With just 1.7 people per km², Mongolia has the lowest population density of all the independent countries on the planet. However, its inhabitants still know how to throw a great party. The Naadam Festival is one of the biggest and best cultural celebrations in the Mongolian calendar and one that visitors to Mongolia just have to experience.
As a leading provider of Trans-Siberian trips, we encourage our customers to take in all that’s great about the three countries we pass through. As with Russia and China, Mongolia offers a whole host of experiences – with Naadam a must-see for those travelling to the country during the summer months.
In this post, we provide you with an essential guide to this iconic festival so you can celebrate the national holiday of Mongolia as it should be celebrated.
When does Naadam take place?
Naadam is generally celebrated between the 10th and 12th of July every year. Some parts of Mongolia choose to mark Naadam at different times of the year, mainly between June and August, which is great news for those looking to visit outside of July. The next Naadam Festival is due to begin on Wednesday 11th July, 2018 ending on Sunday 15th July, 2018. However, as we mentioned these dates may vary across the rest of Mongolia.
Where is the Naadam Festival held?
Naadam is celebrated in every town, village and city throughout Mongolia, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy your own celebration when travelling to Mongolia during the summer months. National Naadam is the biggest Naadam celebration in the country. Marking the national holiday in Mongolia, National Naadam takes the celebrations seriously, with a spectacular ceremony featuring dancers, horse riders, musicians and athletes. National Naadam is held annually at the National Sports Stadium in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar.
What can I expect from Naadam?
Whether you are venturing to the annual National Naadam in Ulaanbaatar, or witnessing celebrations on a smaller, more authentic scale in a local town or village, attending a Naadam event offers a powerful insight into the Mongolian way of life. Events are built around three sports – wrestling, horse racing and archery – whilst celebrations continue with music, dance and other performances. The festival’s wrestling events are particularly impressive, both in the capital and locally. During National Naadam more than 500 wrestlers compete with the number of wrestlers competing still in its hundreds in villages and towns.
While the National Naadam event sees celebrations unfold in a much more extravagant way, events in Mongolia’s towns and villages are like small fairs with locals coming together (many of whom travel for days to attend, due to their nomadic lifestyles) to watch the sports, participate in events, and enjoy great food and drink.
“This festival is like Christmas to the Mongolian people. It’s the time of the year that they most look forward to. Every village and town has a Naadam Festival of some sort and everyone dresses in their finest Mongolian attire, prepares lots of food and arak (fermented mare’s milk) and spends the days out in the sun with friends and family.”
Why is Naadam celebrated?
Naadam has a long history in Mongolia and the Naadam Festival’s origins stretch back to the time of Genghis Khan. The festival stems from its military roots, a time when soldiers would come together to not only compete but hone the physical skills they needed in battle. Whilst the sports that soldiers participated in still remain an important part of celebrations, these days Naadam marks a national celebration of the victory of the People’s Revolution and the country’s subsequent independence.
Did you know you can experience Naadam on our Golden Eagle trip? Find out more by contacting our team or book online today.
Photo by Scott Presly