The remote Baldan Bereeven Khiid Monastery. It is a tough drive to get here so don't just come for an hour. Stay a day and make the most of the tranquillity.
Mongolia’s National Parks and Nature Reserves
October 26, 2017
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Top Facts About Mongolia
March 7, 2018
Sunrise on Tsagaan Sar - experience Mongolia's Lunar New Year on one of our Mongolia winter tours

Winter Festivals In Mongolia

Read a little about the subject of Mongolia’s wintertime temperatures and you may start to think, ‘I’ll delay my visit until the summer.’ However, although winter does have its challenges,  it is worth experiencing one of the excellent winter festivals in Mongolia. hese events play an important part in the winter calendar for the local communities that host them. Don’t get caught up in notions of authenticity – the festivals feature a lot of local involvement and always draw local Mongolian spectators as well as westerners and the locals are always more enthusiastic.

Flexibility is key here. A majority of the festivals listed are local community festivals. Although there is a published programme, event start times are often delayed and there is a lot of waiting around and your patience may be tested. (At times, the weather conditions result in a change of programme or even dates.) But, the festivals play an important part in the winter calendar for the local communities that host them. Don’t get caught up in notions of authenticity – the festivals feature a lot of local involvement and always draw local Mongolian spectators as well as westerners and the locals are always more enthusiastic. In addition, as with any large crowd gathering in Mongolia, there is an issue of waste. But festival organisers are starting to consider how to limit the amount of waste generated and progress is being made.

 

Tsagaan Sar – White Month – Mongolian Lunar New Year

Mongolia’s Lunar New Year is known as Tsagaan Sar – White Month. It is one of the most important and traditional celebrations in Mongolia and falls on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice.

Turuu and Onroo during Tsagaan Sar 2017 at the Gua Undur ovoo (sacred stone shrine) – the ovoo close to where their father was born and the inspiration for our Mongolian b

Turuu and Onroo during Tsagaan Sar at the Gua Undur ovoo (sacred stone shrine) – the ovoo close to where their father was born and the inspiration for our Mongolian business name.

 

Tsagaan Sar - one of many winter festivals in Mongolia

There are two parts to sunrise on New Year’s Day in Mongolia. First, while it’s still dark, you need to send out the old. And then as the sun rises, so you As part of the traditional workshipping of the sacred stone shrin where everyone meets to greet the sunrise, you bring several offerings including milk, rice, and juniper.

Tsagaan Sar brings together family members and lasts a minimum of three days.  Tsagaan Sar also marks the end of winter as well as the beginning of a new year’s cycle. Because it is such a traditional festival, you should expect to eat mainly buuz (Mongolian dumplings) – a tradition of Tsagaan Sar – all washed down with a combo of Mongolian milk tea, fermented mare’s milk and vodka – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/tsagaan-sar-guide/

Khovsgol Ice Festival 

This vibrant annual festival is held at the small community of Khatgal on the southern shore of Khovsgol Nuur – the area of water that dominates Khovsgol Nuur National Park – Dalai Ej – Mother Sea to Mongolians. The natural beauty of the area and the deeply frozen lake, make it an extraordinary winter playground.

Khovsgol Ice Festival - one of many winter festivals in Mongolia

The Khoridol Saridag Mountains and western shoreline provide a backdrop to the frozen lake surfaces of Khovsgol Nuur. Notice the traditional and WARM (!) coats modelled by Turuu and Bataa. These are handmade for Eternal Landscapes.

 

Photo from one of our recent Mongolia winter tours to Khovsgol Ice Festival during one of many winter festivals in Mongolia

Exploring the frozen landscapes of Khovsgol Nuur on our 3-day horse sleigh expedition during our Khovsgol ice festival experience.

