Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday In Busan At The Lotus Lantern Festival

The 8th day of the 4th lunar month is Buddha’s birthday and temples across the world light up to celebrate the occasion. Korea is no exception, hanging thousands of colourful lanterns across the country ready for the Lotus Lantern Festival.

We travelled south to Korea’s second largest city, Busan, to check out the Lotus Lantern Festival at Samgwangsa Temple (삼광사).

In the days leading up to Buddha’s Birthday, Samgwangsa Temple is decorated with lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colours.

We arrived around 20:00pm and were blown away by the thousands of lotus shaped lanterns strung across the temple grounds as far as the eye could see.

A vibrant blanket of lanterns cover the temple grounds

A vibrant blanket of lanterns cover the temple grounds

Without sounding too cheesy, it really was quite breathtaking.

Lotus Lantern Festival in Busan


The festival is said to attract thousands of visitors from across the globe. Buddhism, along with Christianity, is one of the main two religions practiced in Korea.

Visitors praying and leaving gifts for the Buddha as a sign of respect

Visitors praying and leaving gifts for the Buddha as a sign of respect

It took us around two hours to stroll around the temple. We visited on a Friday evening; it was quite busy, but not uncomfortable. We imagine that the festival would be much less crowded during the day, but the site definitely comes to life after dark.

Samgwangsa Temple is one of many Buddhist temples in Korea

Samgwangsa Temple is one of many Buddhist temples in Korea

Lotus Lantern Festival in Busan

If you happen to be in Korea during Buddha’s birthday, don’t miss your chance to see this majestic sight.

Rating 8/10: We’d definitely recommend a trip to the Lotus Lantern Festival, the views were breathtaking. However, after walking around the temple and admiring the lanterns there wasn’t much else to do or see in the area, so don’t expect this festival to keep you occupied for much longer than a couple of hours. If you can’t make it to Busan, there’s also a lantern festival and parade that takes place in Seoul.

When: Around April/May, keep an eye on Visit Korea for specific dates.

How to get there: Come out of Seomyeon subway station exit 11 and take bus no. 5 (around 20 minutes) or catch a taxi for approximately 5,000 won. There’s a steep hill leading up to the temple and many steps throughout the grounds. 

Where to stay: We think Seomyeon is the closest district to the temple by distance. Taxis are cheap and there’s a good public transport system available in Korea, so wherever you choose to stay in Busan you’ll be able to find your way to the Lotus Lantern Festival with ease.

Have you ever celebrated Buddha’s Birthday?

Check out our trip to The Lighting Festival At The Garden Of Morning Calm

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  1. 23rd May 2017 / 2:32 pm

    Oooh! I like that you rate your experiences! What a great idea 🙂 I can tell you’re not being cheesy from the stunning scope of the photos, like seriously, I’m amazed by lanterns so I think I would just be snapping away at all the lights and the spectacle of it all! Being busy, but not uncomfortable: isn’t that the hope always when it comes to Korea? 😛 Shame we missed it but I hope I get to see it in this lifetime!

  2. 21st May 2017 / 4:13 pm

    I always attend Lotus Lantern festivals, although I usually do so in Seoul. This time, I was away, but it was lovely to see it through your Busan visit. Lovely photos! I don’t think my DSLR does such a good job.

  3. 21st May 2017 / 3:14 pm

    I have seen pictures of this on the internet before, but because it’s a bit far from Seoul I haven’t been able to visit this temple. You documented it quite well with some great photos. Thanks for the tip on where to stay.

  4. 21st May 2017 / 2:09 pm

    I lived in Masan (near Busan ) for a year and also didn’t hear about this Festival until now. I bet photogs go crazy about this place with their tripods and pushy personalities, but I can totally see myself doing the same thing. Your shots are soo great, especially the one of you two facing away from the camera and towards the thousands of multicolored lanterns. Nicely done!

  5. 20th May 2017 / 7:41 am

    Woah, I lived in SK for a year but I’ve never heard of this one. I also visited Busan but only some tourist spots. Now I must go back to experience this. I wouldn’t know this, thanks to you! I just love everything about Korea! Those lanterns are breathtaking and your photos are lovely!

  6. Vrithi Pushkar
    20th May 2017 / 2:42 am

    I had not heard much about Buddha’s birthday celebrations. This post makes me want to go experience it first hand. Love your pictures. What an amazing sight.

  7. 19th May 2017 / 3:32 pm

    Buddha’s Birthday celebration in South Korea is easily my favorite festival each and every year. Somehow, though, we always end up being busy and unable to make it to this temple in Busan! We’ve been to the massive parade in Seoul several times, but never this one. Thank you for sharing this beautiful place and excellent job with the low light photography! Next year, we’re definitely making a trip to Busan!

  8. 19th May 2017 / 12:55 am

    Wow! Glad to know you got to celebrate Buddha Purnima in the land where Buddhism is most prevalent! It looks so incredibly colorful and gorgeous!!!

  9. 19th May 2017 / 12:46 am

    I always loved this time of year in Korea! Its so colorful and I love how decked out the temples get! I always wished we could have went down to Busan to see their lanterns. You’ve captured it beautifully! I especially love those night shots!

  10. eazynazy
    19th May 2017 / 12:08 am

    OMG this is so beautiful, I have never heard about this festival before and this looks so colorful. I love Lanterns alot and never in my life I have seen these many lanterns at one place

  11. 18th May 2017 / 10:34 pm

    Busan looks so colorful and vibrant. I live to see these kind of colors and be a part of this ceremony. Will keep in mind and ur blog is helpful in when to go

  12. 18th May 2017 / 8:12 pm

    This festival looks so impressive. I have never seen so many lanterns in one place at one time. So extreme and so beautiful

  13. 18th May 2017 / 7:56 pm

    This is an amazing sight. I have not seen photos of the lantern festival before and yours are stunning. How fun that you were able to time your trip to partake in the celebration. Although there is not much else to do, it sure appears to be worth the trip. And good to know that there is another festival in Seoul.

  14. 18th May 2017 / 5:44 pm

    Such a pity that there’s nothing else to do besides viewing these lanterns! It’s a magnificent sight and I wish I caught it the last time I was in Busan.

  15. 18th May 2017 / 2:33 pm

    I’ve never done the lantern festival in Busan. It looks just as gorgeous and luminous as the one in Seoul (if not more so)! Plus maybe the insane crowd factor would be a lot less and make the experience that much more enjoyable!

  16. 18th May 2017 / 2:28 pm

    Buddha’s birthday and how it’s worked out is very interesting. Buddhism is a really interesting religion so this festival in Busan, South Korea is very good to know about. I love photography and lotus lantern festival with all its colours is perfect. I’d imagine in the 2 hours walking around the festival you took so many Instagram worthy photos!

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