Why you need to visit the World Nomad Games

The World Nomad Games are a biennial event showcasing nomadic sports, culture, and lifestyle. We attended the 2016 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, and, in short, they were freaking awesome. Here’s why you need to visit the 2018 World Nomad Games.

 

Headless goat polo! Eagle hunting! #Yurtlife!

The World Nomad Games promises all of the epic nomadic action you’ve only ever seen on National Geographic. But, as we all know, promises and reality are not always one and the same.

If you’re like me—that is to say, overly skeptical—you might be a little dubious. The Games sound like they could be intriguing, but they could also be a huge tourist trap. We thought the same before attending the 2016 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan, and went in expecting the least and planning to only stay for a couple of days.

Oh, how wrong we were.

Horseback archer at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Are the World Nomad Games worth the trip? Heck yes they are.

Our expectations: An overblown, painfully touristic cultural show.

What we got: An ever-surprising, action-packed, Central Asian festival.

Each day was filled with masterful stunts on horseback, insanely photogenic everything, and hospitable nomads delighted to show off their culture. We were satisfied, to say the least.

But don’t just take my word at face value: here are 5 reasons you need to visit the World Nomad Games in 2018.

 

The World Nomad Games event is one of the most epic displays of nomad culture on earth. Here's photographic proof of why you need to see the World Nomad Games in 2018.

 

5 reasons you need to visit the 2018 World Nomad Games

1. They’re not a tourist trap.

Okay, the World Nomad Games are intended to attract tourists and boost tourism in their host country. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be drowning in a sea of obnoxious foreign tourists!

Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Kyrgyz tourists at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

I spy with my little eye… plenty of Kyrgyz tourists!

There were far more Kyrgyz people than foreigners at the World Nomad Games in 2016. Spectator and performer alike were excited to show off their culture, and oh were they a sight to behold.

A bossy old Kyrgyz man - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Plenty of nomadic families rolled in to set up yurts near the event. Men and women donned traditional clothes. Many a spectator were on horseback. Young, aspiring eagle hunters wandered through the crowds with tiny eaglets in tow.

Men with phones on horseback at the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan - Lost With Purpose

Spectators on horseback - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Talk about the best seats in the house!

Spectators and eagles at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth it? - Lost With Purpose

Make room for the eagle, man.

It’s entirely possible you’ll enjoy watching the crowd more than the actual events!

2. You’ll see all kinds of crazy things hard to find elsewhere in the world.

Let’s be real. Where else can you see sports involving headless goat carcasses, horseback wrestling, mounted archery, long-distance racing, and eagle hunting all in one place?

Kok buru in Kyrgyzstan - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Headless goat sports, anyone? This popular nomad sport is known as kok buru in Kyrgyzstan.

Horseback archery at the World Nomad Games in 2016 - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Women doing archery at the World Nomad Games in 2016 - Lost With Purpose

What about massive yurt camps filled with people in nomadic garb?

Old women in traditional Kyrgyz clothes - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

A Kyrgyz nomad girl in traditional clothes at the World Nomad Games in 2016 - Lost With Purpose

Random camels wandering around?

Camel at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

And most importantly, endless quantities of nomad noms?

Free nomadic food at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

We were invited into this yurt to come check out the food… which all turned out to be free!

How about event venues in jailoos, soaring alpine pastures, surrounded by mountains?

Yurt camp in a jailoo at the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan - Lost With Purpose

This will do just fine.

Or sports arenas on the shores of one of the largest lakes in the world?

Lake Issyk Kul - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

As will this.

No, your television does not count.

3. The World Nomad Games are cheap. 

It seems a bit odd that such a big event would be so cheap to see, but that’s the truth!

To start, there’s the fact that in 2016 the World Nomad Games were free to attend. Yes, free!

The free shuttle at the 2016 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

The free shuttle

The only events you needed tickets for were the opening and closing ceremonies. Everything else was ticket-free. There was a free shuttle system to the major venues, and people were all too happy to treat you to all kinds of delicious (and usually free) goodies in the cultural camp.

Free homemade plov at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Free plov, made right there on the spot!

On top of that, Central Asia is a relatively cheap place to travel in for both backpackers and traditional holiday goers. You can have…

Don’t believe us? Our budget report for Kyrgyzstan is proof.

4. The 2018 World Nomad Games are guaranteed to be better than ever before.

At the 2016 World Nomad Games there were yellow-clad volunteers galore, ensuring attendees had as smooth an experience as possible. They spoke a variety of languages, from English to Russian to Kyrgyz to French, were happy to show people around (and translate!), and were well informed about the schedule… when possible.

A volunteer at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

This friendly volunteer, Sergei, took us around and introduced us to locals all throughout the various camps.

But, to be honest, being well informed was easier said than done. A definitive schedule was the only thing missing from the 2016 World Nomad Games… and it led to a lot of confusion.

Is this kok buru match between Russia and Kazakhstan or America and Kyrgyzstan? Are the eagle speed trials today or tomorrow?

International flags at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

Participants from 40 countries attended the games in 2016. Who knows how many countries there will be in 2018?

Part of it was due to a bit of bad weather at the start, and part of it was… well, typical Central Asian planning (or a lack thereof).

Paper signs on buildings at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

Very official: taped paper signs on one of the sporting halls.

In the end, it wasn’t a big deal—there was always something interesting going on, though it wasn’t always what you expected. On the positive side, volunteers were constantly surveying attendees on how the event could be improved. Expect much improved organization and infrastructure in 2018!

5. They’re epic. (Do you need any other reason?)

I’ve touched on this already, but it needs to be said again. The location and people of the World Nomad Games in 2016 were amazing, and the 2018 World Nomad Games are sure to be equally epic.

I won’t even bother trying to put words to this. Just take a look at these photos and see for yourself:

Young girls at the opening ceremony of the 2016 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan - Lost With Purpose

Young girls in costume at one of the (free) opening ceremonies

A yurt at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

A yurt camp representing a specific region of Kyrgyzstan at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

A yurt camp showing off the culture of the Talas region of Kyrgyzstan.

Kok buru at the 2016 World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Smoke effects at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

Getting lost in the haze at one of the opening events

Nomads cooking borsok, a Kyrgyz fried dough snack - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Cooking up some borsok, a popular Kyrgyz snack made from fried dough squares.

A performing woman riding a horse in Kyrgyzstan - Are the 2018 World Nomad Games worth the trip? - Lost With Purpose

Women in traditional clothes at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

Talk about (Kyrgyz) bling!

Two men preparing a sheep carcass at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

These guys insisted we come back the next day to barbecue the sheep with them.

A yurt camp at the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

Mountains in Kirchin Gorge, the backdrop of the 2016 World Nomad Games - Lost With Purpose

But really, how beautiful is this?

When are the next World Nomad Games? 

The World Nomad Games has something for everyone, whether you’re a family with young children, older traveler looking for the next big adventure, or backpacker looking to dip your toes into the world of nomads.

The 2018 World Nomad Games will be held on September 2-8, so be sure to block out some time for livin’ it up nomad style. September 2 is the day of the opening ceremony (for which you need tickets).

The 2018 World Nomad Games are slated to be held in Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan again. You can stay tuned for more information using the World Nomad Games website and Facebook page.

And, of course, keep on watching our blog! We also want check out the next World Nomad Games. Maybe we’ll see you there? 😉

 

Want more beautiful Kyrgyz goodness? Don’t miss our photo essay of our problematic horse trek to Song Kul lake.

The World Nomad Games event is one of the most epic displays of nomad culture on earth. Here's photographic proof of why you need to see the World Nomad Games in 2018.

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

40 thoughts on “Why you need to visit the World Nomad Games

    Clíodhna Ryan says:

    This looks amazing. Ill definitely try get to this in 2018. It looks like such an interesting way to find out about nomadic life in a short period of time. Your photos are amazing!

    It definitely is. Hopefully we can visit the next edition too. Perhaps we’ll meet there!

    Talgat says:

    Indeed, one of the biggest and brightest events in the world where you can become a nomad, living and feeding like a nomad for 1 week. Contact me please if are planing to visit 3rd World Nomad Games 2018 in september. I will be happy to help you!

    Lynn Jung says:

    This looks like such an incredible experience, and your photographs are beautiful! I think I have a new item for the bucket list.

    Thanks for the compliment. We were pleasantly surprised by how cool everything was. Perhaps we’ll see you there next edition.

    WanderingRedHead says:

    Looks interesting and I love that you are visiting this part of the world. Although I love cultural events, the animal lover in me would have a hard time watching some of this…headless goats! yikes!

    Haha well to be fair, they do use each part of the goat afterwards. Its fur is used for clothing and the meat is consumed by the winning team in a post-match feast. Nomads don’t like to waste things ?

    WanderingRedHead says:

    I would think not! LOL. That is good to hear:)

    Travels of a Bookpacker says:

    This looks so interesting and fun. Great write up for inspiring others! Definitely looking into it for 2018!

    Mission accomplished, then 😉

    Silvia says:

    I am SO many kinds of jealous reading this! Loooove your photos – they’re making me miss Kyrgyzstan like crazy!

    Thanks girl! Know what you mean—I have the same looking at my own photos! Clearly Kyrgyzstan is calling me to both of us 🙂

    Ellie Cleary says:

    Stunning photos as usual Alex and Sebastiaan! Looks like such an incredible experience that I’d never even heard of :-). Might just be one for the never ending bucket list!

    Makes sense that you haven’t heard of it, this was only the second World Nomad Games. But yes, the third should definitely be worth a spot on the endless bucket list!

    Amanda Williams says:

    As usual Alex your post does not disappoint! The photography really brings this post alive and I adore all of the traditional dress. The food looks pretty amazing too. I got a real sense of the festival atmosphere as I read this and have pinned it to my ‘Places I’d love to visit’ board! What an amazing experience.

    That’s too kind of you! Glad you liked it, and you should definitely try to visit next time around.

    Your pictures of this event are absolutely amazing!! Epic is the right word to describe this awesome event.Love all the colorful traditional clothes not to mention the amazing landscape.You guys did a great job in capturing the atmosphere of this.I think were going to have to go back to Turkey in 2018 😉

    Yeah I really think you’d enjoy it. We were so afraid it would be a tourist trap, but it was nothing of the sorts. Would be cool if we could meet each other there!

    Yane Azizah says:

    Great story! World Nomad Games definitely on my list for 2018, hopefully they keep the venue in Kyrgyzstan as the country also has been on my radar since last year.

    In our opinion, there’s a good chance. People are concerned about security in Turkey, and Turkey failed to show up at the last Games in Kyrgyzstan. We’ve heard both Turkey and Kyrgyzstan mentioned as potential hosts for the third Nomad Games, so who knows? Your wish may come true 😉

    Corry says:

    Looks amazeballs!! Will definitely go in 2018. Sidenote, when you are photographing locals, do you ask their permission first to get up close and personal or do you max zoom creepily from afar? Cos most locals I try to photograph are so shy and always hiding from me! Thanks

    Sebastiaan says:

    It definitely is. If you go, we’ll probably see you there.
    We always ask permission if we’re up close. Some photos are inevitably taken from afar, but when we can, we ask for permission. Luckily the people at the festival were all to willing to pose for a photo or two.

    Elsa says:

    I am planning to go to Kyrgysztan in September for it
    As you said you met with one of the volunteer there
    Do you know any volunteer organization who i can be contacted with for this event?

    Talgat says:

    You can contact me: [email protected]
    I have been a volunteer at World Nomad Games as a translator for International SMI/

    Farenexus says:

    Excellent article World Nomad Games now on my bucket list for this year. Hope to visit here soon with my friends.

    KC says:

    Hi do you know how I can go about obtaining tickets for the opening ceremonies?

    steffani a cameron says:

    Hey, thanks a lot for this post. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve been sending it to. I’ll be there in September of this year (I think the dates are 3rd to 9th) and your post is a huge reason why. I’m travel blogging at http://fullnomad.com, and will be probably staying in Kyrgyzstan for a month or six weeks, since it looks ridiculously cheap. If you have any other tips, lay ’em on me, but thanks for this. 😀

    Alex says:

    Always a pleasure to hear I’ve inspired someone’s travels! Hopefully I’ll run into you at the WNG this year, I also am planning on going. Not sure if I’ll be in Kyrgyzstan as long as you, though!

    Dan says:

    Enjoyable read. The tiny eaglets bit got to me. Fantastic photos, can’t wait to meet people that insist we barbecue a sheep with them! Myself and three friends are going this year. Looking forward to it.

    Alex says:

    Pretty sure no one can resist the fluffy goodness that is wee eaglets. May your WNG adventure be filled with adorable eaglets and damned tasty sheep barbecue!

    Selim says:

    It looked so amazing that I’m planning to go this year. Wanted to ask you if we need a travel agency or not and if it is worth staying 5 days around the games or 3 days is enough. Thought may be we can use the rest for sight seeing and see more of the nomadic life of Kyrgyzstan

    Thanks

    Alex says:

    Great to hear! No, you don’t need a travel agency – just make sure book a place to stay in Cholpon Ata ahead of time (things get full). You can figure everything else out from there.

    As for the amount of time, yes, I think 3 days is enough to see a healthy variety of things. I’d recommend going in the middle of the festival so that you can be sure everything is going on already. Last year they took a day or two to really get the fun events started.

    Itchy Feet says:

    Thank you for the post – both my husband and I are intrigued by the event, the people and the landscape. So, I am now investigating the possibility of attending the games in 2018 and other sights in the central Asian region.

    May need to get back to you after some research if I have any questions.

    Alex says:

    That’s what I love to hear! Hope your planning is going well 🙂

    Tumar says:

    You can contact me for more information will happy to help you
    thanks
    [email protected]

    Alice Favre says:

    We are really keen to go but have to be back in the UK for Friday evening. Is it still worth going?

    Alex says:

    I don’t think you need to stay for the entire festival to have a good experience – several days will be enough!

    Jordan says:

    Hi, does anyone have advice on where to stay for the 2018 World Nomad Games? Thanks

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