Mongolia is a country that still has much of its traditional nomadic way of life well-preserved. It is a country that is rich in tradition which is evident in the festivals the country holds each year.
The most widely-celebrated of these festivals is the Naadam. While the festival is celebrated throughout the country, the most festive and widely-attended celebration is one that takes place in the country’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator.
Naadam – Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar is held at the National Sports Stadium.
To get to the capital city, you can fly in via the international airport located some 18 kilometers off southwest of the city.
There are also trains available from Moscow and Beijing that travel directly to Ulan Bator.
Getting around the city is via a taxi, bus or trolleybus. Taxis are the most comfortable means of getting to the site of the festival and these are relatively cheap, too.
What to See and Do
Naadam – Mongolia is the most festive of all traditional celebrations in the country. The best place to witness this, as mentioned previously, is in the capital city of Ulan Bator.
The festival celebrates friendly competition in the fields of Mongolian wrestling, archery and horse-racing.
Part of the celebration is wearing colorful costumes for the competitions. In wrestling, the contest does not have a time limit and an opponent only loses when he touches the ground.
In horse-racing, the race is a cross-country race which can extend from fifteen to thirty kilometers long. Girls are allowed to join this competition.
Finally, in the archery category, hundreds of targets are displayed on a large wall where both male and female contestants will get a chance to hit as close to the bullseye as possible.
Singing of traditional songs and holding parades are likewise part of the celebration of Naadam – Mongolia.
It is believed that Naadam – Mongolia takes its roots from similar contests held in the country centuries ago. The festival is officially called “eriin gurvan naadam” which roughly translates to “three games of men.”
While traditionally, competitions included in the festival were for men only, the festival has evolved since its early beginnings and now accepts women contestants in the archery category, and girls in the horse-racing category.
The celebration of Naadam – Mongolia in Ulan Bator coincides with the National Holiday which falls on the 11th up to the 13th of July each year.
Taxis around the capital city general cost about MNT 300 to 600 for every kilometer, buses are around MNT 300 and trolleybuses cost about MNT 200.
A good meal in a small eatery in Ulan Bator ranges from USD 1.20 to USD 3; while good accommodations are roughly around USD 8 to USD 12 per night, in a modest inn or hostel.
While visiting Ulan Bator for the celebration of Naadam – Mongolia, travelers are advised not to tour the city alone especially at night as muggings are unfortunately common in the area.