The Golden Eagle Festival is a popular annual event held in Western Mongolia that celebrates the ancient art of eagle hunting. This festival is a fascinating showcase of the traditional Mongolian and Kazakh culture that still prevails in the region. During the festival, visitors can witness the spectacular sight of trained eagles swooping down from the sky to capture prey, as well as competitions between eagle hunters from different regions of Mongolia.
To prepare for your visit to the Golden Eagle Festival, it’s important to know that the festival usually takes place in early October in the Bayan-Ulgii Province of Western Mongolia. It’s also essential to book your accommodation and transportation in advance, as this is a very popular event and attracts visitors from all over the world.
When attending the festival, it’s advisable to dress warmly as the weather can be cold, and to bring appropriate outdoor gear such as hiking boots, a waterproof jacket, and a hat. Visitors should also bring a camera to capture the stunning scenery and the thrilling moments of the eagle hunting competitions.
At the festival, visitors can also enjoy traditional Mongolian and Kazakh food, music, and dance performances, as well as explore the beautiful surrounding landscapes of the Altai Mountains.
Attending the Golden Eagle Festival is a truly unique and unforgettable experience that provides a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Mongolia and the unique bond between humans and eagles. So here are some essential information for you.
1. What is the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia?
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia is a one-of-a-kind event that celebrates the ancient art of eagle hunting. For centuries, nomad hunters have trained eagles to hunt for food, and the festival celebrates the ancient art of eagle hunting.
This event is a Mongolian annual two-day Eagle hunting festival organized by the local Golden Eagle Hunter’s Association. Since the very first festival was held in 1999 in Ulgii town in western Mongolia, it has continuously been organized annually over the years.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the Golden Eagle Festival, from its history and cultural significance to tips for attending and making the most of your experience.
2. When is the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia?
The Eagle Festival in Ulgii town is held on the first weekend of October and was originally created in 1999 for eagle hunters and masters. This festival has since become a popular attraction, with more than 1500 tourists visiting to witness the hunting skills of the eagle masters.
*30 September- 01 October 2023
*5-6 October 2024
This festival is organized to celebrate the ancient practice of eagle hunting, which has been a significant part of the Kazakh culture in Mongolia for centuries.
One of the main reasons why there are different Golden Eagle festivals is due to the increasing popularity of the event. Over the years, more and more people have become interested in attending the festival, including both locals and tourists from different parts of the world. This has led to a need for the festival to expand to accommodate the growing number of participants and visitors.
However, there are limitations to the festival’s expansion due to the small size of the local town and the limited flight capacity from Ulaanbaatar to Bayan-Ulgii province. As a result, the festival is organized at different periods of time in autumn to allow more people to attend while still maintaining a manageable size for the local infrastructure.
Moreover, the Golden Eagle festival has different sizes and scales, depending on the specific festival. The main festival, which takes place in October, is the biggest one.
On the other hand, the other two festivals are smaller and more localized, catering mostly to the locals in the area. These festivals feature similar events and competitions, but on a smaller scale and with fewer participants and visitors. It attracts the participants and local visitors and features various events and competitions related to eagle hunting, such as eagle training, horse racing, and traditional Kazakh games and performances.
4. Why is the festival organized in September and October?
After the very first snowfall in autumn, many trails of footprints of wild animals show up on the snow. This declares the start of the hunting season for hunters with golden eagles in Mongolia.
During the old times, with the first snowfall mainly in September and October, at the end of the day, the hunters gathered together to have a ceremony that allowed them to socialize with other hunters. In Mongolia, the hunting season for golden eagles typically begins after the first snowfall in autumn. In the past, after a long day of hunting, the hunters would gather together to socialize and celebrate their successful hunts. These gatherings often included traditional ceremonies and rituals, which were an essential part of the hunters’ culture and way of life.
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia is organized in September and October to coincide with the traditional hunting season for golden eagles and to take advantage of the milder weather and better accessibility during this time.
5. Why is the festival called the Golden Eagle Festival?
The Golden Eagle Festival is named after the Golden Eagle, which is the specific species of eagle that has been trained and used for hunting by the Kazakh people in Mongolia for centuries. The festival is a celebration of the Kazakh tradition of eagle hunting, and it provides an opportunity for eagle hunters to showcase their skills and compete in various events and competitions.
The Golden Eagle is one of the most beautiful and majestic birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) and a striking golden-brown plumage. The species is also widely distributed and can be found across much of the northern hemisphere, including Central Asia, Europe, and North America.
In Mongolia, the Golden Eagle has been trained and used for hunting for hundreds of years by the Kazakh people, who have developed a deep and unique bond with their birds. The eagle hunters are highly skilled and trained to work closely with their birds to track and hunt prey, such as foxes, rabbits, and wolves.
6. What are the competitions for Golden Eagles?
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia features two main competitions that are dedicated to the golden eagles: the eagle training competition and the eagle hunting competition.
