Once a year, tens of thousands of people flock to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for a week-long arts and music festival called Burning Man. Upon the shore of a dried lakebed 120 miles north of Reno, participants form a temporary but thriving metropolis around “the Man” himself, a large wooden effigy which is set ablaze the Saturday night before Labor Day.

This year’s Burning Man festival will be held on Aug. 30 through Sept. 7. The event, which started in San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986, boasts a different art theme each year. This year’s theme is Carnival of Mirrors, “a kind of magic show that takes the form of an old-fashioned carnival,” according to the Burning Man website.

Burning Man 2013 Pippin, his Playa name, is shown purportedly chatting on the phone with God during the Burning Man 2013 festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, Sept. 1, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Burning Man tickets range from $390 to $800, with vehicle passes costing $50 each. While most festivals offer food and drinks, Burning Man attendees are required to bring their own shelter as well as a sufficient amount of water and food to survive a week in the desert, where the weather is raw and dust storms common. “You will be asked to turn around at the gate if gate personnel believe you cannot meet your basic survival needs,” the event’s website states.

Many participants bring art installations, play music at their camps, wear costumes and outfit their tents or RVs with decorations. Scores of attendees take part in an event to celebrate women, a topless bike ride which is among Burning Man’s longest-running traditions.

Burning Man 2000 A man in costume waited to enter the catwalk during the Black Rock City Fashion Show at the Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, Sept. 2, 2000. Photo: Getty Images

Buying and selling goods is forbidden at the festival, with the exception of ice and a café in Center Camp, where free-form entertainment and performances take place. There are a host of other activities and events happening at theme camps, which vary from year to year, such as the famous 24-hour, air-conditioned “Orgy Dome” for “couples and moresomes.”

While at Burning Man, be prepared to leave behind your modern life for a week in the dusty desert where nudity is common and spontaneous self-expression is encouraged.