Mongolia has some unique festivals, from the golden eagle festival, which puts skilled eagle hunters to the test to Khovsgol Ice Festival, which features tug o war on a frozen lake!
Mongolia is an authentic cultural hub & one of the last places on earth, where you can still experience these ancient traditions! Here is our list of the top Mongolian Festivals you must experience before you die!
Golden Eagle Festival
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia is one of the most surreal and captivating festivals you will ever have the privilege to experience! A Mongolian tradition which gathers the great Mongolian Eagle hunters from all over western Mongolia (Bayan-Ulgii province) to take part in this annual tradition.
Eagle hunting is a deep rooted practice of Central Asia and has been around for thousands of years. Similar to many other traditions, hunting with eagles is close to extinction elsewhere in the world, but not in Mongolia…where this annual extravaganza will leave you feeling like a soaring eagle across the Mongolian plaines.
The golden eagle festival is a true test of the eagles skill, the masters concentration and the unbreakable bond which has been forged between the two after many years of hunting together.
A variety of awards are on offer from, the best eagle at hunting prey (Of course!) to the smartest eagle who can locate it’s master from a great distance. There is even an award for the most well groomed eagle!
For more on this festival, including dates check out: Golden Eagle Festival, Mongolia! Why you MUST Attend?
Thousand Camel Festival:
Head to the Gobi Desert during the winter season for the vibrant “Thousand camel festival”.
The Thousand Camel Festival begins with a colorful opening parade, where as a visitor you will be encouraging to hop on a Camel and take part! At -10’C be sure to wrap up warm & bring all your travel essentials.
During the thousand camel festival expect to see a unique array of games from Camel races to Polo. The atmosphere is vibrant and exciting with many colorful flags, cheers from spectators as the events unfold!
One of the best parts is as the camel races unfold you can follow in your car or even drive to the finish line and wait there.
Camel Beauty Pageant?
There was even a Camel Beauty pageant! Where the best looking male and female Camel were voted for! When I was there two white camels took the prize, as they are quite rare and highly coveted by the Mongolians.
Follow the link: Thousand Camel Festivals, for more on this unique festival.
Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian Lunar New Year)
Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar) is celebrated at sometime between the end of January & end of February.
The Tsagaan Sar festival is an important time of year to solve past conflicts or debts with other families. The head of the other family holds a dinner where gifts are exchanged, while the mongolians wear there best traditional clothes.
Fun Fact: The Mongolians hold silk cloths called a khadag, to symbolize the tie that bonds the families together.
This is one of those “Up close & personal” festivals where you will really get to immerse yourself in the Mongolian traditions. Observe how the nomad families bring heaps of local Mongolian foods such as buuz (dumplings) & airag (fermented mare’s milk) as gifts to other families & people.
For more on Mongolian traditions, check out: Do Mongolians Drink Horse Milk??
Nauryz (New Life/Spring) Festival
Nauryz is an annual celebration for the Mongolian Kazakhs who live in the Bayan Ulgii province. The idea of the Mongolian festival is to celebrate the new life of the spring time.
The Mongolian Kazakhs believe the more generous the festival of Nauryz the greater the year will be. Like the Tsagaan Sar festival, this can also be a great time to settle rivalries, or disputes.
Many Mongolians choose to fill all vessels in there house with Milk, grain or spring water as a symbol of abundance & to promote rainfall in the up & coming years.
Where is the festival?
Spring time, usually between 21-22 March.
Naadam Festival “The Three Games of Men”
The Naadam Festival is one of the most widely popular & traditional festivals in Mongolia. It is a true expression of the nomadic culture and traditions, which perfectly marries together sports with art!
Otherwise known as “the three games of men” or “Eriin gurvan naadam,” sports range from Mongolian Wrestling (Probably the manliest thing you will ever see!) to Archery and Horse racing. Also expect to see performances, which entail a variety singing, dancing and talented musicians.
Where is the Naadam Festival?
The Naadam Festival is most popular and the largest in Ulaanbaatar, and has even been added to the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. In addition, the Ulaanbaatar has been a popular spot for prominent figures from U.S Vice President Joe Biden to U.N Secretary General Ban Kii Moon!
When is Naadam Festival?
This year (2019) the naadam festival is 11-15 July 2019. Other years it’s usually a similar date around in mid July (the 11th). This three day summer spectacular takes full advantage of the great weather!
For more info check out: Naadam Festival, Mongolia: The ULTIMATE GUIDE!
The humble Yak is one of the most important animals, for the Mongolian herders in the mountainous areas of Mongolia. The popularity of local Yak products (dairy & wool) has increased massively in recent years.
At the Yak festival, you will see plenty of Yak Riding, Yak milking, Yak Polo, and even a Yak Rodeo! You will also get to sample the Yak products such as dairy & wool.
Where is the Yak Festival?
Orkhon Valley, Central Mongolia.
When is the festival?
Winter Horse Festival
Horses are a key player in the life of the nomadic people, they use them for everything from riding, and carrying equipment to the production of Airag (Fermented Horse milk!) and previously warfare.
The Horse festival is a fairly new festival in Mongolia but is gaining traction fast, mainly due to how well it is organised. Held in northeast Mongolia the region is rich in heritage from Chinggis Khan’s ascent to the unification of the Mongol tribes.
At the horse festival, the talented Mongolia riders showcase their skills from, picking up items from ground while riding, to riding wild horses and even archery while riding.
This is all complete while wearing the grand & traditional costumes.
While in the area be sure to check out some areas of historical significance such as:
The palace of Chinggis Khaan, know as Ikh Aurug which can be found on the banks of the Avraga river.
Enroute from Ulaanbaatar, be sure to check out the Tsonjin Boldog complex, which has a giant statue of Chinggis Khan & a museum.
Where is the festival?
Batnorov Soum, Khentii Province, Northeast Mongolia
(One day drive from Ulaanbaatar)
When is the festival?
Khovsgol Ice Festival
Mongolias Ice Festival is a real winter wonderland, with a unique magical twist! Set on a Frozen Lake Khovsgol, a blue pearl of Mongolia and the largest fresh water lake in country, which has been around for over 1 million years!
During the winter season and all the way up until may, this entire lake freezes over, with Ice up to 6 feet deep, this provides the ideal winter playground for this unique Ice Festival. With Temperatures dropping down to -35’C it’s chilly but if you wrap up…it will be worth it!
Taking place annually on the first weekend of March, this Mongolian Ice festival surprisingly only dates back to 2002! However, the activities and events are deep rooted traditions of the Mongolian nomad tribes culture and this Ice festival acts as a great way to keep them alive.
For more info check out: Mongolia Ice Festival! 5 Reasons to go to Khovsgol?