If you haven’t heard the news, winters in Korea are horrible! It’s so cold it bites your skin, and the piles of snow show up almost overnight - if you’re not prepared, you can find yourself with a burning red face and few slip right onto your bum. But do not fear the dreadful Korean winter for I will bring you 5 reasons why Korean winters are also fun and enjoyable!
1. Pyeongchang Trout Festival - December 22, 2018 - January 27, 2019
Want to visit the host city of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, but not sure about anything interesting to do there? Attend the Pyeongchang Trout Festival! This festival includes ice fishing, lure fishing, sledding, folk games, sleigh trains, different programs and tons of other fun activities! In the small town of Jinbu, you can even participate in their Winter Games Experience while also learning more about trout and tasting the freshly caught fish in many variations of cooking done by either yourself or the restaurants! It's a great festival for families and takes place on the Odaecheon Stream. You can also just attend the huge market where you can eat your way through the festival if fishing isn't for you. Locations and details can be found HERE on Visit Korea's website.
2. Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm - December 5, 2018 - March 24, 2019
One of Korea's most well-known places is The Garden of Morning Calm in Gyeonggi-do. It is known for its natural beauty most of the year and for the other festivals it holds in other seasons, but in the winter, people come from all over to walk through this beautifully lit garden. The lights and the blanket of white snow transport you to another world. It's an especially great place for a date! During the festival period, the garden is open later at night (9 PM on Sundays through Fridays, and 11 PM on Saturdays) but the lights don't come on until 5 PM every day. You can also warm up at the garden's restaurant on property but be aware that it usually closes at 8 PM. Check out the official web page HERE for more information.
3. Taebaeksan Snow Festival - January 18, 2019 - February 3, 2019
Snow sliding, ice fountain, Igloo cafe, snow hiking competition, huge snow sculptures, and more await you at the Taebaeksan Snow Festival in Gangwon-do. The large sculptures are of various people, places, and characters, and sit at three different levels of the mountain. There are even activities for kids like sledding or skating. There are food stalls and restaurants too, if you need to escape the chilly temperatures. The festival as a whole is free but some booths and activities may charge a small fee. I will say that getting here and back can be a hassle though, so do look into travel time and consider staying overnight to explore the area to make the long trip even more worth the trouble. The official website is currently down for the moment but you can get information about when and where as well from HERE. Need more snow and ice fun, but don’t want to go to two different festivals in different places? Be sure to check out the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival!
4. Busan Tree Festival - December 1, 2018 - January 6, 2019
In the 10th year of this annual festival, you can find some Christmas magic at the Busan Tree Festival being held in Nampo-dong this year. At this festival, there are street performances, contests, a parade, beautiful hanging lights and even a Christmas trees as tall as 18 meters! The festival is laid out in a total of 3 zones, plus a photo zone where you can take great pictures for memories!
It is a free event, and the opening performance, as well as the lighting ceremony, are at 6 PM on December 1st, so make sure to get there and see the magic come to life! Performances and activities vary from day to day so you can go back more than once! For more information, you can check HERE for the festival's official site. It is in Korean, but Google does offer a comprehensible translation to help you find what you are looking for - including a schedule!
5. Seongsan Sunrise Festival - December 30, 2018 - January 1, 2019
What better way to start the new year off than with catching the first sunrise of the year on Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, located on the lovely island of Jeju? Though the festival didn't become a festival until about 1994, Koreans have been viewing the first sunrise here since the Goryeo Dynasty. The short festival begins with a nature tour on December 30th and a midnight fireworks show on New Year's Eve.
In between is filled with local artist performances, a torch replay, the New Year's countdown as well as some other activities and events. As the sunrise approaches, everyone hikes up to the Seongsna Ilchulbong Peak - a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site I might add - where you wait for the majestic viewing of the year's first sunrise and make your New Year's wish. The peak is available for sunrise viewing all year long, but New Year's is the perfect time to go for the first time. You can find more information about the festival on the official Korean website HERE or just get directions to the event HERE.
From fishing, to snow sledding, to watching the first sunrise of the year, Korea definitely has winter fun under control. Cities and provinces all over the country have different ways of fighting the seasonal blues that come with winter. Have you been to any festivals in Korea? If so, where did you go and what was the most unique thing to do?