After living for a year in South Korea, we were lucky enough to experience all of the seasons and weather this country has to offer. And trust me, it varies a lot! The summers are hot and balmy and the winters dip far below freezing.
With the big variety in weather in South Korea, the good news is that you can plan your trip according to the things you want to see and do but the bad news is that you need to be prepared for the extreme weather and pack accordingly. Keep in mind that the farther north you are in the country, the more varied the seasons get, with the farther south having a hotter summer but a milder winter.
Let's dive into the best time to visit South Korea so you can plan your trip accordingly.
How to See All of the Seasons in South Korea
Want to extend that trip into a full long adventure like I did? Lucky for you, it can be pretty attainable to live for a year or longer in South Korea and soak up all 4 seasons. While many travelers get 3 months of visa-free enjoyment, if you want to stay longer, that'll most likely mean getting a job.
The most common job for foreigners to get here is teaching English or because their company transferred them to the country. Neither of those sound likely? Don't worry, getting a non-teaching job isn't the easiest but it's not impossible either.
But, if you want to take the path of least resistance, I recommend teaching. You need 5 main requirements to get hired here:
- Your passport must be from a native English speaking country
- You must have a Bachelor's degree in any subject
- You must have a "Teaching English as a Foreign Language" certificate or similar
- A clean background check from your country of residency
- Ability to pass a medical check
While different schools might ask for different things, these are the main requirements you'll be asked to get a job and a sponsored work visa as an English teacher.
Things to Know Before You Go
Now that you’re gearing up for your trip and planning the specifics of where and when you’ll go, there are a few things you don’t need to overlook.
I know just how easy it is to look towards the big hike, bucket list city, or beach of my dreams and forget about all of the little things in between that’ll make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Be sure to take into consideration these few things before you go to make sure you get all the good bits of your trip without the stress.
- Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket.
- Do your best to learn a few local phrases in their language. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary.
- Book any popular tours you want to do in advance. I’m really not a great planner and I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. I plan a trip to a destination knowing that I want to do a sailboat trip or food tour and wait until the day before to book only to realize it’s not available the day I’m in town. Don’t make that mistake - if there is something you know you want to do - book your tour in advance.
- Same thing goes for rental cars. If you want to rent a car to cover more ground in a country, do it in advance. Prices will be more affordable and that way you’re guaranteed to have your wheels waiting for you. Although in South Korea, I'd recommend sticking with public transportation if possible.
- Last tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful. Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses.
Spring in South Korea (March-May)
Spring in South Korea gets a lot of votes as the best time to visit but my personal favorite is still yet to come. Known often as cherry blossom season, I can see why so many people love visiting South Korea in the spring though. Do know that the most tourists visit South Korea in spring and summer.
The temperatures start to rise but a pretty chilly winter and the natural beauty throughout the country really starts to wake up, most notably the cherry blossoms. Parks all throughout the country become a spectacle of pinks, whites, and greens, creating a picturesque setting for outdoor activities.
The weather is typically comfortable for spending time outdoors sightseeing, hiking, and enjoying the various festivals that happen each spring. The most notable festivals are the cherry blossom festivals that happen all around the country.
Best Places to Visit in Spring in South Korea
- Seoul: Witness the breathtaking cherry blossoms at places like Yeouido Park, Namsan Park, and the Seoul Forest. Spring in Seoul also brings pleasant weather, making it ideal for exploring palaces, such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace.
- Jinhae: Known for its stunning cherry blossoms, Jinhae hosts the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival, one of the largest cherry blossom festivals in Korea. When I lived in South Korea, I went to this festival and had a blast. We spent the weekend mesmerized by the beauty of the surroundings, eating, drinking, and biking.
Summer in South Korea (June-August)
Summer in South Korea is hot and humid, no matter where in the country you are. But, the warm weather tends to bring people outside, especially at night when the streets overflow with people at all hours in busy neighborhoods.
The hottest of these months are July and August so if you want to still enjoy warm weather but skip the most brutal of it, visiting in June could be the perfect compromise.
It's important to know that summer is also the rainy season in South Korea so you'll want to have some rainy day plans mixed in with your beach days. The monsoon season can mean really heavy downpours so it's best you're prepared for it, just in case.
