Photo: Beautiful cherry blossom railroad at Gyeonghwa Station during Jinhae Gunhangje Festival
Starting as early as March, the cold winds and freezing temperatures of winter begin to subside as spring draws near. In Korea, a wide array of events celebrating the season are held throughout the country, where many activities take to the outdoors thanks to the milder weather.
The return of the warmer weather not only brings countless beautiful wild flowers into bloom, but also gives families a chance to spend precious time with their loved ones through all the various activities that can be taken advantage of outdoors. Read on for the list of festivals that exuberates the lovely spring atmosphere in Korea.
The beauty of spring coming into bloom!
From the beginning of March when the air is still cool, spring announces its arrival in Korea with a blanket of white and yellow blossoms spread like a quilt all over the nation. The warmer season sees a host of festivals take place in Korea where visitors can stroll amongst the blossoming spring flowers and see the country at its finest.
- Period: March 18-27, 2016
- Venue: Seomjin Village, Gwangyang-si, Jeollanam-do
- Description: The Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival has been a popular spring flower festival destination since 1997. As the festival begins, the Seomjin Village transforms into a gorgeous landscape of apricot (ume) flowers that burst into bloom. An approximate 1.1 million visitors are recorded each year with about 700,000 visiting the festival period.
- Period: March 19-27, 2016
- Venue: Jirisan Mountain Hot Spring area, Sandong-myeon, Gurye-gun, Jeollanam-do
- Description: Taking place in the hot spring area of Jirisan Mountain, visitors at the Gurye Sansuyu Festival can enjoy a vibrant taste of spring with the yellow cornelian cherry flowers. Various hands-on programs like cornus fruit liquor making and cornus fruit makgeolli (Korean rice wine) sampling are also featured, along with a number of performances, such as pungmulnori (farmers' music performances), traditional Korean music, and fireworks displays that will be held throughout the festival period.
- Period: April 1–3, 2016
- Venue: Hwagae Market area, Hadong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
- Description: Organized in 1993, this cherry blossom festival is held in Hwagae Market, a traditional open-air market situated on the border between Hadong in Gyeongsangnam-do and Gurye in Jeollanam-do. In particular, the cherry tree blossoms along the six kilometer road from the market to Ssanggyesa Temple are a fantastic sight to behold. It is believed that if a couple walks down this road holding hands, they will grow old together in an everlasting relationship. For that, it is sometimes referred to the “wedding road” as well.
- Period: Early April, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Dorip-ri, Gyeongsa-ri, Songmal-ri and Baeksa-myeon, Icheon-si, Gyeonggi-do
- Description: Home to 100-year-old wild sansuyu trees, the venue of the Icheon Baeksa Sansuyu Blossom Festival is a leading producer of sansuyu (cornus fruit) trees in Korea. In spring, the sansuyu flowers are in full bloom to decorate the whole village in yellow; while in autumn, the red fruits signal the changing of the season. During the festival period, a variety of performances and cornus fruit-related hands-on program would be offered to all visitors.
- Period: Early to mid April, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Cheongpungho Lake area, Cheongpung-myeon, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do
- Description: The Cheongpunghoban Cherry Blossom Festival takes place along the 13-kilometer road by Cheongpungho Lake, where thousands of mature cherry trees stand tall and proud. Various shows and performances are scheduled, including a cherry blossom street concert, a magic show, and a dance parade. Visitors can also sample some medicinal herbal teas and food made from wild herbs. Nearby attractions include the Cheongpung Cultural Property Complex, a TV drama filming location, and bungee jumping sites.
- Period: April 1-10, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Jungwon Rotary, Jinhae-gun, Changwon-si, Gyeongsangnam-do
- Description: This festival takes place in early April when the cherry tree flowers are in full bloom. The Jinhae Gunhangje Festival draws in more than 2 million tourists every year, and visitors are greeted by showers of cherry flower petals as they pass through a tunnel of cherry trees. There are various events not to be missed, such as the Jinhae International Military Band & Honor Guard Festival and fireworks show.
- Period: April 1-10, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
- Description: The Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival is where the nation’s first cherry blossom can be seen. The festival features a cherry blossom photo zone as well as indigenous wild flower and orchid exhibits, allowing visitors the chance to appreciate the various flora that are unique to the region. With the installation of a lighting system, the festival can now be enjoyed fully day or night.
