Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia
Nestled against the borders of China, Russia and Kazakhstan in the remote Altai mountain range of Western Mongolia, an ancient nomadic tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles is still practiced among the locals of the region.
Whilst there are only a small number of true hunters remaining; with many locals now keeping eagles as pets, the tradition of Eagle Hunting is still very much kept alive at the annual Golden Eagle Festival held in Bayan-Olgii. During the first weekend of October each year, Kazakh Eagle Hunters (Burkitshi) unite to celebrate the skill of their ancient heritage at a tournament designed to show off the ability of both the birds and themselves as trainers and hunters.
Traditionally, Burkitshi hunters have relied on the partnership, skill and sharp eye of the Golden Eagle to successfully catch prey and bring the game back to feed their families. So during the Golden Eagle Festival, prizes are awarded to the ‘Best Eagle and Hunter’, the ‘Best Eagle at Hunting Prey’ and the ‘Best Eagle at Locating its Owner from a Distance’. Hunters train their eagles to catch small prey such as foxes and hares and points are awarded for agility, speed and accuracy. Dressed in their finest eagle hunting regalia, trainers at the Golden Eagle Festival are also awarded for the best traditional Kazakh dress and most wonderfully decorated horse.
However, the Golden Eagle Festival doesn’t just start and end with the eagles and their hunters! With the picturesque Altai Mountains as a breathtaking backdrop, spectators can also enjoy a colourful Opening Ceremony, cultural exhibitions, folklore dances and even purchase a few locally produced handcrafts. Some of the other traditional Kazakh sporting competitions held on the day include horse racing, archery and the unique event ‘Bushkashi’ – a tug of war on horseback using goatskin! The region itself is spectacular and apart from the cultural experiences there are also great opportunities for hiking, horse/camel trekking and wildlife/bird watching.
To find out more about the eagle hunters visit Discover Bayan-Olgii.
Getting to the Golden Eagle Festival and Bayan-Olgii
Getting to the Golden Eagle Festival by road is possible and a great adventure, but can take a few days and you will generally need private transport. If you’re planning a bigger trip then this might be something to look into, otherwise we would recommend flying from Ulaanabaatar. Eznis Airways and Aero Mongolia fly a few times a week and flights can get quite busy around this time so its best to book early.
While none of our Vodkatrain journeys travel out to this region specifically we can certainly help you get there. Contact us for more info.