a massively ‘foreign’ festival, something I need to change. Pool party sounds busy but buzzing and that was nice of Brazil to throw in that sunset! Jealous!
Austin AND South by Southwest both are top of my wish lists — can’t wait to check them both off together someday!
This looks unbelievable!! And agreed with Gemma, loving the festival outfits!
Ha, it’s one of my favorite parts! 😛
I’ve never heard of Tomorrowland before, but it looks amazing!!!
Honored to get to introduce you 🙂 Thanks for reading, Jessica!
The photos are just gorgeous! I love how elaborate everything is. Those characters look so dedicated!
What a fun job too, right?! I would love to give it a whirl sometime… though I’d probably break character as soon as I saw a snack I wanted to eat, or something.
I’m always so impressed with your photography at festivals! Especially the ones shot at night! Tomorrowland is not a festival I would really consider visiting, but I like reading your reports on it nevertheless 🙂 Keep them coming!
Thanks! I was actually comparing my night shots from Brazil and Belgium and regretting not bringing my big camera out more often, so I appreciate that 🙂
Wow! Party Party and party, this is how I imagine Brasil 😛
It is a nation that knows how to have a good time!
So clearly we’re adding this one to our Camels in Wanderland trip list, too, right???
Ha oh yeah — you’re keeping a running tally, right?!
The random characters are one of my favorite parts about Glastonbury! Often they’re just regular folks who roam the grounds with their act in exchange for a free ticket!
That’s awesome! Oh man, I want to go to Glastonbury…
Those flamingo + palm tree sunglasses are amazing!!!!!!!!!!
We were gutted when they were stolen from our tent! At least we had the chance to rock them for a few days first…
Wow looks amazing!
It was a pretty darn good time 🙂
As always, your descriptions make me feel like I’ve been there too! At my age, I’ll probably never go to these festivals, or if I did, wouldn’t have the energy to see half of the fun, so thanks!
So happy to bring you all along for the ride 🙂
Looks incredible and the pool is a nice extra=) Such a pitty that in Europe it is virtually impossible to buy a ticket at regular price, its sells within seconds (and resellers ask for double the price)
That’s one of the things that makes Brasil a great alternative — I’m pretty sure they never sold out this year!
You should go to Untold Festival in Romania, it was awarded Best Festival in Europe
Sweet, I’ve never heard of it! Excited to check it out, thanks!
Well, this year was his second edition. Last year, after his very first edition he won the best festival in Europe. It is held in Cluj Napoca and this year there performed all Top 5 djs in the world + so many more . Armin liked it so much he stayed like 3+hours.
Hey Alex, great post ! What photography gear do you typically use on that kind of festival ? I would imagine that your DSLR would be pretty unpractical for dancing and all, so I’m wondering ? 🙂 Thanks !
Hey Emma! I switch between my dSLR and my point and shoot depending on my mood — and my outfit, ha ha. This being my second Tomorrowland I felt less pressure to bring my dSLR out at night and so I used my point and shoot a lot more.
I am still SO jealous that you’ve been able to attend two Tomorrowland events! I’d die happy if I could just get to one. 🙂 Thanks for the great account and amazing photos. I’ll make sure to stay tuned to see what else the festival offered up this year.
I was hoping to make it to the trifecta but now that they’ve cancelled the US version I’ll have to stay tuned to see if they relaunch elsewhere!
Cayman Flag! Love it :D. I love the pictures, makes me feel like I’m there. The sunglasses and outfits and characters, it looks like such a lively event ^_^ and I’ve never heard of it until now.
The Cayman Flag definitely got a lot of attention… no one could guess where it was from! We did love the conversations it started though 🙂