- Period: April 1-10, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Surrounding areas of Yunjung-ro & Yeouido (behind the National Assembly Building), Seoul
- Description: The Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival takes place every April when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The street behind the National Assembly Building, called Yunjung-ro, is lined with about 1,400 cherry trees and is the most famous cherry blossom street in Seoul. Visitors can take a stroll along the Hangang River through a tunnel of these majestic trees. There are also cultural street performances, a flower decoration exhibit, and a photo exhibit.
- Period: April 16 - May 5, 2016
- Venue: Sinon-ri, Nam-myeon, Taean-gun, Chungcheongnam-do; Nature World
- Description: Selected as one of the world's top five tulip festivals, Taean Tulip Festival showcases about 1.2 million tulips of 300 different species. Visitors can see tulips in various stages of development, thanks to the advanced system introduced in the Netherlands. In addition to tulips, visitors can see lupine, foxglove, lilies and other advanced breeds of spring flowers.
Mouthwatering food festivals
Food is a reflection of a nation's culture, and spring is the very season to taste great foods in Korea made of wild greens and fresh vegetables, all of which are vibrant and packed with nutrition. Some local delicacies, such as seafood caught in coastal regions, are only produced in spring. During this time, an abundance of food festivals take place throughout the nation, celebrating unique and delicious local specialties.
- Period: February 27 - March 1, 2016
- Venue: Uljin Hupohang Port, Hanmaeum Plaza, Uljin-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
- Description: The festival is a celebration of Uljin's local specialties, the snow crab and red snow crab. Sales and sampling of snow crabs are available, along with various hands-on programs such as making of a huge bibimbap with snow crab meat, snow crab catching experience, auctions and more.
- Period: March 31 - April 3, 2016
- Venue: Gangguhang Port, Yeongdeok-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
- Description: Yeongdeok has long been known for its abundance of snow crabs. During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the region presented snow crabs to the king as a tribute. The festival is held at Gangguhang Port and event programs include walking on the East Coast Blue Road, snow crab fishing, and more.
- Period: May, 2016 (Planned)
- Venue: Area of Seongbukdong-gil Road in Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
- Description: The Seongbuk Culture Diversity Festival is held to commemorate World Day for Cultural Diversity, which seeks to achieve understanding and respect for cultural diversity among ethnic groups, nations, and people groups. One of its distinguishing features compared to other regional food festivals is that its main participants are comprised of foreign workers and international marriage immigrants, not professional cooks. Various cultural assets situated in Seongbuk-dong are also connected to the festival.
Festivals filled with culture and artistic fun
Koreans treasure their long history and rich cultural heritage. The season of spring brings an array of festivals to celebrate Korean culture and ensure it is passed down to future generations. The festivals cover a diversity of genres, and visitors to these attractions can make use of good opportunities to both watch and participate in the living culture on display at these festivals.
- Period: March 3-6, 2016
- Venue: Saebyeol Oreum in Bongseong-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju Self-Governing Province
- Description: The Jeju Fire Festival is traditional field-burning ceremony to pray for health and a good harvest in the coming year. The festival offers about 60 programs of various genres for all visitors to participate and learn about Jeju’s traditional culture.
- Period: April 7-10, 2016
- Venue: Historical Site of Dr. Wangin, Yeongam Pottery Museum, and Sangdaepo National Historical Park in Yeongam-gun, Jeollanam-do
- Description: This festival celebrates the achievements of Korea's Dr. Wangin, who travelled to Japan over 1,600 years ago to spread knowledge, culture and art. The festival takes place in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, highlighted by various performances and cultural events in related themes.
- Period: April 9-12, 2015
- Venue: Daegaya Museum, Goryeong-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
- Description: The Daegaya Experience Festival gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the ancient kingdom of Daegaya (42-562). The festival offers a wide range of activities, including arts and crafts programs like bow making, pottery making, wood carving, art engraving, and postcard making. Visitors can also experience the lifestyle of the era through a replica village representing the Daegaya Kingdom.
- Period: April 30 - May 8, 2016
- Venue: Mungyeongsaejae (Open Set & Pottery Museum) in Mungyeong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
- Description: The festival aims to improve the regional culture and make Mungyeong a traditional Korean cultural brand. Beautifully nestled at the foot of the Baekdudaegan Mountain range, Mungyeong abounds with high quality soil and firewood that produces fine and relatively affordable ceramic goods.
