The best region to enjoy winter in Korea is definitely Gangwon-do. When Hwacheoncheon Stream, located in Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do freezes in winter, locals and tourists alike flock to the stream, carve out a hole in the ice, and begin ice fishing for sancheoneo (Masou salmon). The trout are known to live only in high quality fresh waters. The excitement of fishing in the cold is so great that some visitors even choose to jump into the icy waters of the pool built beside the stream wearing shorts and a tee-shirt for barehanded fishing. The plethora of fun activities with snow and ice has made Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival one of the ultimate winter destinations!
Sancheoneo fishing is the main activity at the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. There are three ways for visitors to fish at the festival: ice fishing on the frozen stream, lure fishing in the flowing waters, and bare-hand fishing in a pool. In addition, visitors can take the fish they caught to be served fried or in raw slices for a fee in the food centers.
Barehanded fishing is perhaps the most exciting activity at the festival. This style of fishing is perfect for visitors who literally want to jump all in. Registration is a simple process on-site, and each participant is given a festival tee-shirt and shorts to change into. After the event is over, participants may thaw out their feet with a warm foot bath.
If you don’t feel up to the challenge, you can always enjoy ice fishing on Hwacheoncheon Stream. This is the most representative event of the festival, taking place on ice that is at least 30 centimeters thick. The festival also prepares an exclusive section of ice for the use of international visitors to increase their chances of catching fish.
Snow and ice activities are another core part of Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. The thrilling sled ride down the hill and the ice sleighs are always big hits. Sports enthusiasts and active people will enjoy the many winter sports experiences, such as ice soccer, curling, bobsleigh, and more. A zipline set up over the frozen waters is also available for the more daring visitors.
The excitement of Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival can also be felt throughout the town of Hwacheon. Visitors can find sancheoneo-shaped lanterns made from hanji paper and beautiful displays of LED lights at the Lantern Street Festival and light tunnels. Furthermore, large-scale ice sculptures are on display at Hwacheoneo Cinema, making it the world’s largest indoor ice sculpture plaza. There are also other festivities to enjoy including traditional Korean folk games and a photo zone. Throughout the festival grounds and city, restaurants that serve raw and fried fish, as well as tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake), fish cakes, and other sweet and savory fritters can be found. This is a perfect time to try some local specialty products.
* This column was last updated in January 2020, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.