Mongolia Naadam

Naadam festival in Mongolia Naadam festival in Mongolia

Experience the Thrill: Your Ultimate Guide to the Mongolia Naadam Festival

Embark on a journey to the heart of Mongolian tradition with the Mongolia Naadam Festival. This time-honored celebration, held from July 11th to 13th, is imbued with competitive spirit and cultural significance. Discover a blend of sports and heritage that continues to unite Mongolians in a vibrant display of national pride. In this guide, we’ll unveil the complexities and joys of Naadam, revealing what makes this event a unique spectacle.

Key Takeaways

  • The Naadam Festival, integral to Mongolian culture, encompasses the ‘Three Manly Games’ of wrestling, horse racing, and archery, and is recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
  • The festival celebrates Mongolia’s national pride, linking to historical times including the era of Genghis Khan and milestones like the Mongolian Revolution, while also offering a vibrant immersion into its culture through traditional dance, music, and food.
  • Planning your trip to the Naadam Festival involves choosing between the larger festival in Ulaanbaatar or local celebrations for authenticity, securing tickets early, and preparing for cultural customs and busy tourist season.

The Essence of Naadam Festival

Mongolian wrestlers competing in Naadam festival

The Naadam Festival, recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage, is Mongolia’s premier national festival. This grand event, also known as Eriin Gurvan Naadam or the “Three Manly Games,” encapsulates the heritage, history, and sports of Mongolia, embodying the national pride and unity of its people.

Uniting the nation in festive spirit, Naadam has roots that trace back to the military parades of Genghis Khan, transforming over the centuries into a joyous symbol of Mongolian culture.

The Roots of Naadam: Genghis Khan and Beyond

Naadam’s historical ties stretch over 800 years back to the era of Genghis Khan and Mongolian military parades. The festival’s roots lie in these military parades, where the three manly sports of wrestling, horse racing, and archery were organized as events before and after significant battles. Over time, the festival has evolved from its military origins into a vibrant celebration of Mongolian culture and history.

The local Naadam Festival in the countryside, in contrast to the grand spectacle in Ulaanbaatar, offers a more intimate and authentic experience.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Recognition

In 2010, Naadam’s cultural importance was recognized when it was added to the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a significant milestone for the traditional festival. This acknowledgment underscores Naadam’s global significance and enduring cultural value. This acknowledgment has led to the promotion and preservation of the festival, emphasizing its cultural significance. The festival’s connection to the nomadic culture of the Mongols and its embodiment of cultural identity and values were instrumental in achieving this recognition.

Celebrating National Independence and Historical Anniversaries

Naadam vibrantly celebrates Mongolia’s national independence, sovereignty, and unity. It commemorates significant historical milestones, such as the anniversary of the Mongolian Revolution, the Mongol Empire, and the Hunnu Empire.

Since 1922, the Naadam celebration has been observed as an annual national holiday, with the official festivities taking place annually from July 11 to 13.

Exploring the Exciting Events of Naadam

Naadam Festival pulses with its four main events:

  • Horse racing
  • Wrestling
  • Archery
  • Knucklebone shooting

Each of these events is a testament to Mongolia’s rich culture and tradition, offering a unique spectacle for participants and spectators alike.

Horse Racing: The Pride of Mongolia

At Naadam, the captivating Mongolian horse racing event demonstrates the historical significance of horses in Mongolian culture. This long-distance cross-country competition underscores the enduring connection between Mongolians and their horses. The races take place at the Khui Doloon Khudag venue, situated 35 km from Ulaanbaatar, and vary in distance according to the age of the horses.

Wrestling: A Test of Strength and Skill

Traditional Mongolian wrestling match

Naadam’s Mongolian wrestling event presents a riveting display of strength and skill in a single-elimination tournament, where the main goal is to unbalance the opponent. The wrestler who touches the ground with any part of their body, other than their hands or feet, is deemed defeated.

The winning wrestlers can claim esteemed titles, adding to the prestige of this event.

Archery: Honoring a Warrior Tradition

Mongolian archery in Naadam is more than just a sport; it is an honor to the warrior tradition of Mongolia. The competition comprises three distinct categories, each characterized by unique styles, equipment, and techniques.

Both men and women participate in separate categories, with the champions awarded the esteemed titles of ‘national marksman’ or ‘national markswoman.’

Knucklebone Shooting: A Game of Precision and Patience

Knucklebone shooting, a traditional game played with deer antler bullets and sheep anklebones, requires precision and patience. It is one of the key events of Naadam, taking place over a span of four days from July 9 to July 12.

Planning Your Naadam Adventure

To plan your journey to the Naadam Festival, you must carefully consider various factors. Here are some steps to help you plan:

  1. Choose between the grandeur of the National Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar and the authentic experience of the Local Naadam in the countryside.
  2. Secure tickets for the festival.
  3. Prepare for the unique festival atmosphere, including packing appropriate clothing and understanding the cultural customs.
  4. Arrange transportation and accommodations for your trip.
  5. Research and plan other activities and attractions to visit during your time in Mongolia.

By following these steps, you can ensure a successful and enjoyable trip to the Naadam Festival.

