Like most countries rich in culture and tradition, Mongolia is full of festivals that feature their unique ancestry and customs. Many of these festivals have been passed on as intangible heritage and hold symbolic importance to even modern Mongolians. If you’re thinking of traveling to this country landlocked between China and Russia sometime soon, you might want to time your trip to catch any of these five festivals which take place throughout the year.
The Golden Eagle Festival is one of the more traditional festivals in Mongolia. It features the eagle hunters of Western Mongolia who hunt with their berkut, or their golden eagles, as they did all those centuries ago. Every year, the hunters go to the Altai Mountains in the Bayan-Ulgii Province in order to display and test their speed and agility. This event is arranged by the Kazakhs, the nomads of Mongolia, in order to preserve this ancient hunting tradition.
Bayan-Ulgii aimag is situated in the extreme West of Mongolia. The ethnic groups who call Bayan-Olgii home are comprised of the Kazakh, Khalkh. Durvud, Uriankhai and Tuva. Unlike the rest of Mongolia, which is dominated by the Khalkh Mongols. About 90% of Bayan-Ulgii’s population are Kazakh, almost all of them Muslim. Ulggi is the gateway to see the Golden Eagle Festival
Bayan-Ölgii is renown amongst travellers as being a land of high mountains crystal lakes and rugged glaciers. Bayan-Ölgii is inhabited by the Kazakh, Durvud, Uriankhai, Tuva, Khalkha peoples although Kazah is the most significant number of inhabitants 93%.
The Kazakhs have a slightly different culture to their Mongol cousins, herding yaks and goats while being famed for training and hunting with eagles.
WHEN & WHERE
The most popular time to see the eagle hunting is in September and October when the Eagle hunters will partake in the yearly eagle festivals. Original there was one event that has now grown to two Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival and Sagsai Golden Eagle Festival. The festival regularly takes place in the village of Sagsai which occupies a valley of the same name. It is possible to stay with and visit the eagle hunters throughout the year although during the late spring and summer months it is rare for the captive eagles to fly.
The best time to visit the eagle hunters is during the Autumn winter period, although it is cold this will offer the best opportunity at seeing these magnificent birds fly.
Everywhere you look in the city, you will see rugged mountains rising up in the distance. The remoteness of the city from Ulan Bator plus the clothes, customs, and low, mud-brick houses of the Kazakh population, and you may feel like you’ve left Mongolia and flown into Kyrgyzstan
What to see in Bayan-Ölgii Province
For many visitors to Bayan-Ölgii, these are one of the highlights on everyone’s list. In reality, they are local Kazakh men who live their life herding as many of the nomads do in the area while also keeping eagles. There are many eagle hunters found throughout Bayan-Ölgii some genuine and some not so, only keeping eagles for the passing tourist groups.
Outside the small town, are vast of scenic and remote landscape