Summer in Korea: What to Do + How to Stay Cool
Believe it or not, I’ve gone through summer in Korea four times! As a follow up to my guide to winter in Korea, I thought I’d write a nice little survival guide for anyone living or traveling through in the next few months. Enjoy!
You know, the older I get, the more I realize one truth — I am not a summer person. At least not in Korea. If I’m left to my own devices, I will sit under my AC for three months in a big T-shirt, and you won’t see me until the first breezy day in late September.
During my last summer in Korea, I decided to be more active. I made plans for the weekend, and I stocked up on cotton shorts and breezy T-shirts to keep cool. My goal was to not consume two ice creams a day and hibernate in the icy cave of my apartment.
Considering I managed a few small hikes, sightseeing in Suncheon, and a trip down to Jeju that summer, I’d say I was pretty successful! Here are all the tips I picked up from that summer!
A Full Guide to Summer in Korea
The sections are broken up into the following, so if you want to skip to one, you can just click on the links.
- What’s the Weather Really Like
- What Should I Pack + Wear?
- What to do in Korea during the Summer
- What to Eat to Stay Cool
- Any Extra Korea Summer Travel Tips
What’s the Weather Like in a Korean Summer
In short, the weather is torture. I’ve been to humid places in Southeast Asia before, but nothing quite compares to how brutal Korea is in the middle of July and August. I think it’s a mix of things.
The temperature itself isn’t necessarily the problem. It usually only gets up to around 80F (27C) – 90F(32C).
The real problem is that it’s monsoon season. When it’s not down pouring, it’s humid.
When you read humid, you may think, “Oh, that’s fine! Plenty of places are humid.” No, my friend, no. Korea is the kind of humid where you exit your air-conditioned car for five minutes and come back drenched in sweat. Besides the rain, there is no natural relief.
Korea is also packed in. Because the country is so mountainous, everything is closer together in general. The cities are, of course, the most condensed. I swear, it’s like this set-up traps in the humidity even more, and both of them combined trap in every atom of pollution and pollen imaginable. When I stayed with Elissa in Seoul before our trip to Bali, it felt like I was walking through a sweaty curtain of city scudge.
I’m being dramatic because summer humidity is one of the few things that give me a bit of a princess complex (that and clean bathrooms). I’ve heard Japan, Taiwan, HK, and China are pretty bad in similar ways, so I’m sure it’s not unique to this peninsula.
Also, if this is your first trip, you probably won’t be too bothered. I was in such a honeymoon phase in my first summer, the heat and the monsoons of Seoul didn’t even bother me. I was too high up on cloud nine.
What to Wear in Korea During the Summer
So, as a tourist, you’re pretty much fine to wear what you want. Even if you walked around in a bikini top all day, I’m sure no one would be too fussed in the bigger cities. They’d just look at you and think, “Oh it’s just a foreigner being a foreigner.” There’s no big fashion/modesty faux-paus if you don’t cover certain areas.
However, if you’re hoping to detract from the foreigner stares just a little bit, the big thing I’d recommend is the following two pieces of advice:
- Cover up your shoulders and cleavage. Especially the cleavage. Koreans cover up their top areas in general. You might see a younger person in a muscleman tank or a crop top at a music festival, but overall, you’ll see them in T-shirts or blousy tops. I think there’s even nipple tape that men wear to keep modest, but don’t quote me on that.
- When you go swimming, wear a cover-up or a rash guard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Korean in Korea wearing a bikini or swim trunks on their own. They always have a rash guard on or a T-shirt on top.
If you want some things to stay extra cool, check out Uniqlo’s Airism collection. I’ve never worn them as I don’t really wear undershirts or tanks in the summer, but I’ve heard they’re lovely. My only other piece of advice is to wear cotton and linen. If you’re on a budget, the H&M cotton dresses are perfect for Korea. Just make sure you check the material because some batches are kind of thin and crappy. I used to have 3 to rotate between. If you’re in the US before you go, I’ve also found Old Navy’s summery dress collections to be nice and breezy as well.
Where to Go During the Summer
If you want to stay relatively cooler, then visit Gangwon-do! It’s still hot, but it’ll be a bit more bearable than all the way down in Jeju where it’ll be almost painfully humid. I haven’t been able to explore Gangwon nearly as much since I lived so far south.
