Ahhhh one of my favorite things to do – seeing the cherry blossoms in Korea!

From mid-March to mid-April, while the air is still cold and most of nature still dead, these pretty, ethereal blossoms, known as 벚꽃 (botggot) signal an end to Korea’s bitter winter. They represent a start to spring and all its connotations of renewal, love, and a little bit of magic.

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I don’t need to tell you that winter in Korea is one of my least favorite seasons. Unless it snows, the country turns into a pretty dull world. Everyone is crowded inside, bundled up in their black blanket coats, and the days are not only shorter, the skies are gray more often than blue. 

However, as soon as you start to see those white pink blossoms begin to bloom, it’s like everyone slowly begins to emerge from hibernation. The sidewalks are filled with students and workers lingering outside on their breaks and it really does feel like Mother Nature has breathed in new life into the country.

You can see this best in all the pretty music that gets released around March! The most famous is definitely “Cherry Blossom Ending” by Busker Busker and “Not Love, Not Cherry Blossoms,” by High 4 ft IU. 

Anyway, if you can’t tell from me waxing on poetically like I am, I love the cherry blossom season in Korea. I specifically plan my trips around either them or the fall foliage!

Quick Korea Guide

  • Getting in: If you fly into Incheon International Airport, you do NOT need to spend money on a taxi. Use the subway; it’s one of the nicest in the world. If you do need a private transfer, book ahead.
  • Stay in Touch: Korea has eSIMs! Order ahead here and you’ll be emailed a QR code which you can use to set-up your service.
  • Where to Book Activities: I always like checking Klook or Trazy for the best deals on anything related to tours and experiences in Korea.
  • Getting Around: In Seoul and Busan, you’ll always do a combination of the subway and walking with some taxis. Download the Kakao T app for taxis and Kakao Map for navigation.

Types of Cherry Blossoms in Korea

Okay, so this guide is cheating just a little. I couldn’t resist adding in some other flowers that aren’t specifically cherry blossoms, but they’re still pink-ish!

All in all, though, there are two main cherry blossom types in Korea:

Yoshino Cherry Blossoms

The Yoshino cherry trees (소메이요시노) are the most common in Korea, and they bloom first. These blossoms are a light, delicate pink color (almost white).

The name comes from the Yoshino district in Nara, Japan. In case you were wondering, yes, they’re the same ones that planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC

King Cherry Blossoms

The King Cherry Tree (왕벚 나무) originates on Jeju Island. Their flowers are distinctively pinker and bigger, though apparently some people in Korea claim they and the Yoshino trees are the same.

It’s a whole debate that feels a bit unnecessary. Many Korean don’t distinguish the two, so technically all cherry trees in Korea translate to 왕벚 나무. The Korean I put above is simply the Japanese name, someiyoshino, in Hangul, which is what Koreans will use only if they have to.

Anyway, King cherry trees are much rarer than the Yoshino ones. I didn’t know they existed differently from the Yoshino cherry trees until maybe a year or two ago, so I’ve only really enjoyed them once on the side of the road somewhere random in the countryside! They bloom a bit later than the Yoshino ones. I’d say early to mid April and a bit later.

There are some tours you can specifically do to see the King cherry blossoms, including this one around Busan and to Gyeongju.

Maehwa Blossoms

Not technically a cherry blossom but worth adding to your itinerary! These plum blossoms (매화) bloom the earliest – usually the 2nd week or March (along with the yellow sansuyu trees). The blossoms are even more delicate and whiter than the Yoshino ones.

The maesil tree comes from China, near the Yangtze River, and isn’t very common in Korea at all. The only festival I know of is the Gwangyang one, so let me know if you know of others!

I will say, nothing is tastier than a maesil drink at the jimjilbang if you happen to see it as an option.

Azaleas

Ok, I know azaleas are purple and have nothing to do with cherry blossoms. But they’re so pretty and they bloom around the same time, so I’m adding them. You’re welcome!

There are two types of azaleas in Korea, but they both translate the same, so it can be kind of confusing. One type is called 진달래 (jindalrae) and the other one is called 철쭉 (cheoljjuk). Both are a purple-pink color, and sometimes cheoljjuk translates to “Royal azalea.”

I found this blog post and this article that go into the differences, but it’s all in Korean and doesn’t let me copy and paste, so I haven’t gotten around to translating it. The article has photos comparing the two, though, and they really don’t look that different.

I only realized there were two different types because I was trying to find the full name of the Baraebong festival in Namwon, and nothing had 진달래 in the title!

History of Cherry Blossoms in Korea

Boooooyyyy have you just opened up a can of worms! I’m not surprised, really, but the history of cherry blossoms in Korea is, of course, highly debated among those who decide cherry tree origins.

