What it's like to visit Burning Man, one of the wildest, most surreal events in the world

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For nine days, Black Rock City, Nevada, is overtaken by 70,000 people to become Burning Man, one of the wildest art events in the world.

This was the event’s 33rd year on the desert playa, and it included hundreds of art installations, musical acts, and workshops. This year’s theme was “I, Robot,” named for Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction novel – and much of the artwork reflected a computerised aesthetic.

Here’s what it was like:


Burning Man takes place each year at the end of the summer. Up to 70,000 people gather from all over the world to become temporary residents of Black Rock City, Nevada.

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The temperature in the desert can reach up to 100 degrees, and shade is scarce.

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On the first day of the event, a windstorm swept the playa.

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As for clothing, some attendees opted for bathing suits …

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… while others chose tutus.

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Butterfly capes were also a popular clothing choice …

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… while some people flaunted unconventional face-wear, like this festivalgoer at a Whitney Houston tribute party.

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Burning Man is founded on principles that encourage radical self-reliance, self-expression, and inclusion.

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While there’s no headliner event at Burning Man, there are hundreds of activities throughout the days.

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Something called “Coffee and Cattle Prods” was advertised on the door of a portable bathroom.

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One man got an aerial perspective on the festival from a gigantic swing.

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Bullhorns were the preferred method of communicating on the playa.

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Because there was little to no mobile phone reception on the playa, walkie-talkies helped people stay in touch.

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Each year, Burning Man has a new theme — this year it was “I, Robot,” named for Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction novel.

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The playa was home to hundreds of art pieces.

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Robots were a big part of the artwork on the playa.

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Many pieces of art took months — if not years — to build.

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An enormous silver orb was a focal point on the playa.

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It also served as the site of an impromptu concert.

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Some of the art was interactive. This piano was along the outer regions of the playa …

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… while this “Playa Barbie” box has provided a popular photo op over the years.

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This puppet’s outfit changed several times over the week.

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A 50-foot-tall statue called “Desert Guard” weighed 12 tons and was shipped from the Gobi Desert to Black Rock City.

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Source: “Burner Podcast”


Burning Man takes place over 7 square miles. The easiest way to get around the playa was by biking or hitching a ride on an art car.

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Most people decked out their bicycles.

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But a big draw each year is the art cars. In Black Rock City, the vehicles — also known as “mutant vehicles” — have a speed limit of 5 mph.

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Modes of transport typically were unconventional …

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… and occasionally extraterrestrial.

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This art car was covered in neon.

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These two chicken art cars attracted a lively crowd.

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Most art cars doubled as roving parties.

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This art car hosted a daytime party.

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This massive jaguar art car was built by a team of Colombian artists.

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At night, it turned into a mobile party with lights and a DJ.

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Parties on the playa continued throughout the day and night …

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… and this hollowed-out 747 doubled as a massive party spot at night.

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At night, the playa was lit up by neon …

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… as were the people.

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Snacks like cinnamon toast were passed out late at night.

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Every year, on the last night of the festival, a wooden effigy of a man is set on fire — that’s where Burning Man gets its name.

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Festivalgoers come to celebrate. On the night of the burn, this man wielded a large saber.

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While the event is open to visitors for only nine days, it takes months for the city to be disassembled, leaving no trace of its existence …

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… until it returns the following year.

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