Mongolia nomadic traditions - a photographic bucket list trip

Mongolia is known for its strong nomadic traditions, but life has recently become more urbanized for many citizens in this sparsely populated country. As generations come to maturity, capitalism has replaced communism, showing the younger generation that an education and an urban environment could mean, to what they perceive, as a means to a better life.

Almost 50% of the population live in or near an urban center, while the other 50% live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the countryside. Despite this change in lifestyle, the rich nomadic heritage remains strong for a time being, and traditional Mongol songs, dance, stories and clothing are still celebrated, especially during festivals and national holidays.

It is these festivals and national holidays that bring us to Mongolia year after year. Since 2012 I have photographed the Naadam Festival or the Golden Eagle Festival.

The Naadam Festival - Naadam is the most famous, interesting festival and national holiday of Mongolia attracts worldwide attention. Origin of the festival dates back to the great warriors’ period or great Genghis Khaan’s period of the 13th century. Naadam means “Festival or feast of sports”. As well as, the festival is locally termed  “Eriin Gurvan Naadam” means “Three manly sports”. The three sports are: Horse racing, wrestling and archery.

Ancient times, the Mongolian great kings and military generals used to train their warriors and the warriors’ main battle tool horses while competing and feasting those three manly traditional sports have been generating for centuries and being enriched by more traditional sports and games. During the festival, Mongolians dress in colourful and distinctive traditional clothes and ride their most beautiful horses. Official festival celebration takes place through the country between 11 and 13th July annually.  Particularly, the Naadam celebration in Ulaanbaatar, a capital of Mongolia is the most marvellous and involves wider range.

There are 21 provinces and their 333 soums (small administrative divisions) in Mongolia celebrate their own festivals. Even though, some of the administrative units celebrate their festival on different dates depends on special celebrity occasions or anniversaries may held certain periods. As well as, celebrating the festival on different dates than the big festival celebrated in Ulaanbaatar allows their local wrestlers, archers and race horses to take part in big competition and celebration. Annually, thousands of tourists head to Mongolia to attend this breathtaking event except for hundreds of journalists broadcasting the celebration worldwide.

If you want to learn more about the Naadam Festival, or want to join us to photograph the festival, please visit this link…

The Golden Eagle Festival - The Eagle festival, or Golden Eagle festival (Бүргэдийн наадам/ бүркіт той), is an annual traditional festival held in Bayan-Ölgii aimag, Mongolia. In the eagle festival, Kazakh eagle hunters (Burkitshi) celebrate their heritage and compete to catch small animals such as foxes and hares with specially trained golden eagles, showing off the skills both of the birds and their trainers. Prizes are awarded for speed, agility and accuracy, as well as for the best traditional Kazakh dress, and more.

The Eagle Festival is held during the first weekend in October, run by the Mongolian Eagle Hunter's Association. Dark, rocky mountainous terrain forms the backdrop to the festivities which incorporate an opening ceremony, parade, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations and handcrafts in the centre of town of Ölgii followed by sporting activities and competitions 4 km out towards the mountains. Dressed in full eagle hunting regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses, the entrants compete for the awards of Best Turned Out Eagle and Owner; Best Eagle at Hunting Prey and Best Eagle at Locating Its Owner from a Distance. Other sporting activities include horse racing, archery and the highly entertaining Bushkashi - goatskin tug of war on horseback.

If you want to learn more about the Golden Eagle hunters, please visit this link…


Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: