Naejangsan National Park : Autumn Fall
Fall is the absolute best season to be in Korea, when the skies are a brilliant blue and the trees turning to many shades of orange, gold and red. This past fortnight, a twirl of scarves, cosy jumpers and knee high boots came out from storage and the bikinis and denim cut-offs were packed away.
Autumn comes first to the mountains along the east coast of Korea where the splendour of Seoraksan National Park is in all its glory in late October/early November. The autumn colours gradually move south to the southern regions of the country, allowing around six weeks or more of splendid colour all over the country.
Autumn is a popular time for food festivals in Korea and many of these fall on the month of October. During the Korea Food Festival there are traditional art performances, concerts, Korean food and culture classes relating to ancient Korean food for health. Visitors too can join the food culture experiences and even learn how to make a kimchi pizza. Kimchi is Korea’s most iconic food, fermented cabbage with chilli, garlic, ginger which is served with every Korean meal.
A side trip from Busan to Naejangsan National Park is recommended during autumn as the maple leaf walkway to the temple is truly stunning, a very popular photography spot at this time of year. Once you reach the national park you will have to make your way up to the actual entrance past the colourful stalls selling food, arts and various strange things, blaring music and dancing ajummas. You might be quite perplexed after seeing the chaos and thousands of people. Literally there were thousands and thousands of people, mostly old people who came for trekking and family outing. I guess like all outdoor or “natural” activities in Korea, you should expect it. The entrance cost to the park is 3000krw. From there you can walk up through the park to a lake and a temple, taking in the amazing colours. They really were beautiful and impressive. There is an option to catch a cable car to the top of one of the peaks, but there was a really long line and because of the mist you might decide it is not worth standing for more than two hours in a queue, so walking uphill to capture the beautiful landscape scenery around you is an option.
Despite the hordes of people, a trip to Naejangsan is definitely worth it. The colours and sites are breathtaking and unlike anything you would have ever seen before. You will not regret making a weekend trip out of going here. Bring your friends and camping gear too if you are brave.
About Naejangsan National Park:
Naejangsan is a famous mountain in the Jeolla-do province, and the best mountain in Korea for viewing autumn’s crimson leaves. The name Naejang means ‘many secrets’ in the mountain. Because of the bright crimson leaves that blanket Naejangsan Mountain’s fall scenery, the mountain is also referred to as “Geumgangsan of Honam.” Inside the park, there are famous waterfalls, such as Dodeok Falls and Geumseon Falls, and temples such as Baekyangsa and Naejangsa temples. If you follow the valley left of the ticket booth, you can see the waters of Dodeok Falls, cascading down the cliff. If you go further along the valley you can see the waters Geumseon Falls where even the gods have supposedly bathed.
Baekyangsa Temple is both majestic and serene, surrounded by Gulgeori trees that retain their lush green leaves even in winter, and also the Bija trees. Along with Baekyangsa Temple, the Naejangsa Temple is the place to visit during the fall for its lovely autumn leaves. Besides these, there are about 760 kinds of local plants, designated Natural Monuments, and various wild animals living inside Naejangsan Park. The Park is beautiful not only in the fall, but also in the spring when the azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, in the summer when the green mountain turns greener, and the winter when the rock cliffs cover themselves with snow. All throughout the year, different kinds of wild flowers bloom here.
Visitors who take the Naejangsan cable car will enjoy a stunning view of the entire park, then after a 300m walk from the cable car terminus they will reach Yeonjabong Peak’s observatory. The cable car starts from the Naejangsan Visitor Information Centre and is operated year round from 6am to 5pm. Ticket KRW6, 000 return trip.