2021 Korea Cherry Blossoms Forecast: Where & When to Visit
Spring is hands-down my favorite season in South Korea. Why? Because of the cherry blossoms of course! But beware that they usually only bloom for a very short period of time. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to plan your cherry blossom shenanigans in advance to make sure you don’t miss them this season! Here’s my guide to the 2021 Korea Cherry Blossoms Forecast including where and when to see the most beautiful spring blossoms.
How many Types of Cherry Blossoms in Korea are there?
Let’s start off by talking about the different types of cherry blossoms in South Korea. There are some subtle differences between these and some bloom earlier than others, which is important to know if you are going to go cherry blossom touring around Korea.
Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
The most common type of cherry blossom sin Kore are Yoshino cherry trees (소메이요시노). They have a very delicate pink – almost white – color and bloom first.
The name of these trees actually comes from Yoshino district in Nara, Japan. Most of the cherry blossoms found in Korea are Yoshino cherry blossoms. They are also the type of treest planted at the famous Tidal Basin in Washington DC!
King Cherry Blossoms
The second type of cherry blossom trees in Korea is called King Cherry Tree (왕벚 나무). It is said that they originated on Jeju Island (but the origin of cherry blossoms is widely debated – as we will talk about in just a minute). Some people in Korea also claim that they are the same as the Yoshino tree…
The flowers on this tree are a lot bigger and pinker in color but many Koreans do not distinguish these two types, so technically all cherry trees in Korea translate to 왕벚 나무.
Overall, the King cherry trees are a lot rarer and bloom a little later than the Yoshino trees; usually early to mid-April and a bit later.
There are some tours you can specifically do to see the King cherry blossoms, including this one around Busan and to Gyeongju.
Often confused to be cherry blossoms are the pure white maehwa (매화) blossoms. They are actually plum blossoms and bloom the earliest – usually in the second week of March. Along with the bright yellow Sansuyu trees, they are the first trees to blossom every spring.
It is widely understood that these plum blossom tree originated in China’s Yangtze River area. Maehwa trees aren’t very common in South Korea – most of them are found in the Plum Blossom Garden in Gwangyang. There is a huge plum blossom festival every year – and they even sell maehwa ice-cream!
History of Cherry Blossoms in Korea
The history of cherry blossoms has been a hot debated topic, mostly between Japan, Korea and China. To this day, there is no real answer to the question where cherry blossoms originated, but the three nations in question all offer their own side of the story.
Researchers in Korea claim that the beautiful blossoms originated on Jeju Island. While this theory definitely makes sense for the King Cherry Blossoms, the history behind the Yoshino trees seems to be different. There are some records from a French missionary about the Jeju Island cherry blossoms from 1908 to back this.
A widely accepted theory is that Japan brought the Yoshino tree to Korea during their occupation. Some historians claim this started with trees being planted at Changgyeonggung Palace and it then spread from there.
This theory also makes sense because of the fact that Jinhae, where the Imperial Japanese Navy once had a base, has an incredible amount of cherry blossom trees today and is also the place where the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year.
Japan claims to be the one-and-only origin of cherry blossoms according to their scientists. Today, there are more than 600 cherry blossom varieties all over Japan. There are also historic records from as far back as the 800s during the Heian Period talking about hanami, the act of enjoying the blossoms in Japan.
Meanwhile, China stabs them all in the back saying cherry blossoms originated in neither Japan nor South Korea, but rather in China. According to the China Cherry Blossom Association, there is much historical literature supporting the fact that China is where cherry blossoms were first cultivated. In this version, the trees originated in the Himalayas in China’s territory and found its way to Japan in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
What is the difference between “cherry blossom” (Korea) and “Sakura” (Japan)?
As you read in the part about the history of the cherry blossom in Korea, this is another difficult question to answer. The easy answer is: sakura is simply the Japanese word for cherry blossoms. In Korea, they are called beot-kkot (벗꽃).
However, while there are only 2 types of cherry blossoms that are found in Korea today, Japan boasts a variety of more than 600 (or so they claim). You can check them out here.
2021 Korea Cherry Blossoms Forecast Guide
Now, let’s get down to business and talk about the actual forecast for cherry blossoms in Korea.
Over all, the order of blooming usually goes like this:
- Maehwa (and Sansuyu)
- Azaleas (they last longer)
- Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
- King Cherry Blossoms
The cherry blossoms in Korea begin to bloom in the south and then work their way up north. So you can enjoy cherry blossoms in cities like Jinhae, Busan, Ulsan, Pohang, and Gwangju first and then move your way up to Seoul for the ultimate cherry blossom trip.
2021 Korea Cherry Blossoms Forecast
When is peak cherry blossom time in Seoul?
While it varies every year a little, the peak cherry blossom time in Seoul is usually the first week of April. For 2021, the Korean government predicts April second to be the beginning of cherry blossom blooming in Seoul. During this time, people normally go to Yeouido Park for the cherry blossom festival.
How long do the cherry blossoms in Korea bloom?
Most forecasts will depict dates for either “first bloom” or “peak blooming”. On my 2021 Korea cherry blossoms forecast image above, the dates indicate the date of the “first bloom” of the tree. This means you have the chance to spot cherry blossoms starting that day. The ideal time to go cherry blossom watching is usually a couple of days after the “first bloom” date.
Then, the rule of thumb is usually around 7 days after the “peak blooming” date until they are gone. Of course, this varies greatly depending on weather and region. I’ve seen trees that lost almost all of their pedals only 3 days after peak blooming because of heavy rainfall.
18 Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Korea
I tried to organize these around the earliest to the latest, but you’ll have to keep an eye out closer to the dates to really know when what will bloom! Cherry blossoms really are as fickle as they are beautiful!
Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Seoul
Seoul is filled with amazing locations to spot cherry blossoms in spring. You don’t need to travel far out of the city to get the most out of spring in Korea.
Yeouido Cherry Blossom Festival
There is a small island in the middle of the Han River which divides Seoul into two parts. Yeouido island is filled with so many beautiful cherry blossoms during springtime that an entire festival has been created to celebrate the precious blossoms. Not only do locals and tourists love to visit the island in the spring, but countless Korean TV dramas and movies are also shot there during the season because of its romantic ambiance.
It is no surprise that Seoul’s main palace is home to a big collection of tall cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossoms are stunning on their own, so if you add traditional palace halls and temples as the backdrop you end up with something very special.
Seokchon Lake in Jamsil
Visit this lake in Jamsil district in April and you will not only be surrounded by pink and white cherry blossoms, but can also enjoy a variety of performances, exhibitions, and fun traditional games. In fact, Seokchon Lake is one of the most popular destinations in spring. Head there during the week to avoid crowds.
The second largest palace in Seoul should definitely not be missed. Changdeokgung Palace is located east of Gyeongbokgung Palace and the famous Bukchon Hanok Village. What’s interesting about this palace is the vast secret garden that was once solely reserved for the king and those close to him. Today, the garden can be visited by anyone free of charge and is a special treat during spring with its magnificent cherry blossom trees.
Gwanaksan (next to Seoul National University Campus)
Next to the Seoul National University campus, there is a mountain that is famous for its cherry blossoms. The blossoms on Gwanaksan bloom a few weeks later than the rest of Seoul because they’re located on the North side of the mountain. Right at the beginning of the path that leads up the mountain, there is a stream with cherry blossoms on one side. So even if you are not planning on hiking, you can still enjoy the cherry blossoms.
Seoul National Cemetery
While some might find it a bit morbid, Seoul National Cemetery can be a great place to spot beautiful cherry blossom trees in spring. Strictly reserved for veterans who died in the Korean independence movement, Korean War, and Vietnam War, this cemetery is also a historic attraction.
More Gorgeous Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Korea
If you have the chance to venture out of Seoul, you’ll find a lot more amazing places to enjoy cherry blossom season in Korea.
Seoul is not the only place to see cherry blossoms in Korea! This small but picturesque island in Chuncheon is a popular destination due to its beautiful scenery year round. While it is widely visited in the fall with people enjoying the foliage, the cherry blossoms in spring are definitely worth a visit as well. Moreover, there’s a theme park, shooting range, and a roller skating rink.
The city of Jinhae is the ultimate cherry blossom location in South Korea. The entire city transforms into a sea of pink and white petals. Especially the area around Yeojwacheon Stream is a must-visit when in the city. Be sure to arrive early as traffic can get a little crazy.
Check out this complete guide to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival.
Ungcheon, near Jinhae
If you’re not a fan of crowds or just want to see some unspoiled cherry blossoms in abundance, another beautiful place to see them is in Ungcheon, a small rural town just outside Jinhae. It is probably more beautiful than the festival itself, as these trees have been growing here for years and flower so beautiful and fully. It also doesn’t attract as many people so you’re able to get some great pictures and really just enjoy the beauty.
Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival
What could be more romantic than a 4km-long road lined with 600-year-old cherry blossom trees? The Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival in Handong offers exactly that! It is said that every couple who walks down the road in springtime will get hitched and live happily every after. However, there is far more to see than a sea of cherry blossoms (as if that wasn’t already enough). This magical road links the traditional Hwagae Market with Ssangyesa Temple. It can get a little tricky to navigate the area, however. That’s why you best book a cherry blossom tour and be chauffeured around the most exciting points of interest! But be quick – the festival takes place only in the beginning of April!
Daejeon, too, holds an extensive festival to welcome spring in April. During the Dong Hak cherry blossom festival, visitors have plenty of amazing photo opportunities in Daegu’s Dong Hak temple.
What’s more romantic than cherry blossoms and Korean hanok houses? Jeonju is a major tourist destination year-round but when the sweet trees are in full bloom, even more people come to enjoy the romantic atmosphere.
Palgongsan Cherry Blossom Festival in Daegu
If you are in the Daegu area, head to Palgongsan Mountain and you will find incredible cherry blossoms in this part of the city. There is even a festival held in spring to celebrate the start of the new season. The events include traditional games, concerts, and markets.
If you’d like to run under a sky of falling pink petals, you can take part in the 26th Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon. Taking place on April 1st, 2017, the mostly flat course, can be run in 5km, 10km, half or full marathon distances. To sign up, visit the Cherry Marathon website at www.cherrymarathon.com.
This cherry blossom hot spot is a little off the beaten path. As there’s no festival on the mountain, the people that head here are mostly locals that are aware the spot even exists. Covering the mountain with a waterfall and all, this is an amazing spot to bask in the beauty of cherry blossoms.
If you want to escape the peninsula to see cherry blossoms in Korea, head to Jeju! It’s no wonder that South Korea’s premier vacation island also has some of the finest cherry blossom spots in the country. Jeju’s second-largest city of Seogwipo is a major cherry blossom hotspot during spring. Most of the beautiful trees are located near the Jeju Sports Complex and Seogwipo downtown area.
Wanna beat the enormous crowds in Korea and enjoy a peaceful cherry blossom-lined walk? Consider going out to the country in Gwangyang and enjoying the moment there. It’s great for a date and taking copious amounts of shameless selfies.
Seomjin River Cherry Blossom Festival
Over 10 km of blossoming cherry trees are waiting for you at the Seomjin River area in Jeollanam-do. What’s unique about the location is that you can not only spot pink and white trees but also a rainbow dance of other flowers creating the perfect spring fairytale. The festival also holds a cherry blossom concert and various other fun performances.
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