Yes, the Seongsan Sunrise Festival is in my bucket list!
I’ve always been a sunset lover. The way the sky is illuminated with a range of colors and the shadows that fall across the landscape make it a breathtaking experience. It reminds me of the fleeting moments of my life and that I need to slow down and just appreciate its beauty.
But in recent months, I’ve been waking up really early and have begun to appreciate sunrise in a different light. I realized that it can be equally calming to watch it. Coincidentally, I found out that sunrise is very much celebrated in my dream destination, South Korea! They have this Seongsan Sunrise Festival. It ranks as one of the most well-liked occasions in their country. Millions of visitors continue to flock to the festival.
With my growing fascination for sunrise, I’m definitely saving up to experience this next time. You might want to read this article where I put together everything necessary for this plan.
There’s a free resource waiting for you at the end of reading this post. Enjoy and get your download later!
Here’s why I’m including the Seongsan Sunrise Festival in my South Korea travel goals. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll plan yours too. Let’s hop in!
What is the Seongsan Sunrise Festival?
As I’ve watched from drama series and movies, Koreans seem to take pride in their heritage, history, traditions, and culture. They take every opportunity to fully enjoy their festivals, dressing in traditional garb, and engaging in significant ceremonies.
There are several important traditional festivals observed in the country, one of which is the Seongsan Sunrise Festival. Koreans celebrate the Seongsan Sunrise Festival on the first day of the new year. It’s a time when they believe they’ll have good luck in the coming year if they stay up to greet the sunrise and get a glimpse of the first morning of the year.
When I ponder on it, it does make sense to spend the dawn greeting the rising of the sun. I can just imagine how refreshing and energizing this experience would be, especially, if you do it with the ones you love!
What do they do on the first sunrise of the year?
To wish for a fruitful year, people congregate on observation decks and high spots. One known spot is the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak in Jeju Island. Formed from more than 5,000 years ago, its shape follows that of a castle, a seongsan, and an ilchulbong, a high point that allows you to view the lovely sunrise.
Those who take part in the Seongsan Sunrise Festival go for a sunrise expedition to the peak. There are two hiking trails and have a combination of stairs and pavement all the way up. In my online search, most of those who have hiked this UNESCO World Natural Heritage site say that it takes about an hour to climb to the top and to go down.
Once people reach the entrance to the park, they wait for the sun to slowly peek over the horizon and ascend. I guess nothing will beat this kind of an amazing new year welcome. I hope I get to immerse myself in this kind of a moment, too. It would be a thrill!
On the one hand, there are other beautiful sunrise view spots where people flock to and these are:
The major location of the Homigot Sunrise Festival is Homigot Village is on the easternmost tip of the Korean Peninsula. The name Homigot Village resembles a tiger tail. On the shoreline and beaches is a bronze statue in the form of a hand. The palm of the hand is facing up, which seems to signify peace and coexistence.
Jeongdongjin Beach, Gangwon-do
Here at Jeongdongjin Beach is where the famous Sandglass Park sits. This is where many people show up to celebrate a new beginning. Given that the phenomenally successful drama “Sandglass” was filmed here in 1995, it has gained popularity in celebration of New Year’s Day.
The sand in the top portion of the sandglass takes an entire year to fall into the lower cone. A fireworks show, the turning of the sandglass to begin a new year, and concerts by several performers are all part of the festivities.
I did some research online and it states that at the Ganjeolgot Park, their customary celebration highlights an amazing fireworks show over the ocean and starts at exactly midnight. They also organize entertainment stages, food tents, pop-up restaurants, lounging places, and enough space on the cliffside boundary to take in the first sunrise of the year.
Yeosu Hyangiram Sunrise Festival is held at the Impo Village and Hyangiram Hermitage which is a historic landmark. Spectacular views of the New Year’s sunrise are available to visitors here every year which also highlights candle ceremonies as well as the lighting of wish lanterns.
Gyeongpodae Beach, Gangneung
Between New Year’s Eve and the first sunrise of the new year, Gangneung holds its annual Sunrise Festival. Gyeongpodae Beach is surrounded by stunning landscape as part of this yearly sunrise event, which welcomes guests to the New Year.
For those who cannot visit the provinces, the city of Seoul also offers great places to see the first sunrise of the year. The Eungbongsan Sunrise Festival takes place in Seongdong-gu. The Mapo-gu office holds theirs at the Sangam-dong Haneul Park. Guro-gu holds a sunrise event at the Maebongsan Mountain peak.
Different spots have different styles of how they welcome the first sunrise. At Buddhist temples, they hold bell-ringing ceremonies. Traditional family and friends have meals together and do their own countdown at home watching the New Year’s Eve special edition on the television. Modern families and younger people meet at clubs and bars to welcome the new year together.
Some play traditional Korean percussion instruments. Families enjoy the food markets and try regional delicacies. Hopefuls write their wishes and hang them on a tree and participate in other wishing events. Some go for other activities like kite flying, playing traditional games, engaging in shamanic rituals, and releasing wish-filled hope balloons.
What is useful information for first-timers to the Sunrise Festivals?
Being one of South Korea’s most unique festivals, it is expected that this festival draws hundreds of thousands of avid watchers each year. As a foreign tourist, it’s good to take advantage of this great opportunity. I’m sure, just like me, you’re keen on enjoying South Korean culture and traditions. I wrote down a list of useful information that you and I can use to make the most out of our trip.
Since the Seongsan Sunrise Festival happens in December, the country’s weather is cold and is frequently snowy at this time of the year. Knowing this, you can prepare which essentials to pack, which other places to visit, where to stay best, which dishes to try, and experiences to explore further.
Clothing and Essentials
When traveling in late December, you probably want to pack clothes and accessories that are functional, practical, and appropriate for the weather. Don’t forget your thermal base layer, warm puffy jackets, thick coats, leggings, tops with long sleeves, cardigans, scarfs, boots, woolen socks, gloves, beanie, and thermal underwear. Take essentials like emergency medical kit, heat packs, moisturizer, lip balm, and sunscreen.
While there are four distinct seasons, winter is when the temperature really drops and that means it’s soup & stew season. Among the popular soup dishes are Seolleongtang, Mu Doenjang Guk, Yukgaejang, Yeong Gye Baeksuk, Samgyetang, and Galbitang. On the other hand, the highly sought after stews are Sundubu Jjigae, Kimchi-Jjigae, and Budae-Jjigae.
You might also fancy eating a hearty meal of Korean barbecue, Samgyeopsal, and partner it with a nice Soju Cocktail. Wood fire-roasted sweet potatoes with some Kimchi on top would be a nice delight! Try their winter favorite delicacy that’s deep-fried with brown sugar and nuts called Hotteok.
With these options, for sure, you’ll get to savor the warmth of South Korean food with you!
Based on my online research, people who come to South Korea during the winter season enjoy things like playing snow sports at mountains, getting warm in saunas, reliving beautiful winter scenes from famous K-dramas, sampling winter street foods, or just spending time indoors in climate controlled hotels.
If you’re considering traveling to Korea around New Year’s Eve just like me, let’s not miss the New Year’s Sunrise Festival! We will have the chance to witness a sunrise, which is so magnificent and mesmerizing that I’m sure we won’t forget!
Feel free to use this travel planner sheets!