Checking out festivals is one of my favourite things to do. When I came to South Korea, I was surprised how many festivals this country has. And there’s pretty much a festival for everything: flowers, fish, fireworks… you name it! With the help of bloggers in Korea, I’ve compiled a list of festivals for each month that you can add to your travel itinerary. When you visit Korea, definitely check them out! Most festivals are free, or will have a foreigner/group discount.
Taebaeksan Snow Festival
Megan from Bobo and Chichi
The long, cold winters in Korea can be rough. The only thing that helps ease the pain would be when there is a beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground and mountains. Each year in January, Taebaeksan Provincial Park hosts its annual snow festival featuring different snow carvings from local artists all over the country. Each year the sculptures are different to keep things new and interesting! You will also find ice patches where people ice skate and sled on. Be prepared though, the Taebaek mountains get much colder than the rest of Korea, so come with hand warmers and an extra pair of socks to keep you warm as you enjoy the winter wonderland at Taebaeksan Snow Festival.
Linda from Linda Goes East
Lunar New Year, Seollal in Korea, is at the end of January or at the beginning of February, on the day of the second new moon after winter solstice. In 2017, Korean Lunar New Year falls on January 27 and ends January 30. During this time, most people are usually off work and enjoy time with their families. It is a three-day festival that involves families preparing extravagant meals, cleaning their homes, receiving guests or traveling to see their relatives. The most important part of Seollal is the morning ceremony to remember the ancestors. Families give the food cooked the day before and various fruits, vegetables and snacks as offerings. The best way to celebrate it is to join a local family. If you are unable to do so, there are many Seollal activities going on for families throughout the country you can attend.
People greet each other saying새해 복 많이 받으세요, which translates to “Please receive good fortune for the New Year”.
Jindo Sea Parting Festival
Star from 87pages
If you’re keen to witness the Korean version of Moses & the Red Sea, look no further than the Jindo Sea Parting Festival. Located on the third largest island in South Korea, Jindo Island has become a popular springtime destination for tourists and locals alike. The sea parting happens twice a year, due to extremely low tides, that reveal a path beneath the sea. Visitors are encouraged to walk to the nearby Modo Island before the Yellow Sea rolls back in. If wading in the water isn’t your thing, grab a bucket, join the locals and dig for your lunch. Seriously, what you dig up, you can eat. If that’s not your thing, head back to the mainland, and take part in the day-long festival. From wrestling to folk dances to traditional performances (like a shamanistic ritual to purify the soul!) there’s a ton to do. End your day with delicious local seafood and if you’re adventurous be sure to try sannakji (live baby octopus). Trust me it’s delicious, just be careful of the suction cups. All in all, if you’re looking for a cool springtime Korean festival, then definitely add the Jindo Sea Parting Festival to your list. This a miraculous phenomenon you do not want to miss.
Note: Sea Parting Festival date changes depending on the tide. Sometimes this event is held in April.
Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival
Kayley from Chasing KM
Jinhae revolves around the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. It’s not the only place they grow but each town seems to have its own thing they’re famous for, and this is theirs! The festival has two popular sites – Yeojwacheon (Romance Bridge) and Gyeonghwa Station, both famous for their parts in K-Dramas. The festival is the talk of the town and people come from all over the country to catch a glimpse. The blossoms are too beautiful and spectacular. It’s such a buzz to see them and be in awe of them because they don’t last very long!
Lotus Lantern Festival
Barun & Jen from Barilee Traveling
One of the most extravagant festivals in South Korea is the grand Lotus Lantern Festival, celebrating Buddha’s Birthday in Seoul every spring. The downtown core becomes a hub of international cultural activity that gets you in on the action of lantern making, food sampling, playing traditional games, watching folk performances and trying on clothes from all over the world. Jogyesa Temple explodes in sea of lanterns and giant paper statues which dazzle in colour both day and night. The real star is the incredible Lotus Lantern Parade, which attracts thousands of spectators to enjoy a showcase of giant lantern floats of fire-breathing dragons, peacocks and giant elephants as they walk among thousands of participants from all corners of Seoul. We’ve been to a TON of festivals in Korea over 6.5 years but this remains our absolute favourite and not to be missed!
Note: Lotus Lantern Festival date changes depending on when Buddha’s Birthday falls. Sometimes this event is held in April.
Busan International Dance Festival
Samantha from Expat and the City
Dancers unite! The Busan International Dance Festival (BIDF) is one of the largest dance festivals in Korea. Held in Haeundae Beach, dancers from all over the world showcase their talents ranging in styles from classical ballet, modern, hiphop, African dance and more. If you appreciate dance like I do, this is a great festival to check out and get inspired!