As well as winter ice games (horse-sled races, ice-skating, ice ankle bones) there is also a cultural element with members of the Tsaatan (Mongolia’s ethnic reindeer herders) coming down from the taiga to join with the local residents. Throughout the event, it’s the ice that dominates – not just the artistic ice sculptures but the frozen lake itself with its deep cobalt cracks and ice waves caused by the ever-shifting wind patterns – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/khovsgol-ice-festival-mongolia/

The Thousand Camel Festival

Part of the Thousand Camel Festival held in Mongolia's southern Gobi in March is the best dressed couple and best looking camels competition.

The camel festival is an annual celebration held in the southern Gobi organised by a local NGO to help protect the Bactrian camel and the essential role it plays in the lives of the nomadic herders in the region. It is a celebration of the way of life in the harsh Gobi and a chance for the local herders to come together as a community at what can be quite an isolating time of year.

Competitions include camel races, camel polo and even a camel beauty pageant (although the criteria for the winning camel is never clearly announced or explained). And as a spectator, you are always warmly welcome to join the opening parade … on a camel.  As with most Mongolian festivals, it includes a concert of traditional music and dance – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolias-thousand-camel-festival/

 Nauryz Festival

Nauryz means ‘new day’ and is an ancient spring festival that is celebrated throughout Central Asia and falls on the spring equinox. In Western Mongolia, Mongol Kazakh families visit the homes of each other and celebrate together with a large (and delicious) meal. In Ulgii – the provinical capital of Bayan Ulgii aimag, Mongolia’s westernmost province where a majority of Mongol Kazakhs live – there is a colourful parade with a members of the local community taking part – from school children to Kazakh eagle hunters and even the local hospital. You can usually typically find an eagle festival taking place during Nauryz as well with horse games including bushkashi (also known as kolpar) where horse-mounted players attempt a tug-of-war with a goat carcass. Competition is typically fierce! You can find out more about Nauryz here – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/nauryz-festival-mongolia/

A family photograph of the Asker Kazakh family during one of our Mongolia trips

A family photograph of the Asker Kazakh family who we work in long-term local community partnership with. Join us for Naruyz and they’ll be your hosts.

Silver Reeds Festival

Initiated by WWF Mongolia, the Silver Reeds Festival is held in Khovd Province, taking place on frozen Khar Uvs Nuur with the mighty Khan Jargalant mountain providing a spectacular backdrop.

Held every two years, this relatively new festival (established in 2009) was initiated to celebrate the return of Dalmatian pelicans to Khar Us Nuur thanks to conservation efforts by WWF Mongolia. The festival helps to raise awareness of the conservation of rare water birds and the ongoing conservation work by WWF Mongolia within local communities. The festival also celebrates the diversity of the local ethnic culture (Khovd is the most ethnically diverse province in Mongolia) as well as celebrating local traditions, art, heritage, and music as well as promoting winter sports and tourism.

Талын Түмэн Адуу Winter Horse Festival

The ‘Steppe Horse Festival’ is held in the small community of Batnorov village in Khentii province, Eastern Mongolia. Khentii Aimag is rich in heritage related to Chinggis Khan and the unification of the Mongol tribes. It is also home to the Buriats (also spelt Buryat) – one of Mongolia’s ethnic groups. The community of Batnarov itself is known as a traditional craft centre for Mongolian saddles and tack. Horse trainers, horse herders and horses gather in this annual two-day event, the aim of which is to help preserve the heritage of the surrounding herding culture, showcase the skills and dexterity of the competing horse herders and riders and to help support the livelihoods of the surrounding local communities – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolias-winter-horse-festival/

Mongolia's Winter Horse Festival

For those who choose to travel to Mongolia in the winter there are definitely challenges (just the packing list can provide a headache!) but is it worth it? Yes! So consider the winter festivals in Mongolia and pack those thermals, the fleece sleeping bag liner, the wool socks, the hat, scarf and gloves, and the down jacket. And come and visit and be beguiled by the beauty and colour and atmosphere and celebration. Have a look through the Mongolia winter tours or get in touch for details.

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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