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Korea’s Cherry Blossoms: When & where to see them at their best

korea cherry blossoms, spring in korea,sakura korea, south korea cherry blossom, cherry blossom festivals korea

There’s a lot to look forward to during spring in Korea. The crazy cold temps of winter are beating a steady retreat, and fresh shoots begin to colour the streets with the most delicate of greens. The tea plantations around Boseong are ready for harvest, the sea magically parts in Jindo, spring flowers are bursting with colour, and seasonal fruits like tangerines and strawberries are available for the eating.

a person walking under a canopy of korea's cherry blossom trees, spring in korea

The blooming of Korea’s cherry blossoms is the country’s most eagerly anticipated spring event.

Undoubtedly though, the most eagerly anticipated event of them all is the blooming of Korea’s cherry blossoms. This wave of fairy tale gorgeousness sweeps it’s way up the Peninsula, transforming the mundane greys of winter into a silvery pink wonderland, along the way. It makes the whole season feel fresh, optimistic and ripe with possibility.

*Cue romantic sigh of relief.

When is Korea’s cherry blossom season?

The blooming of Korea’s cherry blossoms is an occasion that absolutely everyone in the country looks forward to. No one can pinpoint exactly what makes this annual blushing of the trees such a special event, but I’d guess it has something to do with its temporal nature. After all, what could be more poetic than the falling of an infinite number of frail pink petals, as they drift peacefully to their deaths, just a few days or weeks after flowering?

But when does Korea’s cherry blossom season actually begin? Well, it’s a little complicated…

If spring decides to makes an early appearance in Korea, cherry blossoms might bless us with their beauty starting at the end of March. And they might stick around until the 3rd week of April. From bud to bloom to dramatic death, the whole season lasts a month at best.

These ephemeral blooms usually hang onto their trees for about a week, before starting to drop to the ground. All bets are off though, if it rains or there’s a lot of wind. These factors will shorten their lifespan painfully. They’re fickle like that.

a single cherry blossom blooming on a tree full of unopened buds in KoreaKeep in mind that cherry blossoms in Korea will appear where it’s warmest first, so head to Jeju, Busan, or anywhere on the south end of the Peninsula, if you’re visiting near the end of March or very beginning of April. Any time after that, head north.

If you can’t make it to Korea in the first 10 days of April, head to the northeastern coastal regions, which are usually a lot cooler than the interior of the country. You could also pray, give offerings to the goddess, or bow before Mother Nature to increase your odds. You never know. It might help.

The best time to see Korea’s cherry blossoms

Cherry blossom forecasting is an inexact science at best. After all, nature doesn’t run on any real schedule and our weather patterns are seeing drastic changes. However, in my personal experience, the best time to see Korea’s cherry blossoms at their absolute peak is in the first week to 10 days of April.

Cherry Blossom trees and petals falling at Gyeonghwa Station in Jinhae, Korea

Jinhae Cherry Blossoms at Gyeonghwa Station, Source: korea.net

I’ve lived in Seoul for the last 10 years, and there hasn’t been a single one, where the first 10 days of April weren’t the peak of Korea’s cherry blossom season. At this time, you’re guaranteed to find somewhere in the country to see these blush-y blooms at their best.

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If you MUST stand under the cherry blossoms pictured above, and I recommend you do – book a tour to Jinhae. It’s my pick for the best place in Korea to see cherry blossoms at their absolute peak. There’s limited space AND limited dates offered for this tour, so I advise reserving a spot as soon as you can.

Korea’s Cherry Blossom Festivals

Exact dates for Korea’s cherry blossom festivals (with the exception of the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon) have not been announced for 2019 yet. However, you can count on them running at various times, during the first 2 weeks of April. Most run for a 2-3 day span over a weekend to accommodate as many visitors as possible.

That doesn’t mean you can’t head to these locations outside of festival dates. Of course you can! It just means there won’t be extra activities on offer, and you’ll have to focus solely on the beauty of the cherry blossoms themselves… maybe even without the crowds.

I’ll be updating this post with Korea’s cherry blossom festival dates as soon as they’re released, so be sure to check back closer to spring.

JINHAE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL (진해군항제)

This is Korea’s largest, and probably most famous, cherry blossom festival, drawing over 2 million tourists every year. There’s good reason. Jinhae offers some of Korea’s most impossibly romantic cherry blossom scenes. You can gaze at pale pink petals as they drift sentimentally down onto the train tracks of Gyeonghwa Station, or snap a pic at one of Korea’s most iconic cherry blossom locations – the tunnel of cherry trees atop Jinhae’s Yeojwacheon Stream.

