#1 Best Guide: Gwangyang Maehwa Festival in Korea

We all know about cherry blossom viewing or Hanami (花見) in Japan. But did you know you can enjoy something similar in South Korea too? Not cherry blossoms, though. Instead, it’s Maehwa (매화), which is Korean for plum blossoms! 

Now, let’s break down what Gwangyang Maehwa Festival (광양매화축제) means. The word “Gwangyang” (광양) is the name of a city in South Korea, which also means “bright” or “luminance.” “Maehwa” (매화), as mentioned earlier, refers to plum blossoms, while “Chukje” (축제) translates to “festival.” Put together, Gwangyang Maehwa Chukje means Gwangyang plum blossom festival! It’s sometimes known as the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival too.

In this guide, I’ll be telling you everything I’ve learned about this beautiful maehwa festival over the years. And if you like, you can pick up the simple Korean phrases I’ve included towards the end as well, just in case you decide to enjoy the plum blossoms for yourself! 

An image of Gwangyang Maehwa Festival

What Is The Gwangyang Maehwa Festival?

For starters, Gwangyang Maehwa Festival is a spring festival that’s held in, you guessed it, the city of Gwangyang in early March every year. It’s a city that’s located in Jeolla province, which is around 4 hours away from Seoul by train. So, if you’re in the capital, you can plan your own trip and catch a relatively quick KTX train ride from Seoul station to Gwangyang station. That’ll take you to Gwangyang Maehwa Village (광양 매화마을).

By the way, the village has another name – Seomjin Village (섬진 마을). That’s because this charming village is situated downstream of Seomjin River (섬진강), which is renowned for having the cleanest water among South Korean’s 5 largest rivers. And that’s not all the nature the home of the Maehwa trees has to offer – the village is on the outskirts of Jirisan Mountain (지리산) too. 

How did this unlikely place in the rural area near Jirisan Mountain become the Maehwa Village that it is today, you may ask?

Many years ago, a young lady who married a local villager felt lonely. She felt like she was in an enclosed area, and that everything was just way too quiet. And so, she decided to make a green plum farm. She thought that planting plum blossom trees everywhere would entice people to come visit. And sure enough, visitors came in waves when word got out that the once barren Seomjin Village was now covered with beautiful plum blossoms. 

Just like that, the once desolate village was transformed into one that is lively and full of vitality, just like the beautiful bloom of the plum blossoms. That’s also how it earned its new name, Gwangyang Maehwa Village! 

How To Celebrate Gwangyang Maehwa Festival

Now that you know what the Gwangyang Maehwa Festival is all about, you’re probably wondering how to celebrate it now. Here are some things you can do at this wonderful spring festival! 

An image of plum blossoms

Enjoy The Plum Blossoms

It goes without saying that the plum blossoms are the main highlight of Gwangyang Maehwa Village. However, these Maehwa blossoms aren’t the only blossoms you can enjoy! If you look closer, you can spot cherry blossoms and other types of spring flowers too. It’s spring, so they’re all in full bloom at this time of the year. Don’t forget to take out your cameras and get a good shot! 

Feel free to explore what the street vendors have to offer and bob your head along to lively music on the main path, but if you’re feeling like you want to go somewhere more quiet, don’t be afraid to explore small paths. Take some time to really soak in the beauty of the plum trees and maehwa blossom around you. It’s not every day you see spring flowers blooming all around you like this! 

An image of Maesil ice cream

Eat Maesil Ice Cream (매실 아이스크림)

There are lots of jars used to preserve plums to make all sorts of different plum products in Maehwa Village – plum powder, plum tea, plum juice, plum alcohol, you name it, they make it! These plums are used to make an icy treat that’s not your typical vanilla or chocolate cone. That’s Maesil ice cream! 

While “Maehwa” (매화) refers to plum blossoms, the word “Maesil” (매실) refers to plum, just the fruit itself. So you should probably know why it’s called Maesil ice cream – that’s right, it’s plum ice cream! Unlike your usual cookies and cream, this ice cream is sour and sweet at the same time, just like a plum! You can find it from pretty much any food stall at the festival, so just walk along and keep a lookout for it! I strongly recommend that you try it. 

An image of a Hanok cafe

Drink Coffee At Hanok Cafe (한옥 카페)

All that walking must be making you tired, so why don’t you stop by the Hanok Cafe for a drink? With its curved roof and traditional Korean architecture, this cafe looks like it was plucked right out of 14th-century Korea and placed in the Maehwa Village. 

The Hanok Cafe is the perfect place to catch a brief respite from viewing plum trees and cherry blossoms, especially if it happens to be rather hot that day. So, if you’re looking to take a break from plums and get your caffeine fix, be sure to drop by! 

An image of Jeonju Hanok Village

Do A Double Tour With Jeonju Hanok Village (전주 한옥마을)

If you’ve been browsing Korean travel trip packages, you’ve probably noticed that there are many double tours that cover both spring villages in one day. That’s because they’re relatively close to one another! 

These local bus tours usually set off early morning and come with a tour guide. You’ll probably either be waiting at Gwangyang Bus Terminal, or the parking lot to be picked up back to the center city of Seoul at the end of the day. So if you have the time, do make a trip to both villages! After all, they’re an important part of traditional Korean culture. 

Easy Korean Phrases For Gwangyang Maehwa Festival

Now that you’ve learned more about Maehwa village and plum blossom in the spring, here are some useful Korean words and phrases that you should know about!

English TranslationKorean ScriptRomanization
Plum blossom매화Maehwa
Maehwa village매화 마을Maehwa maeul
Plum blossom festival매화 축제Maehwa chukje
Plum trees (or Maehwa trees)매실 나무Maesil namu
Cherry blossom벚꽃Beot kkot
Spring festival봄 축제Bom chukje
To bloom (flowers)꽃 피다Kkot pida
Gwangyang city광양시Gwangyang si
The plum blossoms are beautiful.매화가 너무 예뻐요.Maehwaga neomu yeppeoyo.
Spring is my favorite season.봄이 제가 가장 좋아하는 계절입니다.Bomi jega gajang joahaneun gyejeorimnida.
The weather today is good.오늘 날씨가 좋아요.Oneul nalssiga joayo.

Ready To Experience Gwangyang Maehwa Festival?

Springtime is all about new beginnings and resolutions, so why don’t make learning Korean one of your goals for this year? You can do just that by downloading the Ling app for fun Korean language lessons! That way, you’ll learn how to talk to people, whether it’s at a festival, a tour, a village, an express bus terminal, or really, anywhere in Korea! 

So, if you’re ready to take your Korean vocabulary beyond words like blossom and trees, download the Ling app today! Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one giving language and travel tips in Korean one day. All the best!

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