Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival in Hadong, Korea
Spring is my favorite season in Korea, which is why I’m a self-proclaimed cherry blossom queen. I’ve been to countless cherry blossom spots around Korea and Hwagae has been my ultimate favorite location for enjoying spring in Korea. I like Hwagae and the surrounding Hadong area so much that I spent four days exploring the ins and outs of the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival – which I’m going to share with you right now.
Hwagae is a little village in the beautiful tea-growing area of Hadong-gun in Gyeongsangnamdo, the province along the Korea Strait, west of Busan city.
What’s really unique about Hwagae is that it transforms into a magical flower fairytale in the spring. The main attraction is the 4-kilometer (roughly 2.5 miles) Sipri Cherry Blossom Road, planted by the villagers in 1931.
This road is lined with more than 1,200 large cherry blossom trees left and right and stretches from Hwagae Market to Ssangyesa Temple for four kilometers.
Legend says that if you and your partner walk down Hwagae cherry blossom road together, you will get married and live happily ever after.
Here are the most important stops along Sipri Cherry Blossom Road:
Hwagae Market 화개장터
This traditional market is the starting place of the 4-km long scenic cherry blossom road in Hwagae. It’s also a great place to grab some food and buy traditional souvenirs.
This is the flagship café/store for traditional Korean tea brand Ssangye Myeongcha. The beautiful modern contemporary building overlooks lush green tea fields and is a great place to learn more about local tea culture at their small museum on the second floor.
Observatory (day and night)
Right next to Hwagae Elementary School, the left and right lane of the scenic cherry blossom route split and create a pedestrian walkway in the middle. This is an absolute highlight for cherry blossom watching on multiple levels during the day as well as at night when the trees are beautifully illuminated at 7 PM.
Café Bridge 130
This is one of my favorite cafés in Hwagae, especially during cherry blossom season when its terrace is surrounded by white trees. The best part here is that they have outdoor seating in their garden right next to a small river. It’s the most scenic spot ever.
The Road 101
Next up is another café, which might be the largest café in Hwagae. The interior is beautifully designed with lush green plants and even a small pond and waterfall. There are seats on different levels (as well as outside) and some are also “no kids” zones. Try their Jirisan latte if you like green tea.
The final stop of the 4-km long cherry blossom road is this old temple. In fact, this is the place where the history of green tea in South Korea begins. It is said that a Buddhist monk brought the very first green tea plants to South Korea from China and planted them right here at Ssanggyesa Temple.
There are so many other amazing things to see in Hwagae/Hadong besides the cherry blossoms and you will find it all in my complete guide to Hadong.
Quick Guide to the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival
If you do not want to organize your own trip to the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival, you can join a tour taking you directly to the festival grounds (like this tour). There is also this tour leaving from Busan and heading directly to Hwagae.
Unless you have a car, a tour is probably going to be your best bet. It’s a very rural area and you might end up spending more money on taxis than anything else.
- Korean Name: 화개장터 벚꽃축제
- Address: 경남 하동군 화개면 탑리 726-8
- English Address: 726-8 Tabri, Hwagae-myeon, Hadong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
- Cost: Free!
- Open: All day — the blossoms are next to the road, so it’s open pretty much open 24/7
How to get to Hwagae
From Seoul to Hwagae
If you don’t have a car and also don’t want to join a tour, you can DIY your trip to Hwagae. Take an intercity bus from Seoul’s Nambu Bus Terminal to Hwagae Intercity Bus Joint Terminal. This takes around 3 hours 25 minutes.
From Busan to Hwagae
Take an intercity bus from Busan Bus Terminal to Hwagae Intercity Bus Joint Terminal. This takes around 2 hours 40 minutes.
The terminal is located right across from Hwagae Market, from where you can start your cherry blossom adventure.
When to visit the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival
The cherry blossoms in Korea start to bloom first in the south. That means that Hwagae is among the first places to come for cherry blossom watching. However, it always depends on the weather when the first blossoms start to bloom.
I kept a close eye on the “blossom development” in Hadong/Hwagae on Instagram and on their official website, which displays live webcams on the cherry blossom road. In 2021, the cherry blossom season started earlier than expected and I traveled down on March 25th. The trees were in full bloom.
The owners of the guesthouse I stayed at (mentioned below) were also very helpful and sent me several pictures of the blossoms a couple of days before my trip.
With cherry blossoms, you have to be quick as they do not last or very long! When I visited, they were in full bloom on Thursday and Friday but after heavy rainfall on the weekend, they quickly disappeared at the beginning of the next week.
Every year, I come out with a new cherry blossom forecast for South Korea with the dates of the first bloom. You can check it out here.
Things to see near Hwagae
Hadong-gun Green Tea Area
Besides the cherry blossoms in Hwagae, there is a lot more to see and do in and around Hadong. This area around Mt. Jiri is one of the four main green tea areas of South Korea. The other tea-producing areas in South Korea are Boseong, Jeju Island, and Jeonnam.
In fact, Hadong is the birthplace of tea growing in South Korea. The whole area is decked in green tea fields, big and small tea producers, and local teahouses owned dating back many generations.
Gwangyang Maehwa Festival
The Gwangyang Maehwa Festival is one of the most beautiful spring festivals in South Korea. The Maehwa trees bloom about a month before the cherry blossoms start blooming, so they will have already bloomed by the time of the Hwagae cherry blossom festival but it’s another great spring flower festival in the area.
The Gwangyang Maehwa Festival is only about a 50-minute drive from Hwagae. For more information about Gwangyang, check out my Gwangyang Maehwa Festival post.
Another top travel destination not too far from Hadong is Suncheon. It takes about 1 hour from Hwagae to Suncheon Wetlands. This part of Korea is famous for its beautiful coastal wetlands, freshwater streams, tideland, vast fields of picturesque reeds, and unmatched wildlife.
For more information on what to do in Suncheon, check out my Suncheon travel guide.
Cheoneunsa Jirisan Mountain Temple
If you are into temples, there’s a really pretty one sitting on the foot of Mt. Jirisan only 30 minutes from Hwagae. This temple is believed to have been built in the year 828 AD by a monk from India.
Cheoneunsa is one of the three great Buddhist temples of Jirisan Mountain. It also houses National Treasure No. 924, a Buddhist painting called Amita Hubul Taenghwa.
Address: 209, Nogodan-ro, Gwangui-myeon, Gurye-gun, Jeollanam-do
Where to stay in Hwagae
I stayed at the Bandal Stay, a beautiful café and guesthouse run by a lovely couple. The place is located on the opposite end of the cherry blossom road from Hwagae Market.
Here are some great places to stay in Hwagae:
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