Where: Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia
When: September 30th – October 1st
What Happens: A marvelous display of eagles and their talents
Remember to Bring: Binoculars, Sunscreen, Comfortable clothing and footwear, flashlight, rain gear (if weather permits), lip balm, lots of water, hat
Admission: $40 (not including transport); tours available
Surrounded by an astounding Mongolian mountain range, the Golden Eagle Festival is a fantastic cultural event. Held during the first weekend in October, the Mongolian Eagle Hunter’s Association puts on a show displaying specially trained golden eagles in various competitive events that test their speed, agility, and accuracy.
These honored eagle trainers ride into the festival atop exceptionally groomed horses while wearing traditional regalia. For 6,000 years, eagle hunters have been participating in this culturally significant event along side their companions. These eagles have been trained by the same owner since their inception and have lived in “captivity” for about 40 years. As a result the animal and owner develop a very strong and special bond that is most certainly exhibited during the games.
The awards given at the conclusion of the festival are:
- Best Turned Out Eagle and Owner
- Best Eagle at Hunting Prey
- Best Eagle at Locating its Owner from a Distance
The festival also includes other activities including an opening ceremony, parade, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations, and hand crafts in the centre of town.
The City Of Olgii
Established in the 1840s and officially-founded in 1911, Olgii has been the home to Kazakh people, art, music, and culture for over 200 years. Many Kazakhs migrated to this region due to Communism pressure in Russia and China. Although the city developed much slower than the rest of Mongolia, is has had no less of an impact on Mongolian society and culture. New apartments, shops, hotels, and restaurants have been built over the years to accommodate the influx of visitors to this small yet dynamic region.
The language of the town is Kazakn, however many also speak Mongolia and Russian, as well as English among the most educated individuals. It is quite easy to get around the city, as most if not all attractions are within walking distance. There is a rather small airport about 5km from the city center, however most people fly into Ulaanbaatar and take a bus into Olgii. Besides the festival, the city also boasts many museums, gardens, Mosques, and even a theatre.
Looking to attend this show-stopping event? There are a few airlines that fly into the near by city of Ulaanbaatar as well as Bayan-Olgii. If you want a more detailed and organized experience, Western Mongolia’s Blue Wolf Travel offers an 11-day trip starting at $1545.
Written by Savannah Chinelli, intern for Pilot Productions HQ in London