Arlun Grant

ION festival…it finally arrived. After two years of COVID-related delays we feared that ION festival was doomed to fall by the wayside, but promoters LWE were patient and did a great job in ensuring that the festival eventually went ahead.

For 7 days, the festival took over a beachside resort in Dhërmi, which included numerous hotels and restaurants, in addition to the brilliant stages –The Deck, The Fort, The Cove, The Yacht Club and The Main Stage – plus the additional stage which required travel by boat - ‘The Canyon’ and also the madness that was the ‘Bunker’ stage. The festival also offered a range of additional experiences ranging from breath work to yoga and other wellness activities to help shake off the previous night’s partying.

The festival layout was truly unique. It felt like the location was created especially for the festival, with most of the stages within a 10 minute walk of each other and each of them having its own design, feel and personality. The beachside location created a wonderful vista during the day, allowing festival goers to swim in the sea with top quality artists providing the soundtrack. By night, the stars came out and the festival was illuminated in the iridescent moonlight.

We arrived on the Thursday, after a long journey including a flight to Corfu, a ferry to Himarë, then a coach to the festival site on Dhërmi beach. We thought we’d crash out as soon as we hit the hotel, but the thumping sounds from the stages surrounding our hotel room energised us and we headed out to explore (we may have ended up dancing the night away until 7am...)

The next day, we headed down to the Yacht Club, which was set on a dock above a lush beach. Here we took in a set that contained some seriously soulful hip hop and house music, put on by Berlin-based British DJs 2Step Bec and Zeus, a pair you should definitely keep your eyes out for.

Close-by to Yacht Club was one of our favourite stages, The Cove. Tucked away down some mazy stairs was a beautiful beach, with a small stage at the top of it hosting the DJ. The buzz here was great, it was a mixture of people sunbathing and messing around in the sea, alongside those having themselves a little drink and a dance. We saw Chaos in the CBD here on the Friday night and it was amazing. The Deck was another stage with a wonderful beachside backdrop.

The Main Stage was one that opened up late in the night, with the first sets starting at 10pm. It generally didn’t get busy until the early hours, but we thought we’d check it out early and it didn’t disappoint. We saw SNO, a wonderful mix of hip-hop and afrobeat, which warmed us up nicely for the night ahead. The great thing about this stage was that it stayed bouncing until 6am, which to some festival goers still wasn’t enough! Dan Shake and Dax J were the perfect soundtrack to the morning sunrise.

On the Monday the Main Stage was replaced with The Bunker, which was a stage built in the car park near our hotel. The acoustics and light show were wild here when we saw Nina Kraviz, albeit very hot in there!

On the Saturday we managed to get to The Fort which was one of the stages off-site, this was exactly what it sounds like, it was in a fort and a beautiful one at that. The views were amazing and Helena Hauff treated us to a magical set. Another of the stages off site was The Canyon, which you had to get a boat to, but it was well worth it. Huge canyons surrounded the site which hosted the likes of Dan Shake, Batu and Ben UFO over the course of the festival.

The crowds at the festival were full of good vibes and you could feel the relief and contentment of the crowd that ION was finally happening after much delay. If there was ever a festival that was worth the wait, it was this one. The weather was absolutely scorching for the time we spent at the festival too, not a cloud in sight.

We loved the fact that you could find places to chill, eat, chat and relax. But at the same time there was always a party happening somewhere. Overall, the festival was an absolute delight and the hotel we stayed in – Empire Beach Hotel – was stunning, with great views and great level of sound from the Main Stage, which got us hyped whenever we went back to the room for a bit of respite and chilled drinks. There’s absolutely no doubt in our mind that we’ll be back next year - bring it on!

Dates for 2023 confirmed as 6th - 13th September. Sign up here for early access tickets.