When most people think of massive displays of cherry trees in bloom they tend to think of Japan, or perhaps Washington DC, but S. Korea has some of the most amazing cherry blossom festivals to be found anywhere, plus individual and specimen quality trees abound. Japan, S.Korea, and China have all made claims that cherry trees originated and spread from their countries, but wherever they came from they are some of the most beautiful trees when they blossom in springtime, especially after a cold and dark winter.
Beautiful old trees can be found planted on the grounds of many of the Palaces and Temples, often highlighted against the more geometric lines of the buildings, whether ancient or modern.
One of the earliest plants to bloom, they are a welcome sign of spring. Some other early blooms are the yellow genari (forsythia), and sansuyou (cornelian cherry), plus the purplish pink jindale (azalea). A few other trees show the pale green tips of fresh new growth, and an occasional magnolia trees blossoms in sheltered areas. After this first flush of springtime color Korea only becomes more colorful until it blazes into a firestorm of fall foliage before dying down to the muted colors of winter.
Beautiful as the individual trees are, many people visit S.Korea to see the mass plantings in bloom, or to go to one of the cherry blossom festivals dotted around the country. In is difficult to determine ahead of time when the trees will be at peak bloom so the Korean Meteorological Administration releases its estimate in early March each year. If you’re traveling from overseas it is often best to plan on sometime around the beginning of April since then you can travel north or south as necessary to catch the peak bloom.
The cherry trees start blooming down south in Jeju (2016 March 23-30) and then gradually travel north. Busan (2016 March 26 April 2nd) with Seoul (2016 April 6-13) and Incheon maybe being a couple of days later. The big festivals are the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival which winds around the National Assembly building. There are over 1,800 trees lined up, many along the Han River side of the National Assembly building with views across to the skyline of Seoul. We visited at night as the trees are lit up and there are food vendors, street performers as well booths selling all sorts of things. Although crowded, it was a fun festive atmosphere with everyone trying to get that perfect picture. Some people brought picnics and enjoyed the blossoms while eating in the adjoining Han River Park.
Other cherry blossom festivals occur in Seoul and Jeju, with the Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom festival down near Busan being the largest.
There are other spring festivals in S.Korea that focus on food, or tea, or even medicinal herbs, as well as cultural festival showcases multiple traditional aspects of S.Korea so spring is definitely a great time to visit.
Have a great day everyone.
Photo credits to Elle Marzec.
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