The Naadam Festival is one of the biggest cultural celebrations in the Mongolian calendar, a fact that makes July a popular time to visit this amazing yet mysterious country. The festival offers a chance to experience Mongolian culture at its best, with locals and visitors alike able to immerse themselves in all things Mongol.
A combination of arts and sports, Naadam delivers a powerful insight into everything from local food and drink to age-old customs and traditions. It is also a national holiday and a celebration of national independence.
The most popular place to see Naadam in all its glory is in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The Naadam of Ulaanbaatar, also known as ‘National Naadam’, is a huge celebration that starts a day or two before the official opening ceremony, with ankle bone shooting and horse racing typical warm-up events.
Naadam is however celebrated in every town and village throughout the country, so there are plenty of opportunities for travellers to celebrate the festival with the locals.
But why should you avoid big, city-based Naadam events and travel to a local event to enjoy Naadam on a smaller scale?
Local Naadams run from June to August
Whilst the Naadam of Ulaanbaatar takes place in mid-July, local events run throughout the summer months from June to August.
By going local to celebrate Naadam you can avoid peak travel times and still enjoy an authentic Naadam event.
Local Naadam events are generally more relaxed than the mainstream celebration in Ulaanbaatar, which can mean smaller events aren’t as precisely planned. Generally, dates and details of local Naadams are announced in early summer.
Mix with local people properly
In Ulaanbaatar, Naadam celebrations are conducted with the same planning and precision as any mainstream events and with this, you may not be able to mix with the locals as much as you’d like.
By going off the beaten track with a town or village Naadam Festival, you can experience something highly authentic and mix with more local people.
Experience Naadam at its most authentic
The Naadam of Ulaanbaatar is no doubt on a grander scale than smaller, village or town based events, but this only adds to their authenticity.
At a smaller scale, less crowded Naadam, you’re more likely to have the opportunity to participate in events, if you’re feeling up to the challenge! Get involved in wrestling, archery and other games and enjoy Naadam just as a local would.
Murun is recommended as a great place to experience Naadam minus the chaos of the capital as Town & Tourist describes:
“If you want less hustle & bustle with a more intimate celebration then head down to Murun. Located in the Khuvsgul region in northern Mongolia. Expect a scaled-down version of the Ulaanbaatar Extravaganza, but with a great ‘up close and personal vibe’ bringing you even closer to the action!”
You don’t need a ticket for local Naadams
Unlike the ticketed Naadam of Ulaanbaatar, which is held at the National Stadium, you generally don’t need tickets to attend Naadam events outside the capital. This is great news if you’re looking to enjoy Mongolia on a budget.
Can’t travel during Naadam? There are many more amazing festivals and events to enjoy in Mongolia. Discover 5 must-see Mongolian festivals that aren’t Naadam right here.