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10 Festivals In Mongolia Worth The Trip

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By Avantika Chaturvedi. This guide to Mongolian festivals contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Looking for festivals in Mongolia worth traveling for?

Then you’re in the right place!

Mongolia, a landlocked country in East Asia, boasts a remarkably rich cultural heritage that stretches back thousands of years.

This heritage is closely intertwined with the country’s ancient history, which witnessed the rise and fall of empires like the Xiongnu, Xianbei, and, ultimately, the Mongol Empire established by Genghis Khan in the 13th century.

A significant aspect of this cultural legacy is derived from Mongolia’s nomadic traditions, which have played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s identity and giving rise to its distinctive cultural traits.

These nomadic customs have left a lasting mark on various aspects of Mongolian culture, influencing their:

  • cuisine,
  • architecture (characterized by the portable and circular ger, constructed with wooden frames and covered in felt or animal skins),
  • clothing (represented by the loose-fitting garment called the deel, made from colorful, handwoven fabrics adorned with intricate patterns),
  • art (including skilled crafts like felt-making, embroidery, and metalwork),
  • music (notably featuring the mesmerizing Khoomei throat singing and the soulful Morin Khuur, a horsehead fiddle),
  • and the vibrant traditional festivals celebrated throughout Mongolia – which is what we’ll be discussing below!
Mongolian ger in the Altai Mountains
A Mongolian ger. Photo taken by Jessie Festa (Jessie on a Journey) during a homestay in the Altai Mountains.

Free Resources For Mongolia Travel

But first, before we go over the top annual events in Mongolia , I invite you to grab Jessie’s free Ultimate Travel Planning Kit — which includes 40+ travel resources — from printables to quizzes to itineraries — all meant to help you explore the world beyond the guidebook!

Some highlights of the kit include:

  • Free “Where Should You Travel Next?” personality quiz
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  • Pre-plotted Google Maps for 45+ destinations
  • Printable travel journal with writing prompts
  • Packing lists for different types of trips
  • And more!

Once you’ve grabbed your copy, keep reading for tips on attending fun and fascinating Mongolian festivals.

Importance Of Festivals In Mongolian Society

Festivals play an important role in Mongolian society and are deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the country.

They are not just colorful, entertaining events; but they also hold immense cultural, social, and historical significance.

Through traditional music, dance, clothing, and rituals performed during festivals like Naadam and Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian Lunar New Year), Mongolians strengthen their sense of belonging and pride in their cultural roots.

Many Mongolian festivals have historical significance, commemorating past events, heroes, or important moments in the country’s history.

While some festivals provide a platform for Mongolian artists, musicians, dancers, and artisans to preserve and promote traditional arts and crafts, others have religious or spiritual origins – often combining elements of shamanism and Buddhism.

Festivals In Mongolia To Attend

Now that you have some insight into the importance of local festivals, let’s go over some of the most noteworthy events in Mongolia worth traveling for.

1. Danshig Naadam Festival

The opening ceremony of the Danshig Naadam Festival in Mongolia
The opening ceremony of the Danshig Naadam Festival is a sight to behold! Image source: Zazaa for Wikimedia Commons

The Danshig Naadam Festival – literally translating to “three games” – is one of the most celebrated Mongolian events, captivating locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the more popular events to add to a Mongolian travel itinerary.

Held annually in July and celebrated throughout the country, this festival features Mongolia’s three traditional sports: wrestling, horse racing, and archery.

Danshig Naadam was first introduced in 1639 to showcase the prowess and athleticism of Mongolian athletes, and its historical roots trace back to the era of Genghis Khan.

This vibrant festival fosters cultural pride and community bonding while preserving the nation’s rich heritage – making it a significant and unforgettable experience for all who partake in its festivities.

2. Golden Eagle Festival

Mongolian eagle hunters riding horses
Eagle hunting is an ancient practice – definitely not for the faint-hearted! Image source: Gabideen for Wikimedia Commons

The Golden Eagle Festival is one of the most captivating annual events in Mongolia, showcasing the ancient art of eagle hunting practiced by Kazakh eagle herders also known as the Burkitshi.

Held amidst the stunning Mongolian Altai Mountains in the Bayan-Ulgii province, eagle hunters display their skills, and the Golden Eagles (Aquila Chrysacty) – the second fastest-hunting bird in the world – demonstrate their hunting prowess.

This festival celebrates the traditional bond between man and eagle and offers a rare glimpse into the time-honored traditions of Mongolia’s Kazakh community.

3. Khövsgöl Ice Festival

Mongolian men riding horses during the Khövsgöl Ice Festival
Colorful festivities against an endless winter landscape? Yes, please! Image source: Shizhao for Wikimedia Commons

The Khövsgöl Ice Festival is a winter extravaganza held on the frozen shores of Lake Khövsgöl, the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia. This is one of the top places to visit in Mongolia, as well.

