It’s almost April and one of the most beloved and visually stunning events in Asia is about to take place – the blooming of the cherry blossoms in South Korea and Japan.
Early April is the season for fruity blooms in South Korea and you can find the expected dates for all of the different regions here on the Visit Korea website.
There are a number of famous places to view the cherry blossoms such as Jinhae in Gyeongbuk Province or Yeouido in Seoul. The thing is though, viewing the cherry blossoms is really popular and at any of the renowned spots you’ll also find vast crowds, maddening traffic jams and full hotels. The good news is there are beautiful cherry trees all over the country and it’s possible to have a truly memorable cherry blossom experience without having to deal with all that misery.
1. Keep your eye out for local community events
My favourite cherry blossom festival in South Korea is in the quiet neighbourhood of Gayang-dong in Daejeon. It’s just around the corner from where I lived a few years ago on a regular street lined with cherry trees. On a Saturday morning when the flowers are in full bloom, the local residents and shopkeepers block the street off to traffic and set up a stage for performances by local groups. There’s usually ballroom dancing, taekwondo and karaoke amongst other things. A memorable highlight for us was a dance routine performed by mature ladies dressed in full-body lycra with “Sex Bomb” by Tom Jones playing on the PA!
The festival climaxes with an unusual semi-Confucian ritual that involves throngs of performers in traditional white clothes and bamboo farmers back-packs, a papier mache cow, officials in traditional clothes, several young girls in palanquins and offerings of fruit and incense – all topped off with a frenzy of group drumming and dancing.
2. Get out of town
There are cherry trees all over South Korea – especially in the countryside, where they tend to be planted along the side of quiet and winding country roads.
Cycling, walking or even driving along the road that runs beside Daecheong Lake in Gyeonnam Province with the cherry trees in full bloom is a wonderful experience. They form a tunnel of snowy white flowers with a backdrop of pine forest, steep hills and the beautiful blue waters of Daecheong lake. Occasionally the breeze will pick up and blossoms would fall like snow all over the road and all over you. If you get the timing right, it’s pure bliss.
3. Visit smaller, less famous historical sites
They’re often just as beautiful as the famous palaces and tombs in Seoul. This is especially good if you’re interested in photography, you can get some lovely shots of centuries old buildings festooned with flowers and not a crowd in sight. Another favourite of ours is Uam Historical Park in Daejeon, the site of an old Confucian school. It has several beautiful traditional buildings in a courtyard garden by a large pond. At certain times of the year, it’s one of the most gorgeous and photogenic places I’ve ever seen and at the peak of the cherry blossom season, you can enjoy it in solitude.
So if you’re in Korea for the season we strongly recommend taking some time out to see the cherry blossoms but definitely avoid the crowds and try to get off the beaten track. The blossoms in themselves are such a gorgeous sight to see – you really don’t need the blaring stereos, junk food, the crowds, and the traffic jams to enjoy them.