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Naadam Festival – visit the traditional Mongolian Camp

horse skill demonstration during the mini Naadam Festival
(horse skill demonstration during the mini Naadam Festival)

Last week, we were off to a place that’s really far away from Malaysia – an exotic destination that’s pretty mysterious to us. It’s a country with a culture we don’t know much about, and we’re excited to learn more. It’s known as the “land of the eternal blue sky,” and it’s got wide grasslands and nomadic people. There are actually more horses than humans there! Yep, we’re talking about Mongolia.

Our journey began with a chartered flight from Kuala Lumpur to Mongolia with MIAT Mongolian Airlines. The flight took about seven hours, and when we landed in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, it was already around 9:00 PM. Fortunately, our tour agency had arranged for coaches to take us to our hotel, the Holiday Inn, Ulaanbaatar. It was a long journey, but thankfully, there was no time difference between the two cities. We hit the hay quickly, knowing we had a big day exploring Mongolia!

herd of horses on the Mongolian grassland.

Today was absolutely amazing! We kicked off the day with a buffet breakfast at the hotel before making our way to the Mongol Nomadic Camp for a private Mini-Naadam Festival. It’s pretty special because the Naadam celebration only happens for a few days in July, and our tour agent managed to set up this exclusive experience for us. 

The scenic drive to the Mongol Nomadic Camp was incredible. We passed endless grasslands, spotted herds of cows and horses, and got a glimpse of traditional Mongolian ger along the way. It’s my first time seeing the Mongolian landscape up close, and I love every bit of it.

Entrance of the Mongol nomadic camp.
(Entrance of the Mongol nomadic camp)

Once we arrived at the remote grassland camp, we had the chance to explore an art gallery and check out a nearby souvenir shop before the festival kicked off.

The souvenir shop, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(The souvenir shop)

The Art Gallery.
(The Art Gallery)

The opening ceremony was surreal – dramatic figures on horses, yaks, and camels greeted us, setting the stage for an unforgettable day.

Opening ceremony of the Naadam Festival.
(Opening ceremony of the Naadam Festival)

We were welcomed into the Ger with milk tea and traditional food like Boortsog.

The Mongolian traditional snack called Boortsog, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp

The Mongolian girls serving milk tea to us, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(The Mongolian girl serving milk tea to us)

And we had a wonderful time taking photos with local children and adorable sheep. 

The kids were beating sheep wool to make a ger, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(The kids were beating sheep wool to make a ger)

Making dried meat over open fire, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Making dried meat over an open fire)

We even learned how to make dried meat and tasted traditional Mongolian wine.

They show us how to make traditional wine
(They show us how to make traditional wine)
Boortsog bag put on a horse, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Boortsog bag put on a horse)

The local game of throwing stones (knuckle shooting) to hit a target was fun,

A local game called knuckle shooting, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(A local game called knuckle shooting)

And the horse riding demonstration was breathtaking.

Mongolian horsemen displaying the skill to pick up things on the ground
(Mongolian horsemen displaying the skill to pick up things on the ground)

Then, they demonstrate how to use the yak caravan to move the Mongolian ger camp to another location.

yak caravan , Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Yak caravan )

Next, we find ourselves on the grassland, soaking in a mesmerizing musical performance by the locals. They play traditional instruments and sing in a unique, deep-throat style that I’m fascinated by. As a fan of Mongolian music, I was captivated by their incredible vocal abilities. The whole experience is enchanting.

Traditional performance with deep throat singing and playing the instrument called morin khuur (horsehead fiddle_
Traditional performance with deep-throat singing and playing the instrument called morin khuur (horsehead fiddle)

After the musical performance, we rush to the horse racing competition, arriving just in time to see the riders thunder across the finish line. The energy was palpable, and we all were cheering for the winner.

Horse racing competition, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Horse racing competition)

Afterward, we’re invited to another open spot on the grassland for more cultural performances.

Mongolian wrestling competition, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Mongolian wrestling competition)

Watching the wrestlers in their traditional Mongolian costumes, displaying classic moves, is fascinating and grabs our attention.

Traditional Mongolian dance performance, Naadam Festival - visit the traditional Mongolian Camp
(Traditional Mongolian dance performance)

Finally, they showcase their archery abilities, the third major event of the Naadam Festival. 

archery demonstration
(Archery demonstration)

The day ended with a delicious traditional lunch at the camp’s restaurant, featuring boiled lamb as the main dish.

After this enriching experience, we made our way to the Khyyor Zagal Lodge for the night. We’re already excited about what tomorrow will bring—stay tuned for our next blog post!

Khyyor Zagal Lodge- Where we stayed

Khyyor Zagal Lodge

Tonight is our first time staying in a Ger in Mongolia. We were all so fascinated by the design and ambiance. The ones we stayed in were upgraded for tourists, with heated flooring and electricity for added comfort. It was a bit of a departure from traditional Gers, but we were happy to trade some tradition for the comfort. It was a special experience to stay in a nomadic Ger rather than a luxurious hotel.

Foods erved in Mongolia during our trip
(Foods served in Mongolia during our trip)

And let’s not forget the dinner we had in the restaurant. The main course was a delicious mix of beef, lamb, chicken, and vegetables. The cooking method seemed simple, but the meat was incredibly tender and flavorful. I guess the free-range, grass-fed animals really made a difference in taste.

That was just the first day of our Mongolia adventure! Stay tuned for the next video to see our visit to Karakoram, the Erdene Zuu Monastery, and more. I can’t wait to share it with you in the next article!

🎞️ Watch our video shot during the festival

Please watch the video we made for our trip on YouTube. As below:

About the Naadam Festival

The Naadam Festival has its roots in Mongolia’s ancient nomadic life and military traditions dating back to the time of Genghis Khan in the 13th century. The festival originated from military parades, sporting competitions, and celebrations of various occasions such as weddings or spiritual gatherings.

The festival’s three main sports games – wrestling, horse races, and archery competitions – are documented in the 13th-century book “The Secret History of the Mongols.” These three manly sports were used to train soldiers for battle and were closely linked to the Mongols’ nomadic lifestyle.

Over time, Naadam became an official festival held by small administrative divisions during the Qing dynasty’s rule in Mongolia. In 1639, it began to be held annually with a dance festival dedicated to the High Saint Zanabazar. Later, in the early 17th century, Naadam became associated with Zanabazar, the first spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia.

The festival also has spiritual roots in shamanism and Buddhism. In 1206, when Genghis Khan was elected as the reigning holy ruler, athletes trained for a month and competed in archery and wrestling contests at the holy Mount Khentii. Naadam celebrations then spread to the Mongolian provinces, where regional competitions occurred.

The primary Naadam Festival takes place at the national sports stadium in Ulaanbaatar, and many other local Naadam festivals are organized at various locations. The annual Naadam festival in Mongolia takes place from July 11 to 13.

Our tour is organized by Go Holiday 360 Sdn Bhd. You can contact them by visiting their website.

Other exotic places you might be interested to visit

Pakistan is an exotic destination we visited six months ago. Although it may not be a primary tourist attraction, it has much to offer, from snowcapped mountains to autumn foliage, thrilling road trips on the Karakoram Highway, and numerous ancient forts. Check out this link for all the articles about our trip to Pakistan.