Boryeong Mud Festival
I think one of the most popular festivals in Korea is the Boryeong Mud Festival. This festival is held every July. It’s a week-long celebration of the most important and famous element of Daecheon Beach, and I am talking about the mud. This festival recognizes the beneficial properties of mud especially to the skin. Aside from that, there are games, music and a party by the beach. This is the kind of festival where mudslinging is not a bad thing. People get to enjoy swimming in the mega tub full of mud, mud sliding and wrestling and a lot more. Playing in the mud may sound quirky, but that’s what makes Boryeong Mud Festival interesting and attractive especially to the foreigners living in South Korea.
Yeongdong Grape Festival
Mike from Live Travel Teach
Korea’s Yeongdong Grape Festival is the perfect outing for an August weekend. Be sure to stop by the nearby vineyard on your way where you can pick your own grapes and even take a wine footbath! At the actual festival you’ll notice the telltale white tents selling all kinds of grape and wine paraphernalia. Adults can get free samples of dozens of wines and there are plenty of unique snacks to try too.
One thing you must do is the grape squashing! They give you bags for your feet and blast Gangnam Style to get everyone dancing on the grapes. If you’re a foreigner they’ll likely interview you about your experience and you might even have a news crew tailing you because this is one festival that is typically only visited by Koreans. Yeongdong Grape Festival is certainly worth a stomp.
Daejon Food and Wine Festival // Craft Beer and Music Festival
Ask almost any Daejonite which festival is their favorite? You’d undoubtedly hear – The Daejeon Food and Wine Festival, which happens in September or October of each year. It gathers imported and domestic wine vendors under one roof, where interested winos can network as well as sample and purchase from the collection of over 10,000 different wine types. Prestigious events such as the Asian Wine Trophy, International Sommelier Competition and Asia Wine Buyer’s Conference also take place throughout the 2-3 days of this festival. Food vendors and cultural performances entertain the crowd near the Hanbit Tower Square.
The same location also hosted it’s first annual Daejeon Craft Beer and Music Festival in October of this year. 15 different craft breweries from Korea and abroad were available to pour some delicious brews, while the stage was rocking and rolling with amazing performances to suit everyone’s tipsy tastes.
Yesan Apple Festival
Nastacia from Rerouted Endeavors
Fall is short in Korea compared to the long humid summers and freezing winters. Venturing outdoors to enjoy the great weather and autumn foliage is a must while it lasts. Apple picking is a popular activity to do during this season especially at the Yesan Apple Festival. The apples from this region are well known for their flavorful taste and vibrant color. The festival is held late October and November every year and includes making apple jam or pie and sampling apple flavored wine and even kimchi.
Busan Fireworks Festival
Samantha from Expat and the City
Ever since I was little, I loved watching fireworks, especially on holidays like Canada Day. But the fireworks back home pale in comparison to what Busan showcases every year at the International Fireworks Festival. Prepare to be amazed as you sit on Gwangalli Beach and watch the sky light up in all colours of the rainbow. This year, I was lucky to get a FRONT ROW seat right at the shoreline. Because this is such a popular festival that attracts thousands of people from across the country, the beach gets busy…and I mean BUSY! Prepare yourself for long lines at the subways, restrooms and restaurants. If big crowds aren’t your thing, don’t worry. You can always watch the festival from one of the mountains in the surrounding area (free), or at one of the beach side eateries (cover charge).
Jessica from Family in Faraway Places
The five-day Gwangju World Kimchi Culture festival is held every November. Along with the usual Korean festival highlights like talent shows, local food stalls and performances, this festival celebrates all things related to kimchi. Foreign visitors can try their hand at making kimchi and there’s an extensive kimchi market where you can try samples of different kinds of kimchi before buying your favorite. Some years we go to the festival just to make our purchase of some of the best kimchi in the country!
Busan Christmas Tree Culture Festival
Samantha from Expat and the City
Get into the holiday spirit and walk the streets of Nampo at the Busan Christmas Tree Culture Festival. Every December, Nampo decorates the streets with life-sized snowmen, candy canes and all things Christmas. The holiday wouldn’t be complete without a tree! In the centre of Nampo square there’s a gigantic LED Christmas tree on display where you can take the perfect photo. There’s lots to do at the cultural event, including a daily concert, Christmas auction, treasure hunt, and a caroling contest. Don’t forget to make a New Year’s wish at the wish tree! This festival runs into the first week of January.