Here are some Gangwon-do tour options:
- Day trip out to Nami Island with Admission Ticket
- Wonju Rail Bike and Mt. Sogeum Suspension Bridge
- Gangneung Beach Day Tour
If you do want to go to Jeju, I’d go more in June and early July as it’s slightly more tolerable than late July and August. I highly recommend renting a car as it’s easy to drive on the island and you’ll just me much more comfortable than trying to catch the buses. I also recommend staying at this Airbnb. Not only is it super close to smaller port for Udo Island, it’s next to this lovely beach that’ll feel like your own private area!
What to Do in Korea During the Summer
Go to a water park.
Nothing beats a fun water park! The two near Seoul are:
- Ocean World Korea
- Carribbean Bay, which is part of Everland Theme Park
Hang out at the beaches.
There are so many beaches in Korea! I mean it is a peninsula. From Gangneung in the north to Hyeopjae in Jeju, you’ll have plenty of options.
If you want, stay in one of the port cities, like Yeosu or Tongyeong. Then you can head out to the different islands to enjoy a proper beach day.
Go for a sunrise hike.
It’d be a shame to visit Korea and not do at least one hike. I’m pretty sure you’re asking for a sunstroke if you go in the middle of the day, but another option is to go for the sunrise.
There are plenty throughout the country if you do want to do one. In Seoul, you can hike Maebongsan or Haneul Park, and in Jeju, they call Seongsan Ilchulbong “Sunrise Peak” in English!
Attend a festival!
There are a ton of festivals in Korea throughout the summer. This is by no means going to be a comprehensive list, so I’d just check out what’s happening during the weeks you’re here. Some I know of:
- Pride Festival – This is in mid-July. I went my last summer and it was a ton of fun! You basically walk around the main part of Seoul, and there’s a lot of singing and dancing. Be warned, you’re walking around Seoul in mid-July with a bunch of people, you’re going to be dripping in sweat. We walked over to my now favorite sauna and uber budget place to stay in Seoul, Siloam Sauna!
- Music Festivals – I don’t know all the big festivals, but I do know Ultra Music Festival is in June and Jisan Valley Rock Festival is in July.
- Boryeong Mud Festival – Apparently the mud at Boryeong is good for your skin, so, of course, there’s a giant mud festival in July. It’s exactly what it sounds like too — a giant mud party. Throw mud, swim around in it, and enjoy! Check tour prices + dates here
- Buyeo Sudong Lotus Festival – I don’t know much about this festival, but I saw it mentioned somewhere. It’s basically a lotus festival in late July and the photos from it look quite pretty! Check tour prices + dates here
- Daegu Chimac Festival – As you can guess from the title, this one is all about the iconic combo of chicken and beer! Check prices + dates here
- Water BOMB Festival – This one is in Seoul, and it’s basically a big music festival with water. Check details + prices here
Hang out + go camping in the valleys
The valleys are actually really nice if you want to go camping. I don’t know of too many, but when I visited Ryan and Stephanie in Yeosu, we hung out at Yeongchuisan Valley. It was the perfect way to stay cool after lunch.
My best advice is to ask around depending on which area you’re planning on going camping in or visiting. Considering this country is mostly mountains, there should be plenty of areas to choose from.
Visit a snow-themed indoor park.
Did you know there are entire snow-themed indoor parks in Korea? I had no clue! I guess if you truly want to beat the heat, just pretend it’s winter!
What to Eat + Drink to Stay Cool
Naengmyun is by far one of my favorite dishes for summer! You either love it or hate it though because it has a vinegary taste. It’s basically cold buckwheat noodles in an icy broth. I mean, how many foods can you say have their own catchy theme song?
Bingsu is amazing. The original style is patbingsu, which was basically red bean paste over shaved ice, rice cake, and nut powder. Nowadays you’ll see it with fruit and condensed milk. Personally, I’m not a big fan of red bean, so I just like the different varieties of bingsu. The main franchise is Sulbing, and I like getting the cheesecake or mango bingsu.
GS25 Ice Cream
This sounds silly, but if you ever need to, just pop into a convenience store for their ice cream! There are so many different flavors and treats than what you’d get in your home country! I personally love the chocolate one that looks like poop.
Any Extra Summer Travel Tips
Makeup Tip: Get the powder or anti-sebum primer
The nice thing about it getting so humid in Korea is how many make-up tricks and products there are to help beat that shiny forehead look! I personally love Innisfree’s no sebum blur primer. I just put a bit on my forehead and my nose!
