The Annual Hwacheon Tomato Festival in Korea. What To Expect?

me standing in the tomato pool with a hat and matching shorts

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The Tomato Festival in Hwacheon, Korea is an annual event that is held to celebrate the tomato harvesting season. The natural landscape found in and around Hwacheon is the perfect location for tomatoes to flourish and is the main export from this region of the country. Tomatoes certainly put this small town on the Korean map!

Every year this four-day event brings in crowds of both Koreans and tourists to enjoy the many activities relating to this popular food. There are games and competitions with prizes to be won as well as many different zones for you to explore.

Of course, if you’re spending your time at a festival dedicated to food, you’ll get the opportunity to eat them cooked and prepared in multiple ways. Whether it be pasta with a tomato sauce, sandwiches and subs, tomato drinks, salads and desserts, you’ll have the chance to try them all out if you wish.

Trust me, the tomato lemonade is much better than it sounds!

So, instead of having to fly all the way to Spain for their famous tomato festival, you can stay in Korea to enjoy their version. Who would have thought a summer festival getting covered in fruit could be so fun?!

Country:South Korea (Republic of Korea)
Currency:South Korean Won / KRW
Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?Check here

Feet standing in a pool of tomato sauce at the Hwacheon Tomato Festival in Korea

How to get to the Hwacheon Tomato Festival in Korea

Location: Sanae-myeon,​ Hwacheon-gun, Gangwon-do (강원도 화천군 사내면)

Hwacheon is a small town in the north of the country around an hour and a half outside of Seoul. There are a few different ways to reach the festival that I’d like to outline for you below.

Arriving by car:

If you are hoping to drive yourself, you can rent a car easily as a foreigner in Korea. Just make sure you have your IDP and full driving licence! If you do drive, you can reach the festival in around 2 and a half hours from Seoul. If you are travelling from Busan it is likely to take you between 5 and 6 hours depending on traffic.

Since Busan is so far away, if you were travelling from the southern city, it might be worthwhile getting the train or flying to Seoul and then renting a car from there.

Arriving by Public Transport:

Travelling to the festival independently can be a little complicated as it requires a few bus or train changes. When travelling from Seoul on public transport, the best app to navigate Korea is Naver Maps to reach Hwacheon. You can get one of the intercity buses from the Seoul Bus Station to Hwacheon Bus Station.

Different tomato flavoured drinks available for purchase at the Hwacheon tomato festival in Korea

Different Areas at The Hwacheon Tomato Festival

As with any festival or event, there are multiple areas to enjoy the festivities. So that you know what to expect, below I will outline each area and what you can expect to find there.

Performance Zone

This is the largest of the zones in the festival and this is where you’ll find both the opening and closing ceremonies at the start and end of the event. Here you’ll find a stage with performances throughout the day, everything from comedy, singing and even competitive games.

There is an activity where the participants must stack tomato boxes higher than the other team, a balloon show and a KPOP-style dance show.

Event Zone

The Event Zone at the Hwacheon Tomato Festival is likely the most well-known area of the entire celebration. This is where the famous “gold ring hunt” takes place in the pool of tomatoes.

On each weekend day, this game happens 2 – 3 times throughout the day. The other event that takes place in this zone of the festival is the Tug of War. There is just one tug of war each day, unlike the ring hunts that are held 2-3 times.

A photo zone with two friends posing at a fruit festival

Experience Zone

The Experience Zone is where you’ll find a wide variety of different activities to take part in. There are booths with face painting, slime making, tomato sandwich making, tomato seed planting, and more. They really try to create a range of tomato-related events that the entire family can enjoy.

There is a 911 safety demonstration and 2 different selfies and photo zones to enjoy too so you can make some tomato-based memories!

Play Zone

The Play Zone is a large play area for children and their families to play in the water with inflatable slides and pools. This area has a water gun pool, bubble playground, balloon pool and more that children can enjoy while cooling off during the day.

As the Hwacheon Tomato Festival takes place in August, it is often very hot and humid at this time of year in Korea so the pools are a fantastic way to stay cool.

a tomato balloon and drink purchased at the tomato festival in Hwacheon Korea

Food Zone

The Food Zone at the Tomato Festival consists of a food court serving tomato-based dishes, the Hwacheon Village Marketplace, the Agricultural Store and a small booth selling festival merchandise made locally in Korea.

