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Naadam festival – The pride of Mongolian

by Chloe

Naadam Festival is a traditional festival of the Mongols and was recognized by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

Competitants in Naadam festival

What is Naadam?

Naadam in Mongolian means game. Some places in Mongolia call this festival “Eriin Gurvan Naadam”, which means “the three games of men” festival. The games include Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery held all over Mongolia in mid-summer. Nowadays, women are also allowed to participate in archery and horse racing, but cannot compete in Mongol wrestling.

When participating in the competition, the contestants will have to wear traditional Mongolian costumes. Before each contest there is a parade cavalry, in addition to dance activities, drinking alcohol.

The festival is held in July every year and lasts for many days in all parts of Mongolia, most notably in the capital Ulaanbataar, but in the rural areas are also very vibrant and colorful.

Horse racing


Mongolia is described as a country born from horseback. The native horses are very strong and powerful since the Genghis Khan period. They are physically superior to humans, adapt well to extreme temperatures and are good at finding food for themselves. In Mongolia, every kid growing up in the countryside has been learning to ride a horse since they were 3. The cultural significance of the horse racing at the Naadam festival is to honor historical value. There is also an ancient Mongolian legend that you can change your luck by touching dust and sweat of a horse while participating in horse racing at the Naadam festival.


Mongolian wrestling

In Mongolia, wrestling is a traditional sport. The matches are broadcast on national television and every Mongolian family hopes that their son will become a famous wrestler. Cave paintings in the capital Bayankhongor, dating back to the Neolithic, depict two struggling men, surrounded by many watching and cheering. Historically, Genghis Khan viewed wrestling as a discipline that gave his soldiers good physical strength to be ready to fight.


An unusual feature found in Mongolian wrestling is the lack of weight size. It is very common for a wrestler to compete against an opponent twice his size in Mongolia. When playing, each wrestler must wear a 4-sided hat, shoulder-length shirt and shorts. When participating in wrestling at Naadam festival, wrestlers will wear robes and traditional shoes.


Archery has always played an important role in the life of the Mongols. The nomads always use bows and arrows very well for hunting. The Mongol warriors used them as weapons and scared the enemy.


Archery competitions are held at the Naadam festival for archers: men, women and children. In each category, the contestants will use a different bow and arrow and the distance to the target is different. Before the competition, contestants must also take part in a test to test their strength, vision and concentration. Like wrestling, archers must wear traditional clothing when competing.

“Heel bone shoots” game


Walking around the Naadam festival, you can see groups of 6 to 8 people flicking 30 marble-like marbles on the smooth wooden surface to aim for the sheep bone fragment. This is the traditional Mongolian “heel bone shot” game and is considered by many to be the 4th main sport at the festival. This game has a long history, when the Mongols worshiped certain parts of the pet’s bones and used them in religious ceremonies and traditional festivals.

Are there other fun things about Naadam?

The Naadam festival isn’t just about sports. This is the biggest event in Mongolian culture with many spectacular parades, concerts and theater performances.


The festival begins with the famous “Nine White Banners”, a traditional ritual that dates back to the Genghis Khan period and was revived in the 90s of the last century. concept of returning to democracy. Each banner is made up of the tail feathers of 1,000 horses from each province in the country and is considered a symbol of strength. There is also a traditional costume festival named Deeltei Mongol; Horse Head Festival Morin Khuur and night performances called Uchirtai Gurvan Tolgoi – a traditional opera of the Mongols. At the Naadam festival, visitors can also listen to jazz music and participate in many other interesting entertainment.

Food at Naadam festival


Cuisine at Naadam festival is varied and diverse. At this exciting cultural event, thousands of nomads gather here to party. The favorite foods of the people here are: khuushuur (a type of meat rolls), crispy dumplings, airag yogurt, fermented mare milk…

How can you join in Naadam festival?

In 2019, the Naadam festival takes place from July 11 to 15. Currently, many tour operators offer tours and itineraries that include festivals and discover more about Mongolia.


Travelers can choose to transit flights in Beijing (China) with Air China Airlines. In addition, travelers can also choose other transit routes such as Cathay Pacific (in Hong Kong), United Airlines (in Hong Kong) or Vietnam Airlines (in Tokyo), however the second half of the journey, from transit point to Ulaanbaatar, visitors will have to change to the Mongolian national airline, MIAT. The shortest flight journey lasts about 10 hours.

The procedure for applying for a visa to Mongolia is quite simple, visitors just need to fill out the application form for visa, passport, ID card, 2 4×6 photos. However, visitors are also required to have an invitation letter from a Mongolian citizen, organization or travel agency.

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