This annual Mongolian festival features horse-drawn sleighs, ice skating, ice sumo wrestling, ice ger building and even dog sledding – all happening on the dark blue sheet of ice on the lake.

Festival-goers don their traditional attires, representing the country’s 21 aimags or regions.

Set against the backdrop of pristine snow-capped mountains, the Khövsgöl Ice Festival offers an unforgettable experience every year in March, attracting both locals and visitors to embrace the magic of winter.

4. Thousand Camel Festival

locals riding Bactrian camels during the Thousand Camel Festival in Mongolia
The unique double-humped Bactrian camels are the pride of the Gobi Desert! Image source:
Tsetsegsumiya
for Wikimedia Commons

The Thousand Camel Festival is one of the most extraordinary festivals in Mongolia held every year in March in Ömnögovi – a province in the Gobi Desert – to honor the region’s cherished double humped Bactrian camels, and help conserve their steadily declining population.

This vibrant event showcases camel parades and races, polo matches, and folk music and dance performances, highlighting the camels’ significance in the nomadic lifestyle.

Attendants can indulge in Mongolian traditions, customs, music, and cuisine while experiencing the rich culture of the Gobi.

5. Tsagaan Sar

a table full of food to eat during the Tsagaan Tsar festivities in Mongolia
A table full of food is a big part of Tsagaan Tsar festivities! Image source: Pxfuel

Tsagaan Tsar, translating to “White Moon”, is a significant festival celebrated to welcome the new year in Mongolia according to the Mongolian lunisolar calendar (usually during the month of February).

This festival falls on the same day as the Tibetan festival of Losar and is celebrated throughout the country with great fanfare.

Families gather to welcome the new year with elaborate feasts, traditional rituals, and exchanging gifts.

During Tsagaan Tsar, people wear their finest deels (traditional clothing) and pay respect to elders.

The Mongolian new year symbolizes new beginnings, and good fortune, and is one of the most important holidays in Mongolia.

6. Nauryz Festival

table of food to eat during the Nauryz Spring Equinox Festival
Traditional Nauryz food to celebrate spring! Image source: Ibrahim Rustamov for Wikimedia Commons

Nauryz, meaning “new day”, is also known as the Spring Equinox Festival, and is an ancient Mongolian festival observed by Kazakh communities in Mongolia during the month of March.

It marks the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature after a long, harsh winter.

Nauryz is related to the Nowrouz and Navroz festivals celebrated around the world in regions like the Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.

During Nauryz, people engage in various festivities, including Mongolian wrestling, folk concerts, horseriding, parades, and feasting on special traditional dishes like the Nauryz koje – a soup made of seven ingredients, symbolizing the seven life beginnings.

Adding this spring festival to your itinerary can really help immerse you in Mongolian culture.

7. Yak Festival

Mongolians playing yak polo during the annual Yak Festival
You’ve heard of polo, but have you ever heard of…yak polo!? Image source: Carl Whetham for Wikimedia Commons

The Yak Festival is one of the most unique events in Mongolia celebrating the revered yak.

Held in regions where yaks are essential to nomadic life, such as the Orkhon River Valley of Uvurkhangai province, the festival showcases the animal’s significance through yak races, yak milking competitions, yak lassoing, and yak wool weaving demonstrations.

Participants don traditional attire, and the local festival features Mongolian traditions, cultural performances, music, and dance.

Celebrated each year on July 23, this event not only honors the yak but also fosters pride in preserving age-old customs – considering Mongolia has the second-largest yak population in the world after China!

8. Yohor Folk Art Festival

locals posing in traditional garments during the Yohor Folk Art Festival
Yohor Folk Art Festival is a great opportunity to celebrate the distinct cultural heritage of Buryat Mongols! Image source: Arkadiy Zarubin for Wikimedia Commons

The Yohor Folk Art Festival is a vibrant celebration of folk art and cultural heritage of the Buryat Mongols from Western Mongolia.

Held annually in July, this is one of the most popular summer festivals in Mongolia. It mainly takes place in the Khentii province, and Russian Buryats from Buryatia also come down for the festivities.

Named after the ancient Buryad dance style, the festival features traditional folk dance performances by over 300 local folk performers, as well as throat singing and traditional horse-headed fiddle performances.

9. Tsaatan (Reindeer) Festival

animal herding during the Reindeer Festival in Mongolia
The bond between reindeer and the Tsaatan tribe is a sight to behold. Image source: Mats Andersson for Wikimedia Commons

The Tsaatan or Reindeer Festival in Mongolia is a captivating cultural celebration that honors the unique, age-old practice of reindeer herding by the Tsaatan community – one of the only tribes in the world who rely completely on reindeer for daily sustenance including transport, milk, meat, tools and fur.

