Local Naadam Festival

This blog has been written by Tulga, the best Tour Leaders of Nomadic Trails who has been working with travelers all around the world since 2000. We hope you enjoy his work and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact him at tulga@nomadictrails.com.

What is the Naadam Festival?

One of the well-known festivals of Mongolia, Naadam Festival is celebrated throughout Mongolia for 2 days in mid-July. It is the most enjoyable season for Mongolians, after hard winter and spring. Women start preparing their best costumes for the festival for everyone in the family, meanwhile, men start training their fastest horses for horse racing. Archers practice their shooting for their big competitions. Overall, it is the festival for everyone, to meet and catch up with their relatives and friends.

“Naadam” means festival in Mongolian. It is the “Festival Festival”! /chuckle/

The Date of the Naadam Festival

It seems there are 3 different Naadam Festivals according to it’s a size. Those nomads from country would arrive nearest town to celebrate this festival. Smaller towns celebrate their own festivals 2 -3 days earlier than provincial capitals. Provincial capital celebrates 1 day later than smaller towns. Then, main festival takes a place in Ulaanbaatar city for 2 days. But it is not always the case. They might change it in between 22-26 July, if they have anniversary of town! Some mayor of towns might have an different idea to celebrate it in same day as main one in Ulaanbaatar city.

  • Smaller towns (900-5000 inhabitants) celebrate on the 7-8 of July. 
  • Provincial Capitals or bigger towns (20-80 000 inhabitants) celebrate on the 9-10 of July.
  • Ulaanbaatar city (1.5 million inhabitants) or main festival hold on 11-12 July.

Why the local Naadam Festival?

The main festival has most of the prestige and challenges for all those competitors in all games within the local festivals.

It is a good opportunity to take local games for those competitors, who are young, inexperienced than the ones who already have big wins. There will be 256 wrestlers to compete in 7 rounds in 2 days. Another 64 man, woman, and young kid archers would compete in 3 different categories in 1 day. When it comes to horse races, there are 6 different races according to horse ages, would race in 2 days. There will be 30-150 horses will race in a single horse race depending on horse ages. This is an incredible figure for the number of competitors.  Of course, there will be thousands of locals gather in the same place to celebrate their Naadam Festival adding so much color to it!

You will find a much bigger scale than this in Ulaanbaatar city, where the main Naadam Festival holds in. You really want to avoid traffic jams in Ulaanbaatar city, even though it is the prestigious one in the whole country. Everywhere you go, hard to avoid traffic jams in the city even at the horse racing field. 

We carefully select a smaller Naadam Festival than Ulaanbaatar city, with a reasonable amount of population, that allows you to experience first-hand, by visiting local families and getting swept up in a fascinating rural version of the famous Naadam Festival.

Find more about our “Naadam Festival Tour” here.

For some amazing photographs from the Naadam Festival:

Archers in the competition in Baganuur town, central Mongolia
Dancers taking a break after the Festival opening
At the registration area for horse race
They have an age limit for Jockeys- 6 years old is the minimum age
In the middle of Horse race in central Mongolia
There is no weight limit for wrestling match in both Junior and adult categories.
There will be plenty opportunity take your dream photos at the festival. Old wise man.
At the registration area

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