It is cold in Korea right now. Very cold. I’m a winter person, I love the cold, but it’s frigid out there, let me tell you. However, if it’s going to be a tad nippy, might as well go do something that suits the weather!
That’s why when Trazy.com, a great English-friendly tour booking website here in Korea, asked if I wanted to head up to the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival in the coldest part of the country I said, sure, why not?! I decided to bring my friend Tamar along for the adventure.
The Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival has been a staple of Korean wintertime since 2003 in sleepy Hwacheon in Gangwon-do. We went on opening weekend, but the festival runs until January 28th, so you have plenty of time to still check it out.
Related: Sounds of Seoul: Bongeunsa Temple
It’s been a number of years since I went fishing, and Tamar had never been… ever… so we were an interesting pair armed with our fishing rods and sparkly tackle. But never fear, there’s not much to it. The guides will help you if you’re struggling.
I looked on as Tamar bobbed her tackle up and down, catching and missing many a mountain trout. They like to bite, but not hold on.
Fun fact: There are 19,000 holes drilled into the ice for patrons to go ice fishing.
Eventually she caught one! Bagging it up, we left it at that (though you can leave with up to three fish per the rules) and explore more of what the festival had to offer.
View this post on Instagram
Have you ever been ice fishing? 🐟❄ My friend @tazigo and I headed to the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival's opening weekend thanks to @trazy_korea. There's ice skating, sledding, and food galore too. You can even eat what you catch! . . . If you're looking for interesting tours around #Korea, including #Seoul and beyond, make sure to check out @trazy_korea ! . . . #ad #Trazy #TrazyKorea #TravelCrazyKorea #imagineyourkorea #iseoulu #seoulmagazine #ig_korea #ig_seoul #igs_asia #getoutdoors #getoutside #travelcolorfully #colorventures #colormyworld #livelifecolorfully #seetheworld #mytinyatlas #mytraveldiary #visit_korea #visitkorea #passporttoasia #lifewelltraveled #shewhowanders #wanderlust #sheexplores #ladiesgoneglobal
Skating, Sledding, and Ice Sculptures Oh My!
If you’re a particularly brave soul, you can try and catch a trout with your bare hands further upstream. Or teeth. Let’s just say I passed on that opportunity. Other activities available are sledding, ice skating, a bobsled (aka sled down a steep slide), and ice sledding.
There’s a few snow sculptures around to be admired, and you can enjoy tons of traditional Korean food and snacks at one of the many tents. We chowed down on some kimchi tofu, mandu, and lots of hotteok (which are the best things ever and you need at least seven). Despite it being past Christmas, there’s a tent where you can mail a postcard to Santa, in Finland. The neat thing about this is that Santa will write back to you this coming Christmas.
Tamar wrote a few postcards and sent them on their way up to the North Pole. I’m super curious what reply she is going to get back!
Without a doubt, however, our favorite part of the festival were the ice sculptures. If you follow the fish sculptures from the festival up the main road, you’ll eventually come to a building that boasts hosting the largest indoor ice sculptures in Korea. And walking in, there’s no doubt about that. It’s literally a giant freezer.
But it’s just so pretty.
There’s even an ice slide to go down! I’ve always been a big fan of ice sculptures, and it was fun to try and guess what each one was before reading the placard. They’re all really beautiful and you’re free to roam around as long as you like.
Booking the Trip
Public transport is frankly really good in Korea, but if you’re looking to get somewhere a bit more remote, you’re going to need a car or a tour bus. That’s where Trazy comes in and is SUPER handy. With pick-ups in three different locations in Seoul, we were able to meet the bus and head up to the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival with relative ease.
They give you easy to follow instructions on meeting the guide from the subway stop of your choice and then it’s smooth sailing as you’re whisked away into the mountains. The trip is two and a half (ish) hours long and winds through some pretty beautiful countryside. Or you can take a nap, like yours truly.
Upon arrival you’ll be given a pamphlet and then your fishing gear as you’re lead out onto the ice. While there are meetups schedule throughout the day, in case you wanted to eat your fish, you’re more or less free to enjoy the festival as you wish. Just make sure you’re back at the bus at the right time because the traffic getting out of Hwacheon is killer!