Heading to South Korea this winter? While most people may know Korea as a skiing destination for winter vacations, there are actually a lot of interesting and unique winter getaway ideas that don’t involve face planting on a slope! When it comes to things to do in Korea during the cold season, we’ve got you covered.
Here’s a list of 5 must-try activities for your Korean winter vacation:
Winter Vacation Idea #1: Strawberry Picking
While North Americans enjoy a spring to summer strawberry season, Koreans pick these sweet fruits in the winter when they are in-season and at their ripest. Book a trip to a local farm in South Korea during your vacation and delight in juicy, plump berries.
If you’re staying in Seoul, we suggest booking a day tour from Seoul that will take you to some of the countryside’s most scenic winter sights (like Nami Island) then cap off the day by bringing you to a pick-you-own strawberry farm.
Winter Vacation Idea #2: Take in the Light Show
Admire the Christmas and New Year light show that transforms the streets of Seoul and Busan during the winter. Appreciate the illuminated landmarks against the night sky. Families should be sure to plan a visit to theme parks like Everland and Lotte World that go all out when it comes to Christmas light shows.
Here are four of our favorite spots to check out the incredible light shows around Seoul and Busan:
Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm
K-drama fans will already know this quaint garden as a filming spot for Love in the Moonlight and She Was Beautiful. The garden boasts stunning blooms during the rest of the year but during winter, the Lighting Festival illuminates the snow-covered trees and fields.
Lighting Festival Season: December to March
Hours: 5:10pm – 9:00pm (11:00pm on Saturdays)
How to Get There: from Cheongpyeong Station, go to Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal, take the bus to The Garden of Morning Calm
Winter Lights at Byeokchoji BCJ Botanical Garden
Byeokchoji BCJ Botanical Garden is home to a huge number of diverse plants including endangered species and aquatic plants. During winter nights, the garden is open for visitors to enjoy, and the flowers are adorned with vibrant and colorful lights.
Winter Lights Season: November to March
Hours: Sunset – 10:00pm
How to Get There: take exit 1 from Gimcheon Station on the Gyeongui Line, then take bus #15
Christmas Decorations at Herb Island
Certainly some of the prettiest winter decorations can be found at Herb Island. Layers of colors and light beautifully coat the slopes and trees of this theme park and project a wonderfully festive feel.
Christmas Decoration Season: November to December
Hours: Sunset – 9:00pm
How to Get There: take the train to Uijeongbu Station and switch to the Gyeongwon Line (runs every 20 mins). Disembark at Choseong-ri Station (takes about 40 mins) and take Bus 57 bound for Sinbuk Oncheon. Disembark at Samjeong-ri.
LetsRun Park Busan–Gyeongnam
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the best winter decorations are all in Seoul, journey to Busan and make your way to the LetsRun Park for a striking display. The park is quite expansive so take your time exploring. The Light Festival Illumination happens all year. Be sure to catch the light show and impressive fountain in Area #13 of the park.
Light Festival Illumination Season: year round
Hours: Sunset – 12:00am
How to Get There: take Bus Gangseo-gu 7 or Gangseo-gu 7-2. Disembark at the Horse Racing Park-ipgu (경마공원입구) bus stop.
Winter Vacation Idea #3: Ring in the New Year in Korea
If you’re in South Korea over the New Year holiday, you can experience a number of parties, performances, concerts or even a traditional bell-ringing ceremony.
Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony
The Bosingak Bell-Ringing Ceremony takes places at the Bosingak Pavilion on New Year’s Eve. Tourists and locals alike wait for the bell ringing that signals a new year. Enjoy performances by musicians and more at this stunning temple.
Bosinggak Pavilion, 54 Jong-ro, Gwancheol-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Homigot Sunrise Festival
While most New Year celebrations take place at night, the Homigot Sunrise Festival celebrates the first sunrise in Korea of the new year. Travel to the easternmost point of the Korean Peninsula and witness a sunrise in rich hues of orange and red. Watch traditional performances, a fire show and a concert before sampleing ‘tteokguk’, a Korean delicacy, eaten for New Years.
Homigot Sunrise Square, 136, Haemaji-ro, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Countdown Seoul at Times Square
Looking for the hottest party in town? Get your tickets to Countdown Seoul at Times Square. On the pricier side but it’s an amazing opportunity to hear awesome acts. Fans of K-pop can’t miss this New Year’s celebration.
Location: Times Square, 15 Yeongjung-ro, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul
Winter Vacation Idea #4: Attend an Ice Fishing and Snow Festival
Up for a challenge? Jump into a river and catch trout with your bare hands! Brave the chilly air and take part in this Korean tradition. If you’re not so much into the idea of wading through a river, you can choose to go ice fishing through a hole in the thick ice instead.
Once you’ve caught any fish, (by rod or hand) you can take it to be professionally prepared and turned into a delicious sashimi dish.
After you’ve finished your sashimi there are plenty of other activities to keep you busy including: skiing, spinning tops and ice skating, sledding and more!
Here are three ice fishing and snow festivals happening during the winter in Korea to mark on your calendar:
Pyeongchang Trout Festival
Festival Schedule: December to January (exact dates change yearly, check official site)
Location: 3562, Gyeonggang-ro, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival
Partake in ice fishing, bobsledding and explore the winter village.
Festival Schedule: January 5 – 27, 2019 (exact dates change yearly, check official site)
Location: Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do
Taebaeksan Mountains Snow Festival
The Taebaeksan Mountains stretch from North to South Korea and in winter are covered in beautiful thick white snow, there is lots of fun to be had up in the mountains during the snow festival such as entertaining shows, ice sculptures and sledding.
Festival Schedule: January (exact dates change yearly, check official site)
Location: 168, Cheonjedan-gil, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do
Winter Vacation Idea #5: Warm up at a Korean Sauna (Jimjilbang) or Water Park Hot Spring
Feeling the chill of winter? Warm up at a Jimjilbang (i.e. a Korean sauna). Jimjilbangs boast multiple sauna rooms, each at a different temperature and featuring different mineral-rich ingredients. Unwind in the soothing saunas or treat yourself to a massage.
Pro-Tip: Book your sauna experience in advance to make sure you have a spot! Check out this Seoul jimjilbang and reserve your space.
Even in winter, Korea’s biggest water parks are open and offer a variety of warming options! Relax in the hot springs or warm indoor pool. Take a seat in the heated outdoor pool and witness the snowy scenery.
Pro-Tip: Both jimjilbangs and water parks are family-friendly!
Winter Vacation Idea: Warm up at a Water Park Hot Spring (image via Dushan Hanuska, flickr)
Pro-Tip: Book online, in advance and save money on your tickets! Visiting Seoul? Purchase your tickets to Everland Caribbean Bay Water Park now and save.
There’s so much more to Korea in winter than ski slopes. You can warm up at a hot spring, enjoy fresh strawberries at a charming farm or even fish for trout in a frozen river. Don’t give winter the cold shoulder! Embrace it with these five winter activities in Korea.
Planning your Korea winter vacation? Here’s more useful info: