Visiting the Gurye Sansuyu Festival

The Gurye Sansuyu Festival is one of the first Korean flower festivals in spring since they begin to blossom in mid-March.

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Even though Namwon is only a few stops away from Gurye, it wasn’t until this year, living in Suncheon, that I finally went to see the sansuyu blossoms for myself.

I chalk this up to only really having the weekends to visit, and Korean festivals are beyond hectic on the weekends. I like to think I’ve become a lot more patient since living and traveling in Asia for 3+ years, but even a popular weekend festival can drive me to the brink.

However, this year my schedule is pretty sweet in that I don’t have classes on Tuesday or Thursday morning. And my early afternoon classes are canceled until May because the library is undergoing renovation. This means I have nowhere to be until 7 p.m. when my night classes start, and I have all day to go wherever I want.

Let me tell you, the crowd issue at any festivals drops significantly if you go on a Tuesday morning vs. a Saturday morning. It’s amazing.

I asked my friend, Stacey, who teaches at a hagwon and doesn’t start until 3:30 p.m. if she wanted to go with me, and we found ourselves at the Gurye train station by 9:00 a.m.

We managed to get ourselves out to the festival area without paying an arm and a leg for a taxi, and we walked around for a few hours before we headed back to our respective cities. The festival is a gorgeous day trip, especially if you live in Jeollabukdo or Jeollanamdo. It’s very easy to combine the trip with other areas in Gurye if you’re coming from farther away as well.

Oh, and if you’re a fan of makgeolli, you can pick up a fun sansuyu version to drink as a souvenir!

Anyhow, here’s all the practical information if that’s what you’re looking for instead my blabbering:

Visiting the Gurye Sansuyu Festival

What’s a Sansuyu?

Sansuyu is basically a type of cherry.

In English,  it’s called a few different names (according to Wikipedia):

  • Scientific name: Cornus officinalis
  • Japanese cornel
  • Japanese cornelian cherry
  • Cornelian cherry
  • Korean cornel dogwood
  • Chinese cornel dogwood

For simplicity’s sake and since the pronunciation, “sansuyu,” is pretty much the same in Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese, I’m just going to refer to them as such.

The sansuyu tree is a type of dogwood tree, and they’ve traditionally been used in Oriental medicine. You can only really see the yellow blossoms in early spring while the rest of the year you can see the uniquely elongated sansuyu themselves.

If you interested in more of the scientific aspect to sansuyu trees, check out this website.

Why is Gurye the popular spot for sansuyu trees?

The story goes that a young woman from China planted the first sansuyu tree in Gurye after moving to the area after marriage. Since then there have been thousands of sansuyu trees planted around Gurye, and the main festival grounds boast over 30,000 alone.

Gurye also makes up nearly 3/4 of Korea’s overall sansuyu production, so you can imagine how many trees that would require from one small county!

A Quick Guide to the Gurye Sansuyu Festival

There are a few tours for the Sansuyu Festival if you’d rather just book a tour than figure everything out on your own.

Information

  • Korean Name: 구례산수유꽃축제
  • Address: 전라남도 구례군 산동면 상관1길 45 (산동면)
  • English Address: 45, Sanggwan 1-gil, Gurye-gun, Jeollanam-do
  • Cost: Free!
  • Open: All day — it’s not a closed-in area, so you can pretty much go whenever you want. I’d guess the food and souvenir stalls aren’t open super early or super late, though.

How to Get the Festival

From Seoul to Gurye

You can take either a train to Guryegu Station or a bus to Gurye Bus Terminal.

If you take the bus, it’s around 20,000 KRW. When I checked there was only one bus at 9:20 a.m., and it leaves from the main Seoul Express Bus Terminal (Central City on Kobus). If you want, you could take a bus to Suncheon and transfer from there since there are buses every hour Seoul – Suncheon and Suncheon – Seoul. I’d say you could go to Namwon, but you’d have to change bus terminals, which is an extra step.

If you take the train, there are plenty from Yongsan Station to Guryegu Station. If you’re on a KTX it should be a little more than 2 hours and about 41,500 KRW. Mugunghwa is only 23,100 KRW but takes 4 1/2 hours.

Once you’re in Gurye here are the different ways:

By Taxi

The easiest option, of course, is to take a taxi. It might be worth trying if you’re in a group of 4. When I looked on Kakao Maps, it was about a 30-minute drive from the train station and costs 35,000-40,000 KRW. If you look at a map, the festival area is quite literally on the opposite side of the county.

By Local Bus

This option is really easy, but also not that easy if you have a crap sense of direction like me.

Short answer: Take a bus from the bus terminal and get off at Jungdong (중동). Take the same bus back.

Long answer:

  1. We took a taxi from the station to the bus terminal. It was only 6-7,000 KRW so not too bad.
  2. You’re going to take a bus from the actual bus terminal, not a nearby local bus stop. If you’re unsure, you can go up and ask the terminal counter about the Sansuyu festival or village. They’ll know what to give you. Our tickets were 2,200 KRW and we had to wait till 10:20 a.m. to get the next bus.
  3. Get on the bus that has Jungdong (중동) on its front window. Again, if you’re not sure, ask the bus driver or people on the bus about Sansuyu.
  4. It takes about 40 minutes with no traffic, though KakaoMaps said it’d be 70 minutes.
  5. Don’t get off at the first tent area. It might be part of the overall festival, but it’s not near the blossom paths and main village.
  6. You’ll get off at Jungdong, which is also the last stop, and it’ll be pretty obvious. The actual area is maybe 5-minutes away walking.
  7. The stop isn’t a typical bus stop. It’s more like a super side parking area that the buses use to turn around. It’s near a restaurant called “옛날집,” so look for that sign when you’re ready to go back. Here are two screenshots I took from Kakao Maps if you’re unsure!

  • I have no idea of any timetables on the way back. I can only assume they come every hour during the festival season, but I really don’t know. We just kind of sat and waited and one came maybe 10-15 minutes later. When I checked Kakao, it didn’t have any times either and Gurye didn’t have a local bus route map. It’s the countryside, so my advice is to just go with the flow.
  • Hope that helped! If you can get there, the festival is still going on to the end of this weekend (March 25, 2018). There might even be some blossoms still up the week after if the weather is nice. Otherwise, plan for the 2nd or 3rd week of March!

    For more spring travel in Korea:

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