The eagle training competition is designed to showcase the skills of the eagle hunters and the level of training that their birds have received. In this competition, the eagles are judged on their agility, obedience, and responsiveness to the commands of their handlers. The eagles are required to perform a variety of tasks, such as flying to their handler from a distance, landing on their handler’s arm, and attacking a lure.
The eagle hunting competition is the main event of the festival and is a test of the eagle hunters’ hunting skills and the ability of their birds to track and hunt prey. In this competition, the eagle hunters ride on horseback into the mountains with their eagles, searching for prey such as foxes and rabbits. Once the prey is spotted, the eagle is released to attack and immobilize the prey, allowing the hunter to retrieve it.
Both of these competitions require a high level of skill, training, and teamwork between the eagle and its handler. The bond between the eagle and the hunter is essential, and it takes years of training and practice to develop. The competitions are not just a display of skill and tradition, but they also serve as a way to preserve the unique Kazakh culture and promote eco-tourism in the region.
7. How long does the festival usually last?
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia is usually a two-day event that takes place over a weekend in September or October. The festival attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world who come to witness the unique Kazakh tradition of eagle hunting.
During the two days of the festival, there are many different tournaments and competitions that take place, all of which are related to Golden Eagles and their hunters, as well as horse games, camel race and archery. The competitions include the eagle training competition, the eagle hunting competition, horse races, camel races, and traditional archery competitions.
In addition to the tournaments and competitions, the festival also includes cultural performances, such as traditional Kazakh music and dance, as well as demonstrations of traditional crafts, such as embroidery, felt-making, and leather work. Visitors can also sample traditional Kazakh cuisine and learn about the history and culture of the Kazakh people.
The Golden Eagle Festival is an action-packed and exciting event that provides a unique window into the traditional way of life of the Kazakh people in Mongolia.
8. Where is the Eagle Festival in Mongolia?
The Eagle Festival in Mongolia is held in the town of Ulgii, which is located in the western part of the country. Ulgii is approximately a 1.45-3 hour domestic local flight away from Ulaanbaatar city, depending on the airline and the time of year.
Once visitors arrive at the Ulgii town airport, they will need to drive for approximately 16 km to arrive at the exact spot of the festival. The festival grounds are located in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, making it a stunning location for the event.
In addition to the main Golden Eagle Festival in Ulgii, there are also two other festivals that take place in the region: the Nomadic Games Eagle Festival and the Sagsai/Tolbo Lake Festival. The Nomadic Games Eagle Festival is held about a 3-hour drive from Ulgii town in the town of Altai, while the Sagsai/Tolbo Lake Festival is held about a 1.5-hour drive from Ulgii town.
All of these festivals provide visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the traditional Kazakh culture and witness the incredible skills of the eagle hunters and their birds. The stunning natural beauty of the region also makes it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Mongolia.
9. What are the other games at the Golden Eagle Festival?
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia features a variety of games and competitions that showcase the traditional Kazakh culture and the incredible skills of the eagle hunters and their birds. Some of the most popular games at the festival include:
* Opening Ceremony with Parade: The festival begins with an opening ceremony and a parade of the eagle hunters, their horses, and their eagles. This is a colorful and exciting event that sets the tone for the rest of the festival.
* Eagle Competition: The main event of the festival is the eagle competition, where eagle hunters showcase their skills by flying their eagles from the top of a hill to catch bait. The competition usually lasts for the whole day, depending on the number of eagle masters competing.
* Kukbar – Goat Skin Competition – Tug of War: In this game, two teams compete in a tug of war using a goat skin. The goal is to pull the goat skin away from the other team and claim victory.
* Picking up a coin mid-gallop: This is a challenging game that requires horse-riding skills and quick reflexes. A coin is placed on the ground, and the rider must pick it up while galloping past at high speed.
* Kiz-Kuar Equine Game – Woman chases the man to whip!: In this game, a woman on horseback chases a man, and the man must stay ahead of her while holding a handkerchief. If the woman manages to catch up and whip the man with her riding crop, she wins.
* Mongolian Archery: Archery is a traditional sport in Mongolia, and it is a popular game at the festival. The archers must hit a small target from a distance of 75 meters.
* Camel or Horse Race: Camels and Horse are also an important part of the Kazakh culture, and camel racing is a popular game at the festival. The riders must guide their horse or camels through a course and cross the finish line first to win.
* Award giving ceremony: At the end of the festival, there is an award-giving ceremony where the winners of the various competitions are recognized and celebrated. The ceremony is a fitting end to the festival and a chance to honor the incredible skills and talents of the eagle hunters and their birds.
10. Is the festival open to everyone?
The Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia is an open and inclusive event that welcomes visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re a local Mongolian, a traveler passing through, or a foreign tourist, you can attend the festival and witness the stunning displays of eagle hunting and other traditional games and competitions.
