Did ‘the best festival in Korea’ live up to it’s reputation? We headed south to the Nam River in Jinju to check out the city’s famous lantern festival
If I’ve learnt one thing whilst I’ve been in this country, it’s that you are never short of things to do. There’s a festival every weekend of the year and Jinju Lantern Festival (진주 남강유등축제) is currently holding the top spot for me.
Jinju comes to life in October as the city celebrates the lantern festival
Nestled down south in the mountains of Gyeongsangnam-do province, crowds flock to the somewhat sleepy city of Jinju to see the thousands of colourful lanterns placed along the Nam River.
For us, this required an early start on a Saturday morning followed by a three hour direct bus journey from Cheongju to Jinju intercity bus terminal (head to the bottom of this post for more information on the location of the festival and where to find accommodation in the city.)
The festival is inspired by the Jinuseong Fortress Battle, where lanterns were placed on the river to prevent Japanese troops from wading across the water during the war. Jinju Lantern Festival is one of the largest and most famous events in the country.
As soon as we entered the festival we were blown away by the colourful array of lanterns of all shapes, sizes and characters scattered as far as the eye could see.
The festival is held over two weeks, but of course it’s the weekend that attracts most visitors. The lanterns were spread across a large area, giving you plenty of space to move around freely and comfortably in your own time.
There’s plenty to see and do, especially for kids. Arts and craft stations line the river where you can decorate a lantern, or make a wish and attach it to a lantern before watching it float down the river.
Rating 9/10: We had a great time; there’s plenty to do and see along the river both during the day and evening. We were a little sceptical about making the lengthy journey to Jinju but it’s easy to see why it’s recognised as one of Korea’s most famous festivals.
Definitely worth a visit and slightly more extravagant than Blackpool illuminations..
- Spend the night in Jinju – it’s cheap and easy to find a motel along the river; there are tons of them surrounding the intercity bus terminal. The festival comes to life after dark so you don’t want to miss the best part because you’re rushing to catch a bus home.
- After we had finished checking out the festival we wanted to grab some dinner, but were surprised to find most restaurants were closed by 22:00pm. You’re probably better off grabbing some food at one of the many stalls down by the river – they are open until 01:00am during the weekend.
- Arrive in the city earlier rather than later, there were traffic jams everywhere 17:00pm onwards.
How to get there: Try and catch a bus that drops you at the Intercity Terminal, it’s two minutes walk from the river and saves the added hassle of taxis.
Where to stay: There are hundreds of motels lining the river offering reasonable rates, no need to book in advance.
When: Early October – keep an eye on Visit Korea for more details.
Have you been to any festivals in Korea?