There are three things South Korea does exceptionally well; the first is enthusiasm, the second, festivals, and the third, summer. There’s really nowhere better to party, eat, drink, and have a good time. The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of those bucket list kind of events that allow you to experience South Korea at its absolute best.
What Is the Boryeong Mud Festival?
About a two and a half hour journey from Seoul, the beachside town of Boryeong boasts naturally mineral-rich mudflats that are incredibly kind on your skin. In the late 90s, when Boryeong started selling their mud for cosmetic purposes, they created a massive event to help people learn more about its healing and anti-aging properties. Today, the festival has grown to become one of the largest and most well-known in Korea.
Running from July 21 to 30, the annual Boryeong Mud Festival isn’t some kind of week-and-a-half-long spa mud wrap fest though; this is a full-on party. The festival is a celebration of mud with the fun side effect of it being amazing for your skin. Plus, it’s much more affordable than spending a day at the spa, with tickets ranging from 10,000 Won ($9USD) to 12,000 Won ($10.50USD). Basically, everybody wins!
Before the Mud Festival
It goes against most travel advice, but in this case, the early bird gets ripped off. Some tour operators gouge tourists with high-priced early-bird “specials” when you can actually book much closer to the event for a lot less. Just don’t leave it to the last minute - up to a week or two in advance should be sufficient.
Tip: If you’re looking for a group to go with, check out the small tour company WinK Travels (When in Korea). They organize weekend trips to the Mud Festival with young, party-minded folks - mostly expats and fellow travelers. The lodging options aren’t exactly the most luxurious, but it’s worthwhile for the proximity to the festivities, fun atmosphere, awesome people, and you'll be happy in the knowledge that you haven’t been ripped off.
During the Mud Festival
There’s heaps to do at the festival, with large attractions set up along the Daecheon beachfront area. Start mud fights with strangers in the giant mud bath, slide down the inflatable bouncy mudslide, get locked up in mud prison, give yourself a mud massage, or have your body painted with colorful mud. The best way to enjoy the Mud Festival is to get right in it. Like, right in it. Cover your body in the mud to make the most of the soothing mineral health benefits.
Tip: Bring sunscreen. The weather will be hot, and you will almost definitely get sunburnt. Sunscreen can be difficult to find in Korea, even in coastal tourist towns, so don’t expect to pick some up at the store when you get there.
The last weekend of the festival is when Korea’s Westerner expats descend on the town for a massive rager. It’s insane. Expect to meet people from all over the globe partying together like some kind of mud U.N.
Special Events at the Mud Festival
In case throwing mud at random strangers isn’t enough for you, there are a ton of special events to take part in. Before you get stuck into the local spirits, try getting stuck in the 3km mini-marathon through the actual mudflats. Entry is free, and winners take home a trophy and basic prize, but really, if you can trudge through 3kms of mudflats and survive, you automatically win at life.
When the sun comes down, the K-pop performances begin - this is Korea after all! Get in the fray and dance your ass off. You’ll also find an EDM festival, hip-hop rave parties, and local and folk music to get your groove on.
After the Mud Festival
Soju is the national alcohol of South Korea – it’s dirt cheap, and it is everywhere. Boryeong attracts a lot of foreign tourists for the Mud Festival, so there will be loads of places to drink. Or better yet, find a convenience store, grab some flavored soju (try the pineapple), and head to the beach to enjoy the fireworks.
When the festival is over, it’s worth sticking around Boryeong for at least a few days. It’s a charming city with amazing seafood plus many nearby islands to explore by ferry, lots of hiking trails, a water park, and zip-lining adventures.
Although the Boryeong Mud Festival began for marketing purposes, today it’s more than just a town trying to shill the latest cosmetics craze. This is a true bucket-list stop, and an experience like no other anywhere in the world, so get in before the hipsters find out about it.
Check out the video below to experience a different kind of festival.