Each year, at the beginning of July, the Great Naadam Festival is celebrated all across Mongolia. This is the country’s largest and most famous celebration which takes place in the capital, Ulaan Baatar, with people travelling from all over the country to spend three days enjoying the festivities. The festival is focused on the three ‘manly sports’ of wrestling, horse racing and archery but also features traditional dancing and music and is a fantastic opportunity to meet the locals and learn about the traditional nomadic lifestyle.
There are two festivals which celebrate the end of the harsh winter months and pray for good fortune in the New Year, the Tsagaan Sar (White Month) celebration and the Ovoo Worship Festival. Originally the Ovoo ceremony formed part of a ritual to offer travellers a safe journey. Offerings of food and drink were combined with music and dancing before a large feast.
The South Gobi plays host to the annual Thousand Camel Festival. The highlight of the festival is the incredible spectacle of the mass camel races but as with all gatherings in Mongolia it is also a great opportunity for people to meet up. With many people living in remote locations it may be the only time they get to meet during the year.
In the north of the country, at the base of the Tsambagarav Mountains, the Golden Eagle Festival is held each October. Celebrating the lifestyle and traditional hunting methods of the nomadic Kazaks that inhabit this region it is one of Mongolia’s smaller festivals and well worth leaving the traditional tourist trail to join in with the festivities.