Yeongchwisan Azalea Festival 2014 in Yeosu (영취산 진달래축제)


On a beautiful spring day, I headed to Yeongchwisan (영취산), a  couple of days before the official start of the Azalea (jindal/진달) festival, which is from April fourth to sixth. There are several ways to enter the mountain, but if you come by public transportation, you most likely will have to walk through a small farming village to get to the hiking path. The entrance I usually take is next to Sangam (상암) elementary school, which will be on your right while facing the mountain.

I was there in the early morning and saw elderly farmers working on their land. Seeing farmers, especially elderly ones, make me appreciate their hard work even more. After greeting the friendly farmers, I walked through the small village streets to a road that lead me to the mountain. Like in many mountain entrances in Korea, it has workout equipment. After you pass this area, the hiking path splits. I prefer the one on my left, because the right when is very steep.
When I arrived at the mid area of the mountain, I was blown away by one of the peaks that was fully decorated with azaleas, while the other peak had cherry blossoms leading the way to a small temple, and an even higher peak. During the festival season, there’s a restaurant and restrooms on the mid area. I first hiked the peak with the azaleas. It was beautiful to walk in between the bushes of fully bloomed flowers, and see an equally beautiful view as I hiked up. Unfortunately, ugly factories are built around the mountain.
Then I hiked back down to take the path to the small temple, and a higher peak. I don’t know the name of the temple, but I think it might be Dosolan. The path to the temple consists of many steps. When I almost reached the temple, I got surprised by a small snake. Being a true scaredy cat, I couldn’t help but shriek. This is my second visit to the small temple. It isn’t the most impressive one, but it is charming. If you are tight on time, I suggest you skip the temple and hike straight to the higher peak. I refilled my water bottle at the temple, because I was drinking a lot more than usual and had a dry throat. I suspect it is caused by the bad air blowing out of the factories.
After leaving the temple, I headed to the higher peak, which was the highlight of my hike. I could see beautiful pinks and greens surrounded by factories. A man who hiked up with a cool box full of ice cream was selling them there. It was a nice and refreshing treat. I quickly snapped pictures, as the air there was the worst. I could smell the chemicals. I then hiked to various lower peaks to admire the azaleas. By then the mountain got a lot busier with colorfully-dressed middle-aged hikers. I walked down, only to realize I took a wrong turn.
I ended up at an entrance facing a big factory, which is used by tour buses, and has pop-up eateries during the festival. I was told that no public buses stop there, so the only way back is by taxi. Since I wasn’t that tired I walked around a bit, and discovered a paved road back to the temple. I decided to hike back up the mountain, which was a good decision. The road passes a cherry blossom forest. I don’t think I have ever seen an area so densely populated with cherry blossoms. It was beautiful, but hard to take a good picture of. The best one I took was from afar. I then arrived back to the middle point in between the azalea peak and the temple. I hiked down to where I started and passed by farmers working on their land, while others were selling their goods to hikers.
I had a wonderful day enjoying the azaleas. I really recommend you to see it in person, as the pictures do not do justice to the beauty of the mountain. Happy Hiking!
Click here for more information on the festival and how to get there.

Here some tips:

  • Visit Heungguksa Temple (흥국사) on Yeongchwisan. I’ve never been there before, but it looks nice on the pictures.
  • Combine your trip with Odongdo (오동도), a famous tourist destination in Yeosu. If you aren’t too tired, like my fellow hikers on the bus, take number 68 to get there. There are several buses passing the village to the city, but not sure whether they all head to Odongdo.
  • Visit Bitnoriya (빛노리야) in Geobukseon Park (거북선공원), Yeocheon. The park is lit up every evening until May. There are a lot of restaurants, shops and motels near the park. I don’t think there’s a direct bus going from Yeongchwisan, so you will most likely have to change buses. The park is closer to Yeocheon intercity bus terminal, and Yeocheon train station. You can see pictures of my recent visit here.
  • Near Yeosu intercity bus terminal is an Emart, where if you’d like, you can get your Western food cravings with MacDonalds or Pizzahut.
  • Bring your own food and water when you hike Yeochwisan. There are no vendors during most of your hike, so picnicking on the mountain is the way to go.

More pictures of the festival here