The Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival

In Gwangyang Maehwa village, near Seomjingang River in Jeollanam-do, plum trees start to blossom in early March, reaching their peak in the middle of the month. During the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival, large crowds of tourists from across the nation flock to the picturesque village.

While plum flowers differ in color depending on the breed, most plum flowers found in the village are white. The flowers give the village a mysterious yet tranquil atmosphere, resembling a snow-covered wonderland in spring. Read on to find out more about the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival.

Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival
Photo credit Abrielle The Human

Things To Know When Visiting The Maehwa Festival

  • What To Wear – The tour fall mid march which is still rather cold in South Korea. Make sure to wear a thick jacket and comfortable walking shoes. Check what to pack for Korea here.
  • Book A Tour – Make your trip to the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival easier by booking a package tour. Ktria offers great and affordable trips to the Gwangyang festival. Find more info here.
  • Tipping Culture – Going with a package tour to the plum blossom festival? Then check out this guide on the tipping culture in Korea.
  • Best Time To Visit – The festival only lasts for around 2 weeks in March and the highlight of the festival, where the blossoms are in full bloom falls in the middle of the festival.
  • Other Spring Festivals – Spring is one of the best times to visit South Korea as then all the flower festivals are happening. The best festivals to visit are Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival, Goyang Flower Festival, Wanging Culture Festival, Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival and many more. Check a full list of Korean festivals here.
  • Korea Itineraries – Planning a whole trip through Korea? Check out the best 5 day and 7 day Korea itineraries.
gwangyang south korea
Photo credit Abrielle The Human

Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival

Gwangyang Maehwa International Festival takes place in Seomjingang Village, home of the largest number of plum blossom trees in Korea. During the festival period, visitors can enjoy a walk beneath the plum blossoms, and also sample and purchase local organic plum products.

Maehwa is the flower which blooms when the plum tree bear its fruits. The flowers are also called plum blossoms because of its form and color, which is really similar with the cherry blossom. The plum blossoms usually bloom 2-3  weeks earlier than the cherry blossoms in Korea, annually between March 08 – 17.

Gwangyang Maehwa Festival
Photo credit Abrielle The Human

What To Eat At The Maehwa Festival

Similar to every festival in Korea, there are small vendors where you can eat Korean traditional food like Chamgetang (spicy mitten crab stew)  . These small restaurants are quite pricey for what you get, but the atmosphere is always great. Around the festival there you’ll find a small cafe, CU Mart and a shop, where you can buy ice creams or other drinks.

It is highly recommended to visit the highway rest area (휴게소) on the way to the festival. These rest stops have loads of restaurants and food stalls.The nearest rest area is Osu Rest area. The Korean food at the festival maybe a little too strong for foreigners.

TIP! Try the Maesil ice cream at the festival. This ice cream is plum blossom flavoured.

gwangyang korea
Photo credit Abrielle The Human

Practical Details

Listed below are the practical details for visiting the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival.

1. Opening Times

9:00 AM – 19:00 PM, each year the start and end date of the festival are differ, so make sure to check the official website.

2. Getting To The Festival

Below listed are ways of getting to the festival from Seoul and Busan. It is much easier to book a package tour then to go using public transport. Prices of the package tour are similar and sometimes even cheaper than using public transport.

2.1 From Seoul

By bus. From the Nambu Bus Terminal take the bus to Gwangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. First bus leaves at 7:10, and the last bus leaves at 22:20. The travel time is approximately 3,5 hours. Cost: 30 000 won.

Upon arrival, walk 160 meters to the Senior’s Welfare Center Bus Stop and take the bus 18 to Sinwon Bus Stop (33 stops). The ride take around 50 minutes. From the bus stop walk 580 m to Sinwon Parking Lot. Taking a taxi will be much quicker, but also way more expensive. .

2.2 From Busan

By bus. Going to the festival from Busan is a bit shorten than from Seoul. From Busan Nop terminal take an intercity bus for Gwangyang Intercity Bus Terminal. The ride takes around 2,5 hours and costs 15 000 won.

3. Tours Going To The Maehwa Festival

With departure from Seoul, book a tour with Ktria. The tour includes visiting the Maehwa festival and Jeonju Hanok Village.

4. Admission Fees


Travel Tips

  • Check the official website or recent photos on instagram before you visit, every year the conditions are different. Some years the Maehwa flowers fall down earlier due to the strong wind.
  • Visit on weekdays or early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
  • If you wish to travel with a package tour from Seoul, reserve some weeks in advance because it’s gonna be sold out quickly.
  • Wear bright colours when taking pictures, to contrast with the white of the flowers.

Other Things To Do In The Area

1. Suncheon

Suncheon is not far from Gwangyang and is also located in Jeollanam-do. It is referred to as the eco-city of South Korea because of the stunning Suncheon Bay and the Suncheon Bay Garden.

2. Yeosu

Yeosu is a picturesque coastal city along the south shores. It is famous for the expo park, a huge aquarium, the sky tower, stunning beaches and islands. It is an easy day trip from Busan.

3. Boseong Tea Plantations

The Boseong tea plantations are stunning mountainous green tea plantations open to the public. The best time to visit is during the Green tea festival as loads of events are happening at that time.

4. Jeonju Traditional Hanok Village

Jeonju Hanok Village is located in the city of Jeonju and overlaps Pungnam-dong and Gyo-dong. There are over 800 traditional Korean hanok houses. While the rest of city has been industrialized, Hanok Village retains its historical charms and traditions. The hanok village lies along the way from Seoul to the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival and is great to combine in a one or two day trip.

Jeonju traditional Village is especially beautiful for its unique roof edges, which are slightly raised to the sky. Hanok houses are generally divided into two sections, Anchae and Sarangchae. Sarangchae is where the men dwell, and is referred to as the Seonbi room. Because men and women had to remain separate, Anchae is situated deep inside the house so that it is secretive and quiet.

Another trait of Hanok is that all the houses are heated with ondol, a unique sub-floor heating system. Since Koreans enjoy sitting, eating, and sleeping on the floor, it needs to remain heated. A part of Hanok has been set aside so that tourists can experience traditional Korean life, called Hanok Life Experience Hall. You can enter the rooms to experience the warm floor first-hand. An advantage of this system is that it is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Photo credit Abrielle The Human

The food provided is very traditional, which adds to the traditional ambience. At the traditional Hanok Village, visitors can enjoy traditional Korean life and traditional foods like bibimbap, the most well known dish from the Jeonju region.

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Are you planning going to the plum blossom festival? Do you have any questions about the festival? Have any suggestions on things to add to this Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival blog post? Let me know in the comment section below.

Post written by Tony Park for Be Marie Korea.

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