Naadam is the one and only Big Event in Mongolia –a lively national festival held every year from the 11th – 13th of July. Naadam means “three manly games.” Known as the world’s second-oldest Olympics, it celebrates what defined civilization in the Steppes eight centuries ago; archery, wrestling and horse riding. The competitors in the riding events are all children aged between five and twelve, many of whom have been in the saddle since the age of one. As they race along the plains for 20 kilometers, thousands of spectators line the remote track to watch up to 650 children sitting confidently astride their small but sturdy Mongolian steeds. It is claimed that such equestrian skills won Genghis Khan an empire that stretched from the Sea of Japan all the way to Europe.
In recent times, women have been allowed to enter and they now compete in two of the three events, horse racing and archery. Once a religious ceremony, the festival now formally commemorates the 1921 revolution when Mongolia declared itself a free country.
This is a unique opportunity to be among the few foreigners to experience this spectacular but little known festival and soak up the exciting atmosphere of this national holiday. Our tour combines the Naadam Festival with an amazing overland journey to Moscow on board our Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express private train.
The full day by day detailed Itinerary
Day 1 Ulaan Baatar
International arrivals are met and transferred to a centrally located hotel in the heart of this intriguing city. There is free time to explore before we have a welcome reception and dinner in a city restaurant. This is a great time to get to know fellow travelers with whom we will be sharing this 13 night adventure.
Day 2 Ulaan Baatar
Today we spend a full day at the festival. We get to observe the elaborate opening ceremony which consists of local dancers, athletes, horse riders and musicians, before watching the main competitions.
Day 3 Ulaan Baatar
After a further half day at the Festival, we take a city tour which includes a visit to the Gandam Monastery. After spending some time at the central square with its impressive monument to the legendary ruler, Gengis Khan, we visit the National Museum which gives us a comprehensive insight into this fascinating land and people.
Day 4 Ulaan Baatar
We have a day to enjoy the magnificent alpine scenery of Terelj, one of the most beautiful places in Mongolia. We can take a leisurely stroll through meadows carpeted with edelweiss and a dazzling variety of other wild flowers; view fascinating rock formations against a backdrop of pine covered mountains; or wander along the wooded banks of a mountain stream.
The more adventurous of us can go horse riding in the 300,000 hectare Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Alternatively, we can spend the day in Ulaan Baatar with its many opportunities for leather or cashmere shopping. Tonight we board the Golden Eagle and have time to settle into our modern, stylish cabins before enjoying dinner in one of our beautifully designed restaurant cars. There is then time to listen to our resident pianist in the comfortable bar car.
Day 5 Ulan Ude
This morning we have time to relax on board the Golden Eagle. As well as watching the ever changing scenery, there is time to chat with fellow guests in the bar car, or maybe watch a DVD in our cabins. Crossing the border into Russia we arrive in Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic. Our tour here includes a visit to the Village of Old Believers where we have time to learn about the local culture and history of these unique people.
Day 6 Lake Baikal
Just one of the many highlights of our journey; we wind our way through tunnels and round cliffs along the shoreline of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. The scenery we pass is stunning and the snow-covered mountains on the distant shore form a beautiful background to this awe-inspiring lake. Stopping at one of the bays we have a barbeque on the beach (weather permitting). The brave can even go for a swim! We then board a hydrofoil which takes us to Listvyanka, a small Baikal village nestled at the base of the surrounding hills.
Day 7 Irkutsk
We have a morning arrival into the “Paris of Siberia”, Irkutsk. Our tour includes a cultural immersion into the major sights and museums of this fascinating city, which include the classic wooden architecture that this area is renowned for. This afternoon after a tour of the Count Volkonsky’s house museum we enjoy a private concert performed in our honor.
Day 8 Abakan
Heading west we enjoy the peaceful pace on board enjoying the scenery. Today there will be the choice of attending one of the various lectures and lessons on board, socializing in the bar car and if time permits, we will have a short stop in Krasnoyarsk, which lies on the Yenisei river and is the third largest city in Siberia.
Day 9 Novosibirsk
We stop in this modern “Soviet” city and visit the famous Opera House, Lenin Square and Akadem Gorodok. This fascinating “Academy Town” is the educational and scientific centre of Siberia.
Day 10 Yekaterinburg
This afternoon we arrive in Yekaterinburg, the last city in Asia and capital of the Urals. Our city tour includes the Romanov execution site, now a Church dedicated to the memory of the Russian Royal family and the monument to the Europe/Asia divide where we can stand with a foot in each continent.
Day 11 Kazan
After a morning arrival we have time to discover Kazan, the picturesque capital of Tatarstan on the Volga River. One of the highlights of today is our visit to the Kremlin fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site, containing a stunning mosque and Russian Orthodox cathedral. Tonight we have our final dinner on board the Golden Eagle, our home for the last 7 days.
Day 12 Moscow
Mid-morning arrival in Moscow. We spend the rest of the day touring the amazing sites of this vibrant city, including Red Square and the Kremlin. We transfer to a centrally located five-star hotel for a one-night stay and enjoy our farewell dinner where we say our goodbyes.
Day 13 Moscow
After breakfast in the hotel, free time in the rapidly-changing Russian capital brings our tour to an end (note that it is possible that the Kremlin visit could be this morning). Airport transfers are provided for our departing flights.
2008 Naadam Festival - Itinerary - 13 Days (Eastbound)
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Rail News & Updates
On 26th April 2007, GW Travel Limited, the leading long-distance luxury train operator based in the UK, launched a new $25 million, fully en-suite, private train in Moscow. The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express will serve the world’s longest railway line and will set new standards of comfort and service for rail travel in Russia. The launch celebrations were attended by over 100 representatives of the world’s media and specially invited guests.