10 Winter Festivals in Korea: Snow, Lights, Ice & More!
Winter doesn’t have to mean hibernation for months while the temperatures become frigid.
In a country where there’s no end in sight to festivals, of course there is plenty to partake in from December to February. From snow festivals to sunrise festivals and more, here are some highlights in the coming months. Stay warm but get out and about and enjoy the winter season!
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1. The Herb Island Lighting Festival (허브아일랜드 가을불빛동화축제)
November 14, 2015 ~ April 30, 2016
Pocheon Herb Island holds a “Light & Fairy Tale” Festival each year with millions of LED lights all around the vicinity to stun the eyes give people the holiday ambiance they might be looking for. Three hundred Santas sit stand and play in Santa’s Village too for those people really looking to get into the Christmas spirit. This is the place to visit to get your Santa and light fix all in one location AND it’s also host to a spa and numerous pensions so it’d also be a great area for a leisurely weekend away with friends or family.
2. The Garden of the Morning Calm Lighting Festival (오색별빛정원전)
December 4, 2015 ~ March 13, 2016
Just an hour outside of Seoul nestled in the mountains sits the curated botanical gardens of The Garden of the Morning Calm. The park boasts more than 5,000 plants in the gardens and scenic walkways that are beautiful all year round. During the holiday season though, the gardens are decorated with six million LED lights strung this way and that and hung here and there from the trees to the grass and between sparkling and shining the night away for the biggest festival of lights in Korea. The lights are lit from 5:30PM to 8:00PM everyday and extended to 11:00PM on Saturdays.
NOTE: Some other lighting festivals include the World Nightview Fantasy Lighting Festival at a miniature theme park, the Light Festival at the Ansan Starlight Village Photo Land and the Byeokchoji Botanical Garden in Paju has also jumped on the band wagon and has a Garden Lighting Festival as well.
3. The Pyeongchong Trout Festival (평창송어축제)
December 18, 2015 ~ January 31, 2016
For something a little different but with loads of appeal, why not head to a fish festival where you can dive into some freezing cold water and catch fish with your bare hands? Okay, you don’t really dive, but you can get into a large pool of cold water and try to catch those fish before your fingers become too numb. If that’s not appealing, I don’t know what is! There’s also lure fishing if you don’t want to get wet, folk programs, ice sledding and sliding, games, ATVs to ride, snow rafting and more. What doesn’t sound fun about all of that?
4. The Gyeongpo Sunrise Festival (경포 해돋이축제)
December 31, 2015 ~ January 1, 2016
Gyeongpo is especially beautiful during the summer months when the beach beckons but in the winter the beach beckons for other reasons. The sunrise over the coast here and just to the north in Jeongdongjin are spectacular and traditionally the New Years is celebrated by welcoming the beautiful first sun rays of the year early in the morning. To start your year off right and in true Korean fashion, head to Gangneung to wish for a prosperous year and to have fun at the many events held at the same time. While there, don’t forget to eat their specialty tofu and visit their very quirky gramophone museum.
5. The Homigot Sunrise Festival (호미곶 한민족 해맞이축전)
December 31, 2015 ~ January 1, 2016
Homigot is probably the most famous location for the sunrise festival on the first of the new year. Homigot is located on the easternmost point of the Korean peninsula and as such is the first place to spot the sunrise thus the popularity. While the sunrise itself is pretty spectacular, this fest also offers up cultural performances, a fire show and a concert at sunrise to add to the whole experience. Visitors should also try some local delicacies like guamegi (dried herring or mackerel pike) and makgeolli (rice wine).
6. Jirisan Namwon Baraebong Snowflake Festival (지리산 남원 바래봉 눈축제)
Usually from January through February. (Check the website for updated dates.)
Fifty days of snow sledding and snowman making, kite flying, snow ball fights and more events on the spectacularly beautiful picturesque snow covered Baraebong Peak in Namwon are calling all those people looking for fun in the snow this winter. Jirisan is famous to trekkers and hikers the country over, but in the winter, everyone is invited to enjoy the white ambiance that blankets the mountains.
7. Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival (얼음나라 화천 산천어축제)
January 9, 2016 ~ January 31, 2016
This mountain trout festival takes place in the first place in Korea that freezes over every winter. Wouldn’t you be ecstatic if you lived in a place known for freezing? Of course ice fishing, ice sledding and sliding and catching fish with bare hands in a pool of frigid water is on the agenda for anyone attending this event. Take that fish and grill it up on nearby grills in tents and enjoy your catch. Dress warmly, but this is so worth the trip.
Where: Hwacheon-eup, Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do (강원 화천군 화천)
8. Taebaek Mountain Snow Festival (태백산눈축제)
January 22, 2016 ~ January 31, 2016
Large snow sculptures look over the crowds of tourists to this venue and welcome visitors as they enter the winter wonderland in Taebaek. After viewing the sculptures the pure natural beauty of the mountain takes over and if the snowy mountains aren’t enough and you want just a bit more to do, there’s also a beautiful temple and train museum in the vicinity. Traditional performances and a good ole fashion karaoke outside for all to see are highlights of this townie get together.
Where: Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do (강원도 태백시 태백산로 4834-31)
9. Yangpyeong Strawberry Festival (양평딸기체험축제)
Early February to May
If come February you’ve just had it with winter and you’re looking for that special something to get your spring started early, there’s no better place to head than out to Yangpyeong. The Yangpyeong Sumi Village and Strawberry Farm set between the Youngmunsan Mountain and Namhangang and Bukhangang River revs up for spring with a festival with picking strawberries, cooking competitions and tastings along with a lot more.
Where: Sumi Village & Strawberry Farm (수미마을과 딸기농장)
10. Uljin Snow Crab Festival (울진대게와 붉은대게 축제)
End of February to beginning of March
Anther way to end the winter season with an equally delicious goodbye is the snow crab festival set in Gyeongsangbuk-do. The fresh catch is a local delicacy and not only can it be eaten, but snagging your own fresh one as well as eating competitions, culture performances and tug-of-war, yacht rides and more can be done on location.
Planning a trip to Korea? I’m always asked about places to stay. Check out Ramada Hotel & Suites Seoul, Royal Hotel Seoul or Lotte Hotel Seoul. All three are located downtown close to the palace and numerous other can’t miss locations.
*Photos in this post are taken from the sites linked to.