Join us for a journey on horseback to watch cross-country horse racing at Mongolia’s national games. Naadam is the quintessential Mongolian experience. The atmosphere at the festival grounds is exciting, especially when the horses are coming in to the finish line. At this time of year the whole country goes on holiday for this celebration of Mongolian national pride. There are 2 days of riding, 2 days at the festival, and a celebration and relaxation day back at our base camp. Naadam includes three traditional sports: horseracing, wrestling, and archery. Wrestling and archery competitions are held at the Ulaanbaatar stadium in the city, while the horse racing is out in the countryside. We will see the horseracing up close and we will also have a demonstration of wrestling and archery at our site. The area around the horse racing site will be covered with camps of Mongolian horse trainers and young jockeys and you will join in the celebrations from horseback as Mongolians have done for centuries.
Itinerary 8th July: Arrival Day. Arrive at the Stepperiders base camp. It is very important that you arrive on the 8th of July (or earlier).
9th July: Travel Day. Leave early in the morning for the racing grounds. We will head off in the direction of Ulziit, a small horse trainers’ town. We will have lunch at a shady spot next to a beautiful river, in view of the plains and surrounding mountains. After passing through Ulziit we reach our home away from home and get settled in for the night. You will sleep in a traditional Mongolian ger .
10th July: Race Day. Rise early to ride to the racing grounds. In addition to watching the races, you’ll be able to ride around the fairgrounds and soak up the atmosphere, eat food, play billiards, shop for souvenirs, and meet Mongolians enjoying their national holiday.
11th July: Open Ceremony day. We will go to UB by car. Wrestlers wear special clothes to show the beauty and strength of their bodies. There is no categorization according to weight. The basic rule of the wrestling is the number of wrestlers must be equal: 512 or as many as 1024 during special anniversaries. The higher-ranking wrestlers choose from lower ranking wrestlers as their competitors. The winners remain for the next round whilst the loser leaves the competition. But if you don’t want to watch sports all the time, there’s plenty to see and do outside – food, music, crafts or just watching people and culture. This is the best time to see the Mongolian people and soak up the party atmosphere!
12th July: Travel Day. This morning we will ride along the river towards the small town of Songino where we’ll stop for some lunch. Then we will cross over the river and ride back to Stepperiders. When you arrive there will be time to relax, take a shower, get a change of clothes, maybe play some volleyball before dinner is served in our communal dining ger. If there is time, you can take your horse up to the ridge to have a look around.
13th July: Celebration Day. Sometime in the morning, our dinner meal arrives on four hooves and is dispatched into the cooking pot. (The Mongolian method of slaughtering and butchering an animal is humane and fascinating, but not for the squeamish.) We will prepare a feast for you while you relax. The meal is called “khorkhog,” (sounds like “hor-hog”) and it is traditional Mongolian goat, pressure-cooked with clean, hot river rocks potatoes and carrots. While you’re waiting for food, you can watch traditional Mongolian wrestling and even have a go if you like. Our extended family will join us for the feast, so you have plenty of opportunities to make new friends and practice your Mongolian!
14th July: You’ll be taken back to Ulaanbaatar in the morning. Longer stays are most welcome.
Deposit: We require a $100 nonrefundable deposit to take your reservation.
Price includes: All accommodation, horses, guides, support van, cook, 2 days of Naadam horse races, wrestling/racing/archery demonstration at our site, special cookout with traditional “khorhog”, and 3 meals per day. Pickups and dropoffs are also included. We can pick you up in the city center, or at the airport or train station. Experience with horses and outdoor experience strongly recommended. There are several long days of riding. You need to be comfortable managing your horse independently (leading your horse on foot, riding through crowds, finding your way from festival grounds to camp site).
Arrival Time: It is required that you arrive at our camp on the 8th of July or earlier. Our orientation is held at dinnertime the evening of July 8th. Late arrivals will not be accomodated. Please make your travel plans with this in mind. If possible, schedule your arrival for the 6th or 7th. That way, you also have a chance at recovering from jet lag before getting on your horse on the 9th.
Camping Experience: Outdoor experience recommended but not required.
Riding Experience: Experience with horses helps, but beginners are very welcome. During the trek we will have a beginner group with several horsemen to help you. We have had total beginners on the Naadam trek, and they had wonderful time. We will provide beginners with safety helmets.
Stepperiders – Affordable Horse Treks and Accommodation for Independent Travellers
Bogd Khan Uul National Park Mongolia
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