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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Cherry Blossom Festivals

By Deirdre Madden

No flower is more closely associated with the ancient, mystic Far East than the cherry blossom. The delicate pink bloom bursts forth in abundance for a few short days each spring, letting us all know that the cold days of winter are ending, and the blast furnace of summer is approaching. After their initial trumpeting of spring, they then flutter to the ground, rosey flurries carpeting the grass shoots. Korean cities and towns have spent probably billions of won replanting their streets with these trees that are glorious and special for about 4 days out of the year, and perfectly average trees the other 360. In fact, they’re even kind of a nuisance when their tiny, sour cherries ripen, and cover the sidewalk with dark purple stains and slimy rotting fruit. But I digress. In late March or early April, the trees truly are a splendor to behold, and I highly recommend spending a day or a weekend celebrating their beauty, and the end of winter.

I'm pretty sure I used this photo in last year's article, too.

Here’s a rundown of the Cherry Blossom Festivals happening around Korea. Keep in mind, organizing a festival based on when a tree will bloom is tricky business, and despite every effort on behalf of the organizers, sometimes their timing is off – particularly in these recent years when weather patterns have shifted. More than one festival has had to be postponed or even cancelled due to uncooperative trees.

Jinhae – April 1-April 10. 2 million tourists decend upon this small, seaside town on the other side of Busan to see their blossom-lined streets. This festival also commemorates Korea’s most admired seafarers – Admiral Yi Sun Shin, who led the Korean navy to win several important battles against the Japanese during the Imjin War in the late 1500’s. He was a very clever man, and if you’re into war history, I recommend checking him out. To get to the festival, you can either take a bus or a train to Jinhae and then walk a short distance to the downtown area. See the Korean Tourism Site for clear directions. Their official site is only in Korean.

Jeju – April 5-7 – Head to the Island for the King Cherry Blossoms. They can be viewed in both Jeju City and Seogwipo. Their official site is also only in Korean.

Gyeongju hosts the Cherry Blossom Marathon (Korean or Japanese only) on April 13th – a spectacular run if the blossoms are out. Even if you’re not a runner, head up to see this city in its prime during the blossom season. The whole city is filled with the trees. The area around Bomun Lake is particularly lovely.

Hwagae – Early April – The small town of Hadong, near Jirisan hosts this festival, where the best blossoms appear along the “Marriage Road… If lovers walk down this road holding hands, they will get married and stay happily together forever.” Worth checking out with your sweetheart. Their official site has Engrishy.

Yeouido, near Seoul has a festival from April 12-18. The site is Korean only, but directions can be found on the Korean Tourism Site.

Jecheon City hosts the Cheongpunghoban Cherry Blossom Festival (site in English) from April 19-21

Of course, you can easily enjoy the blossoms without having to head to a festival. Ulsan blooms beautifully  – particularly along the stream in Mugeodong (Mugeocheon) that runs from the McDonald’s to the Taehwa River, near the Samho Bridge. In the past few years the city has redeveloped this former ditch into a beautiful walking path, and when the cherry trees blossom, it is breathtaking. Hakseong Park near Shinae is also lovely if you hike to the top of the hill, where the Japanese Fortress used to be. There are also plenty of trees on average streets, in Ulsan Grand Park, and out in the mountains.

The former ditch - this isn't the best bit

Just remember to take advantage of them when you spot them. The trees are in their prime only for 3-4 days, and a big windstorm or heavy rain will shorten that. And if you miss them in Ulsan, head north! They bloom up to a week later the further up the peninsula you go.