Any time of the year is a good time to visit the Korean peninsula, but the best time to visit South Korea occurs during the spring and autumn months—the former from mid-April to mid-June, and the latter from September to October.
Visit on either season, and you’ll avoid South Korea’s temperature extremes, while arriving just in time to see some of the country’s top tourist attractions. Compared to the peninsula’s hot, wet summers and frigid winters, South Korea’s spring and autumn offer relatively rain-free days, mild temperatures, and technicolor foliage—coinciding with major festivals like Chuseok (the autumn harvest holiday) and the Jeju Fire Festival.
Weather in South Korea
South Korea is a great destination to experience all four seasons in Asia. You’ll find something to love in each season (even the infamously humid summers), but the best time to visit will depend on your love (or tolerance) of snow, sun, or rain—and where you plan to go.
Northwest South Korea—Seoul
Located near the border with North Korea and a short distance from the Yellow Sea, the capital city of Seoul experiences colder-than-usual winters due to exposure to the frigid winds blowing in from the north. The same prevailing winds also blow in dust from China and Mongolia, known as hwangsa or yellow dust, which can make for bad air quality.
Monsoon winds in the summer cause torrential rains to fall, rising to a peak of 14-15 inches in the summer months of July and August.
The temperature in Seoul ranges from 21 to 35 degrees F (-6 to 2 degrees C) in January to 72 to 85 degrees F (22 to 30 degrees C) in August. Humidity swings from 60 percent in January to 76 percent in August. The northwest region of South Korea experiences some 57.11 inches of rainfall yearly.
Northeast South Korea—Pyeongchang
Host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the mountainous county of Pyeongchang in Gangwon-do Province enjoys temperature highs of 61 to 73 degrees F (16 to 23 degrees C) in July, and frigid lows of 9 to 28 degrees F (-12.6 to -2.5 degrees C) in January. Thanks to its average elevation of 2,460 feet (750 meters) Pyeongchang enjoys longer winters and shorter summers than the rest of the peninsula.
Pyeongchang hits its stride during ski season between November and March. This is when temperatures drop low enough for skiers and other snow-sports lovers to make the trek up to Pyeongchang’s ski resorts.
The area is one of the snowiest areas in South Korea, experiencing an average of 12 snowy days a month from December to March.
The climate in South Korea’s southernmost cities feels milder than counterpart areas up north, with winters barely dropping below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). However city of Busan experiences more intense monsoon conditions between July and August, with the occasional typhoon battering the area.
Busan’s temperatures reach a peak between May and September, with temperatures hitting between 74 and 85 degrees F (23 and 29 degrees C) in August. Temperatures drop to their lowest in Busan during January, with temperatures recorded at 31 degrees F (-1 degrees C).
Peak Season in South Korea
The summer high season coincides with kids’ summer vacations, spurring South Koreans to travel with their families. The prices for air travel and hotel accommodation rise along with the temperature.
The major festivals of Chuseok and Seollal are also inconvenient for foreign travelers, as many establishments will close over the course of the festival, and locals travel to their hometowns to visit family.
Time your trip instead for the spring and fall months, where crowds are much more manageable and the weather avoids the extremes of either summer or winter. In Seoul, the months of December to February represent the low season, with the promise of cheaper prices at all class tiers.
Spring in South Korea
One of the best times of the year to visit, springtime in South Korea occurs between April and June. Expect average daily temperatures from 59 to 65 degrees F (15 to 18 degrees C) during the day. Cool breezes with ample sunshine predominate, though springtime also brings the peak of the “yellow dust” (hwangsa), fine dust storms blowing in from China and Mongolia.
Events to check out:
- Cherry blossom festivals: Cherry trees bloom throughout South Korea in spring. Gyeongju and Jinhae celebrate their respective cherry blossom festivals between March and April.
- Boseong Green Tea Festival: Celebrate everything matcha-related in South Korea’s primary green tea-cultivating capital. Early May. boseong.go.kr.
- Buddha’s Birthday: South Korea’s biggest temples celebrate Vesak with candlelight parades; the biggest occurs in Seoul and runs for two weeks in early May.
- Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Ritual: Despite the extinction of Korea’s monarchy, royal ancestral rites are still held annually at the Jongmyo Shrine in Seoul. First Sunday every May.
Summer in South Korea
High heat and humidity make summer a not-so-popular time to visit South Korea, thanks to daytime temperatures hitting 73 to 86 degrees F (23 to 30 degrees C) and monsoon rains drenching the peninsula.
Events to check out:
- Ultra Korea Music Festival: A major stop on the world EDM festival circuit, the two-day Ultra Korea Festival in mid-June has hosted major celebrities like Deadmau5 and Armin van Buuren.
- Dano Festival: A traditional mask and shaman festival held on the coastal city of Gangneung, celebrating the ongoing protection of a guardian mountain god. It's held on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month: June 25, 2020; June 14, 2021; June 3, 2022; and June 22, 2023.
- Boryeong Mud Festival: Get down and dirty in this week-long celebration of all things muddy in mid-July, from tug-of-war to wrestling to every little excuse to slide in the local “therapeutic” mud baths. Mid-July.
- Geumsan Insam Festival: Geumsan County specializes in the cultivation of the ginseng root crop, and celebrates it annually with a festival celebrating traditional medicine in late September or early October.
Autumn in South Korea
Bringing an end to summer’s humidity and heat, the autumn months from September to November combine cooler winds with beautifully riotous fall colors, bringing droves of tourists to the country’s National Parks.
Expect average daily temperatures of 66 to 70 degrees F (19 to 21 degrees C) in the first half of autumn—but as temperatures continue to descend, warmer clothing will be in order.
Events to check out:
- Chuseok: Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions, gift-giving and the consumption of seasonal foods. Chuseok falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month: Oct. 1, 2020; Sept. 21, 2021; Sept. 10, 2022; and Sept. 29, 2023.
- Busan International Film Festival: A showcase for Asia’s young and hungry directors in October—combining world premieres for major Asian releases as well as masterclasses from famous cinema professionals and an awards show.
- Andong Mask Dance Festival: A traditional festival in late September with shamanic roots, celebrated in the city of Andong. Folk dance groups from all over South Korea come to show their traditional moves.
- Seoul Lantern Festival: This festival of lights in November illuminates Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream with traditional lanterns down the waterway’s 1,400-yard (1,280-meter) length.
Winter in South Korea
From December to March, the winter months in South Korea bring only occasional snowfall—as much as 25 days of snow per year in Seoul, down to only 5 on southern cities like Busan. The temperature follows the same north-to-south pattern, with January lows of 27.5 degrees F (-2.5 degrees C) in Seoul and 37.5 degrees F (3 degrees C) in Busan.
Events to check out:
- Lighting Festival at The Garden of Morning Calm: South Korea’s biggest festival of lights uses over 330,000 square meters of lighting to illuminates a famous garden in Gapyeong County. December to March.
- Seollal (Lunar New Year): Koreans celebrate Lunar New Year with temple rites, family feasts, and commemorations of the ancestors. The dates of Seollal are: Jan. 25, 2020; Feb. 12, 2021; Feb. 1, 2022; and Jan. 22, 2023.
- Jeju Fire Festival: During this March festival farmers in Jeju throw a massive incendiary festival culminating in the burning of daljip bonfire piles to ensure a good harvest.