"I could never resist the call of the trail" - Buffalo Bill

NAADAM

During three days, the Mongolian folly is unleashed with the celebration of the biggest festival in the country, where traditional games, parades and all kind of popular folklore is displayed to form one of the most amazing spectacles in the world: the Mongolian Naadam.

Naadam (written Наадам in Mongolian) literally means “games” and takes place from 11th to 13th July every year. It’s also called Eriin Gurvan Naadam (эрийн гурван наадам) meaning “the three games of men”, as the participation in the games was reserved only for men until some years ago and it’s still a true test of manhood for most Mongols. It’s believed to be celebrated since the early Middle Ages, being already held during Chinggis Khan times, presumably with a different format than it’s now. Its origins probably come from the ancient military parades, wedding assemblies, hunting competitions and old sporting activities. Now, the dates have been fixed to celebrate the 1921 revolution, which marked the independence of Mongolia.

The biggest celebration is held in capital of Mongolia - Ulanbaatar, in the National Sports Stadium and its surroundings, but most of the cities and towns across Mongolia and those with Mongolian people in China have their own Naadam celebrations, evidently smaller. It’s a time when Mongols get dressed with their finest deel, their traditional colorful silken robe, the typical boots and the touch of a hat.

Dressed up and ready for a magical day, the people rides even a car or a horse to the place where the games take part. And there are principally three games: wrestling, horse racing and archery. Other popular games about throwing a shagai (sheep ankle bones) are also played, but they are only official tournaments in the larger Naadam festivals.
Naadam was inscribed on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in 2010.

The ceremony
Like all the valued festivities, it all begins with a ceremony. Dancers and musicians make the delights of the public while athletes and horse riders march across the National Sports Stadium in Ulanbaatar, something like the Olimpic Games Opening Ceremony, but in the genuine to Mongol style. And after the ceremony, the competitions begin.

Three Manly Games
Known as the “Three Manly Games”, these games are the core of the party and they are Mongolian Wrestling, Horse Riding and Archery. They are deserved for man to prove their manhood and virility, but lately women began to participate in parallel competitions, except for Mongolian Wrestling, still deserved only for man.

Mongolian Wrestling
Known as Bökh, Mongolian Wrestling is the most important of the historic “Three Manly Games”, with different varieties throughout the Mongolian land. There are no categories of weight and no time limit, and the goal is to get your opponent to touch the ground with his elbow, knee or upper body.
512 wrestlers step out onto the arena at the start of the tournament waving their hands imitating the flight of an eagle, a dance called devekh that honors the judges and their attendants. Songs are sung to praise the wrestler’s qualities and the first round of fights begins, repeating the practice during the two days that the tournament lasts, until the strongest fighter have defeated all his rivals. Depending of his performance, every wrestler receives a title: Lion, Elephant, Falcon, etc., until the strongest one, who receives the title of The Titan.

Horse Race
As known for everybody, Mongolia is the land of horses, so horse riding couldn’t be out of the fest. Up to 1000 Mongol horses from all over the country (smaller than the western horses and known for their stamina, endurance and strengh) are taken to Ulanbaatar to participate in the races, an event that truly unleashes euphoria. The races are much longer than the western-style horse races and the distance varies depending on the age of the horse, 15km for the younger ones and up to 30km for the older ones, all conducted on the open grassland steppe with no set track or course. The jockeys are mostly children between 7 and 12 years who are trained since their first steps, like most of the Mongol people, but here, as people who have devotion for horses, the real winner and most venerated is the horse instead of the jockey. Thats’ why the jockeys are so young, because it’s believed that the horse can give his best with a light weight on his shoulders.
A little ritual is displayed before the race begins and songs called Gingo are sung by both jockeys and public, just before a spectacular stampede of hundreds of horses start the race amidst a crazy moment of clouds of dust and shouts. When the game finishes, another ritual takes place, the award ceremony. The five firsts horses are granted the title of airgiyn tav and they are revered in poetry and music, while the winner jockey receive the title of tumny ekh, meaning “leader of ten thousand”. The last horse to finish is called bayan khodood (full stomach) and people sing a song whishing him a better luck next year.

Archery
Apart of a horse, Mongols born with a bow in their hands, and they are trained and nourished to be good archers since childhood. They invented one of the most effective bows of the militar history, the Mongolian recurved composite bow – made with horn, bark and wood -, and now they are happy to use it in their festivities.
Like in horse riding, Mongolian archery competitions are quite different from those held in the western world: the archers have not only one target, but hundreds of beadrs or surs (some sort of leather cylinders) on a huge wall. Teams between 5 and 10 men and women (they also participate in this competition since some decades ago) have to hit 33 surs, with a throwing distance of 75m for men and 65m  for women, being the winner the first team to hit all targets. Uuhai song is sung when the archer is pointing, changing its intonation if target is hit, practice coming from the times when the target was 200m away, being the song a good way for everybody to know if the target was hit. The winners of the game are granted the tittle of “national marksman” and “national markswoman” (mergen).

