Spring Festivals To Look Forward To

Spring is here. The weather is going back and forth a bit trying to decide which way to turn, but it’s finally here. In Korea, spring festivals can make for some of the prettiest photos of the year and if you’re not ready for it the festivals could really pass you by. The blossoms will bloom and a couple weeks later they’ll be gone and with it the spring festivals, since they’re mostly centered around those afore mentioned blooms. Three months with 13 weekends of festival options. Here is my list of top 8 festivals to attend, which are either festivals I’ve managed to attend and enjoyed, or festivals that have been added to my list of things to do this spring in Korea to get into the warm spirit. Take note the list is in order of date and not order of must see.

1. Gurye Sansuyu Festival

March 23, 2012- March 25, 2012

Gurye produces over 65% of Korea’s Sansuyu (Japanese Dogwood or Cornus Fruit) trees. The trees begin to flower in mid-February and from mid-March to the beginning of April the yellow flowers are on full display. The festival wouldn’t be complete without a hike on Mt. Jirisan to really appreciate the yellow splendor blanketing the mountain. Wian-ri (village) is the best place to see the flowers, which line the banks of a stream that travels through the center of it. The flowers from this tree are made into tea, alcohol and food all of which can be sampled at this festival. There are also programs including a ceremony for a good harvest, traditional music concert, singing contest, fireworks display and much more. I haven’t yet attended this festival but it’s made the list this year. These Sansuyu trees can be seen on many mountains and in parks here in the city, but it’d be a welcome trip to get out and celebrate the coming of spring.

Gurye Sansuyu Festival Visit Korea Website (English)

As a side note, if Gurye is too far it seems Icheon, only an hour out of the city, also holds a Sansuyu Festival. This year it is from April 6 to April 8.

Icheon Sansuyu Festival Visit Korea Website (English)

2. Cherry Blossom Festival

Throughout the month of April cherry blossoms will be blooming and all over the country as the blooms are bursting festivals will be in full swing. Find the one nearest you and get in the photo action with every other person in this country who can’t seem to stay away from these posies.

Jinhae Gunhangje Festival: April 1, 2012 – April 10, 2012

With over 2 million tourists from around the world flocking to this one, it is the largest cherry blossom festival in the country so be prepared for long lines and stopping every few feet as people take pictures of themselves in front of the trees.

Jinhae Gunhangje Festival Website (Korean)

Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival: April 6, 2012 – April 8, 2012

Not only can you see cherry blossoms here, if you have a lover you can also, it is said, determine your happy fate. If you walk down the ‘marriage road’ holding hands together you have fated yourselves to marriage and a happy life together forever.

Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival Website (English)

Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival: April 13, 2012 – April 17, 2012

If you can’t drag yourself out of the city, there is always Yeouido. The trees in full bloom and people walking in the middle of the street enjoying art exhibitions and street performances, while traffic is disrupted and forced to change course makes for a good weekend event. Try to get there as early as you can stand for less foot traffic and ideal photo situations, or get there later in the day for some good people watching amidst the flowers.

Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival(Korean)

(These are just some of the many places you can go to see these beautiful flowers so take advantage of the season and check them out, or find your own area awash with the light pinks and whites of the season.)

3. Jindo Miracle Sea Festival

April 7, 2012- April 9, 2012

This is a pretty spectacular festival or just place in general. A group of friends and I made our way down to this last year, even though it was cancelled due to the foot and mouth disease sweeping the nation at the time, and the town still put on as much as they could to the delight of the people that made the trip. Once a year in Jindo the sea levels drop just enough for a road to appear from the mainland to a nearby island. You can buy leg length boots for cheap and make your way across and back in the 45 minutes that the water allows you to. Most of the Koreans that are there will get out and start digging furiously to get as many shell fish as they can for dinner while the foreigners just want to make out and back in time. The whole scene is really something special. Jindo Festival Article from last year

Jindo Miracle Sea Festival Website (English)

4. Nonsan Strawberry Festival

April 13, 2012 – April 15, 2012

Nonsan is the largest strawberry producing region in the country and this festival is celebrating that fact. Taking only an hour and a half to get there from the city it is a perfect day trip destination from Seoul. There are huge strawberries to buy, a strawberry “museum” to walk through, statues of strawberries, strawberry jams and anything and everything else with strawberries you could think of. The highlight, however, is the trip away from the festival grounds, with buses provided by the planners, to the strawberry fields where one can pick as many strawberries as one can devour. Strawberry Pickin’ Success from last year

Nonsan Strawberry Festival (English)

5. Gwangalli Eobang Festival

April 27, 2012 – April 29, 2012

If you need a reason to get down south to Busan for a weekend, here it is. This festival is celebrating both the spring and the ocean. You can take part in programs such as casting nets into the ocean, catching live fish with your hands, making ships out of recycled material or just watch the concerts and programs that will be on display at Gwangalli beach for you all weekend.

Gwangalli Eobang Festival Website (English)

6. Damyang Bamboo Festival

May 1, 2012 – May 6, 2012

Damyang is a city that has consistently made the list of places I want to see, but just can’t find the time to see it. Here’s to this year. With 2.4 kilometers of bamboo and everything from log rafting and water bicycling to a bamboo musical instrument performance and bamboo sword championship there doesn’t seem to be anything missing from this festival. It takes about 3 hours by train to get there from Seoul.

Bamboo Festival Website

7. Boseong Green Tea Festival

May 16, 2012 – May 20, 2012

If you’ve ever wanted to see where all that green tea you’re drinking in Korea comes from, here’s where you should be headed. In Boseong, you can walk through the rolling fields of green tea, pick your own and drinks as much as you would like. It takes about five hours to get there by bus, so while you’re there make sure to take advantage of other attractions in the area. If walking around fields of green tea gets old, you can head to nearby Yulpo beach and bathe in green tea and sea water, among other things.

Green Tea Festival (English)

8. Lotus Lantern Festival

May 18, 2012 – May 20,2012

This is a must see for anyone in the city over this weekend. Celebrating Buddha’s birthday, this festival goes all out with street performances, chances to make your own lotus lantern, be it big or small, talk with Buddhists, create your own Buddhist prints and the most fantastic parade on Saturday night that stretches from Dongdaemun to Jogyesa Temple in Jongno. Get there early to grab a seat in the chairs provided on the side of the street for some great views. Lotus Lantern Parade last year

Lotus Lantern Festival (English)

Get your calendar out, find some dates to allow for some spring festival fiestas and hopefully with the publishing of this I will also get in the mood to get back out there and stop hibernating the months away. Here’s to flowers and sun and green grass.

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