The Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Korea
Cherry blossoms in Korea are every bit as beautiful as those in Japan, and not going to see them when you have the chance would be a huge mistake; read on to find out when and where you can view them at their most magnificent.
Anthony counts himself fortunate to have seen the cherry blossoms fall on three consecutive years in Korea, and always somewhere new. As far as he’s concerned, there’s no better way to celebrate the coming of the spring than riding a bike through the Korean countryside with a fragrant breeze at your back.
An elderly Korean man once explained to me that cherry blossoms (벚꽃 in Korean; pronounced beokkot, sort of) originated in Korea, but were stolen by the evil Japanese in the 1500s. While that’s almost certainly untrue, Koreans nevertheless have some right to be upset that Japan steals all the cherry-blossom-having limelight, given how gorgeous Korea is during cherry blossom season.
For those not in the know, cherry blossom viewing is a tradition originating in Japan. Warming weather triggers the blossoms (for weeks after cherry blossom season you’ll spot isolated trees in shady depressions finally catching up), which bloom en masse and then fall within about 10 days. Because of this brevity, cherry blossom festivals and viewing times vary every year, and a cold snap or unexpected warmth can delay or hasten their arrival by up to two weeks. The season also sweeps from south to north over a 2-3 week period, making it possible to view the blossoms at their height in Jinhae one weekend, Gyeongju the next, and finally catch them again in the mountains of Gangwon a week later.
[note title=”Annual Information” align=”center” width=”550″]The dates provided here are for the year 2014. We will endeavor to update the dates on subsequent years but, if we’ve not done so, let us know by way of the form on the side and we’ll get right on it.[/note]
Cherry Blossom blooming dates 2014
Courtesy of LuxeTravel, here are the predicted dates the cherry blossoms will be blooming in Korea in 2014. That article was published February 10, 2014, so if you want more up-to-date information I’d recommend calling the Korea tourist hotline at 1330 and asking them to check for you.
The Best Places to View Cherry Blossoms in Korea
No matter the time of year, Korea is never short of festivals, and in the spring it seems like every small town is competing with every other to lure as many ajumma-laden tour buses down too-narrow roads as possible. Check out this page for a list of spring festivals in 2014, most of which will have cherry blossoms.
Knocking shoulders with personal space-less crowds isn’t everyone’s preferred weekend, though (it’s not mine, greatly though I love Korean festival culture), so this list is more of a mixed bag of destinations; hopefully it’ll provide options for every type of traveler.
The tiny military port of Jinhae in Gyeongsangnam-do is home to probably the largest and most famous of Korea’s cherry blossom festivals. For 10 days a year this town is filled to bursting with tents and tourists, appreciating the rows and rows of cherry blossom trees.
Besides the usual Korean festival entertainment, the navy has a sizeable presence, and you can tour a replica turtle-ship, as well as a more modern warship. The sailors also put on a variety of displays and shows.
Jinhae is only about 30 minutes from Busan, and buses run frequently from Busan’s Sasang terminal. It’s also a part of the larger city of Changwon so, if you can’t fit on one of the certainly-crowded buses out of Busan, consider grabbing the bus to Changwon instead, then hopping a taxi for the 10-minute drive to the harbor.
You could also take the train, if you book tickets early enough.
Sitting on the border between Hadong in Gyeongsangnam-do and Gurye in Jeollanam-do, in the foothills of mount Jiri, Hwagae is about as rural and isolated as Korea gets. It’s also gorgeous, and worth returning to time and time again (they have an annual green tea festival that’s superb).
Take a stroll up the road to the temple at the head of the valley, and breath deeply of that fresh, fresh air.
This one’s a little harder, as it’s so isolated. The intercity bus from Seoul to Hadong stops in Hwagae, but seats are limited, and likely to sell out at festival time. If you can get to Hadong via any other terminal, you won’t have any problem getting a bus that last little distance, though.
For an extra-Korean adventure, you can sleep over in the Jjimjilbang above Hadong’s bus terminal, then take an early-morning bus to Hwagae the next day. Access towns you might consider are Namwon (from the West) and Jinju (from the East).
Technically, I don’t think there’s a cherry blossom festival in Gyeongju, but it’s still a massively popular destination. The best way to see it is to rent a bike from one of the many rental places near the bus terminal and just cycle around, taking in some of Korea’s best-preserved historical artifacts. The great thing about Gyeongju is how, despite being gloriously beautiful at this time of year, you’ll be hard-pressed to feel too cramped. Oh, there’ll be lots of people about, for sure, but they’re spread over a whole town with loads of gorgeous open spaces to spill into.
Make sure you don’t miss Anapji pond. You may want to go twice: once during the day for the history and the cherry blossoms, and once at night to see the place all lit up. There’s also an ancient observatory, which is kind of cool, and loads of space to just tool around in, enjoying the spring weather.
Getting there: Getting there is easy: you can catch a bus from just about anywhere in the country. Once you’re there, the best bikes are rented from a shop near the bus terminal and just over the main road, kind of opposite the McDonalds. Make sure you grab a map from the Tourist office at that same intersection, and ask them about taking a bus up to Bulguksa.
This gem of a destination is one that most expats don’t ever find out about, and they really should. It’s not really a cherry blossom destination per se, though it has some gorgeous, blossom-lined roads. Rather, it’s a traditional Korean village (albeit with some modernizing touches), set in an idyllic Gyeongsangbuk-do valley, that just oozes charm.
This UNESCO world heritage site is a great spring destination and, with most of the daytrippers heading to more conventional areas, it should also be fairly quiet. While you’re there, make sure to sample some Andong Jjimdak – that’s good stuff.
There’s a combined intercity and express bus terminal just outside Andong proper, and this will be your best point of entry for the folk village. From there you have another half hour or so on Bus no. 46: Make sure it’s going to Hahoe Village (하회마을)
Probably the most accessible of all these festivals, but also the most crowded, the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival takes place on the island of Yeouido in Seoul, and is focused on Yunjungno, the road behind the National Assembly Building. If you’re a Seoulizen, and are looking to see the cherry blossoms fall without having to travel for half a day, then this is probably the one for you.
Take line 9 to National Assembly Station, exit 1, then follow the crowds. In times of really heavy traffic, the SMRT folk might close down that station and make you walk from either Dangsan or Yeouido, so be prepared for that possibility.
Where are you planning to see the cherry blossoms this year? Let us know in the comments below. If you’re looking for more advice about traveling around Korea, check out our travel guide.