For a unique cultural experience, consider visiting for the Boryeong Mud Festival. It's located on Daecheon Beach, just west of Seoul. It's usually held in July but the exact date varies from year to year. This internationally renowned festival features mud-based activities, including mud wrestling, mud sliding, and mud painting. It's a unique and lively event and something you certainly don't see everyday.
Best Places to Visit in Summer in South Korea
- Busan: Busan is the 2nd largest city in South Korea and one of the best places to live. The city is on the southern coast and the perfect spot for an easy beach getaway. Head to the popular Haeundae Beach or Gwangalli Beach for a seaside escape. Explore the bustling Jagalchi Fish Market and visit Beomeosa Temple for a tranquil retreat.
- Jeju Island: Pop over to the "Hawaii of South Korea" and enjoy the cool sea breeze, relax on pristine beaches, and explore unique natural wonders like Manjanggul Cave and Hallasan National Park. You can fly here or take a ferry from Busan.
Fall in South Korea (September-November)
Call me basic but I'm a sucker for fall weather. I've said it before and I'll say it again, September and October are always my favorite traveling months. And in South Korea, I've got to say it's the same. Unless you're here to see the cherry blossoms or enjoy winter sports, fall is really hard to beat.
The colors here during fall are 10/10. Even if you're just planning a trip to Seoul, the city is surrounded by mountains, parks, and plenty of nature so you'll get to see the spectacle of the vibrant tapestry of red, orange, and golden hues. It doesn't tend to rain here too much in the autumn months so it's a great time to get outside and really see the country without the spring and summer crowds.
The temperatures start to drop and I would definitely describe it as "chilly" but it's that nice kind of brisk that with a jacket and a sweater you'll be more than comfortable.
In November, you can experience the Seoul Lantern Festival, where lanterns of various shapes and sizes illuminate Cheonggyecheon Stream. It makes for a fun night out with friends but know that come nighttime in November, you'll want more than just a sweater to be comfortable.
Best Places to Visit in Fall in South Korea
- Naejangsan National Park: Famous for its vibrant autumn foliage, Naejangsan offers picturesque hiking trails and stunning landscapes.
- Jeonju: Not too far from the national park listed above, Jeonju is South Korea's home of exceptional cuisine. What a better way to end a few days of hiking than to follow them up with a few days of cozy eating?
Winter in South Korea (December-February)
Ok, I'll be honest here: winter in South Korea is pretty brutal. I'm a bit of a baby in the cold and was forced to walk to and from work each day regardless of the weather so my opinion is a little skewed but here's the thing, I would only visit South Korea in the winter if you're here for winter sports. The temperature, especially in Seoul and other northern cities, typically drops below freezing.
But, the season does offer a unique set of experiences. Winter sports enthusiasts can head to ski resorts like Yongpyong or Alpensia, which hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Winter is also an excellent time to indulge in Korean cuisine known for its hearty and warming dishes, such as hot pot stews and street food snacks. While some outdoor activities may be limited, the festive atmosphere, cultural events, and the chance to witness a serene snowy landscape make winter an enchanting time to visit South Korea - if you're a lover of the cold unlike me!
Depending on the year, Seollal is usually at the end of winter. It's Lunar New Year and marks the end of the school year for students and the end of the calendar year throughout the country. If you visit during this time, you might get to see special traditions but do know that some things might not be open.
Best Places to Visit in Winter in South Korea
- Pyeongchang: A winter sports haven, Pyeongchang hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics. Enjoy skiing and snowboarding in Alpensia or Yongpyong Ski Resorts.
- Gangneung: Located on the east coast, Gangneung offers a unique blend of coastal beauty and winter charm. Gyeongpo Beach is known for its serene winter landscape, with the contrast of icy shores against the sea. The city also hosted some events during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
When Will You Visit South Korea?
With 4 distinct seasons, when you choose to visit South Korea will greatly change what you're able to see, do, and experience while here. While there's no bad time to visit South Korea, there's a good time to visit based on what you're looking for.
While I'm a sucker for South Korea in fall, you might prefer cherry blossom season, hot summer nights, or a winter on the slopes.
So, when will you visit South Korea?