Is there ever a bad time to visit South Korea? We think not—despite certain inconveniences that each season brings (sweltering temperatures in the summer, yellow dust in the spring), the beauty of nature tends to overshadow it all.
Whether it’s fields of sunflowers or canopies of cherry blossoms you’re raring to see, here’s where to go to revel in the splendor of Korea’s four seasons.
Sanbangsan Mountain, Jeju
An imposing presence in Jeju Island, Sanbangsan was actually formed after a volcanic eruption hundreds of thousands of years ago. But while the mountain itself is a sight to behold, it’s actually the tracts of land surrounding it that draws the crowds in. Once winter ends and spring begins, the fields around Sanbangsan burst with color from the bright yellow canola flowers planted there.
When to go: Early March to late April. This year, the Jeju Canola Flower Festival is from April 7 to 15, 2018.
Get there: 16 Sogye-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do. It is recommended to rent a car to get around Jeju. Otherwise, take bus 750-1 (Hwasun - Sagye) from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal and go down at Sanbangsan. The ride is roughly one hour and 15 minutes.
Anyone who’s ever done a quick search on sakura spots in Korea would’ve probably encountered Jinhae. Located in the southern city of Changwon, close to Busan, Jinhae is famed for its beautiful cherry blossom trees. Every spring, tourists and locals flock to the Jinhae Gunhangje Festival to see these delicate pink flowers up close. For the densest concentration of trees—not to mention the most romantic views—drop by Gyeonghwa Station and Yeojwacheon Stream.
When to go: Early April. This year’s cherry blossom festival is from April 1 to 10, 2018.
Get there: 9 Tongsin-dong, Jinhae, Gyeongsangnam-do. Various tour operators make trips to Jinhae during the festival—these may be the most convenient and cost-effective choice for tourists.
If you’d like to travel to Jinhae from Seoul on your own, catch an intercity bus to Jinhae from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal. A one-way ticket costs around 26,100 won (P1,265), and the ride will take approximately four hours and 30 minutes. Do note that tickets may sell out in advance, given the popularity of Jinhae during cherry blossom season. To avoid disappointment, plan ahead and buy tickets as soon as you arrive in Seoul. Furthermore, you can only purchase your return ticket to Seoul in Jinhae, at the Jinhae Intercity Bus Terminal.
Seokchon Lake, Seoul
Though Yeouido Park is more popular for cherry blossom viewing in Seoul, Seokchon Lake is arguably more magical. Just imagine walking through paths shaded by swooping cherry blossom trees, while the lake twinkles in the distance. And if that isn’t enchanting enough, there’s the castle at Lotte World nearby to complete the fairy tale experience. We don’t know about you, but that sounds like an ideal date right there!
When to go: Early April. The planned dates for this year’s festival are April 6 to 13, 2018.
Get there: 148 Jamsil-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul. It’s a six-minute walk from Exit 2, 3, or 10 of Jamsil Station.
Taebaek Guwau Village, Taebaek
Like something out of a Van Gogh painting, the sunflowers planted in the fields below Maebongsan Mountain come to life in the heat of August. Get lost in the rows of flowers, some taller than the average person, then prepare for the countless double taps on Instagram. We think it’s impossible to take a bad photo in this summer hotspot.
When to go: Late July to mid August. Last year’s sunflower festival was from July 27 to August 13, 2017.
Get there: 38-33 Guwau-gil, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do. From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take an intercity bus to Taebaek Terminal. The ride is roughly three hours long. From there, take a short taxi ride to Highlands Botanical Garden/Guwau Village.
The Garden of Morning Calm, Gapyeong
Located just outside Seoul, the Garden of Morning Calm is worth visiting regardless of the time of year, since every season brings different flowers and landscapes. In the summer, when heat and sunlight are at their highest, hydrangeas and Roses of Sharon burst into vivid color. The latter is known locally as mugunghwa and is Korea’s national flower.
When to go: Early June to mid July.
Get there: 432 Sumogwon-ro, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do. Many tour operators have itineraries that include the Garden of Morning Calm, along with nearby attractions as Petit France and Nami Island.
If you prefer to go there on your own, take an ITX-Cheongchun train from Cheongnyangni Station (in Seoul’s Dongdaemun district) to Cheongpyeong Station. Leave the station from Exit 1 and walk to Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal. From there, take a bus bound for the Garden of Morning Calm.
Guri Hangang Park, Guri
We often associate fall with the crunch of dry, decaying leaves, but that’s clearly not the case in this park close to Seoul. At Guri Hangang Park, cosmos flowers bloom at the beginning of October. Make a day trip out of it and pack a picnic when you go—the early autumn weather (not to mention the scenery) would be perfect for one.
When to go: Late September to early October. For reference, last year’s Cosmos festival was from September 23 to 25, 2017.
