Korea’s year is split into four distinct seasons. Generally lasting from April to June, spring is one of the best times to visit: flowers are in bloom, and a frothy cloak of cherry blossom washes a brief wave of pinkish white from south to north. Locals head for the hills, making use of the country’s many national parks, and the effects of the change in weather can also be seen in a number of interesting festivals.
Korea’s summer, on the other hand, can be unbearably muggy, and you may find yourself leaping from one air-conditioned sanctuary to the next. You’ll wonder how Koreans can persist with their uniformly fiery food at this time, and you’ll certainly be grateful for the ubiquitous water fountains. It’s best to avoid the monsoon season: more than half of the country’s annual rain falls from early July to late August. In a neat reversal of history, Japan and China protect Korea from most of the area’s typhoons, but one or two manage to get through the gap each year.
The very best time of the year to visit is autumn (Sept–Nov), when temperatures are mild, rainfall is generally low and festivals are easy to come across. Korea’s mountains erupt in a magnificent array of reds, yellows and oranges, and locals flock to national parks to picnic under their fiery canopies. T-shirt weather can continue long into October, though you’re likely to need some extra layers by then.
The Korean winter is long and cold, with the effects of the Siberian weather system more pronounced the further north you go. However, travel at this time is far from impossible – public transport services continue undaunted, underfloor ondol heating systems are cranked up, and the lack of rain creates photogenic contrasts between powdery snow, crisp blue skies, off-black pine trees and the earthy yellow of dead grass.