Celebrating Buddha's Birthday with the Biggest Lantern Festival in South Korea
There is no event in Korea, or most of Asia for that matter, more colorful or exciting than Buddha’s birthday. Taking place anytime between the beginning of April to the end of May, the streets, the temples and the shops are lit up by thousands of colorful lanterns. Parades and festivals are plentiful filled with traditional food and songs. It’s true my a magical time and hands down the best time to visit the temples. However my favorite way to celebrate was at the Dalgubeol Lantern Festival in Daegu. I went both years during my time in Korea.
We’ve all seen the wish lanterns. Taiwan is famous for them (check the guides for how to participate in that in our guides for day trips from Taipei), they’re big now in American weddings, and who can forget that iconic scene in Tangled. But the magic of the Daegu festival is the sheer number being released at once. The site of thousands of lanterns at once is breathtaking! The festival is held every year in Duryu Park, and there are three ideal places to participate. Each has its pros and cons, it’s up to you to choose which one fits your desires best! Whatever you choose though, be sure to stick around after for the parade!
1. Inside The Stadium
Duryu Park surrounds a small stadium, within which the lanterns themselves are launched. Be careful, this is NOT Daegu Stadium, where the baseball team plays. That is all the way across the city. If you want a chance to light a lantern and make a wish for yourself, this is the place to do it. But be warned, you need to book your tickets AS SOON as they go on sale. They usually sell out within minutes! You can buy tickets and find dates and directions here. Even if you’re not lighting a lantern, the best up close view is within the stadium, and they do have non-lighting tickets (get that Tangled-esque photo). You can get free tickets to enter the day of the festival, but they will be limited and you will need to queue up EARLY!
Inside the stadium will be both stadium and pic-nic style seating (keep in mind what you want when purchasing your ticket), and you are free to bring food and drink. There will be food for purchase inside as well. Prior to the lighting there will be tons of entertainment lined up, so you will not want for distraction while you wait! Doors open around 1, and the lighting usually takes place anywhere from 6-8 depending on the time of year and how dark it is.
2. From The Park
Surrounding the stadium is Duryu Park itself, which is HUGE! It’s a gorgeous park, filled with trees and little lawns, and is the perfect place for a pre-fest picnic. This was my favorite place to view the festival. The pictures weren’t as spectacular, but the atmosphere was amazing, my friends and I had a great time, and we got a better view of the lanterns in the air, for a longer time than you do in the stadium (depending on which way the wind blows).
The park is free, you can bring a picnic and some drinks (or have food delivered directly too you. Korean food delivery is amazing). A portable speaker and some cards make the wait even more fun, and with the right friends you’re in for a very enjoyable evening. The best spots are, of course, the lawns closest to the stadium. You will want to get there a couple hours before launch, probably around 4, as the most comfortable and least wooded (this is a very tree filled park) areas fill up quickly! Don’t end up sitting in the trees.
3. From E-World
As seen in all the previous photos (the glowing green tower) the biggest draw to this part of Daegu is the theme park E-world! The park itself not huge, but is really fun, and a great way to kill time while you wait for the festival starts. It also has a giant tower at the top of a small mountain, accessible by a cable car located in the park. This normally offers pretty good views of Daegu, but during the festival it’s a great spot to be! Keep in mind the lanterns will look like stars from here.
Admission Ticket: Adults 20,000 won, Teenagers 12,000 won, Children 11,000 won
Includes park entrance (but not rides), free performances & zoo admission.
Free Pass: Adults 39,000 won, Teenagers 32,000 won, Children 29,000 won
Includes all admission ticket benfits plus ride use, 83 tower Magic Art & discount for ice skating rink during weekends.
Night Pass: Adults 25,000 won, Teenagers & Children 23,000 won
This pass is only available after 5pm, but includes free pass benefits plus starlight festival (which is a separate park celebration, not the lantern festival).
Separate fees apply to 83 Tower observation deck, which is where you want to be for the views.
Adults (ages 20-64) / Teenagers (ages 14-19) / Children (ages 3-13)