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This is probably Korea’s most photographed cherry blossom spot.

There’s also a military band parade, a multi-media fireworks show, and a commemoration of Admiral Yi-Sun-Shin during the festival.

To get there independently: Take an intercity bus to Jinhae (진해). You can walk to the festival venue from the bus terminal. Just follow the crowds!

If you want your trip to be completely hassle-free, book a tour from Seoul or Busan, that includes transport, lunch and a guide to show you the best cherry blossom photo spots in Jinhae.

YEOUIDO CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Yeouido is perhaps the best, albeit most crowded place in Seoul to see not just Korea’s cherry blossoms, but also azaleas, forsythia, and other spring flowers in full bloom. With 1,400 to 1,600 trees in the park, you’re guaranteed a stunning and dramatic sight.

yeouido cherry blossom festival, cherry blossom trees in front of a traditional building and the IFC Towers in Seoul, Korea

New, old and pretty pink flowers in Yeouido (photo courtesy: twobrownfeet.com)

An alternative to avoid the crowds is to take a Han River Cruise during Korea’s cherry blossom season. Yeouido is the starting dock for these boat rides, and it’ll take you right past all those gorgeous spring flowers.

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To get there: The closest subway station is the National Assembly Station on Line 9. Take Exit 1 or 6 and walk for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can get off at Yeouinaru Station on Line 5, take Exit 1 and walk for 20 minutes.

SEOKCHON LAKE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

The Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival is near and dear to my heart, because it’s the one I never miss. Sure, part of it is because Seokchon Lake is walking distance from my house, but it’s also because it’s incredibly gorgeous.

Seokchon Lake is an artificial lake divided into 2 basins, both of which are bordered by cherry blossom trees. It’s a popular spot for office workers to walk around during their lunch breaks, so try to visit at any other time, for a more peaceful experience.

To see Seoul and its cherry blossoms from high in the sky, visit the Seoul Sky Observatory. It’s the tallest building in Korea, and the 5th tallest building in the world. It’s located right behind Seokchon Lake. You can’t miss it – just look up. You can book your Lotte World Tower Seoul Sky Admission in advance here.

A breathtaking view

JEJU CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Board a flight down to Jeju Island and you might be able to see grandest petals in Korea – the King Cherry Tree blossoms. Best seen all over Seogwipo’s downtown and around Jeju Sports Complex, these cherry trees fully blossom for only 2 to 3 days, so they are more fleeting than normal. You’ll have to be perfect with your timing to catch them!

To get there: From the airport, take bus 500 and get off at the New Jeju Rotary stop (신제주로터리). Cross the street, and take bus 20, going in the opposite direction. Get off at Public Health Centre 1 stop.

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Eastern Jeju Discovery

GYEONGJU CHERRY BLOSSOM MARATHON: APRIL 6, 2019

If you’d like to run under a sea of falling cherry blossom petals in Korea, you can take part in the 28th Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon. Beginning at Gyeongju Culture Expo Square, the mostly flat course, can be run in 5km, 10km, half or full marathon distances.

Hubby ran this in 2016, and the course is just as stunningly beautiful as you dream it’ll be.

If you have time, I recommend you stay in Gyeongju for 2 or 3 days. I recently visited, and had a wonderful time exploring Korea’s Silla Dynasty History and eating as much ssambap as I could. This small city is considered Korea’s “museum without walls,” and it’s well worth a visit.

If you do decide to spend a couple of days exploring this chilled out city, I can’t recommend staying at the Apple House enough. I stayed in this little motel on my last visit there, and it’s definitely the best budget accommodation I’ve stayed in the country. Like most Korean motels, the interior design can be called interesting at best, but in terms of value and convenience, it really can’t be beat. It’s walking distance to a ton of major tourist sites, as well as trendy cafe and restaurant street Hwangnidan-gil, plus you actually get big bath towels there. BIG bath towels. In Korea! Imagine.

RECOMMENDED TOUR: Gyeongju Small Group Day Tour

HWAGAE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

The “10ri Cherry Blossom Road’ in Hwagae consists of 200 peach trees and 1,200 cherry blossom trees, which were planted by villagers back in 1931. It’s believed that if you walk down this 4km cherry blossom lined road, with your partner, while holding hands, you’ll fall madly and deeply in love with each other forever.

