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Seasonal Highlights In South Korea – When To Go

November 30, 2020 Visit North Asia No Comments

South Korea has four very distinct seasons that visually transform the country and colourful events that go with them. If you’re chasing the autumnal leaves as they turn gold, red and orange, the magnificent cherry blossoms, if you are keen to enjoy the snowy mountain villages and ski slopes or test Busan’s waves and relax by the beach – then planning is everything.

Spring: March-May

With the arrival of spring comes the cherry blossoms, forsythias and azaleas. The sweet scent of cherry blossoms permeates the air in both the heart of the city and the quietest of rural villages. Here are some ways to enjoy spring in South Korea.

The Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival is where the nation’s first cherry blossoms can be seen. The festival features a cherry blossom photo zone and is designed to be enjoyed day or night with the use of a delicate lighting system.

The magnificent sight of giant cherry blossom trees can be found at Seoul Forest, considered one of Seoul’s best parks. Visitors can enjoy a light walk or picnic under the gently fluttering cherry blossoms and may see deer and butterflies at the Ecological Forest while at the park.

The cherry blossoms cultivated at Seoul National Cemetery resemble willow trees with their branches hanging down towards the ground as they age – simply a waterfall of flowing flowers, other spring flowers such as forsythias and fringe trees are equally beautiful. In April, the annual Seoul National Cemetery Spring Blossom Event is held, offering various entertaining and educational programs.

Each April, the entire city of Jinhae is filled with cherry blossoms, but the Yeojwacheon Stream area is renowned for having the most beautiful. Yeojwacheon Starlight Festival is an evening event where Yeojwacheon Stream and Romance Bridge are decorated with illuminations and lights.

Gyeonghwa Station is a cherry blossom-themed train station that operates during the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival period. The train runs through an 800-metre-long cherry blossom tunnel forming a perfect backdrop for amazing photos.

Jangboksan Sculpture Park is located at the foot of Mount Jangboksan. The park features sculptures and other installations designed by famous artists and is worth visiting in spring for scenic walks or picnics.

The Jeju Fire Festival is a traditional field-burning ceremony to pray for health and a good harvest in the coming year. The festival offers programs of various genres for all visitors to experience Jeju’s traditional culture.

A three-kilometre-long pathway appears each year around the end of February and mid-June of the lunar calendar in the seabed between Modo Island and Jindo Island at Hoedong-ri due to a unique build-up of pebbles and silt, during the lowest point of the ebb tide. This sea parting phenomenon draws in visitors during the Jindo Miracle Sea Road Festival to see and walk 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.

Boseong is the largest producer of green tea in the country, and the tea fields create beautiful landscapes that often appear in Korean dramas. At Boseong Green Tea Festival, some of the most popular festival events are the hands-on experience programs like picking tea leaves, making tea, sampling green tea snacks or participating in a traditional tea ceremony.

Summer: June – August

As temperatures rise, people tend to escape the heat by heading to the beach, mountains or South Korea’s waterparks. Korea is surrounded on three sides by water, giving it plenty of beaches in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Hyeopjae Beach is one of the best beaches on Jeju Island for swimmers, since the waters are shallow with no sudden drops. Tiny shells in the sand give the beach a silver sheen and the water is so clear you can see your toes! Five minutes-walk from the beach is Hallim Park, which is landscaped with an abundance of subtropical plants and topiaries and serves as a cool escape. A pleasant beach with plenty of space, Hyeopjae is all the more beautiful for its view of black basalt rocks to one side and Biyangdo Island standing out in the distance.

The Buyeo Seodong Lotus Festival is held at Gungnamji, the first man-made pond in the nation in Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do. Visitors can view a range of lotus flower varieties, including red and white lotuses as well as water lilies. At night, the pond is illuminated with lights and sculptures. The most popular event at the festival is the performance showcasing a royal love story. Other activities include lotus food tasting and participating in a lotus leaf tea ceremony.

At the Boryeong Mud Festival, in Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do in July, visitors jump into a huge pool of mud for two reasons fun and wellness, as Boryeong mud is well-known for its excellent quality and efficacy. This fun, action-packed festival is popular because when you are not jumping in the mud you can enjoy mud massages, coloured-mud body painting and mud soap-making.

The Busan Sea Festival is a huge event that combines several events and festivals. Concerts on the beach are a highlight of the festival, along with the night pool party, water carnival and Gwangalli dance party.

In Korea, one of the most popular summer desserts is Bingsu – a dessert made of shaved ice usually topped with red beans, fruits, rice cake pieces, sweetened milk, ice cream and fruit syrup.

Hike the Jeju Olle Trail which is a series of hiking routes around the volcanic island and Natural World Heritage listed island of Jeju. There are 26 trails (425km network) in total which means you could walk the circumference of the island in 1 month! The philosophy of the pathway is near-spiritual – that of slow and meandering mindful travel. Pick up a passport that features details of the trails and special sites and you can collect the stamps to record each path completed.

