Life in South Korea has certainly gotten faster and flashier in the last few years, but come March, everyone stops to smell the flowers. Winter melts and spring takes over, splashing the cities and the countryside with brilliant colors and fragrant scents.
The most awaited of these blooms, of course, is the cherry blossom. While we all wait with bated breath for the forecasts and the festivals, get a head start on your travel plans with these top tips for savoring spring in South Korea.
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Best time to go to South Korea to see the cherry blossoms
First up, when should you plan to visit South Korea? The Korean Meteorological Administration is yet to release the forecast for 2018 (they usually do so early March – stay tuned for updates), but here’s our best bet on the timeframe:
- Jeju – last week of March
- Busan (and surrounding areas – Jinhae and Gyeongju) – end of March to beginning of April
- Seoul (and surrounding areas) – first half of April
If you want to see more than the cherry blossoms, you can catch the yellow canola fields and the colorful wildflowers in April as well.
5 gorgeous spring destinations in South Korea: where to see the cherry blossoms
1. Jeju island
Thanks to a warmer climate, South Korea’s cherry blossoms make their first appearance in Jeju – and when they come, they come bigger and brighter than the other variants growing elsewhere in the country. Catch the King Cherry Trees’ blossoms from late March to early April.
Make your way to these prime spots for cherry blossom viewing: the entrance to Jeju National University, Gwaneumsa Temple, Seogwipo Downtown, and the cherry-lined Ilju Road near Wimi village.
Jinhae is a district in Changwon city, west of Busan. Every spring, it hosts South Korea’s biggest cherry blossoms festival – millions of people come together to see 300,000 cherry trees bloom and enjoy the festival’s parades and carnival stalls.
For the ultimate spring experience, make your way to the Yeojwacheon stream and walk along the 1.5 KM tunnel of cherry blossoms and canola flowers. Afterwards, walk to Jehwangsan Park and walk up the One-Year staircase for a panoramic view of the cherry trees and the ocean.
Plan your trip to Jinhae – You can stay in Changwon if you want to spend several days in Jinhae, but Busan is also a great base especially if you plan to visit the cherry blossoms in Gyeongju as well. Here’s where to stay and what to do in Busan. It’s not advisable to drive to Jinhae during the festival – take the train to Jinhae station instead.
If you’re coming from Seoul, joining this day trip to Jinhae is a convenient option.
Time travel to South Korea’s magnificent ancient kingdom and learn about the country’s history and culture underneath a canopy of pink blooms. You’ll find the best blooms along the Daereungwon stonewall walkway, the Heungmuro cherry blossom road, the Wolseong Palace cherry tree forest, and the Bomun Tourist Complex.
Plan your trip to Gyeongju – Here’s a travel guide to Gyeongju, where you’ll learn more about the city’s best sights, restaurants, and hotels. As the sights in Gyeongju are far apart, it’s best to drive around if you can (here’s how). Otherwise, you can easily go to Gyeongju from Busan by bus or with a day tour group.
By mid-April, the cherry blossoms unravel their beauty in Seoul. While most of the capital pretty much gets decked in pink, head to Yeouido Island in central Seoul to bask in the city’s most beautiful blooms. Make sure to walk along Yunjunro street behind the National Assembly Building to see the city’s loveliest cherry blossom street, as well as azaleas, forsythia, and other spring flowers in full bloom.
Plan your trip to Yeouido – Stay in Seoul for at least 2-3 days and use the subway to get around the city. Driving in the city is not recommended, especially during festivals. To visit Yeouido, ride the Seoul Subway Line 5 to Yeouido Station. Exit 3 brings you to the National Assembly Building.
5. Seokchon Lake
Another amazing spot to see cherry blossoms in Seoul is Seokchon Lake. While a great place to visit anytime you need respite from Seoul’s chaos, Seokcheon Lake is especially beautiful during spring. Cherry trees line the lake park, making the perfect backdrop for a stroll. Go here with a mat and a picnic basket for a relaxing afternoon.
Plan your trip to Seokchon Lake – Ride the Seoul Subway Line 2 and 8 to Jamsil Station. Exit 2 or 10 will bring you to Seokchon Lake.
Top tips – planning a trip to South Korea in spring
- Timing is everything! Part of the cherry blossoms’ allure is its transience, and if you don’t plan right, you may totally miss it! If you’re dead set on catching them at the peak of their blooms, be sure to check back for this year’s cherry blossom forecast. It’s good to arrive 1-2 days before the anticipated peak date so you have a bit of leeway.
- Plan ahead. The cherry blossom season brings LOTS of visitors to South Korea, so it’s best to plan and book ahead. Make your hotel and car reservations well in advance.
- Know when to drive and when to walk. Driving your own rental car is one of the best ways to see the South Korean countryside, but it can seriously be a pain when driving in the city. For the destinations mentioned here, I only recommend getting a car to go around Jeju and to visit Gyeongju. It’s best to go by subway when in Busan and Seoul, and if you’re visiting Jinhae during the cherry blossom festival, driving there isn’t advisable.
- Pre-book your trip essentials. There’s so much to see and do in South Korea, so it’s best to pre-book as much travel essentials as possible! You can pretty much book everything online: from pocket wifi, to transportation cards, airport transfers, rail passes, and even tickets to popular attractions. Take care of these before your trip to save time and avoid getting lost in translation.
- Make your life a little easier. If all the spring-planning is getting you frazzled, let the experts handle some of the logistics. This Seoul day tour will bring you to three of the best cherry blossom-viewing spots for the day, while this day trip to Jinhae from Seoul will let you focus on just taking all the spring beauty in.
Map – best spots for spring in South Korea
Use this Google map to visit the top spring destinations in South Korea.
Download the PDF guide here to make your travel planning easier.
South Korea is one of my favorite destinations. It’s gorgeous in every season, and worth visiting again and again. Here are some more guides to help you with your visit:
- Neighborhood guides to: Seoul, Busan, and Jeju – find the best neighborhoods and accommodations
- Driving in South Korea – everything you need to know about renting and driving in South Korea
- Autumn in South Korea – another fantastic season to visit South Korea!
- All South Korea travel guides
- Downloadable PDF guides
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Enjoy spring in South Korea! With bursts of pink, mild weather, and bright days ahead, you’re sure to have an amazing holiday.
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