At the festival, aside from seeing Korea’s cherry blossoms, you can visit the historic Hwagae Market, and dine on traditional foods like Euneo-hoe (sliced raw sweetish) and Chamgetang (king crab broth). Yum!

To get there: Take an intercity bus from Seoul’s Nambu Bus Terminal, to Hadong (하동). Buses run at: 06:30, 08:00, 09:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 17:30, 19:30 and 22:00.

GYEONGPO CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

A string of cherry blossom trees line the 4.3 kilometre path that surrounds gorgeous Gyeongpo Lake. Activities and flower exhibitions centre around Gyeongpodae Pavilion, one of Korea’s regional tangible cultural treasures, but there are blooms to be found all around the Lake.

Korea's cherry blossoms next to Gyeongpo Lake, spring in korea, gyeongpo cherry blossom festival

“Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom,” by gangwon.to

If, for some strange reason, you get overwhelmed by all the effervescent pinkness, you can take the short stroll over to Gyeongpo Beach, one of our very favourite escapes from Seoul. Drink in the view of the 4 kilometre stretch of sandy beach, and indulge in fresher than fresh seafood from one of the restaurants that lines the street facing the sea.

CHEONGPUNG LAKE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Taking place along the 13 kilometre Cheongpong Lake Road, at this festival, you can see thousands of Korea’s mature cherry trees, a street concert, magic show and parade. Medicinal teas and food made from wild herbs native to the area will be on offer, and if you’re really brave, you can even bunjee jump!

To get there: Take an intercity bus to Jecheon Terminal. From Dong Seoul Terminal, the bus leaves at 10 – 30 minute intervals, starting at 6:30 in the morning. The last bus leaves at 21:00.

For more details, visit their website.

The truth is you don’t have to attend ANY of these festivals to get your pink fix. The all too short cherry blossom season in Korea covers the entire country from top to bottom, and you’ll see them pretty much every which way you turn.

Is seeing Korea’s cherry blossoms on your bucket list? Where do you plan to see them?

Did you find this post about cherry blossoms in Korea helpful? PIN IT!

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. That was a great, thorough post. It’s 28 degrees F where I am right now, so those cherry blossoms are looking pretty inviting right now. Beautiful pictures, too.

    January 15, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      Thanks! It’s damn cold here in Seoul right now too, with Siberian winds and bad air from China 🙁 – really can’t wait for spring and all the gorgeous spring flowers to bloom.

      January 16, 2019
  2. Such a beautiful sight to see. 😍

    January 15, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      It still hasn’t gotten old – even after seeing them 10 years in a row!

      January 16, 2019
  3. I finally understood the whole cherry blossom obsession when I lived in Washington, DC, for a year. Before that, I couldn’t really imagine traveling somewhere just to see a bunch of pink buds and blooms. I get it now! They are so delicate and soft and magical, and I slowly walked around underneath the boughs, head tipped up, staggering like I was high on drugs! Seoul’s blossoms are stunning, so maybe that’s when I’ll try to drag J back to Korea someday!

    January 15, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      This would be the perfect reason to drag hubby back to Seoul, and maybe even convince him, Korea’s ok. 😉 You totally nailed it – they are magical aren’t they? They really transform any place you find them – making everything feel like a fairytale. 🙂

      January 16, 2019
  4. Terrific post Shelley. I hadn’t realized the whole cherry blossom thing was as big as it is in Korea. We get streets of them in Vancouver, and in some of the parks too, but nothing like Korea. Or Japan. We’ll be in Kyoto March 12-26 and hoping to catch the beginning of the season there.
    Alison

    January 16, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      Hey Alison – yeah, it’s a totally huge thing here. March 26th would be a little early to catch the blossoms in Korea, but there’s a definitely possibility you might see them in Japan. It would be a real shame to be so close to seeing them (in terms of timing), and then miss them though…

      January 16, 2019
  5. Wow it really sounds like a great place to be in the spring bloom! Can’t wait for spring! Just a couple more months and then we’re there 🙂

    January 18, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      It’s really so gorgeous when the cherry blossoms are around! Everything feels soft and romantic like a fairy tale.

      January 20, 2019
  6. such a special time of year!

    January 18, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      I love the feeling of newness then. 🙂

      January 20, 2019
  7. Love your lists. I hope I can make it to Jinhae this year! 🙂

    January 21, 2019
    • Shelley @Travel-Stained #

      But the crowds…. how will you cope?? 😉

      January 27, 2019

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