- Period: May 4–8, 2016
- Venue: Multiple locations in Yangnyeongsi, Jung-gu, Daegu
- Description: A tradition dating back 350 years, the Daegu Yangnyeongsi (herbal medicine market) was an international market where herbal medicines from China, Russia, Europe, and other regions were sold. The festival features the use of traditional and medicinal herbs to cure illnesses, making it a historical attraction and remarkable opportunity for international visitors to experience the traditional medicine culture.
- Period: May 4–8, 2016
- Venue: 775, Nokcha-ro, Boseong-eup, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do (1200, Bongsan-ri)
- Description: Boseong is the largest producer of tea in the country, in which its beautiful landscape also serves as a drama filming location. At the Boseong Green Tea Festival, some of the most popular festival events (most of which are held in the green tea fields) are the hands-on experience programs like picking tea leaves, making tea, and sampling green tea snacks. Other events include the tea exhibition and a number of scheduled celebratory performances held during the festival period.
- Period: May 6-8, 2016
- Venue: Areas of Jogyesa Temple in Jonggak, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Dongguk University stadium, Bongeunsa Temple in Samseong-dong and Gwanghwamun Square (only during lighting ceremony)
- Description: The Lotus Lantern Festival is held annually on Buddha's Birthday (April 8th on the lunar calendar). Major events are held at Buddhist temples in several districts across Seoul. One of the most popular events is the making and hanging of lotus-shaped lanterns, a ritual that has been performed for as long as the city of Seoul has existed. The festival kicks off with the lighting of a jangeumdeung, a massive lantern that symbolizes Buddhism and Buddha's Birthday. Other major events include an exhibition of traditional lanterns, a lantern parade that starts at Dongdaemun and ends at Insa-dong and Jogyesa Temple, as well as several Buddhist culture and art programs.
- Period: May 26-29, 2016
- Venue: Festival Theater Momzit, downtown area of Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do
- Description: As one of the leading performing arts festivals in Korea, the Chuncheon Mime Festival has steadily gained international recognition. The festival showcases various genres of performances by hundreds of mime groups and artists from Korea and overseas, including mime, music, dance, installation art, and short films.
After months of cold winter weather, Korea's many springtime festivals are the perfect opportunity to explore the country, enjoy the outdoors, and learn new things about Korea. Here are some other spring festivals to enjoy.
Photo credit:The Office of the Seoul International Marathon
- Period: March 20, 2016
- Venue: Gwanghwamun Square to Seoul Sports Complex
- Description: The Seoul International Marathon attracts over 30,000 participants each year. The 42.2 kilometer course crosses the heart of the city and brings traffic to a halt. Interested participants may also choose to take part in Seoul Challenge 10k, a separate 10 kilometer marathon starting from Ttukseom Hangang Park and running all the way to Seoul Sports Complex.
- Period: April 7-10, 2016
- Venue: Hoedong-ri, Uisin-myeon, Modo Island area, Jindo-gun, Jeollanam-do
- Description: Due to a unique build-up of pebbles and silt, during the lowest point of the ebb tide, a 3 kilometer-wide pathway appears in the seabed between Modo Island and Jindo Island at Hoedong-ri. This sea parting phenomenon is well known both domestically and internationally, drawing in swarms of visitors to see this miraculous sight. This miracle path can only be seen for one hour a day. While waiting for the tide to ebb, visitors can take part in a diversity of cultural and hands-on programs.
- Period: May 3-8, 2016
- Venue: Juknokwon (Bamboo Garden) area and Gwanbangjerim Forest, Damyang-gun, Jeollanam-do
- Description: Located within a vast bamboo forest, this festival is full of activities celebrating the beauty and function of the bamboo plant. Diverse event programs and hands-on activities such as a drawing competition, bamboo basket fishing, traditional bamboo crafts, and many more are part of the festival. After working up an appetite, visitors can please their palate with some famous cuisines and authentic foods found only in Damyang. Enjoy the fresh air and atmosphere by simply taking a leisure walk in the bamboo forest.
* This column was last updated in February 2016, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting. Festival dates and schedules are subject to change.
<Last updated on February 5, 2016>