Bring a little Portable Fan with You
I don’t even care how silly I look, but I popped into Artbox and picked up one of those little portable fans! I mean I also have a regular fan to wave back and forth, but I figured I’ll be more likely to walk somewhere if I know I have a bit of a breeze to make it a little better!
Bring an insulated water bottle with you to fill up
There are water coolers in a lot of places in Korea, so you can always fill up with clean, cold water to help you stay cool! My mom sent me a Hydro Flask for Christmas, and it’s been a lifesaver. It keeps my stuff cold (and hot) forever, and it doesn’t get all the condensation a normal cold water bottle gets.
And there you have it! All my best tips to stay cool during the summer in Korea! Good luck, and I hope you stay as sweat-free as possible!
If you’re traveling to Korea for the first time, check out my South Korea travel tips post and join my Facebook group!
share this on pinterest
want to support?
I’m always grateful when friends and readereach out wanting to support There She Goes Again. Truthfully, I’m just happy my posts are helping people travel! If you’d like to support the blog, here are some companies and brands I’m affiliated with. Simply click the links, and I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!
- Booking (Hotels)
- Bookaway (Transport)
- Sixt (Car Rental)
- Klook (Tours)
- Viator (Tours)
- Get Your Guide (Tours)
- Trazy (Korea Tours)
- Tiqets (Entrance Tickets)
- World Nomads (Insurance)
BLOGGING / SOCIAL MEDIA
Again~ botton line.Save your money. We all work hard to have moments of enjoyment. Sweating every moment of your sightseeing event is going to be hell in the korean summer which is from June to late september.
Wait~ Korea is not a fantastic place to visit but it has some beautiful mountainous temples and views. Make this a side trip. You will be thrilled.
This is Karen Dawn Ryder again.
I just want to warn tourists again. Korea is a lovely place to visit. The people are generally kind, good Korean food is good, and there are many cultural differences that inspire reflection. I have lived here long uor my personal reasons..
However, NEVER believe any bloggs that say Korean summer temperature is 25 to 30.It’s a joke and just a tactic to get tourists to come over and spend their money. DON’T COME IN THE SUMMER. You will be as miserable as hell on Earth. The heat and humidity in June July and August, even September is unbearable. You will not want to go anywhere except your airconditioned hotel room. Do NOT COME. Wait until October that IS THE season to see this lovely country. Be warned.Do not waste your hard earned money on this country that has nothing to give you but hell in the summer. Wait until it can give you its better charms.
As a long time foreign resident who for the most has been able to escape the summers until the last few years when I have felt like being tortured, I give you my sincere advice. How about coming in Winter? It is really beautiful. You can explore many places and feel the true essence of South Korea.
This made me laugh haha. It really is atrocious in the summer, especially in the cities. I think the beaches and anywhere more open is bearable but my goodness Seoul was always terrible. The mountains really do feel like they trap the heat in and make it ten times worse! Even living in HCMC in Vietnam for 16 months, I never felt quite as miserably hot as in Korea.
I really have appreciated your post. It gives tourists coming to Korea the reality about the summer weather and I totally agree with you: it is “torture” >> real hell on Earth. There is no reason for them to waste their money just being miserable.
I also have been to some hot places in summer, but nothing compares to the unbearable level of humidity in Korea during summer. My advice? Don’t even consider coming here from June to the end of September. You’ll be just miserable, waiting to get back to your hotel and lie down infront of the A/C to feel human again.
From October, however, the weather is wonderful until January and February when you might find it too cold. I don’t, but some of you might not like the snow and ice that can severely hamper your visit. So, bottom line: do not come in June, July, August ( summer months), and January, February. ( coldest winter months). Outside of those months, you can enjoy your trip well and comfortably visit the country.
Thankyou again for your post. It really is helpful and realistic for potential tourists.
Haha it’s rough, isn’t it?! I just spent 16 months in south Vietnam (aka tropical climate 24/7) and even then I don’t think it ever felt as bad as Korea. It’s 100% the fact that the mountainous nature of the country really, REALLY traps things in!
I don’t mind September — it’s hot but not as bad as July/August! I’d say my favorite months are late March (cherry blossoms!) – late May and September – mid-November (fall foliage)!.