Mongolia is home to a 2000 years old tradition of hunting with trained Golden Eagles. This tradition has been passed from generation to generation among the Kazakh nomads, and even survived the harsh regime when national identities such as religions and traditions were oppressed - thanks to the Mongolian government for consenting ethnic minorities to keep their traditions and languages.
The Kazakh are an ethnic group mostly inhabit in the Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia. Each year, the Kazakhs hold 2 festivals for their renowned Eagle Hunters, and one of them is the Altai Eagle Festival taking place in late September; and the other in the first weekend of every October in Bayan-Ulgii province. The Golden Eagle Festival features about 70-80 eagle hunters or the “Berkutchi” and their eagles that show off their skills in several events starting with chasing a fox skin and calling their eagle from a distance. The finale event is the eagle catching a live fox/wolf.
The festival also features a camel race, and several traditional games including Uriankhai archery, Tiyn Teru (a race to pick a coin off the ground from horseback), Kyz Kuar (“woman chase,” a man and woman racing with the woman whipping the man), and the highlight, Kokpar (tug-of –war while on horseback). Winners are selected in each event. The Golden Eagle Festival provides a great opportunity for visitors to get up close to the eagles and their trainers.
Moreover, visitors can also ride a camel or horse or hold an eagle for photos during the event. The festival was initiated in 1999 by American owned travel company Nomadic Expeditions to preserve this wonderful Kazakh cultural heritage.
Food and traditional Kazakh crafts are sold at the venue by locals. Gers and tents are available for rent at the festival site or in Ulgii as well as transfers. Most Mongolian tour operators provide good package tours as well.
Festival dates for 2016: 01-02 October.
Venue: Sayat Tolgoi, Bugat soum, Bayan-Ulgii province (30min drive from Ulgii town).
For more info about the Golden Eagle Festival just contact the organisers “Mongolian Berkutchi Association” at the following number/fax: 976-42-22815.
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