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Travel diary: Mongolian Naadam Festival Tour

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

What is the Naadam Festival?

The Naadam Festival, also known as "The Three Games of Men," is a traditional festival in Mongolia. It is the country's most significant festival and a major holiday, celebrated with great enthusiasm across Mongolia. The festival has its roots in the nomadic customs and cultural traditions of Mongolia and is believed to have existed for centuries.

The Naadam Festival primarily features three traditional Mongolian sports, which are:

  1. Wrestling: Mongolian wrestling is a highly respected sport with ancient origins. It is unique in its style and rules, and wrestlers wear distinctive traditional outfits. There are no weight categories, and the matches continue until one wrestler's elbow or knee touches the ground.

  2. Horse Racing: Unlike Western horse racing, Mongolian horse races are long-distance cross-country events, with races varying from 15 to 30 kilometres. The jockeys are typically children aged between 5 and 13, believed to be the best riders. The races test the skill and endurance of both the horse and the rider.

  3. Archery: Traditional Mongolian archery is another central component of the Naadam Festival. Both men and women participate in archery competitions, which involve shooting arrows at targets placed at a considerable distance.

In addition to these three sports, the Naadam Festival is also a time for celebrating Mongolian culture. It includes colourful opening and closing ceremonies, folk music, dancing, traditional costumes, and the showcasing of various aspects of Mongolian arts and crafts.

The festival is held annually, usually in July, and the largest celebration takes place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. However, smaller versions of the festival are celebrated in various regions throughout Mongolia. The Naadam Festival is not only a display of sportsmanship but also an important social event, bringing together families and communities, and it plays a significant role in preserving Mongolian culture and heritage.

Mongolian Naadam Tour
Mongolian Naadam Festival Tour

First of all, we made a one-day Naadam festival join a tour on our website. The next people contact us. There are 25 people joined our group tour. Then we prepared our Naadam festival tour.

  • Tour general manager: Byambaa

  • Tour guides: Boloroo, Ula, Azaa

  • Photo and video by Nomio

  • Tour driver: Khishigee

  • The number of tourists: 25

Tour information:

The Naadam Festival is a Mongolian traditional national celebration. It becomes every summer from 10th to 12th of July. There are four kinds of activity at the Naadam festival.

Chinggis Khaan Square
Chinggis Khaan Square - Naadam Festival

These are knucklebone shooting, archery, horse racing, and Mongolian national wrestling. We tried to show all the activities tourists. Let’s introduce our tour.

In the morning

In the morning, we gathered at Enza Tours LLC office. After everybody came, we ate breakfast all together in the Budvar restaurant. Moreover, we introduce our tour agenda, and we gave the identification with company logo to our tourists.

Breakfast for the Naadam Festival Tour

Then we went to watch the first activities that State banner hoisting ceremony from the government palace to the central stadium. The State Banner is one of the traditional Mongolian symbols. There are all nine state banners in Mongolia. It has been traditionally inherited from Great Mongol Empire.

Nine state banner
Nine state banner

In 1206, when Chinggis Khaan became a Great Mongol Empire king, he worshipped a nine-foot white banner. In history, state banner made by white horsehair.

Mongolian stadium
Mongolian stadium

Nowadays state banner located in the Mongolian government palace. In only Naadam festival, it moved the government palace to the central stadium. After we watch the state banner hoisting ceremony, we went to the central stadium. In the morning, it was rainy.

In the central stadium

Activities other than horse racing are in the central stadium. When we went, we watched the knucklebone shooting in the knucklebone shooting field where located beside the central stadium. The knucklebone shooting game is one of the traditional games.

Enza Tours LLC
Enza Tours LLC

After that, we went to show the opening ceremony of the national Naadam festival in the central stadium. The opening ceremony began opening speech by the President of Mongolia. After that, we have watched the full opening perform for 2 hours. We sat first row seats. It was sunny and hot. The show was great.

After the opening ceremony, we watched the first round of National wrestling games. National wrestling game is one of the traditional Mongolian sport. National wrestling games continue two days. It is nine-round in Naadam festival. The wrestlers can increase their rank only Naadam festival. So this is significant competition for wrestlers.

Stadium of Naadam Festival Tour

There are many little shops and sales outside the stadium. You can buy all the goods that relate to the Naadam festival. Mongolians cant imagine Naadam festival without Khuushuur, Khorhog, airag other than the main four competitions. Khuushuur and Khorhog are traditional Mongolian foods. Khuushuur is fried dumplings.

Also, airag is a Mongolian national beverage. Airag made by horse milk. This is Mongolian domestic beer. If you attend Naadam festival, you must eat Khuushuur and drink airag. This is a real taste of Naadam.

In Khui Doloon Khudag

Then we moved to Khui Doloon Khudag. In there become horse racing. Khui Doloon Khudag located 60 km away from the central stadium. We ate a packed lunch in a car.

Bus trip
Bus trip

Then we went, we watch the six-year-old horse, or Ikh Nas, racing. Totally six different years horses race in horse racing game. This is a traditional Mongolian competition. Mongolian horses are different from European and other horses. They are not bigger than other horses. However, Mongolian horses faster and stronger than other horses.

After horse racing
After horse racing Naadam Festival Tour

In Khui Doloon Khudag, some tourists played archery. Also, archery is one kind of Naadam festival’s traditional game too. The archery has consisted two-part that arrow and bow.

On the horse racing field
On the horse racing field

Archery and horses are an inseparable connection with Mongolian history. Especially in the Great Mongol Empire, Mongolians conquered half of the all world with horse and archery.