Mongolian Culture

Experience the Mongolian culture

The ger tent has been the traditional accommodation of nomadic Mongolia from ancient times - when Genghis Khan was ruling and expanding the country - until today. The ger tent plays a prominent role in the life and culture of Mongolians. Although they are slowly pushed out to the suburbs of rapidly modernizing capital Ulaanbaatar, gers are present in large numbers throughout the whole country; especially in the smaller towns and villages, where the ger is a cheap and practical alternative to apartments. But one should not forget the original inhabitants of the ger: the nomads. After all, the white felt tents make their most enchanting appearance in the vast deserts, mountains and steppes of the remote and elementary Mongolia. Gers are better known as "yurts" in the western world, although the two are not entirely identical. A yurt is the central Asian living tent variant. Yurts are widely used in for example Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan. As latter countries were part of the Soviet Union, the word "yurt" was first adopted by the Russians, from whom the western world adopted it later. The ger, on the other hand, is strictly Mongolian. The ger has some distinctive features: it is slightly larger and has a flatter roof compared to yurts.

Gers are made of canvas and felt as bricks and wood obviously are scarce in the nomad living areas. A ger can be built up in 3 or 4 hours (depending on its size) and usually are more comfortable then they might look on first sight, although they don't have electricity or water (apart from the ones in urban areas). Ger camps often have a bath house and a toilet, serving the whole camp. Gers are usually equipped with a wood or dung fuelled stove, that is used for both cooking and heating. The internal setup of the ger is universal in whole Mongolia by tradition. From the viewpoint of the entrance (which always faces the south) the men's area is on the left, the women's area on the right, the visitor's area on the left-backward side and old people's area on the far side. The stove is located in the middle, as it has a pipe through the gers’ roof. Nomadic people who live in gers are very welcoming people, although for a foreigner it will be hard to communicate with them, especially as nomads have many rituals and are very superstitious people.


Mongolia's most popular sport is its national style of wrestling. Apart from a few rules, Mongolian wrestling is quite similar to the conventional way of wrestling. The biggest and heaviest wrestler has got the biggest chance to win, as Mongolian wrestling has not got any weight divisions. Neither it has time limits, the fight ends with the first wrestler hitting the ground with his feet soles or open hand palms. The pre-fight tradition is comparable with the Sumo wrestling one, with the wrestlers honoring the judges and attendants by short sort of dance. After the fight, the loser has to walk under the right arm of the winner, who - by tradition - then makes a round of honor around a flag on a pedestal. During this round, the wrestler does a few more short dances; this gesture signifies peace between the two wrestlers. Winners get appointed temporary titles according to the amount of rounds they had been winning: 5 rounds - "Nachin" (falcon), 7 rounds - "Zaan" (elephant), Tournament winner - "Arslan" (lion).

Wrestling is very often practiced in Mongolia, with matches always taking place. However, the best time to see a wrestling tournament is during the Naadam Festival (see bottom of page) or during the two weeks before it. The same goes for archery and horse riding. During Naadam, archery competitions generally take place in the stadium, while horse riding matches are held just outside the city. Below you can find more information about Naadam.


The most obvious sign of Shamanism in Mongolia are the Ovoo’s. An Ovoo is an offering to the gods, usually a pyramid-shaped pile of rocks, wood and other material and can be found all over Mongolia, usually on tops of hills or in mountain passes. When coming across an Ovoo, Mongolians by tradition will walk around the Ovoo three times in clockwise direction and then offer something small - this could be a rock, a piece of cloth, a bottle or a little money. The belief goes that, if a person does not do this ritual and thus behaves disrespectful, the person will fall ill or will die. For the same reason, it is also prohibited to do any activity (like hunting, digging or taking down trees) at the presence of the Ovoo. If you are lucky, you might see an Ovoo worship ceremony, which usually consists of monks saying prayers, people making offerings and a small subsequent feast, usually with horse racing.

  • January 1 - New Year's Day ("Sin Jil")
  • January 13 - Constitution Day
  • January/February - (same time as Chinese New Year, 3-days) New Year Festival - Tsagaan Sar
  • March 8 - Women's Day
  • June 1 - Mother & Children's Day
  • July 11, 12 - Mongolian National Holidays - Naadam Festival
  • November 26 - Mongolian Republic Day (Independence Day)

"Naadam" is the world for "holiday" and at the same time the name of the biggest annual event in Mongolia. The Naadam festivities take place from 11th until 13th of July, mainly at the Naadam Stadium in Ulaanbaatar. The festival starts at 9am with a beautiful and colorful ceremony at the Sukhbaatar Square, attended by hundreds of soldiers in bright uniforms who play warlike tunes on brass instruments. Two hours later the opening ceremony starts at the Naadam Stadium with an impressive march of monks and athletes, making a beautiful and colorful parade on Mongolian traditional music. Outside the stadium, hundreds of Mongolians gather, expressing their joy in huge crowds. The closing ceremony, with more marches and dancing is held on the 12th, usually early in the evening.

At the Naadam stadium, all the wrestling takes place. As for the horse races, they are held at Yarmag (a village between the centre and the airport. The horse racing may attract over a thousand horses to the venue, so one should be prepared to watch his/her step very closely! The smaller stadium next to the Naadam one, is the scene for traditional archery. Although the festival can be freely attended, presence at the opening and closing ceremony requires tickets. Gardi Tours has special Naadam package tours, allowing you to catch the best of the festival. Note that the Naadam festivities - and especially the ones in the capital - are massively attended. People from all over the country go to Ulaanbaatar and use the holidays for a (family-)get-together, to celebrate and to attend the festival and its fairs. Naadam is also visited by many foreigners, especially Chinese people.

Because of the good relations with hotels in and around Ulaanbaatar, Gardi Tours manages to book a large number of hotel rooms and apartments during Naadam. Nevertheless, bookings for the Naadam festival must be made well in advance in order to guarantee availability. It is virtually impossible to get accommodation neither Naadam entry tickets just before the festival. This also applies to air and train tickets to Mongolia as from early July. We offer you a full program during our exciting national Naadam festivities, but BE IN TIME!