Mongolia Eagle Festival holiday
Description of Mongolia Eagle Festival holiday
Join a small group of intrepid nomadic travellers as you journey overland and via efficient domestic flights in search of seas of sand, undulating steppe landscapes and cultural traditions that lead all the way back to the time of Genghis Khan and his all-conquering Mongolian Empire.
From nights under the stars in traditional nomadic ger camps to hunting for dinosaur fossils and exploring in Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, this two week holiday in Mongolia offers cultural travellers a real treat for all the senses.
Starting in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, you'll make your way west in search of wild takhi horses roaming the steppe of Khustain Nuruu National Park before continuing westwards en-route to the 'singing sands' of the Gobi Desert via the 13th century citadel of Karakorum.
From witnessing monks at prayer in Erdene Zuu Monastery to visiting traditional camel herders in the South Gobi, this 19 day tour provides every chance to find out more about modern-day Mongolian lifestyles as well as the traditions and customs that are still alive to this day.
Timing your visit to catch the annual eagle hunting festival held by the Kazakh people at the end of September invites an opportunity to find out more about the connection between Mongolians, the natural environment and one of the world’s most impressive species of winged predator.
The eagle festival also showcases various other traditional displays of strength, style and dexterity with Kazakh costumes, camel racing, Mongolian archery and Kukhbar competitions – a sort of medieval polo played on horseback – all conjuring an exciting and eye opening experience in the west of Mongolia.
Please note: we only have one eagle festival departure date per year. Group sizes are limited and do fill up fast so please get in touch as soon as possible to reserve your space.
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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 Eagle Festival in the far west of Monoglia. This very traditional festival showcases the culture of Kazakh people of Western Mongolia. Amongst the competitions and performances we attend are ‘best Kazakh costume’, archery, horse racing, camel racing, Kukhbar (a traditional game played in various parts of Central Asia, in this case played using an inflated goat-skin, as well as cultural performances and demonstrations of traditional eagle hunting techniques (hunting using eagles). The eagles are trained from when they’re a chick and generally will spend years with their trainer. As they get older, however, they are returned to the wild where they can live the rest of their natural lives in a natural environment. Hunting with eagles has a long tradition in these mountains and can be an important source of food to local families.
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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