Highly Recommended: Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

Held in the Hwacheon county in Gangwon-do since 2003, the month-long Winter festival is popular with locals and foreign tourists alike.

My first catch!

Getting there

We bought the 1+1 (Fishing + Shuttle) tickets from Trazy. The ticket include 2-way transport, fishing, 5,000 won worth of vouchers (to be used at the festival only). It takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Seoul to the festival.

It’s super exciting to venture out of Seoul (if you are based in the capital for your trip) to visit something different. Hwacheon Ice Festival offers 2 of the best things you can do! Play and Eat!

Play

The highlight of the festival is definitely Ice-fishing, and while that’s true, there’s actually a whole range of activities to do.

  • Ice-sledding
  • Ice sleigh
  • Ice soccer
  • Ice skating
  • Bare-hands fishing (if you are the super hardcore type)
  • (There’s also a VR thingy)
  • Ice-sculpture exhibition

Ice-fishing – for foreigners, you are entitled to fish up to 3 trouts and you must return your catch to the staff when you are done with your adventure. The fishing zone is segregated into locals and foreigners, foreigners have a smaller area for fishing and while there’s loads of foreigners, it’s not uncomfortable and there’s plenty of space and fishing holes to explore.

The “fishing holes” are pre-drilled and all you have to do is to fish. There’s no live bait, so you don’t have to worry about that either. As for fishing itself, there’s a certain technique to it. TBH, I was trying out for over 1 hour before the first catch but the great thing is, once you get your first catch, it gets easier. Also, there are the pros out there, the personnel-in-charge who are ready to help you out if you need to learn how to fish, or need help removing the hook of the fish.

Tip 1: When fishing, just dip the rod into the hole like a yo-yo (pull, drop, pull, drop). Your action should be “rhythmic” and consistent not “erratic”. You have to understand what a trout thinks, a lively bait motivates the trout and leads it to think that the bait is a great catch. Just imagine your bait is alive, and what a live object would move.

Tip 2: When the fish bites on your bait, DON’T PANIC. Just pull the rod, and the entire fish out. You should also do it fast though, the fish is quite strong and can get away if you take your time.

Tip 3: (If you are afraid of the smell of the fish) Bring a disposable glove or sorts to hold onto the fish when you pull the fish out. This will help a lot both to secure your fish with your hands and also because the trouts can be extremely slippery.

Tip 4: When you put your fishes into the provided bag, please ensure you tighten it, as these fishes are strong and can escape from your bag.

Tip 5: You might want to bring a small portable chair or something to sit on, because unless you are one season fisherman, you might be spending quite sometime standing.

After, you are done, (supposing if you head there in the morning) It’s lunch! Unfortunately, you won’t be able to eat your catch, but you are actually entitled 1 SUPER DELICIOUS grilled trout to chow on. And if you like the taste of it, you can also try trouts done in other methods (like sashimi, oyster sauce, etc).

Eat

With pop-up restaurants (actually I think there’s just one), and local snacks, I can guarantee that you won’t go hungry.

Besides Hwacheon, there are also other similar festivals such as the Pyeongchang Trout Festival in Korea.

This is the fishing area for the locals.
Hwacheon Ice Festival

Conclusion

Time to spend here: The Whole Day!

Overall, I had great fun at the Festival and I totally enjoyed the experience and I’m giving this activity a 9 out of 10 and I highly recommend this if you visit South Korea in the Winter.