South Korea is prone to experiencing extreme temperatures and weather conditions in both summer and winter so the best time to visit is during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. During this time the weather is moderate with mild conditions (less chance of rain and low humidity levels), making it comfortable enough to spend long periods of time exploring this country’s bustling cities and beautiful landscapes.
When is the best time to visit Seoul?
The best time to visit Seoul is during the spring season when temperatures are at an average of 15°C and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Unsurprisingly, this is also one of the most popular times to visit the buzzing city, so you expect larger crowds at popular sites and increased prices. But there really isn’t a ‘bad’ time to visit Seoul as there’s always so much going on regardless of the season.
When is the best time to visit Busan?
The best time to visit Busan can often be split between April (if you’re after cool to mild weather and cherry blossoms) and June (if you’re looking for warm temperatures and beach time). But generally, the months of May and June will give you the most agreeable weather conditions with little chance of rainfall and moderate humidity levels.
Best for: snow-based activities and winter festivals
If you’re travelling to South Korea in January, remember to pack your thermal clothing, a beanie, gloves, thick socks and scarves because the weather will be cold – like freezing cold. January is the coldest month of the year in South Korea which makes sense with average low temperatures sitting at -6°C.
Unfortunately, average high temperatures aren’t much better at 2°C but you will have the larger cities and popular sites largely to yourself which is a silver lining. If you want to make the most of the snow, head to ski resort towns around Pyeongchang or visit various winter festivals around the country such as the Seogwipo Penguin Festival on Jeju Island or Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival in Taebaek.
Best for: hanging out in bathhouses and café hopping
South Korea’s still well and truly in the middle of winter in February (although it’s technically the last month of the season) with temperatures at a chilly 4°C average (slightly warmer than previous months so there’s light at the end of the snow-covered tunnel). Weather conditions themselves aren’t too bad with clear, sunny mornings (albeit cold ones) that turn into cloudy afternoons, especially as the month goes on.
Best for: flower festivals, bamboo forests and historical sightseeing
Frozen landscapes are thawing out in South Korea in March with the first signs of spring right around the corner. While avid snow-seekers can still catch some of the fluffy white stuff at the beginning of the month, temperatures will increase as the month goes on with high averages around 11°C. Daylight hours are also getting longer with an average of 11 hours experienced per day, perfect for exploring historical sites in Gyeongju and wandering around the bamboo forests of Damyang.
Best for: hiking and the cherry blossom festival
Spring is here in South Korea in April and so are the flowers! One of the most popular months to visit because of the cherry blossoms, April sees plenty of travellers so expect large crowds wherever you go and increased flight prices and accommodation. The mild weather experienced is also favourable for spending long periods of time outside with warmer days of 18°C scattered throughout the month.
To make the most of the nice weather after the long months of winter, hiking through South Korea’s national parks is a popular activity, especially with flowers in full bloom and relatively clear days to take in the magnificent scenery. But most people travel to South Korea in April for the famous Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival on the country’s south coast for a closer look at the beautiful flowers.
Best for: tea plantation visits and wandering ancient palaces
May is a fantastic time to visit South Korea as the cherry blossom crowds have largely disappeared but the peak summer crowds haven’t yet arrived, so you won’t be faced with higher prices or low availability. Temperatures are also getting warmer with averages of 20°C but there’s an increased chance of rainfall, especially towards the end of the month.
While the nice weather conditions suit outdoor activities, air quality can be affected by dust storms and soil particles, so be mindful of any allergies you have that may be worsened by the smogginess in larger cities. If you want to stay inside, ancient palaces such as Changgyonggung and Gyeongbokgung.
Best for: water-based activities and picnic lunches in city gardens
While June might be the start of summer in South Korea, it’s also the beginning of monsoon season with heavy rains and high humidity levels expected. For this reason, large crowds tend to steer clear of travelling during the month so the bigger cities and popular sites should be relatively quiet.
Temperatures can reach a warm 26°C during the month, but humidity also climbs to 70%, which can make it feel hotter than it is. To escape the often oppressive-feeling heat, many travellers flock to the country’s coastal areas in search of golden sand and clear waters. Beach going is a popular pastime in June as the beaches are less crowded than in the coming months and resort prices aren’t yet at their peak.
Best for: island hopping, swimming and beach lounging
Summer is at its peak in July in South Korea but so are the humidity levels which sit at a sweltering 90%. So it makes sense that holiday-makers flock to destinations like Jeju Island in search of ways to cool off (read: lounging on the beach and going for a swim). But be sure to stake out a spot early in the morning before summer holiday crowds descend.
Temperatures rarely dip below 20°C in July, instead averaging around 27°C during the day so ensure you’re packing lots of lightweight, breathable clothing and sun-protective items such as wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Best for: dolphin spotting and water sports
August in South Korea starts off just as hot and humid as July, but weather conditions start to level out as the month draws on until temperatures sit at a more comfortable average of 20°C. But it’s still a popular month to leave the busy cities behind in favour of sandy shores and clear waters, so you can expect large crowds in beachside destinations. You might even spot a bottlenose dolphin or two if you’re heading to Jeju Island.
Best for: exploring national parks and camping
Say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn as hot and sticky temperatures give way to cooler conditions. The large crowds of summer have gone and with it, the consistent heavy rainfall (although a few showers here and there can still be expected). Temperatures average around 19°C, which is perfect for exploring the great outdoors, especially when the landscape starts to turn an array of reds, oranges and golden browns.
Best for: appreciating the autumn scenery and Halloween celebrations
It might not be as iconic as the cherry blossom season, but the autumn colours that descend upon South Korea in October deserve just as much love and appreciation. Whether it’s exploring a national park, a day trip to Nami Island or a walk through a lively city garden, there’s beautiful autumn foliage to be seen everywhere you go.
The weather’s very comfortable too with conditions staying dry and temperatures averaging a cool 18°C. While you can still do all of the normal ‘touristy’ things like visit the Demilitarised Zone and other historic areas, October sees a whole heap of festive Halloween celebrations including parades, haunted houses and parties.
Best for: tasting traditional food and museum visits
While it’s still technically autumn, the oranges, reds and browns of October aren’t as crisp and temperatures are getting colder as the season makes way for winter. If you’re keen to stay out of the 5°C weather, November is a good month for museum wanderings and tasting some of South Korea’s most traditional food – think ddukbokki, bibimbap and kimchi.
Best for: holiday festivals and Christmas celebrations
Forget Europe or North America’s east coast, South Korea is where you want to be when December 25th rolls around! Large cities like Seoul and Busan really go all out with their Christmas decorations – think lanterns, colourful fairy lights and festive displays – and there’s nothing like a white Christmas with temperatures of around 3°C and lots of snow predicted during the month.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any more magical, there are plenty of holiday activities to keep you occupied during your visit such as ice skating at the Seoul City Hall or watching the annual Christmas Tree Festival in Busan. You can also head to the slopes outside of the city to participate in various snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.
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