Naadam Festival

in Mongolia


Naadam (Eriin Gurvan Naadam) is the biggest festival of the year for Mongolian people, which is usually celebrated for 3 days each year from July, 11th-13th. It is a sophisticated and eloquent expression of nomadic culture, the honored celebration of national independence, and it is an outstanding combination of arts and sports. The main Opening & Closing ceremonies take place at the National Stadium of Ulaanbaatar, as well as activities on a smaller scale happen in each province & town of the country.

Learn more about Mongolian provinces: Dundgobi province, Gobisumber province, Uvurkhangai province, Bulgan province, Selenge province, Khenti province, Arkhangai province, Orkhon province.

People riding horse in Nadaam festival

The Naadam festival in Ulaanbaatar allows its audience to admire colorful celebrations and see prominent sports while the countryside festivals allow their audiences to participate and deal with locals. It is considered to be the most widely watched festival in the country, the main attraction for tourists, and is a centuries-old tradition that dates back to the era of the great Khans and their dynasties.

Naadam Festival - National Festival

“Naadam” in Mongolian means “games,” which makes sense since the holiday is primarily focused on three Mongolian skills: wrestling, horse racing, and archery, which Genghis Khaan considered essential for any Mongol warrior. Whereas horse racing and archery competitions have gradually incorporated women participants over the years, wrestling continues to be a highly male-dominated sport. There is an interesting fact about wrestling, that all men are wearing their small underwear-style bottoms, boots, traditional hat, and an open, over-the-shoulder top.

Read before you visit Mongolia:  Mongolia Travel Guide

Settings of Nadaam Festival

Should you visit Mongolia, this is the best time to see the Mongolian people and soak up the party atmosphere! If you are not into sports, there’s plenty to see and do outside - you can also explore Mongolian food, music, crafts, games, and culture in general. And, of course, the natural beauty of the country will also await you.

Read our blog on road trip to Mongolia: Why Mongolia Is One Of The Best Drives In The World

Don’t forget to pack your camera and get ready to make some amazing memories! Come travel to Mongolia to experience this Festival, which is the only one of its kind, in the world. Here, we will explain all the activities and hustle happening at the Naadam festival so that you could enjoy it in a better way.

Sports Activities

Archery, wrestling, and horse racing are the 3 paramount sports. Sheep knuckle-bone shooting is the last but maybe not the least of the sports. There are no restrictions on who can participate in these sports.

Mongolian Wrestling

Mongolian wrestling is the most well-known and often practiced traditional sport. While 32 to 256 wrestlers fight at regional level festivals, 512 or 1024 competitors wrestle and fight over nine or ten rounds in national wrestling. For this sport, there is just one straightforward rule: If a player touches the surface with any other part of their body except their feet or hands, they lose.

Wrestlers wrestling in Nadaam festival

There are no restrictions on opponents' height, bodyweight, or age, but wrestlers with better rankings have more options for picking their own adversary from higher rounds. In the first & second rounds, the opponents are typically chosen. The following names (names of mighty animals) are the ranking and titles given to the champions after the fifth round of competition.

  1. The winner of the 5th round earns the title of "Nahin or Falcon"
  2. The winner of the 6th round earns the title of "Hartsaga or Hawk"
  3. The winner of the 7th round earns the title of "Zaan or Elephant"
  4. The winner of the 8th round earns the title of "Garid or Garuda"
  5. The first-time champion earns the title of "Arslan or Lion"
  6. The second-time champion earns the title of "Avraga or Giant"

A drummer performing in Nadaam festival

The traditional costumes used by wrestlers includes a cap, a vest with narrow shoulders, shorts, and traditional boots. The hat is a representation of the legendary Mongolian warriors who created and played the game. Wrestlers can keep their feet firmly planted and avoid slipping by wearing high boots.

Each wrestler is accompanied by his own coach, Zasuul, who also conducts pre- and post-match ceremonies. Each coach removes their wrestler's cap moments before the opponents are set to face off and loudly declares their title. While doing this, the wrestlers mimic eagle flight by fluttering their hands and smacking their thighs while doing an eagle dance.

