Instead of drinking away your mistakes of 2012, or doling out ₩60,000 at a club in Gangnam, hop on a bus and head to the coast for one of Korea’s many Sunrise Festivals. Taking place at beaches all along the east and west coasts of the Korean peninsula, Sunrise Festivals have become immensely popular for locals and waygookin alike. Eat, drink, and dance while you wait to watch the first sunrise of the year from one of the most beautiful locations on earth. Partake in a bonfire, eat some tteokguk (traditional New Year’s dish – a soup with thinly sliced rice cakes, seaweed, meat, and eggs), watch some fireworks, and be among the first to ring in 2013 (sans brow sweat and anxiety).

Entrance to most of the events is free, and sponsored by the local government. You still have time to book train or bus tickets! Here is a breakdown of the festivals straight from the Korea Tourism Organization. For more information on these festivals, or general tourism inquiries, visit their website: Korea Tourism Organization.

Ulsan Ganjeolgot Sunrise Festival –

Where: Ganjeolgot Lighthouse, Daesong-ri, Seosaeng-myeon, Ulji-gun, Ulsan.

Directions: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Ulsan.
From Ulsan Intercity/ Express Bus Terminal, take bus 715 to Ganjeolgot.

Ganjeolgot is one of the seaside locations where people all across the nation gather to celebrate and watch the first sunrise of the New Year. This New Year’s Sunrise Festival includes interactive events such as stargazing programs and mosaic making. Visitors can also learn about the Ganjeolgot Lighthouse and the city of Ulsan through a series of 3D video clips. New Year’s celebrations also include a wide array of events such as fireworks, eating tteokguk (an important New Year’s tradition), and a diverse range of performances.

Maryang-ri Sunset & Sunrise Festival –
Where: Maryang Port, Maryang-ri, Seo-myeon, Seocheon-gun, Chungcheongnam-do Province

Directions: Take a train from Yongsan Station to Seocheon Station. Train schedule: 05:45-14:25, 30-60min intervals. Estimated Travel time : 3hours. Or, from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Seocheon. From Seocheon Station/Bus Terminal, take a local bus bound for Dongbaekjeong. Get off at the last stop (Maryangpo Port).

Why spend New Year’s Eve in a bar when you can spend it at this beautiful beach on Korea’s west coast! One of the few places that offer a stunning view of both the sunset and the sunrise, this sunrise festival venue has it all: a great location and lots of celebratory events such as a local specialty market and seaside bonfires.

Homigot Sunrise Festival –
Where: Homigot Sunrise Plaza, Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province
Directions: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Seoul Express Bus Terminal. Take an intercity bus to Pohang. From Pohang Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus 200 or 200-1. Get off at Guryongpo. (Estimated travel time: 1 hour) From Guryongpo, transfer to a bus bound for Homigot. (40min-ride, 1 hour intervals)

Catch the first sunrise of 2013 on the dawn of New Years Day at the Homigot National Sunrise Plaza, located on Homigot Beach. This is the first beach in Korea to catch the rays of the sunrise and is one of the most famous places to gather on New Years. Say goodbye to 2012 while watching performances and fireworks and welcome in the New Year with a steaming bowl of Tteokguk, a Korean New Year’s Day tradition.

Seongsan Sunrise Festival –
Where: Ilchulbong Peak area, Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island

Directions: From Jeju International Airport, take bus 100 to Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal.
From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus bound for Ilju Road (East). Get off at the entrance of Seongsan Ilchulbong.

Join the countdown and welcome in the New Year at Jeju’s premier sunrise attraction, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (also known as “Sunrise Peak”). Fishermen from every port will turn on their boat lights and blow their whistles in unison to mark the occasion. With the port town down below and a view of the sun coming up over the ocean, it is truly a spectacular sight to see.

Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival –
Where: Hourglass Park District, Jeongdongjin Beach, Gangneung, Gangwon-do Province

Directions: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Seoul Express Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Gangneung. From Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus 109 to Jeongdongjin. Or, take a train from Cheongnyangni Station to Jeongdongjin.
Get off of the train in Jeongdongjin and walk only a few meters to the beautiful beach and its large hourglass. The beach’s hourglass is so big that it takes one full year for the sand in the top to fall to the bottom. At 12am on New Year’s Eve, the last grains trickle down and the hourglass is turned over once again as part of a grand ceremony, kicking off the brand-new year.

Gyeongpo Sunrise Festival –
Where: Gyeongpo Beach, Jeo-dong, Gangneung, Gangwon-do Province

Directions: From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal or Seoul Express Bus Terminal. Take an intercity bus to Gangneung. From Gangneung Intercity Bus Terminal, take bus 202 to Gyeongpodae.
Gyeongpo Beach is one of the biggest beaches on the east coast and is well-known for its beauty, which shows itself in a different light throughout the year. On New Year’s Day, people gather in a huge celebration of the New Year, watching fireworks and participating in an array of programs.

Words by Julia Bass. Check out her blog, Bassen Your Seatbelt and follow her on .

Images: mike beech and junezel

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