Eagle Festival Mongolia – A guide for travelers

The Golden Eagle Festival
in the Bayan-Ölgii province is truly an amazing experience. In this video
I will give you a couple of tips and tricks to get the most out of your journey. Managing expectations: Having a good idea of what you are in for
before you get there can really help decide
if the Golden Eagle festival is right for you. Despite what our
and other photographers photos look like the Eagle festival
has definitely become touristy. We try really hard as photographers
to eliminate all distractions especially other travelers in our photos. That being said it is a great place
to practice portrait photography because the Eagle hunters are very willing and enjoy having their picture taken. You should of course always be polite
and ask first. When we visited in 2016 there were about 800 tourists there
during the festival so by no means
are you the only one snapping photos. Since this is truly a photo opportunity
not to be missed it is no surprise
that tourists and photographers show up in large numbers. Preparation and transportation: We went as independent travelers although we did have a great fixer that helped us find airfare to Ölgii. Airfare at the time was extremely difficult
to purchase outside Mongolia without the help
of a local travel agent or fixer. Since there are only a few flights to Ölgii this will be the most crucial part
to organize ahead of time. Flights can sell out as much as
9-12 months in advance. The only other alternative is a 50 or so hour
rough car ride from UB. Places to stay: Many of the Hotels and Ger camps
are booked up well in advance mostly by large tour groups. Make sure to book a place to stay
ahead of time. We did also see a few people camping
near the festival but we were told by a local guide that you may encounter
some unwanted attention. Food and dining: There are two popular restaurants
in all of Ölgii so it is somewhat slim pickings. Make sure to visit Pamukkale which has really tasty food
for the weary traveler. At the festival there was
a small barbecue stand serving mouth-watering grilled lamb,
which was absolutely amazing. This was however the only real option for a meal at the festival itself. There are a couple of supermarkets in town and you can easily pack a lunch
which is what we did. Guide or no guide? We chose not to hire a guide
during the festival which I think was totally fine. Of course a guide can explain more
about what’s going on and how the Eagle hunters
are being judged. But for the most part
I felt like we were not missing too much. We did however hire a driver
for both the festival days which I would strongly recommend. We wanted to have complete freedom and be able to leave when we wanted. And arrive early
to get some intimate shots of the Eagle Hunters
arriving at the festival. At the time a car with a driver
cost around 100 USD per day and if you split this with a few people
it’s not that expensive. Weather: Be prepared for anything,
the area is infamous for its very strong winds. Bring warm winter clothing. You’re doing a lot of sitting around
and it will get chilly quick. This time of year
it tends to be pretty cold up north so gloves and hats are must. When you’re taking photos all day
your hands will get very cold. Photography: There are a few key places
that you want to set yourself up for the duration of the festival. Everyone lines up in a horseshoe shape
behind the ropes so the best place to stand
and take photos is in the middle of the horseshoe so you don’t get any other tourists
in your shot. If you want the best spots
you have to get there early though. We got there about an hour early and most of the best spots
were already taken. I would highly recommend
that you buy a camping chair because it’s a long day of standing around,
if you don’t buy a chair. We bought ours in one of the supermarkets
in Ölgii. Equipment: We shot mostly with a 70-200mm 2.8 and our 85mm 1.8. The long lens is great for taking action
and portrait shots. People are very receptive
to having their photo taken and it seems that the competitors
know what to expect. Many would pose and smile
and look like they were having a ton of fun. Having said that we did see a lot
of very unethical photographers that would bombard the hunters
and not let them go about their day especially Aisholpan,
the famous Eagle Huntress who was very much
the star of the festival. She put a smile on her face
and was a total trooper but it seemed like
by the end of the festival she had enough of the spotlight. We also brought a tripod
for some of the more difficult action shots where the horses were running
or the Eagles were flying. After the festival: The festival was indeed incredible and if you can handle the crowds
I certainly recommend it. My favorite part was staying
with an eagle hunter and his family after the festival. We were able to get a very real glimpse
into the lives of the family. The Eagle Hunter showed us
how they have trained and hunted with these amazing birds
for thousands of years. Truly one of the highlights
of our trip. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more exciting travel videos
from around the world. You can learn more about our work
by following the links in the description and of course you’re welcome
to leave comments and questions below. Thank you very much for watching and we’ll see you the next time
Adventure Calls!

7 thoughts on “Eagle Festival Mongolia – A guide for travelers

  1. There is a new eagle festival called Alma Kuk in Ulaankhus, Western Mongolia which is about 42 kms from this festival. It ran for the first time this year (2017). They are focussing on just eagle related competitions and is far, far, far less touristy and more focussed on education and experiential activities such as the release of eagles to the wild. It is just developing and should be the festival true travellers, artists, and eco/cultural tourists aim to see. Not these paparazzi style unethical photographers who behave like they are in a human zoo. Here is the way to find out more about the Alma Kuk Golden Eagle Festival through the Alma Kuk Golden Eagle Festival! Contact Hearing Birds Fly Travel for more info https://www.facebook.com/almakuk1goldeneagle/ P.S. the festival is named after an eagle huntress who lived by Almakuk Tobe (Almakuk Hill) and after who the hill was named. She died in 1929 and hunted to survive.The world will be learning more about her soon. Her story is being collected from her descendents as we speak! I will be helping ensure her story is not erased from history by the The Eagle Huntress franchise. Stay tuned by following MeghanfjFitz on Twitter. Thank you!!

  2. I have heard there was an incident involving a lot of conflict and the tasering of a horse and possibly also a man at the eagle festival this year. Did you not see or hear anything?!

  3. Here is my report on the horse and man tasering incident and other reported issues at this year's Golden Eagle Festival 2017 https://youtu.be/2UxIY0CR3xc

  4. thank you for the video…I have a couple of questions…how hard did you find it to charge batteries when you were staying in the area of the festival? Do you think you could have gotten some use out of a longer zoom than a 70-200mm? Lastly, I'd be interested to know where you have your photos posted from your trip.

  5. Hi and thank you for your video. Maybe you wouldn’t mind helping me with a few questions I have. In 2021 I will have my 70 birthday and want to fulfill my life dream to visit Mongolia. I have most interest in the golden eagle festival and the Bactrian camels. I live in southern Spain so my questions are how to reach from here in Spain and how to arrange my trip the same as you didn’t? Thank you for any help you can offer.

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