There are four seasons in Mongolia – though quite not the same as in other countries. Its extreme climate and unpredictable weather makes it impossible to mark off one season over the other. Each of them has its unique characteristics and colors.
Main events on the Mongolian Calendar:
- Mongolian Lunar New Year – 1st day of Lunar New Year
- Naadam (The national festival) annually on 11 – 12 Jul
- Eagle festival – annually on first weekend of October
- Ice Festival – in March
- Camel Festival – after Lunar New Year celebration
- New Year’s Eve – on 31 December
Summer events – travel in Mongolia
Summer is compared to a young lady in the prime of her youth per Mongolian proverbs. Summer is the best time to travel in Mongolia. There are many small events and big traditional festivals are organized.
“As soon as I left the plane, I took my luggage and went immediately to the countryside ger hotel. After landing in a city that has only very recently had a population of more than one million, within 20 minutes I found myself in a quite countryside with flowers and grass sprouting from under my feet. In spring, trees are budding, pasture has already grown, the smell of wild leek stings the nose, and birds sail in the far distant sky. It is wonderful to watch a sunrise in the wide steppe, as if the eyes catch nothing there, and in the summer night, the stars are seen so clearly, as if they are pouring down from the sky.” – Molly Suchy, student of Mongolian University of Science and Technology
The Naadam festival – July
Mongolia cannot be appreciated fully without attending a Naadam celebration. Be it the one in Ulaanbaatar or a smaller one in the countryside, it is a great celebration to enjoy the ancient customs and to keep the traditions alive.
“I was extremely impressed with the participants in the three manly competitions of wrestling, archery and horse racing that become a part of this festival. To watch children at the age of seven or eight taking part in the 30 km or so endurance horse racing, and the excited master of training waiting for his horse to arrive at the finish line, was quite a different feeling from my earlier experience of watching a horse race in the Hippodrome. On the other hand, to see the young and elders alike dressed up in national costumes, closely connected with their traditional way of life, celebrating together, it seemed that I was walking along the biggest stage of a fashion design show.” – Antuane Fuqua, traveller from USA
Mongolian summer can be summerized as months of sports and physical challenges. Besides the Naadam festival, several marathons such as the Steppe Marathon, Sunrise to Sunset and the Gobi International Marathon are organized, offering great opportunities to enjoy the pristine nature. Playtime Live Music Festival (July 18 – 19th) is definitely the highlight of the summer for music lovers, bringing Mongolian and foreign bands together for the love of music.
Events in August
This is the month to discover the strength of nomads and their bond with horses through events such as the Horse Herders’ Festival. It is a unique opportunity for visitors to watch the horsemen competing and demonstrating various everyday activities and herders.
Eye-opening experiences are offered through Tsaatan festival, the International festival of throat singing, and cross-country jeep tours. At these festivals you can rest in the home of a herder families and get a taste of nomadic lifestyle.
Autumn events – travel in Mongolia
There are a lot of reasons to feel nostalgic during this season. The grass rustles under the feet, yesterday’s dark green trees turn yellow, and the birds fly over the surface of lakes before heading back to warm climates.
Events & festivals in September – October
These months offer the Gobi Marathon, Ganga lake gathering of swans, the Golden Eagle festival, and the “One Day in Mongolia” festival, a realistic glimpse into the life of nomadic people.
The highlight of the season is Whooper Swans. Thousands of swans and other migratory birds journey southward together and have a stopover at Mongolia’s lakes. You can see birds that you never imagined to see in landlocked country. The great diversity of bird species gathered in Mongolia during this season coupled with serene nature would make you want to check whether you’re dreaming or not.
Winter events – travel in Mongolia
Due to long and cold winters Mongolians break season into nine blocks of nine days – commonly known as “nine-nines” – beginning on winter solstice. However, many say winter starts long before that date with temperatures dropping below zero in November. If you love winter, and don’t mind if there’s not too much snow, then this is the time to visit Mongolia. Wood, dung or coal are stockpiled so gers can stay warm during the winter and sky is full of stars on crisp winter evenings. For long ago all of nomads and now the Gobi nomads practice a sincere, traditional custom of leaving their dwellings unblocked when they leave home to give long distance travellers a chance to quench their thirst and escape the cold.
There are number of interesting events worth marking your calendar such as ice anklebone shooting, the Ulaanbaatar winter festival, Camel Polo, the Ice festival at Khuvsgul lake, and an international skating competition. Each festival differs, yet each of them offers traditional games, various activities including a Mongolian national costume fashion show, contests, fireworks, rituals, traditional ceremonies, and cheerful atmosphere that chase away the chill of the winter.
New Year’s Eve – on 31 December
The biggest winter celebration is New Year’s Eve, which adopted many of Western World’s Christmas themes.
“The New Year is celebrated widely in Mongolia, and on December 31st, citizens of Ulaanbaatar gather at the Central square of the city to watch live performances, enjoy a champagne toast together, and watch fireworks. This is their way of welcoming the New Year. In Western countries, children write letters to Santa Claus for gifts, but in Mongolia it is Father Frost wearing a blue robe who distributes presents to children.” – Val Farmer, traveller from U.S.A
Lunar New Year Celebration – January – February
(Tsagaan Sar, the festival of the Lunar New Year is celebrated in or around January of February depending on the Mongolian lunar calendar.)
Thousands of dumplings, buuz and other delicacies made from scratch over the Lunar New Year celebration. It is time for families to visit each other, pay their respects, especially to the older generations while exchanging gifts. This is the best chance to find & feel the warm in the extreme coldest winter and experience the nomads’ tradition. Read more from a blog “Mongolians are celebrating “Tsagaan Sar”
Spring events – travel in Mongolia
One morning, wild flowers may appear from under the snow, and the next morning it may rain. One can witness the four different seasons during a Mongolian spring. For nomads, Spring time is the busiest time of the year. They’ll prepare to welcome new born livestock (lamb, young goat, young camel, colt and calf). Sometimes nomads need to follow their sheep and goats for whole day without eating lunch in order to take care young ones, gather them before they die in the cold weather. You can experience this phenomenon only in Mongolia and understand how nomads do hardworking in Spring. So, not much of events or festivals are not celebrated this time of the year, but “Eagle festival” organized near Ulaanbaatar is held in March while other longstanding festivals are held in Bayan-Ulgii province in Sep and Oct.
Eagle festival – March
It is an annual Kazakh traditional event in Mongolia. This special events hopes to introduce eagle-hunting rituals to tourists, provide opportunities to take photos with eagles, and educate more about the Kazakhs’ traditions.
“It was especially interesting for us to see everything, including the national dress of hunters and horse accessories during the Eagle Festival. We also witnessed the eagles diving down from the peak of the mountain to their masters, and the young people competing with each other to capture leather bags. It is wonderful to think that all this is not just a game, but a way of life.” – Karina Moriton, United Kingdom
The ancient, traditional sun festival of the Kazakh people, called Nauriz, is also celebrated this month. A celebration in the city of Ulgii provides the locals ad visitors a chance to taste traditional food like Kazy (smoked horse meat), enjoy a parade, and become acquainted with the lifestyle and traditions of the Kazakhs.
source: Mongolia brochure by Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia