Andong, South Korea: Hahoe Folk Village and Andong Mask Dance Festival

An elaborate gate and entrance with traditional Joseon style
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Andong is the capital of North Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangbuk-do) in South Korea, and is located about 130 miles/210 kilometers northwest of Busan.

Andong is a significant location for Korean traditional and folk culture. The city is well-known for its masks (hahoe tal), mask festival, and the Hahoe Folk Village. The folk village was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. At Hahoe, various important folk traditions and traditional styles of architecture are kept alive.

Andong is also famous for its local cuisine. Notable foods include Andong jjimdak (a soy sauce based-dish of chicken and vegetables) and heotjesatbap (bibimbap made with soy sauce instead of the typical gochujan). Local specialty libations are Andong soju (a boozy rice wine) and Andong sikhye (a sweet rice drink).

I visited Andong in the fall as part of road trip through South Korea, checking out both the Hahoe Folk Village and the Andong Mask Dance Festival. It was a great time of year to visit the village, as the trip coincided with the festival.

Hahoe Folk Village

Nestled in by the Nakdong River and surrounding mountains, Hahoe Folk Village is a traditional village established during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897). The various buildings located around the community feature Joseon architecture.

The village is comprised of thatched-roof houses that commoners would have lived in, as well as tile-roof houses that aristocrats would have lived in. The village also has multiple historically-significant buildings, including Byeongsan Confucian School, Wonjijeongsa Pavilion, and several manors.

Do note that people actually live there, so be mindful of your noise levels and behavior.

Buildings around Hahoe

There were crops planted throughout the village, as well as plenty of farmland on the outskirts. Visiting in the fall, everything was green, growing, and almost ready for harvesting.

Andong agriculture

Hahoe Folk Village was very peaceful and picturesque. The village itself has a very slow pace of life. It had also been sprinkling on and off the day we visited, and there weren’t many other people. The village is also big enough that visitors can spread out a bit while sightseeing.

Funnily enough, we happened to visit Hahoe Folk Village at the same time as President Moon Jae-in. So obviously, there was some commotion from that, and people crowded nearby paths to try to catch a glimpse of him.

Other visitors at the folk village

Hahoe Folk Village
Hours: 9 AM to 7 PM (summer season), 9 AM to 6 PM (winter season)
Admission Fee: 3,000 won

Andong Mask Dance Festival

The masks from Andong were traditionally used during a particular ceremony (Hahoe byeolsingut talnori), and represent different characters with exaggerated facial expressions. The masks and ceremony are both considered national treasures.

Shot glasses with traditional Andong masks on them

Souvenir with some of the Hahoe masks:
Imae, Bune, Gaksi (Bride), Yangban (Nobleman), and Seonbi (Scholar)

After we finished at Hahoe Folk Village, we stopped to look around the Andong Mask Dance Festival.

There were a number of stalls selling a range of products, including mask- or folk-related souvenirs. There were also stalls hawking various Korean street foods.

The Mask Dance Festival offers many mask performances each day from both Korean and international groups in the week or so it runs. At the same time, Hahoe Folk Village holds some events and traditional performances.

Statue of a masked man laughing at the Andong Mask Dance Festival

Decorations outside the mask dance theatre

Most of the major mask performances cost some money to watch and the timings didn’t work very well for our road trip schedule. So the only thing we ended up watching was some performance near some small central stage outside.

I do wish now that we would have paid to see at least something, as these kinds of performances are what Andong is famous for.

Andong Mask Dance Festival
Hours: Events can run from 10 AM to 10 PM
Admission Fee: Free to walk around the grounds, but performances can cost money

Overall Thoughts

I really loved visiting Hahoe Folk Village. As a fan of traditional architecture, it was great to see more traditional buildings besides the palaces, temples, and hanok of Seoul and Jeonju. The setting of the village is quite tranquil, and very much feels like stepping back in time.

Andong itself plays an important role in the continuation of Korean folk history and culture. Even if you have little interest in history and folk traditions, I still think Hahoe Folk Village is worth a visit to experience a bit of a bygone Korea.

I would definitely recommend visiting Hahoe Folk Village in general. The village is very scenic and charming. I think it would be appealing and interesting to most people.

A path walled in by traditional fencing at Hahoe Folk Village

Lovely views around every corner at Hahoe Folk Village

As for the Andong Mask Dance Festival, I do wish we had seen at least one real performance. In general, the festival was fine. Many of the Andong-specific foods, drinks, and souvenirs they were selling at the festival were also available at the folk village. But other products and foods available at the festival were foods or items you could easily find elsewhere in Korea.

If you are near Andong around the time of the Mask Dance Festival and/or you are interested in the masks and traditional performances, it would be worth some of your time to check out the festival. For a time-limited traveler in South Korea, there might be other destinations or festivals that you might prefer more. For residents of South Korea, Hahoe Folk Village and the Mask Dance Festival, especially as a combo trip, make for an enjoyable day trip or weekend trip.

For another great autumn destination in Korea, visit Seoraksan for beautiful mountains and foliage.

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