Fireworks fiends, pyro geeks; dig out those bucket lists and immediately add the Pohang International Fireworks Festival to your top five. Pohang, a modest industrial town on South Korea’s eastern coast, is famous for amazing New Year’s Day sunrises and one explosive fireworks festival (sadly the two do not coincide).
The immensely popular summer event draws thousands of firework fans (and even the most jaded thrill seekers) from all over the world. Each year the displays get a little more creative and a little more outrageous. Japan famously won the 2010 competition with a perfectly choreographed display set to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
This year, professional explosives companies from China, Italy, Poland and South Korea will go head to head for the international prize – each with a bigger, badder and more innovative showcase.
The festival’s biggest draw is, of course, the spectacular pyrotechnic displays and cutting edge fireworks. However, there are plenty of events to keep out of towners busy throughout the nine day event. Energetic visitors can participate in a variety of water sports, games and activities – even a national badminton tournament.
For a cultural fix, visitors can check out the theatre festival, concert series and various traditional song and dance performances. Those craving something a little more hands on will love the South Korean Marine Corps and Coast Guard experience programs. If you’re a sit back and watch the action sort, the fireworks parade and sand sculpture exhibition are just the ticket.
Pohang is located roughly 110km (70mi) north of Busan and about 360km (230mi) southeast of Seoul. Festival events take place at Bukbu Beach and Hyeongsangang Sports Park, both of which are easily accessible by taxi (or foot for the adventurous traveler).
From Seoul: Although a number of flights leave from Gimpo Airport daily, Pohang is an easy distance via train or bus. Expect the trip to take 2 or 5 hours respectively.
From Busan: Traveling to Pohang via local train (which includes a number of stops) will run about 2-3 hours, while buses take just under 90 minutes.
As the fireworks displays often run close to midnight, it’s best to plan at least one night in the city. A number of hotels, both Western and Korean style, are available, but do tend to fill up during the festival. Book early!
Get the full Pohang experience
- Fish, snorkel and splash in the clear blue waters of Guryongpo Beach, about 10 km east of Pohang.
- Visit bustling Jukdo Market, a traditional seafood market surrounded by fantastic sashimi restaurants.
- Check out an unforgettable sunrise at the “Hands of Harmony” sculpture near Homigot, one of the easternmost points on Korean peninsula.
- Head to the Mt. Naeyeon valley – home to Bogyeongsa Buddhist temple, Yeonsan Waterfall and number of great hiking trails.
- Cheer on the hometown Pohang Steelers K-League soccer club.
- Wander through the exhibitions and galleries at The Culture & Arts Center, or even take in a performance.