Western Mongolia is dominated by the Altai Mountains physically and culturally. The Altai have functioned for thousands of years as a homeland for the nomadic cultures of Eurasia including the Kazakhs – Mongolia’s largest ethnic minority group with approximately 100,000 living in the provinces of western Mongolia. Hunting with eagles (‘berkutchi’) is a form of falconry traditionally found throughout the Eurasian steppe. It is still practiced by the Kazakhs of western Mongolia and in 2011 UNESCO added Kazakh eagle hunting to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as an example of living human heritage.
But to experience real Kazakh eagle hunting, you need to head out into the remote Altai Mountains – and you need to visit in the Mongolian winter.
Part of our hunting with eagles itinerary includes travelling alongside our eagle hunters and being part of the hunting experience. Out here, all schedules go out of the window. You’re on nomad time, and the hunting activities depend on your host family, the eagle hunter, and the weather conditions – we leave these days entirely in the hands of the eagle hunters as it makes for a more authentic style of trip but you’ll witness the eagle hunt, and the close relationship and communication needed between hunter and eagle. The birds can weigh over 6kg; hunting with them requires skill, strength and no little courage.
You’ll also experience the incredibly close connection that the Kazakh eagle hunters have with their eagles, they are virtually family members, but it is sometimes hard for outsiders to recognise this. Another major reason for the Kazakhs hunting with eagles is the tradition and the sense of identity it gives.
If you’re interested in learning more, why not explore our Mongolia winter tours website page for more details on how you can experience hunting with eagles.
Winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, very cold, but the cold is an important part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year. Remember, for all low season travel we offer our 15% discount. Why? By travelling in the low season you’re helping us to provide more sustainable support. Just remember to pack the thermals!
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes Mongolia