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Attending Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, California

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Bhakti Fest is a vibrant celebration of spirituality, music, and community. This annual three-day gathering is held in Joshua Tree, California and attracts spiritual seekers, yogis, and music enthusiasts from around the world. I’ve attended Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, California on two occasions.

The first year I went was held at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. (Which features some buildings designed by one of the Wright architects—in this case Lloyd Wright.) The Joshua Tree Retreat Center, also known as the Institute of Mentalphysics, is the oldest and biggest retreat center in the Western United States. It is a wonderful place for Bhakti Fest to be held.

Joshua tree retreat center

The second time I went was the first time that Bhakti Fest had returned to Joshua Tree post-quarantine. The Bhakti Fest 2023 location was the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground. These were very different experiences. Both were great, but the retreat center is preferable since it has a lot more shade and indoor spaces. There also seemed to be fewer people in attendance in 2023 than a few years prior, but this also could have just had something to do with the property layout.

What to expect from Bhakti Fest

Bhakti Fest has a big focus on the ancient practice of Bhakti Yoga—the path of devotion. From sunrise yoga sessions to heart-expanding kirtans, the festival is a haven for those seeking to deepen their spiritual practice or simply immerse themselves in the healing vibrations of sacred chants.

There are workshops held all day long. These of course include things like yoga, but also include things like meditation, sound healing, wellness, and spirituality. Entrance to the festival provides free access to the workshops, you can simply prioritize your top picks and show up.

Bhakti Fest is substance-free

As Bhakti Fest is centered around spirituality, it is drug, alcohol, and tobacco-free. This is pretty unique in the world of festivals but makes sense given the nature of the festival. This is what thing that makes it a very family-friendly place. Specific activities for kids is another!

The Music at Bhakti Fest

The evening and night is when Bhakti Fest becomes infused with the melodies of kirtan, bhajans, and world music. Renowned musicians and devotional artists grace the festival’s stages, creating an atmosphere where music becomes a conduit for spiritual connection. The sounds of harmoniums, tablas, and soulful voices resonate, inviting participants to join in, creating a unified symphony of devotion.

Yoga in the desert 

Bhakti Fest is a yoga lover’s paradise, offering a diverse array of classes and workshops led by internationally acclaimed instructors. From sunrise yoga sessions amidst ancient Joshua trees to workshops exploring the depths of yogic philosophy, the festival provides a holistic approach to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Bhakti Fest Joshua Tree

Sacred spaces and workshops at Bhakti Fest

The festival grounds are adorned with sacred spaces, including meditation tents, healing zones, and vibrant marketplaces. Workshops cover a spectrum of topics, from traditional wisdom teachings to modern holistic practices, providing participants with tools for personal growth and self-discovery.

Massage and one-on-one healing sessions

In addition to the workshops available, you can also sign up for paid private massage, reiki, or other types of healings and experiences. In 2023 there was a separate healing tent area that was set up for the reason. Entering the main tent gave access to a welcome table with binders containing info about each practitioner available.

Bhakti Fest Joshua Tree healing sanctuary

Community connection

Bhakti Fest is as much a gathering of like-minded people as it is a festival. The spirit of camaraderie and connection permeates the festival, fostering an environment where everyone is not just a participant but an integral part of a collective journey toward higher consciousness. It is very easy to strike up a conversation at Bhakti Fest!

Sunset rituals in the Joshua Tree desert 

There’s something special about a sunset in the desert, and Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree is a great place to experience its magical quality. Sunset rituals, fire ceremonies, and moonlit gatherings create an ethereal ambiance, allowing attendees to experience the profound beauty of the desert landscape in communion with the divine.

The food and nourishment at Bhakti Fest

Nourishing the body is as vital as nourishing the spirit at Bhakti Fest. The festival embraces a holistic approach to well-being, offering a variety of plant-based and organic food options. Conscious culinary choices complement the transformative journey, ensuring participants are nurtured from the inside out.

In 2023 one (very) popular food item was a delicious watermelon slushie. At one point I waited in line in the hot sun for 45 minutes to get my own. It was worth the wait.

The weather at Bhakti Fest

Bhakti Fest is held each year in September, which can be very hot in the Joshua Tree desert. The last time I went it was hotter than projected and multiple people were treated for heat-related complications during the day. Whether you are staying on the property or driving in, it is crucial to maintain access to water and take shade from the direct sun. (The watermelon slushies help too!)

Where to stay when attending Bhakti Fest 

When attending Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree there are a variety of places to stay. For one, there is the option to stay on the Bhakti Fest property. When the festival was held at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center you could rent rooms, glamping tents, or stay in your own car or tents. At the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, there is car and tent camping.

If you don’t stay on the property itself, you might choose to stay in Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, or some nearby area. My personal tip for this would be to get an Airbnb—whether a trailer, home, or tiny home. There are also motels in the area. I’ve done both Airbnbs and motels in the area. I don’t have recommendations for the latter, but I do on the Airbnb front!

Some of my favorite Airbnbs in or near Joshua Tree include:

Shelter 1 Joshua Tree

This is a beautiful two-bedroom house close to the Joshua Tree Park entrance. There’s a hot tub, cowboy pool, outdoor showers, great light, and plenty of privacy. The (large) property has three different houses on it, so it’s a great option for places to stay with a group.

Joshua Tree california

Jenn’s Modern Airstream

This is literally an Airstream in a backyard with a full fence for privacy. I stayed there with my ex and a dog—there was plenty of space for all that. The property has a cowboy pool, picnic table, and a projector for watching movies from the outdoor couch.

Joshua Tree airstream airbnb

Note: the bathroom is an outhouse.

The 1955 Spartan Imperial Mansion

Located in Yucca Valley, this Spartan trailer is just one of many rentals on a single property.

Yucca Valley Imperial Spartan desert Airbnb

The rentals share access to the pool, a really cool outdoor kitchen, and other common areas. You’re even allowed to use the owner’s house to access better wifi or use the indoor kitchen.

Yucca Valley desert Airbnb

Note: the pool and hot tub area are adults only and clothing optional, so you may encounter skinny dipping—or decide to do some skinny dipping yourself!

There is also the possibility of staying even further from the festival in Palm Springs proper. When planning to go to the festival for multiple days this might not be the best option since it’s nearly an hour from Joshua Tree. But if you’re going for one day only, it’s a great option! My favorite places to stay in Palm Springs are boutique hotels near the downtown area.

Boutique hotel Korakia in Palm Springs

You might also like: Experiencing the Integratron Sound Bath in Joshua Tree

FAQ’s about Bhakti Fest 

When is Bhakti Fest?

Bhakti Fest is held once a year in September. Some years there is also a second festival called Shakti Fest, which is held in the spring.

Is there alcohol at Bhakti Fest?

Bhakti Fest is completely substance free so it is not possible to purchase alcohol on the property for the duration of the festival.

Is Bhakti Fest kid-friendly?

Bhakti Fest is a family-friendly festival. In addition to being substance-free, there are activities set up specifically for kids to enjoy.

Where is Bhakti Fest held?

Bhakti Fest is held in beautiful Joshua Tree Califonia. While the location is prone to change, past festivals have been held at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center and Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground.

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