Local Naadam vs Countryside Naadam: Finding Authenticity

Choosing between the local Naadam in Ulaanbaatar and the countryside Naadam comes down to personal preference. While the local Naadam offers a grand spectacle, the countryside Naadam provides a more authentic and intimate experience.

Regardless of the choice, both offer unforgettable memories and a deep immersion into Mongolian culture.

Securing Tickets: Insider Tips and Tricks

High demand can make securing tickets for the Naadam Festival challenging. However, there are various options available, such as booking through tour operators, purchasing online, or exploring alternative methods like ticket resellers.

Early booking is advisable to ensure participation in this unique event, including the opening ceremony.

Navigating the Festival: What to Expect and How to Prepare

To navigate the Naadam Festival, you need to understand the event schedule, venue locations, and be prepared for the busy tourist season. The festival begins with archery competitions on July 7 and concludes on the evening of July 13.

Understanding the venue layout and the customary methods of transportation during the festival will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Experiencing Naadam's Rich Cultural Offerings

Apart from sports events, the Naadam Festival is teeming with cultural experiences. Some of the cultural experiences you can enjoy at the festival include:

  • Traditional dances and music performances
  • Parades showcasing Mongolian traditions and costumes
  • Museum exhibits displaying artifacts and history of Mongolia

These opportunities allow you to immerse yourself in Mongolian culture and make the most of your Naadam Festival experience.

Not to mention the culinary delights that provide a taste of local cuisine, enhancing the festival experience.

Traditional Dances, Music, and Parades

The Mongolian Naadam Festival showcases traditional Mongolian dances, such as Biyelgee, and includes musical performances like the Morin Khuur-Horse-headed Fiddle Festival. Parades featuring hundreds of artists, children, and livestock provide a colorful display of Mongolian culture and traditional costumes.

Museum Exhibits and Special Displays

During Naadam, museums like the Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum and The National Museum of Mongolia present special exhibits highlighting aspects of Mongolia’s diverse cultural heritage. Visitors can expect to view art masterpieces and historical artifacts showcasing Mongolia’s devotion to wrestling, horse racing, and archery.

Culinary Delights: Savoring Mongolian Cuisine

For the food lovers, Naadam is a culinary delight. Some traditional Mongolian dishes to try include:

  • Khuushuur: a ground meat encased in dough and deep-fried till golden brown
  • Buuz: steamed dumplings filled with meat and vegetables
  • Tsuivan: stir-fried noodles with meat and vegetables
  • Boortsog: deep-fried sweet pastries

The festival season is also the perfect time to enjoy Airag, the national drink of Mongolia.

Women's Participation in Naadam

Naadam celebrates not only tradition but also inclusivity, with the Naadam opening ceremony being a spectacular display of Mongolian culture. Women participate in three out of the four Naadam events, showcasing their skills in archery, horse racing, and knucklebone shooting.

This participation highlights the role of women in preserving and promoting Mongolian traditions.

Practical Information for Naadam Travelers

Practical information like festival dates and schedules, location and venue details, and accommodations and transportation considerations are essential for those planning to visit Naadam. These details will ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience during the festival.

Festival Dates and Schedules

The Naadam Festival in 2024 is scheduled to take place from July 11th to July 15th. The specific dates for local Naadam festivals can vary across different regions due to local factors such as weather and the conditions of pasturelands.

Location and Venue Details

Naadam events take place in various locations, including Ulaanbaatar’s Naadam Stadium, also known as the National Central Stadium, and several rural locations such as the towns of Ulgii, Murun, and Kharkhorin.

It’s important to familiarize oneself with these venues to fully enjoy the festival.

Accommodations and Transportation Considerations

Given the high demand during the festival season, it’s necessary to arrange accommodations and transportation in advance. From choosing the right accommodation to understanding the operating hours of public transportation, careful planning will ensure a hassle-free Naadam experience. Book your rental car early (6 months in advance is recommended) as well as any Mongolia tour during July with AVIS.


To conclude, the Naadam Festival offers a vibrant spectacle of Mongolian culture, history, and sports. Whether it’s the thrill of the horse races, the strength and skill demonstrated in the wrestling matches, or the precision and patience required in the archery and knucklebone shooting events, Naadam truly captures the spirit of Mongolia. Coupled with the rich cultural offerings and the iconic landscapes, a visit to the Naadam Festival is a journey like no other, immersing you in the heart of Mongolian heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mongolian Naadam?

Mongolian Naadam is a traditional festival celebrated in Mongolia, featuring games of horseracing, wrestling, and archery, deeply rooted in the country's nomadic civilization. It takes place every year from 11 to 13 July.

What does nadamu mean in mongolian?

In Mongolian, "nadamu" means "entertainment and game" and refers to a traditional mass meeting and annual gala of Mongolians, with its origins dating back to the time of Genghis Khan in 1225.

Is Naadam Festival worth it?

Yes, the Naadam Festival is definitely worth experiencing as it is one of the oldest and most epic traditions in Mongolia.

Why do people celebrate Naadam Festival?

People celebrate Naadam Festival to symbolize Mongolia's independence, sovereignty, national unity, statehood, history, culture, heritage, and customs. It is highly regulated and celebrated throughout the country.

When is the Naadam Festival held?

The Naadam Festival is typically held from July 11th to July 15th.