Around the fest
Naadam represents a great excuse for all Mongolians to put on their traditional dresses and get into traditional festivity acts like singing, dancing, eating and drinking. This is the only time when a country known for its emptiness (only 3 million people in 1,564,115.75 km2  or 603,909 sq mi) experiences crowds and chaos.
Mongols dressed in national costume, soldiers and monks make themselves visible all around the tournament place, as well as many families sit on the ground to enjoy the traditional Mongolian meals. On the evenings, meals are accompanied with ancient songs, legends and stories about great horses, strong man and their deeds, just like the third day of the festival, mostly reserved to merry-making.
And pointing on this, the meals served during the festival are also a good reason to head there. You’ll be able to taste khuurshuur¸ a delicious kind of fried meat dumpling; Mongolian-style meat, bread and dried curds, among other traditional food, all accompanied with tea and bowls of the traditional airag, Mongolian alcoholic drink made from fermented mare’s milk.
 



 

NAADAM

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BOOKING FORM

NAADAM

Duration: 7 days /6 nights
Date: July 9-15
Transport: 4WD Jeep/Van
Individual: 1-3 pax
Small group: 4-6 pax


Day-by-day Itinerary

Day 1
July 09        Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
After arriving in Ulaanbaatar our guide will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. After settling in, you’ll be taken on a city sightseeing tour including a visit to the Gandan Monastery with its huge gold plated Buddha: a symbol of Mongolian national pride and cultural revival. See the monks chanting, spin some prayer wheels and view the intricately embroidered thanks. On to Sukhbaatar Square, this is surrounded by all central departments including the Government house. After having lunch in a restaurant we will visit the National History Museum, where you have a chance to know all history of Mongolia from Ancient period to present time. Dinner and overnight in the hotel. (L/D)

Day 2 July 10        Mongolia Naadam Festival Preview
After breakfast at the hotel you will go out with your guide to see panorama of the city at Zaisan Memorial then go to see the preview of the Naadam Festival. You will visit horse-racing site to watch a race of foals and archery, “Shagai” shooters. You will enjoy a national folklore performance in the evening. Overnight in the hotel. (B/L/D)

Day 3 July 11        The Opening Ceremony of Naadam Festival
Today you will watch the inauguration ceremony of Naadam Festival which is opened by the President of Mongolia. The opening ceremony features marches and music from soldiers, monks and athletes and live performance of the national instrument Morin Khuur and a choir concert before the real fun begins! There will be tournament of wrestling and archery in the Central Stadium while horse races take place outside the city center. Overnight in the hotel. (B/L/D)

Day 4 July 12        Ulaanbaatar - Hustai Nuruu National Park
This morning we will drive to the west 95 km (60 miles) to reach the National Park Hustai Nuruu. We will explore the extraordinary spot, where the Asian wild horse grazes, having been reintroduced from Holland in framework of an international project. After lunch in the park we will visit a local nomadic family. There you can experience their way of life, their culture and traditions. Free horse back trial. Overnight at tourist ger camp. (B/L/D)

Day 5 July 13        Hustai Nuruu - Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast we go on hike around exploring natural landscape and wildlife – a great place for photos. After lunch, we will drive back to Ulaanbaatar. (B/L/D)

Day 6 July 14        Visit Chinggis Khan Equestrian Statue, city tour options
After breakfast drive to Giant Chinggis Khan Equestrian statue. The statue in total is 40m high and see as far sighted Chinggis Khan holds a golden whip in his right hand. You will be taken to souvenir and cashmere shops. Farewell dinner and overnight in the hotel. (B/L/D)

Day 7 July 15        Departure Mongolia
You will be transferred from your hotel to the airport. (B)

SERVICE INCLUDES
Twin share accommodation in tourist ger camp, 1 hour of horse ride, transfers with private vehicle, meals as indicated, daily supply of bottled water.

SERVICE EXCLUDES
Travel insurances, gratuities, personal spending.

Total Cost:
Individual: US$

Small Group: US$
 

NAADAM

Book this trip or customize to fit your needs

BOOKING FORM

NAADAM

NAADAM

Book this trip or customize to fit your needs

BOOKING FORM