Naadam Festival holiday in Mongolia
Description of Naadam Festival holiday in Mongolia
This two week small group holiday in Mongolia takes travellers overland from Ulaan Baatar to where sweeping steppe landscapes collide with barren desert sands, and ancient citadels appear out of dramatic dunes to provide fascinating tales of Genghis Khan and empires past.
Although days spent searching for wild horses in Khustain Nuruu National Park and exploring monasteries, such as Erdene Zuu, are undoubtedly exciting there's nothing more authentic on a holiday in Mongolia than spending a few nights in the desert.
Staying on a traditional ger encampment surrounded by singing sands is an experience to live long in the memory with nights around the campfire listening to traditional folklore stories with a cup of fermented mare’s milk one of those Mongolian moments to dine out on for years to come.
Driving through the wilder, more remote, parts of the Gobi Desert and Gurvansaikhan National Park takes you way off the tourist map with opportunities to meet nomadic camel herders and hike alongside mountain sheep and wild horses in Yolyn Am canyon, also bound to resonate with lovers of adventure.
Note: only one departure date per year coincides with the Nadaam Festival in July where the whole country comes together to watch and take part in an array of cultural ceremonies and physical challenges. If you'd like to witness Mongolian wrestling and archery, horse races and ankle flicking fights, first-hand, then please get in touch about availability although, be warned, spaces are already filling fast.
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PlanetAccommodation and Meals:
We spend three nights in a mixture of hotels and nine nights in traditional ger camps. All accommodation is locally owned and run, which has a positive effect on the economy and community by increasing employment alternatives in the area. By spending the majority of the time in simple lodgings, we significantly reduce our carbon footprint for the trip. We also operate on a ‘leave no trace’ basis, which involves disposing of waste at major towns and Ulaanbaatar, rather than leaving rubbish behind. Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are used wherever possible where meals are provided. Chefs are often able to produce some delicious Mongolian specialties for clients as well, like ‘Tsuvian’- pasta served with vegetables and strips of meat, or ‘Buuz’- steamed dumplings stuffed with meat.
It all starts at home so we have first worked to reduce our carbon footprint in our UK offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies in place, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
We operate small group tours that have a low impact on the communities we visit and we always ensure our operations do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. This allows us to stay in unique and characterful accommodation that would not have benefitted from tourism due to their limited size.
PeopleLocal Craft and Culture:
At the beginning of the trip, we visit Shankh Monastery on the way to Arvaikheer. Upon arrival there is time to visit the local museum, which contains nature collections, stone figures and Turkic scripts. Other cultural excursions include a trip to the Bayan Mountain Range to view rock art from 3000 BC, the Karakorum Muesum and the small museum near Vulture Canyon. Any money spent or given here as a donation contributes to the upkeep of these attractions. There is also the option to attend a traditional Mongolian song and dance performed by the world famous Tumen Ekh dance troupe. This includes throat singers, contortionists and Tsam dancers. Handicrafts are available widely in the larger cities and typically include colourful leather boots, embroidered textiles, decorated flagons and carved wooden items. Buying traditional crafts is encouraged as this is a means of supporting the community and, in some cases, of keeping customs alive. However, guides will be careful to point out that some souvenirs on offer can be damaging to the environment or wildlife- like the horns of argil sheep or snow leopard pelts.
There are a number of opportunities along the way to meet local nomadic families. These interactions are often impromptu, though gifts of goods which the nomadic families don’t normally have access to (such as treats) are given. These interactions offer the opportunity to learn about the lifestyle of these families, try some of the produce they manufacture themselves such as cheese curd, buttermilk or arak (alcohol made from mare’s milk or camel milk). At other times we visit nomadic families in a more organised fashion in order to ride horses or camels which they keep and herd and use their services as a guide or wrangler. This contributes to their livelihoods.
We attend the Naadam Festival in Ulaan Baator. This is the biggest festival in Mongolia and is celebrated each year throughout the country from the smallest communities to the capital (where we attend the festival). Naadam showcases traditional Mongolian sports – archery, horse riding, wrestling and ankle-bone throwing. It is a celebration of the country’s nomadic roots and traditions and we mingle with Mongolians as we attend the various events.
Community support, projects and sponsorship:
Our local partners are involved in supporting local communities through Mongolia in a number of ways including supporting local education initiatives and providing essential amenities for underprivileged children and cooperating with small and medium sized enterprises. Specifically they’ve sponsored events such as Youth Investor Reality Show and the 8th Pearl Necklace Initiative. They are also founder and sponsor of the Mazaalai Foundation – protecting the Gobi Bear.
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