Ever since my first brush with fall in Nikko, Japan six years ago, I have been in love with autumn. Growing up in a perennially tropical summer country, autumn was such a novelty for me and its beauty continues to haunt me every year.
Here’s a sample itinerary to places you can visit in South Korea for the coming autumn.
|Getting there and around: There are international flights to Seoul, Busan, and Jeju. If you’re planning to stay in Seoul for a while, I’d suggest that you use the public transportation while in the city, then pick up your car in a downtown location. Here’s a comprehensive guide to driving in South Korea.|
Day 1 | Arrive in Seoul
The quest for autumn begins right in the vibrant capital of South Korea: Seoul. City lovers can do their shopping, cultural sightseeing, and food tripping all under the bright red and orange canopy of trees. Korea Tourism Organization lists several fall foliage destinations, all absolutely breathtaking. Because we are arriving a bit late into the predicted autumn season (second week of November), I plan to explore Seoul at the end of our trip. For our first night, we plan to take a laid-back autumn evening stroll, have authentic Korean BBQ, and get over our jetlag.
Where to stay in Seoul:
Day 2 | Nami Island
Almost all of the blogs I’ve read about Nami Island hint (or explicitly state) that it is an island for lovers. One even goes as far as to say: DO NOT GO ALONE! While historical in that it was named after a Joseon dynasty general whose tomb lies in the island, most travel bloggers allude to its much more important role as the setting of a legendary Korean drama, “Winter Sonata.”
As for me, I will go there for a picnic with my lover and lots of frolicking in piles of dead leaves. Maybe I can even convince him to wear matching outfits, Hallyu-style.
Days 3-5 | Sokcho and the Seoraksan National Park
This is where things get serious. Mount Seoraksan in Sokcho City, Gangwon Province is the autumn destination for serious leaf-hunters. Every Autumn-in-Korea authority on the internet says it is the best place to view autumn leaves, particularly: Cheonbuldong Valley, Osaek Mineral Spring, Osaek Jujeongol, and Baekdam Valley (Other recommended hiking trails).
The last time we took an overnight trip to a national park, we regretted it. We should have stayed longer. So for this trip I’m allotting 3 full days to hike as much as possible of the many hiking trails. That also means 3 wonderful evenings of post-hike hot springs dips (recommended: Seorak Waterpia) and seafood dinners in the coastal city of Sokcho.
Where to stay in Sokcho:
Day 6 | Long drive from northeastern Seoraksan to southwestern Naejangsan
On the 6th day, I will get a bit more ambitious. Armed with a Korean GPS (hopefully with an English setting), I plan to traverse 400 KM of strange roads and highways to get to the next peak-to-conquer: Naejangsan in Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do.
The lovely city of Jecheon, of movie-setting-fame, seems like the perfect place to break the 5-6-hour drive.
Days 7-9 | Naejangsan National Park
“Bright crimson leaves that blanket the fall scenery,” “falls where even the gods have supposedly bathed,” “a temple both majestic and serene…” I was practically flying there in my mind by the time I finished reading the Korean Tourist Organization’s description of Naejangsan.
The Naejangsan National Park is in the province of Jeollanam-do and home to several majestic waterfalls, legendary temples, and — the obvious clincher for me — a tunnel of multicolored maple trees.
The nearby misty lake of Seryang-Je is definitely on my list.
Days 10-11 | Damyang
After years of planning so many fast-paced, action-packed holidays, I have finally learned the value of having a holiday within a holiday. What place best to spend this meta-holiday than in the charming, certified-Cittaslow city of Damyang?
A Korean traditional garden (Soswaewon Garden), a bamboo forest (Jungnogwon), a spa resort complex, well-preserved traditional hanok houses and stonewalls (Samjicheon Village) and regional delicacies cooked in bamboo — Damyang truly sounds like la dolce vita.
Day 11 | The Long Drive Home To Seoul
After lingering in the south’s slow, sweet life, it will be time to head back to Seoul and re-acclimatize into the hectic, vibrant, lively tempo of city life. To break the 4-hour drive, a quick tour and food trip (bibimbap!) of the traditional Jeonju Hanok village is in order.
Days 12-14 | Back in Seoul Before Heading Home to Summer
Though we are not really city-travelers, I think a city that changed South Korea’s tagline from “Land of the Morning Calm” to “Dynamic Korea” should not be missed. And who else to enjoy romantic walks along stone-walled castles, see colorful city night lights, climb the tallest building and eat absurd amounts of Korean ice cream with, than your Seoulmate? ♥
Planning your trip:
What do you think of my South Korean autumn road trip itinerary? Have you been to South Korea?
Do you have any tips, especially regarding accommodations and driving advice?
If you need more help planning your road trip to South Korea, you can ask me!