Why you should care
A DJ playing against the backdrop of a flowing waterfall? Magic.
Under a canopy of trees, it’s a magical moment. A DJ booth, lit from below with a heavenly soft glow, vibrates on a platform in the middle of a cascading waterfall. The turntables are surrounded by a pool, accessible by a natural row of stepping stones. And on the shores, blissed-out listeners, either sitting or dancing, are mesmerized by this otherworldly experience.
This is the main “stage” at Lampateria, an annual festival held on Greece’s second biggest island, Euboea (which is connected to the mainland by a bridge), just north of Athens and accessible from the town of Chalkida. But it’s not easy to find. You’ll follow GPS coordinates down farm tracks, through moonlit olive groves — and soon swear you’re lost. But then the distant glow will come into focus along with a heavy, barely distinguishable beat, the smell of fertilizer hitting you as you roll down the windows, straining for more. Soon, you’ll come out onto a main road lined with dozens of parked cars of partygoers.
Lampteria is more than just a music festival. There’s a forest “beach” where a big screen flashes experimental images and a DJ plays deep trance. In the main area, food vendors hawk souvlaki and homemade loukoumathes (Greek donuts) to the groove of a Greek reggae band. Down a natural decline into a small valley there are more food vendors, as well as local craftspeople and traders selling everything from handmade jewelry to family-farmed honey. A path of fairy lights leads you to a natural, rocky staircase that goes to the waterfall stage. A local tells me that when he was growing up in Limni (a nearby town on the island), grandmothers would warn children of staying out past dark as water nymphs from the waterfall would snatch them — a fate that seems not so terrible when you’re basking in sweet reverberating beats bouncing off the lake.
A rebellious but communal spirit permeates the all-night free event.
Set up four years ago by Christos Pergamalis, Lampteria was initially held in more public spaces like squares and parks. The inspiration for the festival, Pergamalis says (via translation), was to unite “people with artistic and sociopolitical concerns, trying to express our means, to get in touch with each other, but with the purpose to react.” It’s a mentality and a lifestyle that Pergamalis and his team maintain all year round. The movement started out as small events — seminars, lessons, screenings, lectures, concerts and many other artistic and social activities — that were either free or requested a small contribution. Then it coalesced into a not-for-profit called Καθρέφτης (“Mirrors”), which supports local artistic groups and invests in community cultural events.
At Lampteria, a rebellious but communal spirit permeates the all-night free event. Early evening revelers include families with children and grandparents; later into the night, you’ll find partiers from every walk of life dancing, chilling out and putting aside worries about the outside world for the weekend. “The festival is not just a way out of everyday life,” Pergamalis says, sage-like, but a way to work together through those difficulties and obstacles. Indeed, when you leave Lampateria, you’ll take a little of it with you: a little of the anarchist, a little of the spirit of Zorba the Greek, a little stardust from the water nymphs.
Go There: Lampteria
Date: Your best bet is to ask a local or keep a close eye on this Facebook page (provided you can read Greek) for dates. Last year’s Lampateria took place in September. This year? Who knows. It’s that secret.
Directions: Catch a train or bus from Athens to Chalkida; from there you’ll need a car. Directions are on the festival’s website.
Where to Stay: You’re likely to be at the festival all night long, so you won’t need a bed. For the less intrepid partygoers, there are plenty of hotels available back in Chalkida.
Pro Tip: Take cash and go hungry. There’s a lot of delicious and cheap local food to chow down on while you take in the music and atmosphere.