Hwacheon Tomato Festival, South Korea
Among the list of Korea’s more unique events, the Hwacheon Tomato Festival is likely to hold an upper ranking. The festival takes place every August in the countryside town of Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, and offers visitors a chance to crush, stomp, and throw the region’s signature food alongside other exciting, tomato-themed activities.
Read on to discover all the Hwacheon Tomato Festival has to offer, as well as its 20-year history and general information to help make the most of your time at this one-of-a-kind festival.
Hwacheon Tomato Festival
The 2022 Hwacheon Tomato Festival (August 5th-August 7th) is held at the Cultural Village and Sports Park in Hwacheon, Gangwon Province. The event is co-hosted by the local government of Hwacheon and the Hwacheon Tomato Agricultural Cooperative. Supervision is undergone by the Hwacheon Tomato Organization Committee and sponsorship is provided by the Hwacheon Agricultural Cooperative Federation of NH Nonghyup.
Hwacheon is famous for its mountainous landscape that contributes to the growth of its delectable tomatoes. There are a wide variety of attractions to see and partake in at this year’s festival that centers around the food, a main agricultural product of the region. The Hwacheon Tomato Festival is held annually to celebrate the cultivation of this beloved vegetable (or fruit, depending on your preference) as well as to honor the area’s dedicated farmers.
Pro Tip! Make your visit to the tomato festival in Hwacheon stress free and simple by booking an organized bus tour. Click here for more info.
1. About The Festival
The Hwacheon Tomato Festival continues to gain traction with each passing year, growing in size with the event’s popularity. The 2022 festival is expected to welcome over 100,000 guests from around the world. To further demonstrate just how successful the Hwacheon Tomato Festival has become, the 2021 event saw the sale of 20 million Korean won (18,000USD) worth of tomatoes despite the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s festival will feature six different zones with varied activities including a Water Zone, Market Zone, and Cultural Zone.
Like most festivals in Korea, the Hwacheon Tomato Festival would not be complete without its mascots. This year, guests are greeted by the adorable hosts Mato and Mati, humanoid tomato friends that are sure to appear all over merchandise and festival promotion.
Perhaps one of the biggest goals of the Hwacheon Tomato Festival is for guests to be transported back to their youth. After all, aren’t the best childhood memories when we didn’t care how messy we got? The Hwacheon Tomato Festival offers that chance one again – only this time with the help of tomatoes!
2. History of The Festival
The first annual Hwacheon Tomato Festival was held in 2003. It comes as no surprise that it was inspired by the ‘La Tomatina’ festival of Spain which also celebrates the European country’s beloved tomatoes. Not only were these festivals created to demonstrate the value of tomatoes for one’s health, but also to increase revenue in agricultural towns.
In particular, Hwacheon is known for its Hwaaksan tomatoes that are grown in semi-alpine hills reaching up to 600 meters above sea level. This high altitude brings about a wide range of temperatures. Such cultivation makes the vegetables firmer and longer lasting, and even boasts a higher sugar content. The Hwaaksan Tomato breed has an average weight of 60-80g, making it smaller than most regular tomatoes, albeit larger than cherry tomatoes. Naturally, such valuable food shouldn’t go to waste, and the nearly 80 tons of tomatoes used at the festival are of lower quality and are thus unable to be sold.
To better appreciate the Hawcheon Tomato Festival, we should understand the food it celebrates. What makes tomatoes so special? How can they benefit our bodies?
Tomatoes are the world’s most eaten vegetable and were listed in Time Magazine as one of the Top 10 Healthy Foods and Power Foods of the 21st Century. One of the biggest reasons for a tomato’s health benefits is its high amount of lycopene. Lycopene gives tomatoes their signature red, yellow, or orange pigment and also removes active oxygen that is toxic to the body.
