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Korean spring beauty in full bloom

Mar 22,2019
Left: A tree covered in pink flowers is located in the lobby of L’Escape Hotel in central Seoul to signal the arrival of spring to visitors.
Left: Visitors at the Gurye Sansuyu Festival in Gurye County, South Jeolla, take photos of the yellow flowers. The festival runs until Sunday.
As spring showers start to fall, many people are full of anticipation for the weather to warm up so that spring’s first flowers can start blooming.

Reports of blooming cherry blossoms in Jeju Island and Busan started popping up on social media last weekend, prompting many to start looking for the best spots around the country to catch the picture-perfect scene.

Want to be the first of your friends to post photos of flowers on Instagram? Don’t wait until Seoul begins blooming. The warmer provinces in the south, Gyeongsang and Jeolla, will welcome flowers earlier, making them hot spots for weekend flower-spotting trip. The first cherry blossoms are scheduled to start blooming over the weekend and early next week in those southern cities while people in Seoul will have to wait until early April.

Heading south

Although many instantly think of cherry blossoms in the spring, there are other beautiful flowers that go into full bloom a bit earlier. At the moment, sansuyu, the cornelian cherry flower, are painting some towns south of the country yellow.

Gurye County in South Jeolla is known for having large groupings of these flowers at the foot of Mount Jiri. The town holds the annual Gurye Sansuyu Festival, which offers not only a flowery scene, but also tea, alcoholic beverages and drinks made with the flower and its fruit to better entertain the visitors. This year’s edition will end Sunday.

North Gyeongsang’s Uiseong County also has many sansuyu flowers throughout the region. Its Uiseong Sansuyu Flower Festival will run until March 31. The agriculture-heavy area is filled with green crops fields, making for a impressive contrast of colors.

Mount Yeongchwi in Yeosu, South Jeolla, is where the brightest pink flowers in the country are in bloom. Azaleas cover the mountain and decorate its many trails. The trail up to the top of the mountain - which stands at an altitude of 510 meters (1,673 feet) - can be reached within an hour or two. Look back often to get a full view of the mountain covered with flowers.

Deep in the mountain, an annual spring ritual to the god of the mountain is performed. This year’s ceremony will be conducted on March 29. It has been said that this particular spot is where the local authorities came to pray whenever there was a national crisis. There is even a temple called Heungguk, meaning flourishing country. The temple was given the name with the hope that the country would be prosperous when it was built in 1195.

The famous Jinhae Gunhangje Festival in South Gyeongsang is also returning to welcome visitors from April 1 to 10. The streets will be covered in light-pink cherry blossoms, especially near Yeojwa Stream. The stream has been featured in many TV dramas for its beautiful spring scenes and is a year-round hot spot, but most especially when the flowers are in full bloom. To better entertain visitors at night, lights will be up to offer a different, colorful view of the cherry blossoms.

Gyeonghwa Station, which no longer runs as a train station, is another South Gyeongsang hot spot for spring flowers. The railway, about 800 meters long, will have a temporary train running to allow for a dramatic view of trees covered in flowers that surround the tracks. The train will move slowly so that people have enough time to take photos.

Flowers around the capital city

Seokchon Lake has become a must-see cherry blossom spot in Seoul and is slowly creeping up behind Yeouido, traditionally known as the city’s best and most popular spot to catch the blooming trees.

In recent years, the trail around the lake has established itself, especially among those who live in the eastern part of the city, as the walk is unhindered by passing cars. Flowers are expected to be in full bloom beginning on April 5, when the festival begins. The Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival is set to begin the same day.

In Incheon, there is a spot known for its azaleas. Mount Goryeo in Ganghwa County will be covered in pink for hikers to enjoy as they make their way up to the top. A festival will be held at the mountain from April 13 to 21, offering a variety of food, including pancakes decorated with pink petals.

Yangpyeong County in Gyeonggi is adding a delicious twist at their annual Yangpyeong Sansuyu and Hanwoo Festival by offering flowers and meat together for two days from April 6 to attract hungry souls.

Everland, a theme park in Gyeonggi, will present all types of tulips until April 28, making it a hot spot for the spring season. The park will continue its flower events, until summer approaches, with its own cherry blossom festival from April 5 to 7, and then a rose festival from May 17 to June 16.

If you think that only appreciating one type of flower at a time sounds boring, just wait until the International Horticulture Goyang Korea opens its doors. Flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors will be on display beginning on April 26.

Indoor options

For those worried about the fine dust levels outdoors, hotels and cafes around the city are filling up with flowers for you to enjoy inside. L’Escape Hotel in Jung District, central Seoul, has set up a gigantic tree covered with pink flowers of different sizes. The tree is tall enough to touch the ceiling.

The top is covered in small, fully-bloomed artificial flowers, with the bottom surrounded by live greenery and flowers. The tree, designed by Tony Marklew, who is based in London, is located on the first floor, right by the elevators that bring visitors in and out of the building, so you can’t miss it.

Walking around Myeong-dong, central Seoul, will also give you a glimpse of spring as many of the stores in the shopping district have started to decorate their facades with flower patterns to attract new customers.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]