Held annually during the month of July in the stunning Ulaan Taiga mountain ranges, this unique Mongolia holiday showcases traditional nomadic practices, including reindeer racing, herding demonstrations, and vibrant folk performances.

The event not only fosters a sense of community pride but also invites visitors to appreciate the harmony between humans and nature in this remote corner of the world.

10. Ulaanbaatar Winter Festival

man ice climbing during the Ulaanbaatar Winter Festival in Mongolia
Ice wall climbing is an extreme winter sport – one that Mongolians have been acing for centuries! Image source: PickPik

The Ulaanbaatar Winter Festival in Mongolia celebrates the dazzling spectacle of snow and ice with great fervor, drawing crowds from all over the country and beyond.

Held in the capital city, the festival is a showcase of the country’s love for winter sports and traditions.

Adorned in warm attire, locals engage in winter sports like ice skating, ice hockey, snowboarding, snow rugby, ice wall climbing, mountain skiing, and sled racing.

Held every year in February, this Mongolian festival hosts over 1,000 domestic athletes and about 100 foreign athletes, making this an event not to be missed.

Festivals In Mongolia FAQ

Now that we’ve gone over some of the most important Mongolian festivals to attend, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about these events:

Q) What is the most famous festival in Mongolia?

Mongolia’s most famous festival is Naadam, which is also locally known as “the three games of men”. This refers to Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery, all of which take place during the annual event.

When thinking about when to visit Mongolia, consider planning your trip around this festival.

Mongolian woman wearing traditional clothes.
A Mongolian woman wearing traditional clothes. Photo via Hữu Thanh Cái for Pixabay.

Q) Where is the Naadam Festival in Mongolia?

Mongolia’s Naadam Festival takes place throughout the entire country. While there may be larger and more renowned celebrations in major cities like Ulaanbaatar, Naadam is observed in various towns and villages across Mongolia.

Q) What traditions do Mongolians have?

Mongolians have a nomadic heritage reflected in their traditional lifestyle and use of gers (yurts) as dwellings. They celebrate their cultural identity through the Naadam Festival, featuring wrestling, horse racing, and archery, and express their unique music through throat singing and the Morin Khuur (horsehead fiddle).

Q) What is Mongolia best known for?

Mongolia is best known for its nomadic culture and vast, rugged landscapes, including the famous Gobi Desert and the beautiful steppe regions. It is also renowned for its historical association with Genghis Khan and the once-mighty Mongol Empire, which was the largest contiguous empire in history.

local eagle hunters getting ready for the Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia
Kazakh eagle hunters Aigerim and Asker in Mongolia. Photo via Jessie Festa (Jessie on a Journey).

Top-Rated Mongolian Tours

Along with traditional festivals, a tour is another way to explore Mongolia’s cultural heritage. A few top-rated options include the following – all of which depart from Ulaanbaatar unless otherwise noted.

Click here for a full list of tours in Mongolia.

Looking for a multi-day tour option? I went to Mongolia with WHOA Travel and loved the experience! Get $100 off any WHOA trip with code JESSIEONAJOURNEY.

Mongolia Travel Insurance

When visiting Mongolia — or anywhere else in the world — it’s wise to get travel insurance.

One of the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country.

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

traveler watching sunset in the Gobi Desert
Watching sunset in the Gobi Desert. Photo via Jessie Festa (Jessie on a Journey)

Final Thoughts On Festivals In Mongolia

Mongolia offers a captivating array of annual festivals that weave together the country’s rich cultural heritage and vibrant traditions.

From the electrifying Naadam Festival, celebrating the essence of Mongolian sportsmanship, to the spiritual allure of Tsagaan Sar, where you can immerse yourself in the heartwarming hospitality of the locals, each festival provides an unforgettable experience.

The rhythmic sounds of Khoomei throat singing and the captivating performances of the Morin Khuur beckon music enthusiasts from around the globe.

Embrace the nomadic spirit, savor the delectable Mongolian cuisine, and revel in the awe-inspiring sights of the Gobi Desert during these lively celebrations.

Make your travel dreams a reality by partaking in these extraordinary festivities, and embark on a journey that will leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for Mongolia’s unparalleled cultural tapestry.

What festivals in Mongolia would you add to this list?

About Avantika Chaturvedi

Avantika Chaturvedi is a travel blogger and freelance writer based out of New Delhi, India. She focuses on slow, solo, and sustainable travel and likes to explore places in India that are often off the tourist radar. Her writing has appeared in publications like National Geographic Traveller India, Vice, Condé Nast Traveller, and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.

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