Tomatoes are also low in calories while simultaneously providing a plethora of nutrients. They are helpful in reducing LDL cholesterol, clearing the blood, and inhibiting fat cells. Additionally, tomatoes have an antioxidant effect that is effective in reducing wrinkles and preventing skin aging caused by the sun. Lastly, the Vitamin K present in tomatoes maintains calcium within the body and helps to strengthen bones.
3. Festival Activities
The Hwacheon Tomato Festival offers a wide range of activities for its guests. Most events will take place between 1pm to 10pm. For a more detailed schedule of special daily events, please refer to the bottom of this section.
One of the biggest activities of the festival is the Gold Ring Tomato Hunt. Fake golden rings are hidden in a pool of tomatoes and guests have the chance to search under a blanket of red water. Participants can destroy the tomatoes in any way they like – stomping, crushing, throwing – and have fun while doing it! To help avoid the heat while searching, a fire truck is stationed nearby to spray and keep the hunters cool. When a ring is found, the victor can exchange it for a genuine gold ring worth over 300,000 won (300USD). The event will be held twice daily on August 6th and 7th. For exact times, please check the schedule below.
Other specialized activities include a tomato slide, tomato juice making, tomato wrestling, a tomato makgeolli (traditional Korean wine) stall, tomato seedling collection, and of course a tasting area.
As the event takes place during the warmer part of the year, the Water Zone is a popular area for children as it helps keep the younger guests cool. Other popular activities for children include face painting and an escape game.
Specialized events will take place on the following dates (2022).
August 6th: The Gold Ring Tomato Hunt will take place in the Pia Zone from 11:30-12:30pm and again from 3-4pm. A children’s treasure hunt will take place in the Pia Zone from 2:30-3pm.
August 7th: The Gold Ring Tomato Hunt will take place in the Pia Zone from 11:30-12:30pm and again from 3-4pm. A children’s treasure hunt will take place in the Pia Zone from 2:30-3pm. A trench fight will take place in the Activity Zone from 1-2pm.
The Hwacheon Tomato Festival takes place near the downtown streets of Sachang-ri. This is ideal for guests as it offers plenty of local shopping and dining establishments when you need a break from seeing red.
4. How To Get There
Address: Munhwamaeul 1(il)-gil, Sanae-myeon, Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do | 강원도 화천군 사내면 문화마을
Official Website (Korean): Click Here
BY ORGANISED TOUR: If you don’t haver your own car, the easiest option is to go to the tomato festival with an organised tour bus that picks you up in Seoul in the morning and brings you back in the evening. Click here for more info about the organised bus tour.
BY CAR: By searching the above address in your car’s navigation, you should be taken directly to the main streets of the festival.
BY BUS (SEOUL): From the Seoul Express Bus Terminal head to the Chuncheon Intercity Bus Terminal. From here, take the Chuncheon-Sachang-ri Bus at the front of the station and depart at Sachang-ri Station. The journey will take around 1 and a half hours and cost around 5,000 won (5USD).
BY SUBWAY (SEOUL): Take the Chuncheon-Sachang-ri Bus from outside of Namchuncheon Station (Gyeongchun Line) and depart at Sachang-ri Station. The journey will take around 1 hour and cost around 3,000 won (3USD) in total.
ITX CHEONGCHUN (SEOUL): Take the ITX from Yongsan Station or Cheongnyangni Station and depart at Namchuncheon Station. From here, take the Chuncheon-Sachang-ri Bus from outside of the station and depart at Sachang-ri Station. The journey will take around 1 hour and cost around 10,000 won (10USD).
Other Things To Do In Hwacheon
Hwacheon is home to many other fantastic festivals at various times in the year.
Although there are great festivals available in the summer, Hwacehon is arguably most famous for its winter festivals.
It would be impossible not to mention the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival which usually takes place during the month of January. This ice-fishing festival was even classified by CNN as one of the ‘7 wonders of winter‘. The three-week-long event is one of the biggest winter occasions in South Korea and takes place on a stream covered with a 40 centimeters thick layer of ice.
This is a sponsored post by Hwacheon City. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal experience and view.