With summer fast approaching, thoughts will be turning to festival season and the array of activities and entertainment options it brings. For those looking to explore beyond the UK festival scene, Mongolia offers a range of must-visit festivals and celebrations. Naadam may be Mongolia’s most famous festival but it isn’t the only special holiday that makes Mongolia a great place to visit. These festivals and celebrations allow visitors to experience everything this beautiful country and its culture and people have to offer.
Read on to discover 5 must-see Mongolian festivals and become one step closer to booking an unforgettable trip to what’s considered by many as the last unexplored travel destination.
Like in Chinese culture, Mongolians celebrate two New Years. Tsagaan Sar is the Mongolian Lunar New Year and sees native people come together to enjoy a great feast featuring all the local delicacies. You’ll find mutton, horse meat, rice with curds, fermented mare’s milk (known locally as airag) and buuz, a type of dumpling, on the menu. Much like our own New Year it’s a time of festivity, with a number of ceremonies and customs in traditional dress a part of proceedings.
Tsagaan Sar is celebrated towards the end of January to early February. Visiting Mongolia during this time is an excellent way to experience local customs and traditional games, particularly if you choose to stay and celebrate with a Mongolian family.
Khovsgol Ice Festival
The ultimate celebration of Mongolia’s harsh winter climate, the Khovsgol Ice Festival provides an authentic and exciting experience for first-time and returning travellers. The Khovsgol Ice Festival may be one of the country’s newest but as photographer Chiara Goia explains it’s one of Mongolia’s most epic and extreme annual celebrations:
The festival, first held 15 years ago, is held each March, when nighttime temperatures can reach below -20 Fahrenheit. Among the many activities staged on the meter-thick ice covering Mongolia’s largest lake (by volume) are tug-of-war matches and horse-drawn sleigh races, while spectators marvel at elaborate ice sculptures.
Thousand Camel Festival
From one extreme landscape to another, the Thousand Camel Festival takes place in the Gobi Desert to pay homage to one of the country’s most useful and treasured animals, the endangered Bactrian camel.
Here you can witness an array of camel based sports, including camel racing and polo competitions, as well as learn so much more about the lives of Mongolia’s nomadic communities. This festival takes place in early March with this year’s Thousand Camel Festival beginning on Wednesday 6th March 2019.
A celebration of new life and the official New Year of the Mongolian Kazakhs, Nauryz is a non-religious celebration that takes place on the day of the spring equinox. Locals believe that the more elaborate and exciting their Nauryz celebrations are, the happier and more fruitful the year ahead will be.
Golden Eagle Festivals
Another animal that’s well loved by the Mongolian people is the Golden Eagle. Eagles play a starring role in nomadic communities, with the ancient art of falconry practised for centuries throughout the country. Mongolia hosts not one but two Golden Eagle Festivals during September and October.
The festivals are designed to liven up the eagles in time for the winter season where the birds of prey do most of their hunting. Held in the beautiful Altai mountains, the Golden Eagle Festivals offer magnificent views.