The festival offers a unique opportunity for visitors to experience and learn about the culture and traditions of the Kazakh ethnic group, who have been practicing eagle hunting for centuries. Visitors can also interact with the eagle hunters and their magnificent birds, as well as participate in other activities such as archery, horse riding, and camel racing.
While the festival is primarily focused on the eagle competitions and other traditional games, there are also opportunities to enjoy local food, music, and crafts. Visitors can sample traditional Kazakh dishes, watch live performances by local musicians and dancers, and browse a variety of handicrafts and souvenirs.
11. How much does the Golden Eagle Festival cost?
The cost of a Golden Eagle Festival is around 30-50 USD, which is a separate fee from attending the festival itself. .
Additionally, visitors may choose to book a tour package that includes transportation, accommodation, and guided tours of the festival and surrounding area. The cost of these packages can vary depending on the level of accommodation and length of the tour.
12. How to book Eagle Festival Mongolia in advance?
To book the Eagle Festival in Mongolia in advance, you can consider booking a package tour online through tour operators who specialize in running tours in Mongolia. These tour operators can provide you with all the necessary information about the festival, including transportation, accommodation, and other logistics.
One way to book a Golden Eagle Festival tour is by contacting Nomadic Trails, a reputable tour operator in Mongolia. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about their tour packages.
While it’s possible to show up at the festival on your own, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that come with traveling to the festival site. These challenges include purchasing air tickets before they are sold out, booking accommodation, finding food near the festival site, or searching for a direct bus from Ulgii town. Therefore, it’s recommended to book a tour package in advance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience at the festival.
You can, of course, try to show up at the festival on your own but please be mindful of the difficulties of traveling to the festival site. For example, purchasing air tickets before they are sold out, booking accommodation, finding food near the festival site, or searching for a direct bus from Ulgii town, etc.
Contact Mr. Tulga at Nomadic Trails for an information and inquire:
- WhatsApp: +976 99040894
13. What is the Golden Eagle Festival program?
14. What to wear to the Festival?
it is important to take into account the weather when planning what to wear to the Festival in Western Mongolia. The temperatures can range from +10+15C or 50+59F during the day in mid-September, but can drop significantly to +5+10C or +41+50F in the evenings during October. It would be wise to bring layers to adjust to the changing temperatures throughout the day.
While there is no official dress code for the Festival, it is worth noting that many locals and hunters like to wear their traditional costumes at least one day during the event. This presents an opportunity to experience the local culture and observe the unique hand-crocheted patterns on their Kazakh Mongol costumes.
Additionally, visitors to the festival will have the chance to purchase traditional costumes, hand-crocheted bags, fur hats, and other souvenirs at the festival site.
15. Festival food
Dining Gers located next to the art and souvenir shop at the festival. This could be a convenient option for visitors who want to try festival food. However, it is noted that the festival food may not always be the healthiest option.
Two of the main festival foods mentioned are deep-fried mutton pasties and barbeque, typically made with mutton or goat. These may be popular options for those looking to try traditional Mongolian cuisine.
Additionally, visitors can also purchase water and other beverages from small open shops. It may be important to stay hydrated, especially if attending the festival during warmer weather.
There may be some small places that offer coffee during the festival, but they may not have many stools, tables, or chairs available. However, the statement also notes that tour operators or providers may be able to offer coffee to their clients.
While it may be possible to find coffee at the festival, it is important to keep in mind that the availability and quality of coffee may vary. It may be worth bringing a reusable cup or thermos to keep coffee warm and make it easier to carry around the festival.
16. Festival Toilet
The festival toilets are often unclean and have a strong odor, making them unpleasant to use. This is a common issue at many festivals around the world. However, as everyone needs to use them at some point, it may be necessary to prepare for this aspect of the experience.
Some tour operators may try to provide private toilets for their clients, which could be a more comfortable option. It may be worth considering this when planning a trip to the festival, or alternatively, bringing personal hygiene products and hand sanitizer to use in the public toilets.
17. Video closeup of the festival available?
If you are interested in taking photos or videos at the festival, it is important to check with the festival organizers or tour operators regarding any restrictions or guidelines on photography or videography. Some festivals may have specific rules on where and when photography is allowed, and it is important to respect these rules to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all attendees.
When taking photos or videos, it is also important to be respectful of the local culture and customs. Ask for permission before taking photos of individuals, especially if they are in traditional attire or engaged in cultural practices. It is also important to be mindful of your surroundings and avoid causing disruptions or distractions to other festival-goers.
To capture the best possible footage, consider bringing a high-quality camera or video recording equipment, as well as spare batteries and memory cards. Additionally, consider the lighting conditions at the festival, as this can greatly impact the quality of your footage. Finally, be sure to have fun and enjoy the experience of capturing the sights and sounds of the festival through your camera lens.
Contact Mr. Tulga at Nomadic Trails for an information and inquire:
- WhatsApp: +976 99040894
Golden Eagle Festival Movie: