Horseback archery, Genghis Khan-era traditions and fermented horse milk. Welcome to the World Nomad Games.

The World Nomad Games are Central Asia’s greatest sporting event.

In recent years they have been hosted in Kyrgyzstan, attracting a global audience of those intrigued by the unique sports on offer and the country’s ancient Silk Road history.

It’s Central Asia’s equivalent of the Olympics. Those lucky enough to attend in person will attest that there is no other experience quite like it.

The sporting events are spectacular and intriguing. From horseback archery and wrestling to kok-boru (headless goat polo), these are events you won’t see anywhere else on the planet.

The ancient traditions of the region are showcased throughout the week as well. From music concerts and traditional dancing, the culture of Central Asia is celebrated and enjoyed.

Female horse archer at the World Nomad Games (Shutterstock)
Man competing in Tyiyn Enmei at the World Nomad Games (Shutterstock)

Teams come from 82 countries, including the United States and even Afghanistan. 

Unsurprisingly, the Central Asian nations always do well. The Kyrgyz are particularly strong in the horseback events.

In 2018, the host nation topped the medal table with 40 gold medals, 22 more than their nearest rivals, the Kazakhs.

The World Nomad Games are held every two years. When they are hosted in Kyrgyzstan, events are usually split between two key locations: the Hippodrome on the lakeside of Issyk Kul and the remote valley of Cholpon-Ata. 

The majority of the events take place at Cholpon-Ata. With its festival pitch of yurts and turrets bearing a flurry of international flags, it’s not unlike Glastonbury. Except the weather is much more reliable and the tickets are free.

Girl in Mongol warrior outfit during World Nomad Games 2018 (Shutterstock)
Kyrgyz woman singing during World Nomad Games 2018 (Shutterstock)

Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you’re going to love the food. 

Let your senses lead the way through a maze of spices and fresh clay-oven bakes. Specialties to look out for include manti (dumplings) and samsa (the closest thing to a pasty, only better).

If you’ve got a particularly strong stomach, consider washing it down with a swig of kumis (fermented horse milk). Na zdorovye!

The next games will be held in Turkey. They were scheduled to take part in September 2020. Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has seen them postponed until 2021.

The 4th World Nomad Games will be the first to hosted outside the ‘Stans. But organisers are adamant that the spirit of the games shall continue to flourish after the pandemic is over.

Young boy off to compete at the 2018 World Nomad Games (Ellie Kinsella)

For the latest updates on the next World Nomad Games, visit

Main image: Competing in Tyiyn Enmei (© Shutterstock)