Get there: 49 Wangsukcheon-ro, Guri-si, Gyeonggi-do. At Gangbyeon Station in Seoul, find bus stop A near Exit 4. Then, take bus 1, 15, 93, 97, 2000-1, or 2000-3 and ride eight stops to Handarimaeul bus stop. From here, it’s a 15-minute walk to the park.
Haneul Park, Seoul
We all know Haneul Park as one of the settings for ErwAnne’s gorgeous prenup photo shoot. With the silver grass swaying in the breeze and the warm golden light filtering through, it’s harder to find a more romantic location in autumn. A fair warning: You’d have to do some climbing to reach this place. That’s because Haneul Park is located on top of a small hill—befitting since the Korean word for sky is haneul!
When to go: Mid October to mid November. Last year’s Seoul Silver Grass Festival was from October 13 to 19, 2017.
Get there: 487-48 Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul. It’s a 15-minute walk from Exit 1 of World Cup Stadium Station to the entrance of Haneul Park, and another 290 steps up a zigzagging staircase to the actual park. Alternatively, serviced golf carts bring visitors to the top for a small sum.
Naejangsan National Park, Jeongeup
Located in Jeolla province and a four-hour drive from Seoul, Naejangsan National Park comes alive in autumn. In that short period of time before the leaves fall off, the park shines with fiery shades of red and orange. Time your visit during peak foliage, and you’ll easily see why this is considered one of the best places in South Korea to see the autumn colors.
When to go: Late October to early November. In 2017, Naejangsan’s fall foliage began around October 20 and peaked around November 3.
Get there: Bongdeok-gil, Bokheung-myeon, Sunchang-gun, Jeollabuk-do. Various travel agencies operate tours to Naejangsan. A less expensive option would be Jeonbuk Shuttle Bus, which runs a foreigner-only bus service from Seoul to the park during peak autumn weekends in November. The round-trip fare is 10,000 won (roughly P500).
Seoul Forest, Seoul
Can’t fit a trip outside the city into your itinerary? No worries—Seoul has many parks and palaces for leaf peeping. Located farther away from the major tourist spots but still very convenient to get to, Seoul Forest is our pick for some contemplative downtime. Wander through the tall trees or find a seat to perch on, and bask in autumn’s quiet beauty.
When to go: Late October to mid November.
Get there: 273 Ttukseom-ro, Seongdong-gu, Seoul. It’s a five-minute walk from Exit 3 of Seoul Forest Station, or a 12-minute walk from Exit 7 of Ttukseom Station.
Camellia Hill, Jeju
Camellias are the rare breed of flower that remains in bloom during winter, and at Jeju Island’s Camellia Hill, they are the star attraction. We think their deep red hue looks particularly romantic against fresh white snow—a treat for those who make the trip in the dead of winter.
When to go: Late December to mid February.
Get there: 166 Byeongak-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do. Renting a car is recommended in Jeju. Otherwise, take Bus 780 from Jeju International Airport. Alight at Sangchang-ri bus stop. At the bus stop across the road, take Bus 940 and get off at Camellia Garden bus stop.
Taebaksan National Park, Taebaek
Winter in Korea can be brutal to us tropical folks, but it also makes for some gorgeous scenery you just can’t experience in the Philippines. At Taebaeksan National Park in Gangwon province, you can have your Frozen moment surrounded by miles and miles of pure white snow. Time your visit during the Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival to see interesting ice sculptures, participate in winter games, and even cozy up with a warm drink at the igloo café.
When to go: Mid January to early February. This year’s festival was from January 19 to February 11, 2018.
Get there: 4778 Taebaeksan-ro, Hyeol-dong, Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do. From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take a three-hour intercity bus ride to Taebaek Terminal. Once there, catch a bus going to Danggol and alight at Taebaeksan National Park.
Nami Island, Chuncheon
For a winter wonderland closer to Seoul, Nami Island can’t be beat. Most people rave about this place in the autumn, but it’s equally spellbinding when blanketed in snow. Yes, you’d have to deal with numbing temps and icy winds, but that winning shot in Namiseom’s tree-lined avenue makes everything bearable.
When to go: Heavy snowfall is difficult to predict in Seoul and the surrounding cities. For the best chances of thick snow, visit during the coldest days in winter—typically, that’s from late January to early February.
Get there: 1 Namiseom-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do. Many travel agencies have tour packages that bundle Nami Island with Petit France and Garden of Morning Calm. You can also join the Nami Island Shuttle Bus, which departs from Seoul in the morning and arrives back in Seoul in the evening. Round-trip fare is 15,000 won (P730).
If you prefer to travel at your own pace, take a one-hour ITX-Cheongchun train from Yongsan Station in Seoul to Gapyeong Station. From Gapyeong Station, it is about a five-minute taxi ride or 25-minute walk to Nami Island ferry terminal.
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