While entry is free, make sure to bring money for food and ID to register at the gates.
Great for: Culture, Traditional Sport, Archery, Equestrian Sport
If you’re looking for something in Istanbul that’s a little different, great for any age group, and yet a really good local cultural experience; the annual Etnospor Festivali (Ethno-Sports Festival of Turkic Sports) is an amazing opportunity! The festival is a full-on celebration of Turkishness and its Central Asian roots, centering on traditional Central Asian sport with loads of food, music, costume, crafts, and games to watch and take part in.
Atlı Akrobası – Horseback acrobatics. The show is put on by a team of Kyrgyz acrobats who are simply stunning. I was genuinely shocked to see what these guys could do on the back of a galloping horse!
Atlı Okçuluğu – Horseback archery. This one is an actual tournament and not just a show. Amazing to see the horse-back archers that made the Central Asians so successful hundreds of year ago in action as they try to hit sets of targets at high speeds.
Yaya Okçuluğu – See the original compound bow in action as people in traditional costumes from different regions compete on foot.
Kökbörü – This is really one of the strangest sports and one of the more exciting. Two teams on horseback fight over a stuffed goat hide at high speed! You can easily get a sense of Kökbörü’s war-game roots when watching the tactics of the players as they race, fight, and work to outmaneuver one another on horseback.
Atlı Cirit – Another war-game where teams on horse-back throw short javelins with rubber ends at each other. Watching players snatching a javelin out of the air at full gallop is pretty amazing!
Yağlı Güreşi – This is probably one of Turkey’s more famous events. Men wrestling in calf-skin pants covered in oil put their hands down one another’s pants in an attempt to gain some grip.
Şalvar Güreşi – Wrestling in a Şalvar (for this event meaning a garment that looks like a house-coat with shorts). Two opponents try to throw one another to the ground.
Kuşak Güreşi – wrestling where two opponents hold one another by the belt. Apparently originating with the Turkic peoples of Crimea.
Other things to do:
Check out the Yurts – Apart from the main events and shows there are also a large number of traditional yurts set up representing different regions from within Turkey and Central Asia showing off aspects of their own specific culture, tradition, and cuisine. Mixed in with these are displays of traditional crafts such as a blacksmith, butter-churning etc.
Mangala – Another game you can try, mangala is a centuries old strategy board game played by Turkic people groups.
Mas Güreşi – This is one you can try. Basically a seated tug of war with a stick.
Aşık Oyunları – A traditional game where players throw colored bones into a circle for points.
Archery Battle – Anyone who comes to the event can make a team, put on a paintball mask and some protective equipment, and shoot it out with another team of archers. Think paintball with bows and arrows!
Shopping – There are also a good number of booths dedicated to selling handicrafts with everything from bows and quivers to jewelry and clothing.
How To Get There
The event takes place at the Yenikapı open air convention area (Yenikapı Miting Alanı), which is a 5 minute walk from the Yenikapı metro station making it an easy place to get to from nearly any point in the city by public transit. There is a special bus to the festival grounds from the metro station but it takes just as long to walk as take the bus if you’re already at the metro station.
As the event is on a fairly major route in the city getting to it by car is also easy and there is lots of parking available.
While there is plenty of free food to sample it’s really just for sampling and not a full meal. There is, however, a great selection of shops set up selling food without much of the usual festival mark up in the prices.
Water is handed out for free all over the place but it may still be wise to bring your own as there is little shade and potentially lots of sun.
While the event is VERY local and there are no announcements or signs in English there are some volunteers who will help translate. They can be spotted wearing shirts that say “Ask Me”.
While events like this have happened in the past this huge and well-funded incarnation is a relatively recent annual event that will hopefully be able to continue for some time. Expect it to take place some time in the spring once the weather is more favorable to outdoor events. In 2017 it ran from May 11 – 14.
Unfortunately there seems to be very little information in English available online. For more information in Turkish visit the website at:
Or download the app by searching “Etnospor” wherever it is you download your apps.
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.