Basically, it’s a fun game of Korea claims one thing, Japan claims another, and then China swoops in and claims something completely different. If you really want to get into it, here’s my brief understanding from the few articles I read.

Himalaya Origins

Many speculate the original cherry tree comes from somewhere in Eurasia, possibly the Himalayas.

Japan

From here, most believe it spread to Japan thousands of years ago during the prehistoric age. There are tons of sakura hybrids now, and there’s record of hanami, the act of enjoying the blossoms, from as far back as the 800s during Japan’s Heian Period. 

Considering cherry blossom is practically synonymous with Japan today, you can imagine how entwined the two are.

Korea

The biggest, and frankly most likely, theory is that Japan introduced the Yoshino cherry trees to Korea. I want to say it started with Changgyeonggung Palace and spread, but I feel like they would have been introduced earlier than Japanese occupation in the early 1900s. Again, cherry blossom scholars, please let me know!

This is why places like Jinhae, where the Imperial Japanese Navy once had a base, have so many cherry trees.

Meanwhile, the King Cherry tree is originally from Jeju, and the first records we have of it outside of Korean records, is from a French missionary in 1908.

Over all, the history of the cherry blossoms in Korea is debated, though the above is the most likely trajectory. Either way, enjoying the beauty of the blooms is a spring pastime in Korea just as it is in Japan, and I, for one, am glad Koreans did not chop them all down during more anti-Japanese times.

2024 Forecast Guide

Now what I’m sure most of you care about more than the history or breaking down the types, the actual forecast! 

Over all, the order of blooming goes like this:

  • Maehwa (and Sansuyu)
  • Azaleas (but they last longer)
  • Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
  • King Cherry Blossoms

Blossoming begins earlier in the south and then begin to work its way up north. You should have about a week to a week and a half to enjoy them. If you’re lucky you might get two full weeks, but if it’s a rainy spring, it could be less than a week.

Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Korea

I tried to organize these around the earliest to the latest, but you’ll have to keep an eye out closer to the dates to really know when what will bloom. Cherry blossoms really are as fickle as they are beautiful!

1. Gwangyang Maehwa (Plum Blossom) Festival

The Gwangyang Maehwa Festival one of the earliest signs of spring flowers on mainland Korea along with the Gurye Sansuyu Festival, and Koreans will visit in huge crowds to delight over all the white and pink along the Seomjin River.

The origins of the festival go back half a century when a woman named Hong Ssang Ri. She moved to Gwangyang when she married into a family there, and was interested in the maesil trees after seeing her father-in-law’s small orchard. Eventually she convinced him to focus on them over his chestnut trees, and now her “farm” holds over 10,000 trees!

Hwagae, Hadong, Korea

2. Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival

Hwagae is in Hadong county down in the southern Gyeongsangnam province. I’ve been here once before, so here’s a full post with details on visiting and what to expect. Just know — FOUR stunning kilometers of blossoms.

3. Jeju’s King Cherry Blossoms

I was about a week or so too early to really see the king cherry blossoms in Korea when I went down to see the canola fields in Jeju. The main festival takes place around Jeonnong-ro near the university. However, you can see them in a lot of different areas, like Hallim Park, Samseonghyeol Shrine, and Seongeup Folk Village.

The really incredible area, though, is along Noksan-ro, which is also covered with canolas. You’ll basically drive along this road and see just one long burst of yellow and pink to each side!

4. Yeosu Jungang Girl’s High School

  • Korean Name: 여수중앙여자고등학교
  • Dates: late March, early April
  • DIY: Rent a car

Here’s one that’s quite a random pick! My friends, the Hedgers, discovered this fairytale road for one real reason: Stephanie used to teach here. Yup, that castle-esque entrance is simply the entrance to her old high school grounds. The road leading up to it is short, but in the spring and fall, it looks quite magical. Not the easiest to get to, as I’d obviously only recommend going on the weekend when school isn’t in session, but quite a fun, random spot if you happen to live around Yeosu.

5. Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival

  • Korean Name: 광양 매화마을
  • Dates: last week of March
  • DIY: Go to either Gyeongju Intercity or Express Bus Terminal, walk to nearby bus stop and take Bus 10, 11, 100-1, 150, 154, or 600 to Wolseong-dong Citizen’s Center Stop (월성동주민센타)
  • Check tour availability here

Gyeongju is also a great city if you’re interested in Korean history as it’s the best place to learn about the Silla dynasty. I’ve only been in the summer, but it’s supposed to be stunning during cherry blossom season!

6. Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival

Jinhae is by far the most famous of all the festivals. It took me so long to finally go because I just heard all these horror stories about how crowded it got on the weekends, the only times I could go as a teacher. However, I finally went this last year, and really enjoyed it! Fun fact, the festival isn’t actually a cherry blossom festival, but a naval festival celebration Korea’s navy and admiral Yi Sun Shin.

The main areas to see the blooms are actually quite spread out, so you’ll want to read my post on the Jinhae cherry blossoms for a total breakdown! It also has exact directions of getting to the festival. Spoiler, they’re not that close to each other at all!

7. Namwon Yocheon River

  • Korean Name: 남원 요천강
  • Dates: last week of March
  • DIY: Simply go to Namwon Bus Terminal or Namwon Bus Station. Taxi to the entrance of Gwanghalli and just cross the road to the river.

I feel like there’s kind of a festival for this but not officially. Anyway, all along Yocheon river in Namwon are these beautiful cherry blossom trees, and it’s one of my absolute favorite places for them. I used to take the long way between my two schools just to enjoy them, and one year I wrangled a friend into enjoying them with me one weekday morning.

My best tip is to cross the river and climb up to the pagoda looking building to get a view over the whole river. The pagoda is actually a cafe, so you can get a coffee and sit on the deck to enjoy it all.

8. Enrogel Teapot Cafe

  • Korean Name: 에느로겔
  • Dates: last week of March
  • DIY: Don’t try public transport like I did the first time, just don’t.

I visited a good week+ too early to catch the cherry blossom around Enrogel Teapot Cafe, and the only other time I went was in late fall. The café takes “off the beaten path” to new levels, so you definitely want to have a car if you’re planning on visiting!

It’s buried away in the countryside, with very little surrounding it. The cherry blossom road complements the whimsical teapot architecture perfectly, so it will definitely be one of the quirkier places you’ll visit in the country.

9. Anyang Stream in Seoul

  • Korean Name: 안양천
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: Hallie drove, but I believe we parked somewhere near Dorimcheon Station (도림천 역), Exit 2 and walked under the bridge to the stream.

Here’s a secret lil spot that Hallie found and showed me one year. Want cherry blossoms in Seoul without bumper to bumper traffic? Go to Anyang stream! We met up with our friends and had fun walking along the path and taking photos.

10. Wonmisan Azalea Festival

  • Korean Name: 원미산 진달래 축제
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: Get off at Bucheon Sports Complex Station (부천종합운동장역) Exit 2

Want a 2 for 1 deal? Wonmisan has both the jindalrae azaleas and cherry blossoms! I’ve been twice now, both times with Hallie. It’s just a huge mountainside full of purple blooms and then surrounding them are these light pink trees. Even in the rain it was a stunning site to behold.

11. Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival

  • Korean Name: 석촌호수 벚꽃축제
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: Simply get off at Jamsil Station. The closest exits are 4, 3, 2-1, 2, and 1

I’d seen photos of Seokchon Lake during cherry blossom season, but I only visited for the first time this past year! It really is a beautiful place to see the blooms! Spend the day at Lotte World, which is right in the center of the lake, and then walk around later in the day when the brunt of the crowds have left. It really is one of the busiest places I’ve seen yet, and the crowds are basically shoulder to shoulder on the weekend during the peak. To see them from above, go to Seoul Sky Observatory

12. Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival in Seoul

  • Korean Name: 영등포 여의도 봄꽃축제
  • Dates: first week of April
  • Included in this tour
  • DIY: There are a few different subway stops that go to Yeouido:
    • Dangsan (당산역), Exit 4, 20 min. walk
    • National Assembly (국회의사당역), Exit 1/6, 5-minute walk
    • Yeouinaru Station (여의나루역), Exit 1, 20-minute walk

If you’re only planning on staying in Seoul for your visit, then you’ll want to check out Yeouido. It’s about 1.7 km stretch of blossoms! I’ve only seen them at night when I went for my Han River cruise.

13. Montmartre Park in Seocho-gu, Seoul

  • Korean Name: 몽마르뜨 공원
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: The closest subway is Seocho Station (서초역). Use Exits 6 or 7 and walk straight.

Seocho is known in Seoul for having a small French population, so naturally the main park here is named after the famous Parisian neighborhood! Once cherry blossom season hits, spend a nice afternoon checking out some French cafes and bakeries before strolling around Montmartre Park to enjoy the blooms. As a bonus, pop into the Lotte Mart to see the best selection of cheeses that exists in Korea.

14. Dokmakro-gil 3, Hapjeong

  • Korean Name: 독막로3길 합정
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: The closest subway is Hapjeong Station (합정역). If you use Exit 6, walk straight and it’ll be on your left.

