Naadam Festival is a grand festivity, which attracts visitors to Mongolia from all over the world. Celebration takes place annually from 11th till 13th of June, during national holidays dedicated to the liberation day of Mongolia. Main activities are held in the National Sports Stadium of the capital city Ulaanbaatar, but festive motion can be witnessed across the whole country. In Mongolian language Naadam (ÐÐ°Ð°Ð´Ð°Ð¼) means “the three games of men”, and festival is built around three main sports: Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery.
Festival is an ancient tradition and originates from patrimonial sacrifice to the Patron-spirit of the area and to the ancestors. Offering was done during or in the end of summer and followed by the celebrations, games and competitions. Mountains where considered as a house of Spirits, therefore Naadam was held in the mountains. Later on festival also adopted a function of a military training and inspection of troops. After 1912, the holy mountain Bogda-Ula became a place where festival is held. At the foot of the mountain people gather for the celebration; they put their tents and park their cars, dozens of sellers offer their goods and snacks to the crowd.
Nowadays main activity of the Naadam Festival starts on the main square of Ulaanbaatar at about 9 am. Many tour books recommend to see the opening and closing ceremony, especially, because the games itself might not be of a high interest to the people who are not used to such entertainment as wrestling, horse races or archery. Nevertheless, it is recommended to see ceremony on the Sukhbaatar Square, opening ceremony and a bit of each game. Guidebooks also mention that almost nothing takes place on the third day, therefore they recommend to get drunk on the second day and next day just have a good rest.
Tourists also should keep in mind that access of the vehicles to the venues might be limited and it can be quite difficult to order a taxi, not to mention the difficulties of getting a reasonably priced room. So good option would be to get in contact with local agency and plan your trip in advance. Ulaanbaatar is one of the remarkable stops along the Trans-Siberian Railway, so you can visit Naadam Festival during your train trip from Beijing to Moscow!