Horse Racing

Unlike eastern or western races, Mongolian horse racing is exceptional in many aspects. An ancient Mongolian myth states that touching the sweat and dirt raised by a horse during a race will change your fortunes. This is a typically long race for young jockeys on the steppe, lasting anywhere from 12 to 35 kilometers. Distance of horse racing track varies. Horses that are two years old or older have a varied distance than those that are seven years old or older.

The annual Naadam festival, which takes place in July close to Ulaanbaatar city, features the largest race, in which up to 1000 race horses may compete simultaneously across the Mongolian grassland. Racing horses that are fed a specific diet as well as coached by a trainer are also coached by children between the ages of 5 and 13 to be jockeys. Kids are chosen as jockeys because they are lightweight and flexible throughout long races.

Horse racing Nadaam festival

As one of the major contributing factors to Mongolians' conquest of the majority of the world on horses in the 13th century, the contest evaluates the endurance as well as skills of Mongolian horses and horse riders.

The jockey is also in charge of encouraging the horse with a traditional song called "Giingo" in addition to controlling the horse. The best five horses and jockeys in each age group get titles and medals ranging from gold to bronze.

A child and an instructor riding horses in Nadaam festival

The only unique prize is referred to as "bayan khodood" or "full stomach" and is presented to the winning horse and jockey in a race for two-year-old horses. The recipient of this award is wished success in the upcoming years. Who knows what might occur?

Archery Tournaments

Since the early years, archery has been an integral part of Mongol warriors' recreational time. A Mongolian warrior once shot a target from 500 meters away, which was documented in history. In modern times, both men and women in Mongolia actively engage in archery.

There are a number of other traditional shooting techniques and bows, but the key Naadam festival shooting techniques include Buriat, Uriankhai, and Khalkh.

Archers doing archery in Mongolian Nadaam

Hitting a surface of targets is this sport's unique feature. Each of the 10 men and women on the squad has 4 arrows, and they have to strike 33 targets. Men aim from a distance of 75 meters, while women aim from a distance of 65 meters.

The traditional dress "deel" worn by archers allows for greater sleeve flexibility and leather braces on the arm that extends to the elbow.

Masked Archers performing in Nadaam festival

The aims are a row of short, braided cylinders (8 cm in height & 8 cm in diameter) arranged in a pyramidal shape on the ground. Points are made by smashing the pyramid with a ball that came out of a tube. Archers and spectators applaud the competitors by chanting "khurai, khurai, khurai."

Read our blog about Mongolia off-road selfdrive guide.

A group from the team or the opposition is present each time it is smashed to bend and straighten it for the following shot. The titles "national marksman" and "national markswoman" are given to the winners.

What To Do During Naadam Festival - Intangible Cultural Heritage

Experience the National Naadam, the greatest Naadam festival, which takes place in Ulaanbaatar. There are protracted opening ceremonies where you can get to know the horses, jockeys, performers, musicians, and other performers. Horseback riding is a particular highlight of this event. Additionally, keep an eye out for the symbolic relocation of Genghis Khan's "nine horse tails" to the venue in which the Annual Naadam is conducted.

Nadaam Dancing

Get some "shagai," which are the bones from the ankles of sheep or goats that are used in a variety of Naadam manly games in Mongolia. The "original dice" are these bones, which are also employed in divination. Shagai games are played at competitions, where you may watch them being thrown in the air, spun on a stick, and fired at with arrows.

Visit the Gobi Desert, which is located south of Ulaanbaatar. Camels can be used to travel over the steppes with sand dunes. You can go to oases and see the desolate landscape. You can also go to Byanzag to see fossilized dinosaur eggs and bones embedded in the side of cliffs there. This area has been home to eight of the twelve known predator dinosaur species.


What is the Naadam Festival famous for?

Every year, from July 11 to July 13, Mongolians celebrate their most famous festival Naadam, a national holiday that emphasizes three sports: horse races, wrestling, and Mongolian archery. The nomadic culture of the Mongols, who have historically practiced pastoralism on the vast steppes of Central Asia, is inextricably linked to Mongolian Naadam.

The largest national holiday and most well-known event in Mongolia are Naadam Festival. It enables visitors to interact with Mongolians and experience the country's genuine traditional culture. Naadam is a holiday that Mongolians commemorate by competing in old-fashioned sports and games rather than as a tourist attraction.

What are the three events of the Naadam Festival?

There are three primary events during Naadam Festival, including archery and horse racing, and Mongolian wrestling. Before the middle of July, Mongolians celebrate these relics of the Middle Ages.

What happens at Naadam?

The Naadam Festival (July 11–15) is the biggest and most significant event and a national holiday in Mongolia (see also the Naadam Festival Guide: What to expect). The "Three Manly Sports"—wrestling, horse race, and archery—are part of this Nomads festival's sporting events. Small local Naadam festivals take place throughout the countryside. With the Ceremony of Nine White Banners from the Government house to Naadam stadium, another Mongol empire Genghis Khan-era tradition that was revived in the 1990s to commemorate the nation's return to democracy, the celebration of Naadam kick-off.

The crowd is introduced to horses as well as their jockeys, archery sportsman, and wrestlers during the Naadam opening ceremony, and dancers perform the traditional Mongolian dance known as the biyelgee as singers perform patriotic songs to mark the occasion.

Where is the Naadam Festival held?

Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, and the surrounding area host the main Naadam Festival. Although there are smaller-scale Naadam celebrations in various regions and soums (villages) across Mongolia.

How long is the Naadam Festival?

It is a 3-day long festival that is held in Ulaanbaatar capital city from July 11 to July 13 each year.

Why do Mongolians celebrate Naadam?

The traditional festival of Naadam is observed in Mongolia. The Naadam Festival is a vibrant celebration of nomadic ancestry, history, and essence. While contesting and celebrating during the 3 magnificent traditional games, the Mongolian emperors and military commanders of ancient times used to coach the warriors and the horses that served as the warriors' primary battle weapon. From the Mongolian People's Revolution in 1921 till the present, it has been observed as the biggest national holiday.

What do Mongolians do in the Naadam?

The Naadam Festival, which takes place in July and is primarily observed in Ulaanbaatar, is the greatest event in Mongolia. In Mongolia, the Naadam Festival is a renowned festival and sports extravaganza that include archery, horseracing, and wrestling. The occasion is celebrated lavishly by the Mongolians with large feasts, sporting events, and cultural performances.

Is it worth traveling to the Naadam festival?

Without a doubt, attending the Naadam festival is worthwhile. The event, which has assumed many different shapes and has honored several occasions, presently honors Mongolia's victory over China in 1921. However, it has always highlighted traditional Mongolian culture. You will have a chance to witness:

  • Thousands of wrestlers in wrestling competitions
  • Child jockeys sprinting at breakneck speed on horses
  • Badass sharpshooters in the world contesting in Archery contests
  • Kazakh eagle hunters, nomads, and shamans

When is the Naadam Festival in 2023?

In 2023, the Naadam festival will be held from July 11 to July 15 - Tuesday to Saturday

When is the Naadam Festival in 2024?

In 2024, the Naadam festival will be held from July 11 to July 15 - Thurday to Monday

When is the Naadam Festival in 2025?

In 2024, the Naadam festival will be held from July 11 to July 15 - Friday to Tuesday

Where is the Naadam festival in the countryside?

One of the towns that celebrate the Naadam Festival in rural Mongolia is Khovd, which is hidden away in western Mongolia. Or you could visit Khatgal in the north, close to Khuvsgul Lake.

What is the best way to get around during the Naadam festival?

The Naadam festival is one of its kind celebration in Mongolia. So, the best way to explore the festival and get around in Mongolia trip is to rent a 4x4 car. Keeping in view the terrains and hustle of Mongolia, a 4x4 car rental will be a perfect decision for commuting around Mongolia.

Is the Naadam festival in Ulaanbaatar City or the provincial Naadam festivals in the countryside better?

Naadam is a crucial part of Mongolian cultural heritage because it gives people a chance to appreciate their history and the games that have been played for ages.

The Ulaanbaatar Naadam is the largest event, attracting hundreds of contestants, tens of thousands of spectators, and a big opening ceremony with pomp and live music that is held in a stadium and requires a ticket to access.

A few hundred people typically attend the smaller rural Naadams. Visitors can get a closer look at the competitions, socialize, and engage with the competitors. While some minor contests are free, tickets for the larger, more magnificent events staged in venues must be purchased in advance.

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