Head to the mountains to escape the heat – specifically the Wolchulsan National Park where you can hike through Korea’s smallest national park over a vertigo-inducing 52m-high bridge spanning two ridges.

Try the romantic campground The Moving, in Busan which has cute retro, pastel-coloured caravans surrounded by fairy lights strung from the trees, outdoor swimming pools as well as an amazing view of the sea. There’s even a bar so you can enjoy the sunset cocktails.

Autumn: September – November

Temperatures start to drop in Korea as September rolls around, bringing a gentle breeze and providing the perfect atmosphere to travel. As autumn is a season of harvest, festivals during this time of year offer plenty to eat and some of the most fascinating elements of Korean history, culture and arts.

Featuring diverse lantern displays floating on the river, Jinju Namgang Yudeung (Lantern) Festival provides visitors with the chance to make their own wish lanterns and send them downstream. With traditional lanterns from all over the world on display, the beauty of thousands of lanterns lighting up the night is very enchanting.

The largest film festival in Asia, Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is the must-see event for movie buffs. Major theatres in Busan screen domestic and international films in a multitude of genres, providing a variety of options to choose from.

Namdo Food Festival is an event where visitors can taste the local food of Jeollanam-do, Korea’s southern region best known for its delicious food. The festival is the most sought after by gourmets as it offers regional specialties, including temple food for the health conscious.

Lanterns light up a 1.2 km long stretch of trail along the Cheonggyecheon Stream from Cheonggye Plaza to Supyogyo Bridge during the Seoul Lantern Festival. Highlights include floating wish lanterns and making traditional lanterns, LED lamp humidifiers and moon-shaped lamps.

The fleeting nature of fall foliage means planning a trip is not an exact science; Naejangsan National Park tends to start changing colours around mid-October. It reaches its peak in early November before fading out around the middle of the month. Both Naejangsa Temple and the Uhwajeong Pavilion surrounded by the vibrant foliage reflecting off the waters of the pond create a near perfect scene. The best way to get an overhead shot of the mountainside and the pavilion is by riding Naejangsan Cable Car.

Namiseom Island in Chuncheon is the famous filming location for the drama, “Winter Sonata (2000).” The place was not originally an island, but formed as a result of being surrounded by water when the Cheongpyeong Dam was built. The island is small enough to be explored in half a day and the many walking paths provide the perfect way to enjoy the seasonal beauty.

Winter: December – February

Winter in South Korea provides the opportunity to hike spectacularly snow-capped mountains, camp under the glittery winter stars, and of course skiing and snowboarding, which are the highlight of winter sports. Skiers from around the world are attracted to Korea’s exciting night skiing with many ski resorts in the country staying open until dawn.

A trip to eco-city Pyeongchang provides crisp mountain air and beautiful scenery. The area offers outdoor activities year-round, but the best time to visit is in winter, when the mountains are blanketed in snow. Visitors have the pick of many ski resorts and winter festivals in the area. Don’t miss Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival.

Phoenix Pyeongchang Resort is one of Pyeongchang’s many ski resorts. In addition to being the host venue for snowboard competitions, the resort features many slopes, including some certified by the International Ski Federation.

Alpensia Resort is located in the beautiful and pure nature of Daegwallyeong mountain pass. With a name meaning ‘Fantastic Alps of Asia’, the resort is popular year-round. It is also home to Alpensia Ocean 700, a year-round indoor water park. The winter sports section consists of a variety of ski slopes and a ski jump tower that was used for the ski jumping competition of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The ski jump tower also serves as an observatory and visitors can take a monorail up to view the beautiful scenery.

Yongpyong Resort has the longest run in the nation, drawing many visitors every year. The fun doesn’t stop when the ski season ends; from spring to autumn, guests can enjoy golfing and extreme sports. The mountains are especially beautiful for hiking in spring and autumn. Take the gondola to the peak and enjoying the fresh air as you hike down.

Well worth a visit is the Woljeongsa Temple which boasts a history of over one thousand years with a stunning backdrop of the Odaesan Mountain. It has many national treasures, including an octagonal nine-story stone pagoda and those that have been excavated are preserved in Woljeongsa Museum, a must if you are visiting the temple.

Seoulland Sledding Hills located within close proximity of Seoul in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, provides the ultimate experience for a family winter outing. The park’s concept focuses on cartoon characters making it popular among children. At the nearby playground you can enjoy making a snowman or engage in a snowball fight. The playground also has a snow sledding area exclusively for toddlers and young children.

Everland’s Snow Buster, located in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, has a wide variety of high-speed sledding runs. The park offers a family course, safe for little children; the racing course, with a height of 120 meters; and the express course, fun for all! To reach the top of the run, simply use the lift. Heaters are placed around the area for riders to warm up.

Lotte World Indoor Ice Skating Rink is located on the third basement floor of Lotte World in Seoul, and is one of the major amusement parks in Korea. Despite being underground, the giant glass ceiling lets in natural sunlight, while at night, moving laser lights make the ice rink come alive with a festive ambience. Around the ice rink are restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy a hot chocolate or dinner while watching the skaters.

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