Lotus Lantern Festival, May
Jongmyo Daeje, May
Boryeong Mud Festival, July
Busan International Film Festival, October
Gwangju Biennale September to November
Come prepared for freezing temperatures and snow across much of the country, particularly in the mountains. This is a great time to hit the slopes or check out an ice festival.
Taebaeksan Snow Festival
Marvel at giant ice sculptures and enjoy sledding fun at this winter celebration in Taebaeksan Provincial Park.
Local religious holidays and festivals follow the lunar calendar, while the rest follow the Gregorian (western) calendar. Therefore, Seollal will sometimes occur in January.
Seollal (Lunar New Year)
Koreans visit relatives, honour ancestors and eat traditional foods over this three-day national holiday. There are a number of events in Seoul. For more information consult www.visitseoul.net or www.visitkorea.or.kr. In 2019 Seollal begins on 5 February, in 2020 on 25 January and in 2021 on 12 February.
Bring your raincoat and warm clothes as the weather can still be wintry and wet. Early April is also when areas of Korea turn pink in a transient flurry of delicate cherry blossoms.
Chinese Day Cultural Festival
This event is held in Incheon's Jayu Park and around Chinatown in September as well as April.
Yeongdeungpo Yeouido Spring Flower Festival
Masses of cherry blossoms around the Seoul island draw the biggest crowds, but you can also see the flowers on Namsan and at Ewha Woman's University.
Samcheok Maengbang Canola Flower Festival
Head down to the lovely beach at Maengbang outside Samcheok to tiptoe through the bright yellow rapeseed flowers that blossom most brightly in April, celebrated in this floral festival.
Running into May, the world’s largest biennale specialising in ceramics (www.kocef.org) is for people potty about pottery. It's held in odd-numbered years in Incheon.
One of the most pleasant months in which to visit Korea, with good weather and fewer problems finding accommodation than in the busy summer months.
Held on the first Sunday of the month, this ceremony honours Korea’s royal ancestors and involves a solemn, costumed parade through downtown Seoul to the royal shrine at Jongmyo, where spectators can enjoy traditional music and an elaborate, all-day ritual.
Lotus Lantern Festival
The weekend preceding Buddha's birthday, Seoul celebrates with a huge daytime street festival and evening lantern parade – the largest in South Korea.
Brings a kaleidoscope of light and colour, as rows of paper lanterns are strung down main thoroughfares and in temple courtyards across Korea (celebrated on 12 May 2019, 30 April 2020 and 19 May 2021).
Chuncheon International Mime Festival
The lakeside city hosts street performers, magicians, acrobats and quirky shows such as a soap-bubble opera at this festival.
Warmer weather before the rains of July make this an excellent time to enjoy Korea's great outdoors on hiking trips and at the beach.
Gangneung Danoje Festival
Recognised by Unesco as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, Gangneung's version of the Dano Festival is held according to the lunar calendar and features shamanist rituals, mask dances and market stalls.
It can rain – a lot – during this month, so make sure you have appropriate gear and arrange your travel plans accordingly.
Ansan Valley Rock Festival
One of Korea’s premier summer music festivals (www.valleyrockfestival.com), with a stellar line-up of international headliners as well quality K-Indie bands.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Head to Daecheon Beach to wallow in mud pools and take part in stacks of muddy fun and games.
Head for breezy coastal areas and the loftier mountains to find some relief from the sweltering heat of high summer.
Chungju World Martial Arts Festival
This festival is held in the World Martial Arts Park, where you’ll see all sorts of unusual martial arts with teams participating from across the world.
Book ahead for transport around Chuseok, when many Koreans are on the move visiting family and friends.
The three-day Harvest Moon Festival is a major holiday when families gather, visit their ancestors’ graves to make offerings of food and drink and perform sebae (a ritual bow). Begins on 12 September in 2019, 30 September 2020 and 20 September 2021.
Held from September until November in even-numbered years, Korea’s leading international art show is a two-month carnival of the avant-garde.
Mask Dance Festival
This 10-day festival in Andong, held at the end of the month and running into October, brings together more than 20 traditional dance troupes.
Korea International Art Fair
Held at Seoul's COEX, KIAF is one of the region’s top art fairs and a good opportunity to get a jump on the country’s hot new artists.
Autumn is a great time to visit, particularly if you like hiking, as this is the season when the mountains run through a palate of rustic colours.
Busan International Film Festival
Korea’s top international film festival, held in the architecturally stunning Busan Cinema Center, attracts stars from across Asia and beyond.
Seoul International Fireworks Festival
Best viewed from Yeouido Hangang Park, this festival sees dazzling fireworks displays staged by both Korean and international teams.
Baekje Cultural Festival
This major festival, packed with events, is held in Buyeo in even-numbered years and in Gongju in odd-numbered years.
Gwangju World Kimchi Culture Festival
Join the celebrations for Korea’s most famous contribution to the culinary arts. For details see http://kimchi.gwangju.go.kr.
Incheon Bupyeong Pungmul Festival
Dance along to traditional folk music performances and experience other aspects of Korean culture; see www.icbp.go.kr/open_content/foreign/eng/festival.jsp for details.