Gwangyang Maehwa Plum Flower Festival
The month of March signals a change in South Korea that seems to breath life into every corner of the peninsula. It’s around March that the air itself changes and the world comes back to life, waking from its cold slumber in a brilliant display of rebirth. Flowers start to bloom, birds return to flight, and festivals celebrating the changing season resume to lure people back into the world after a cold hibernation. While the cherry blossoms of April get the majority of praise when it comes to Korea’s beautiful spring blossoms, the Maehwa Festival in Gwangyang comes a month earlier. It is this festival that truly welcomes the warmer months and kicks off the festival season in the year to come.
The plum tree festival in Gwangyang is one the first flower festivals of the year. Located so near South Korea’s southern coast and north of the city of Gwangyang, the climate in this region allows for thawed soil and warmer winds often weeks before the northern provinces emerge from the frigid depths of winter. The cherry blossoms are certainly the most iconic heralds of Winter’s end, but the Maehwa Festival is special in that these trees are often the herald of warmth to come.
Gwangyang Maehwa (Plum Flower) Festival
The weather during this festival is often frigid enough to make festival goers question the wisdom of the plum trees, but the celebratory nature of this festival, reveling in the beauty and thankful exodus from the cold month acts more as a promise, from nature, that the months to come will be as majestic as the Maehwa. Located along the main river in Hadong, the sprawling acres of plum trees at this festival are not the only stunning scenery visitors can enjoy. The entire river valley is dotted by small clumps of newly budding plum trees as well as other signs of the coming Spring.
The brilliant white flowers of these plum trees may be most concentrated where the festival is held, but the drive into Hadong from the southwest is nearly as majestic as the festival itself. Lining the winding roads into the area are thousands of the same plum trees awaiting festival participants, which makes the journey almost as spectacular as the festival itself. The winding paths through the plum farm create beautiful landscapes for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike. There are thatch-roof pavilions to rest in, tents filled with food and shopping, musical performances on stage, scenic overlook locations, and enough space to escape the crowds. The Maehwa Festival isn’t the most popular or largest festival in South Korea, but it might be one of the most welcome. Its size, atmosphere, and timing combine to make this festival stand out in ways that only visitors will understand.
Taking place from March 11th to 19th of this year, the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival will be a welcome sign from nature that winter’s grip on South Korea is loosening and a breath of life is being breathed into both the trees and animals. This festival is not nearly as popular as some of the other flower festivals in South Korea, but each year it brings the first sign of relief from Winter, and the atmosphere at the Maehwa Festival is palpable with communal excitement. From the live music to the serenity of the plum tree groves; the festival food vendors to the handmade crafts made by local artisans, this festival is a relatively unknown gem. The budding of the Maehwa has long signaled Korea’s first rustlings from hibernation, and is the perfect time to coax yourself out of your warm apartment to enjoy the birth of Spring.
Full week Saturday March 11th – Sunday March 19th 2017
Maehwa Village, Daap-Myeon, Gwangyang, Jeollanamdo
- Get there EARLY. There is a small road leading into the small town of Hadong and traffic can really get backed up. Getting there on a Friday night could work in your benefit, or just get there the earliest you can. There is plenty of parking if you arrive early near the festival, but if you can’t get there in time, cross the river and park along the river parks and then walk back across.
- Download Kakao Navi (카카오내비) app. This app is amazing for telling you where the traffic is the worst and will reroute you to the fastest roads!
- Check out pensions or try camping on the riverbank if the weather is nice enough! There are campsites or you can just put up a tent in a more secluded area (click for camping on the Hadong Riverbed post!)
- Don’t forget to try out some of the vendor food and plum wines
Don’t Leave Without
There are plenty of things to do in the area, so you could easily make the trip into a nice weekend getaway from the larger cities of Korea. The town of Hadong is just across the river from the festival and the surrounding area is really beautiful. We made a trip up there a couple of years ago and have been back pretty regularly since then as the countryside at the foot of the Jirisan mountains is nothing but relaxing and seriously gorgeous! Check out our guide to Hadong here to see more things to do!