Some foods you could try in this area are tomato lemonade, tomato subs and sandwiches, tomato salads, tomato pasta and sauces and more!

Finding the Gold Rings at the Hwacheon Tomato Festival

As the main event, let me tell you a bit more about the “Golden Ring Hunt“. Located in the Event Zone (in the centre of the festival street), you’ll find a large inflatable pool. This pool starts off empty and not long before the event starts, 5 – 6 small trucks will arrive at the venue with multiple boxes of tomatoes.

These tomatoes will be put into the pool by the event staff which can take between 30 – 40 minutes to complete. The pool ends up full of tomatoes (around ankle deep) and then they will make an announcement so the attendees know to head over to the pool.

Once a crowd has been drawn the staff call small children into the pool for a small dance party lasting around 10 minutes. Next, they will prepare the rest of the festival go-ers for the official hunt. Once the bell goes it becomes a free for all with attendees rushing into the pool.

During each game, there are 2-3 golden rings hidden inside large tomatoes. It’s extremely hard to find them purely because of how many tomatoes there are. Once all rings are found the game is over.

The map of the festival event

What To Bring to the Hwacheon Tomato Festival in Korea

  • Waterproof case for cameras and phones
  • Sunscreen
  • A change of clothes
  • A bag to keep your belongings in
  • Cash or a card to purchase things throughout the day

A waterproof case for your camera or phone is a smart idea because if you wish to participate in the ring hunt you will likely get very wet. Not only will you be covered in squashed tomatoes but you will also be sprayed by a giant water hose from the platform above the tomato pool.

Sunscreen should be considered since this entire event takes place outside with minimal shade coverage. The festival takes place in August when the sun and heat are at their highest in the year. By having sunscreen you can keep your skin protected.

You should bring a bag to keep your belongings in and a change of clothes so that if you get wet and messy in the tomato pool or the play zone you can dry off before your journey back to your accommodation.

Cash or a card is necessary for most places you go to and the Hwacheon Tomato Festival is no exception. You’ll be able to purchase merchandise and food throughout the day to make the most of your experience.

The steaming tomato pool with water hose raining from above and a crowd of people in the Hwacheon fest in Korea

Tickets to The Tomato Festival in Hwacheon, Korea

Purchase Independently

There are two ways to buy tickets for the event. You can either purchase them independently through the website, or you can join a group tour. But first, let me tell you how to get an independent ticket.

Head over to the website for the Hwacheon Tomato Festival here. This website could change for the next year’s event so I will aim to have that updated if or when the time comes.

You could join a tour

If you don’t wish to travel all the way to Hwacheon on your own, then you could join a tour.

When joining a tour, not only would you get an entry ticket, but you usually receive other benefits too. They’ll arrange the transportation to and from the event from Seoul, sometimes include merchandise and always have other attendees so you don’t have to be alone.

If you’d like to join a tour, one of my favourites is below.

Hwacheon Tomato Festival Guided Tour From Seoul

market stalls in Hwacheon Korea

Opening Times

The Tomato Festival is typically held over 4 days each year and opens at different times depending on the day.

The festival is held between Thursday and Sunday and it opens at 10 am and ends around 6 pm most days.

The majority of the events and games are held between 12 pm and 2 pm each day so if you are travelling from outside of Hwacheon, you can still make it in time for the most popular ones.

Want to check out some more festivals in Korea? Look at these below:

Pile of tomatoes in the Hwacheon Tomato Festival

Where to stay in Hwacheon, Korea?

Hwacheon is a very small town in the Gangwon Province only 9km south of the DMZ. Due to the town having a small population, there is also a limit on the number of accommodations available to stay in.

Due to the popularity of the Tomato Festival held in Hwacheon every year, you often need to book accommodation ahead of time or risk missing out. The first time I tried to attend the festival I forgot to book a hotel in time and the closest one available was over an hour away in Chuncheon. This would have been ok had I had a car, but rentals were also sold out on these dates too!

So, with that being said, the best way to find accommodation is through Booking.com below. Just don’t forget to book as far ahead as possible to avoid missing out!

Have you been to the Hwacheon Tomato Festival in Korea? What did you think?

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