A Winter Wonder At The Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival
Each winter in January the Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival takes place; an extraordinary winter festival that has classified by CNN as one of the ‘7 wonders of winter‘. The three week long festival; one of the biggest winter events running in South Korea; takes place on a stream covered with a 40 centimeters thick ice layer.
Thousands of Koreans from all over the country flock towards Hwacheon and group onto a frozen rivers for hours in the hope of catching some mountain trout. Obviously this wouldn’t be Korea if there was no soju or makkeoli involved!
We booked a trip with the budget travel agency Trazy. For only 26,000 krw (25$) per person we got the bus, ice fishing, one grilled trout, three times sliding down a ramp in a rubber ring, ice sledging and a 10,000 krw food coupon. There are quite a lot of other travel agencies who offer similar packages but after doing a lot of research, Trazy’s package stood out as more activities were included. To find out more, check here.
Neither Evan or me have ever been ice fishing (or regular fishing) and we have definitely not walked on frozen rivers before. Where we come from, lakes or rivers don’t freeze over winter, so ice fishing was completely out of the question. This year, this was on my bucket list, I definitely had to come to this ice fishing festival and experience it for myself. Sadly enough, I realized my fishing skills are almost non existent. After two hours I caught my own fish, totally by accident as he just jumped out of the hole (shh don’t tell my husband, he thinks I actually caught it myself).
Hwacheon is well known for it’s clear river water and the local mountain trout, called sancheoneo in Korean. The biggest attraction at the festival is definitely the ice fishing experience. Visitors can fish the famous mountain trouts through 11,000 ice holes. There are different areas you can go to; the regular area, the reserved area and the foreigner area. At first I didn’t like having a special ‘foreigner zone’ as it felt weird being separated from the Koreans; but after seeing how packed their area was I was quite happy to be in the less busy ‘foreigner zone’. In here you can fish up to 3 mountain trouts per person; which you can then exchange for a delicious grilled fish.
When entering the foreigner fishing area you’ll receive a fishing rod and a plastic bag to put your caught trout in. During the day, plenty of new fresh trouts are released into the different areas, so not to worry, there’s enough fish for everyone.
TIP! You’re supposed to move your rod up every 3 seconds, this way you should be able to snatch a passing by fish out of the water.
BARE HANDED FISHING COMPETITION
One of the most entertaining and weirdest thing at the festival was definitely the bare handed fishing competition. A bunch of adults in summer outfits running around freezing cold water trying to catch as many trouts as possible.
Every day on the hour you can come and watch the competition, starting with the kids and finishing off with the adults. A group of around 40 Koreans and foreigners that are competing for triumph, get 5 minutes to catch as many trouts as possible. Once started, you’ll see everyone jump in and start catching; some more excited than others.
When catching a fish you’re supposed to stuff it down your t-shirt alive and continue catching more. There seems to be a tradition among the older men to put the fish with the head in their mouth and show it off to the audience!
OTHER WINTER WONDER ACTIVITIES
The ice fishing is definitely the most popular activity, but that doesn’t mean that the other activities are less fun! There is an overload of other activities available like; ice sculptures, ice and snow sledding, ice soccer, the winter village, Seondeung street, the vulcano photo zone, the salmon craft studio, a coffee museum and the ecological film center.
Mountain trout fishing: 12,000 krw pp and 8,000 krw for foreigners
A grilled trout: 3,000 krw
Other activities range between 3,000 krw and 10,000krw
TIP! Are you a foreigner? Buy a package in advance! It will save you quite a bit of money. Check here for more details.
HOW TO GET HERE
If you’re not purchasing a package upfront you can get to the festival by taking an intercity bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal to Hwacheon (화천).
Daily from 07:05-19:35,with 30-40 minutes intervals.
The festival grounds are only a 10 minute walk away from the bus terminal.
Have you been to the festival or have any questions? Tell me about it in the comment section below!
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