Autumn in South Korea is a particularly popular time for festivals, making it a perfect time to travel around the country to see new places.
Jinju is a small city in towards the southern-most point of the country that hosts several festivals all around the same time. However, the crown jewel of Jinju’s festival season is the lantern festival.
Literally located on the Nam River and inside the Jinju Fortress, the lantern festival runs for about two weeks with a myriad of events, entertainers, performances and food to compliment the scenes created through the lanterns. There is a lot to see and the crowds make it difficult to see everything in one night, especially as you struggle to look at the river lanterns while crossing one of temporary pontoon bridges. If you really want to see the river lanterns up close, you can rent a boat for a few minutes to get up close.
Spending more than one night at the festival has its advantages, because of all the photo opportunities and special events. There are three stages that offer all sorts of entertainment, from Kpop performances, traditional Korean music and dance, and international performances. Choose your dates carefully, because each night is different.
The festival really comes to life around six in the evening, but you are free to buy a ticket for the day and walk around the fortress to look at the lanterns in their unlit glory. However, short of the lantern festival—and the nearby silk festival—there is not much to keep you occupied until sunset. Jinju is a very small city with little to offer tourists in terms of sites. The main draws to the city other than the fortress are around Jinyang Lake and offer very little to people who are not interested in prehistoric Korean history or Korean bull fighting. Korean bull fighting is much more humane than the Spanish variety because two bulls butt heads until they get tired instead of getting stabbed by a fashionably dressed man. The thrills are minimal; the same cannot be said for the smell.
Finding ways to spend the days in Jinju may be difficult but the lantern festival certainly makes up for it. It is a popular event so plan ahead because finding a place to stay can prove challenging. Driving to Jinju rather than taking a bus or train is probably a better decision because of the option to leave Jinju during the day to spend some time in Tongyeong, Geoje, or even Busan; which tourists can reach within an hour and provide a little more excitement after running out of things to see in Jinju.
Traveling to Jinju from Seoul takes about four hours by bus, or six hours if there is traffic (so it takes six hours to get there, because there is always traffic). But it is a great getaway destination for people with a day or two off, or those who want to do a little budget traveling in Korea.
For more information about the Jinju lantern festival visit the official website.