This is another spot Hallie took me to on my last visit. The whole street is lined with cherry blossoms and quite pretty. I’d recommend pairing your time here with some cafe hopping nearby in Yeonnam-dong.

Seoul Forest

15. Seoul Forest

  • Korean Name: 서울숲
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: Use Seoul Forest Station (서울숲역)

Located in Seongdong-gu, Seoul Forest is actually the third largest park in the whole city covering something like 3,000 acres. I met up with Autumn here to stroll around and catch up while we tried to find the main cherry blossom pathway. If you’re not there when it’s too busy, be sure to climb up to that bridge in this photo for a cool view overlooking everything.

Also, highly recommend Grandmother’s Recipe (할머니의 레시피) for lunch or dinner.

Incheon, Korea

16. Incheon Chinatown Cherry Blossoms

  • Korean Name: 인천 차이나타운
  • Dates: first week of April
  • DIY: Take the subway to Incheon Station (인천역). You’ll see Chinatown as soon as you exit the station.

Not to be confused with the airport! Incheon is a city in Korea, and its biggest claim to fame is its Chinatown. Last year when we went, we saw some cherry blossoms around the gates, and I imagine if you keep going into the park, you’d find even more.

17. Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom Festival

  • Korean Name: 경포대 벚꽃축제
  • Dates: first/second week of April
  • DIY: Go to the either the Gangneung Intercity or Express Bus Terminal, take Bus 202 and get off at Gyeongpodae (경포대)
  • Check tour availability here

This is probably the most farthest north of the festivals as it’s in Gangwon-do (the same province they held the Olympics in).

FAQ About Cherry Blossoms in Korea

What month is cherry blossom season in Korea?

Late March and early April.

How long do cherry blossoms last in Korea?

About 2-3 weeks.

Where is the best place in Korea to see cherry blossoms?

Depends on where you want to go! Many cities and towns have at least one huge park with plenty of blossoms to enjoy. I prefer going to more rural areas like Hadong because the nature is more beautiful.

What do cherry blossoms symbolize in Korea?

The beginning of spring!

And there you have it! Happy Cherry Blossom Season!

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A guide to cherry blossoms in Korea

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Samantha,

    Really useful info! May I know whether your forecast dates are start of blooming or peak bloom dates?

    We will be in South Korea this 1st to 15th April, and would like to visit Jeju, Busan+Jinhae+Gyeongju and Seoul+Chuncheon (in that order, but unfortunately only in that timeframe). We would really want to see cherry blossoms in all those places, but are now anxious we may not be in time to see any in Jeju, even if we start from there as our first city as the original plan.

    Would it be better to just start with Seoul then Busan and last Jeju (since we will miss the blossoms anyway?)

    1. Hi Leo!

      I’d say in the middle (the term I used to look is 벚꽃 개화 which translates to “the flowering of cherry blossoms”).

      If you’re coming April 1-15th, it’s either going to be perfect or you may JUST miss the blossoms. It really depends on the weather (last year I was in Jeju and everything was in full bloom one day and gone the next because it rained).

      If anything I’d start in Busan, Jinhae, and Gyeongju before going to Seoul and Chuncheon and then saving Jeju til the end. You’re almost guaranteed to see them as long as the weather holds. You may even catch the king cherry blossoms in Jeju since they tend to bloom a little later.

  2. This is one of my favorite posts to read to take great insights! So, might this is the best month to travel to Korea for spring! Thanks so much 💖

    1. Hi Evelyn! Your best bet is to use “Jeju Horse Park” or “조랑말체험공원” in your GPS in Korea. I don’t recommend using Google Maps but rather KakaoMap or if you’re renting a car, it should come with a GPS!

  3. Is booking a tour necessary to visit the Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival or is it fairly easy to check out without a tour guide? I’ll be visiting until April 20th and would love to see the blossoms.

    1. Hi Christina! You can definitely do it on your own if you’re comfortable with Seoul and the area :) If I make it up in time, I’m just planning on hopping on the subway and going over one morning!

  4. Hi Samantha! Can i have your suggestion ?

    If I only have 2 time options to visit Jinhae ( 30 March OR 4 April 2018 ). Which date should i pick for best cherry blossom view ? I mean, the best approximate peak time for its bloom :) can you give me an advice ?

    If i go on 30 march, will it too early to come? im worry if the cherry blossom haven’t reach its peak.
    Thankyou!

    1. Hi Riska, thanks for asking!

      Hmm Jinhae is near Busan, and it says it starts blossoming around March 28th. I don’t think it’ll be near its peak on the 30th, so you might be disappointed! I’d go with the 4th to be on the safeside.

  5. This is so useful! I think we’re going to miss the blossoms this year which is sad. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see some of your photos from this years blooms instead!

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