The Golden Eagle Festival is an annual celebration held in the Bayan-Ulgii Province of Western Mongolia that commemorates the traditions of the Kazakh hunters. The festival is held over two days during early October.
The Golden Eagle Festival is arranged by the local Kazakh community, a minority group within Mongolia that make up nearly 90% of the population living the Bayan-Uglii Province. Mongolian Kazakhs primarily practice Islam and have a distinct cultural heritage that differs to other Mongolians, part of the inspiration for the Golden Eagle Festival. In a historical context, Golden Eagles have been used by the Kazakhs for hunting over several centuries, the formation of the Golden Eagle Festival in 1999 aims to preserve their proud tradition. Whilst Golden Eagles are not commonly used in hunting anymore, many Kazakhs have kept these majestic birds as pets, allowing the Kazakhs owners to practice at a young age to become a berkutchi (Kazakh for Eagle Hunter).
Kazakh hunters travel from all over Mongolia for the opportunity to compete in tournaments that test their eagles speed, agility and accuracy. The first day of the festival will commence with a parade, a chance to witness the Kazakh hunters in all their glory. Mingle with the locals as you watch from the crowds as Kazakhs ride in a procession with their prized eagles perched on their arms, points are rewarded to the most elaborate and beautifully decorated outfits.
After the parade, the focus of the festival shifts towards the eagles and their incredible agility. Each Kazakh hunter leaves their eagle perched high on a cliff, before moving to the bottom of the cliff and calling the bird from below. The eagles are signalled to land on the arms of their owners with top points being rewarded to the pair with the fastest time and best technique. It’s a spectacular sight to see these birds of prey soar down to their owners and alight on their arms.
The festivities continue into the evening with a local concert paying tribute to the impressive performance of the Kazakh hunters and their eagles during the day before. It is common to find elaborate costumes and dresses are worn as people sing and dance traditional Kazakh ceremonies late into the night. Night time at the Golden Eagle Festival offers travellers a unique experience to mingle with the Kazakhs who have journeyed far to witness this culturally important celebration or speak to hunters as they relax after a hard days competition.
The second day of the Golden Eagle Festival is all about the eagles speed and agility with various competitions organised to ensure that there is a winner by days end. The Golden Eagles are left high atop cliffs, with their owners riding a horse below with a fox skin being dragged behind the horse. Points are rewarded to the hunter whose eagle is fastest, as well as of their ‘gripping’ technique of the fox skin. As the festival winds down, the points from all of the various competitions, including horse racing, archery and tug of war on horseback, are tallied up and a winner is announced during the closing ceremony, before another night of celebrations.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
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This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.