A picturesque landscape in which red and golden autumnal forests are dotted by majestic rocks and small mountain streams, Mount Seoraksan has long been a favorite destination for both Koreans and international travelers. The mountain changes its color according to each season. But fall in the area is considered amongst the most beautiful in the entire Korean Peninsula.
Literally translated as the “Snowy Peaks Mountain”, Mt. Seoraksan in the northeast of Seoul is one of Korea’s most iconic mountains. After the Hallasan in Jeju and Jirisan in the south, Seoraksan is the third-highest mountain in the country, with its highest peak, the Daecheong-bong (대청봉), reaches a height of 1,708 meters. The mountain is famous for its spectacular views, clear mountain streams, as well as a variety of hiking trails, which run through cliffs, waterfalls, and lots of natural beauty.
Set within this picturesque landscape is a stately Buddhist temple named Sinheung-sa (신흥사). First constructed in 652, this temple complex has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Today, it is the head temple of the Jogye Order – a sect of Korean Buddhism with roots dating back to the 9th century.
The temple pièce de résistance is the Great Unification Buddha, a masterful statue of Buddha sitting serenely on a lotus blossom. Completed in 1997, the statue is 19 meters tall and made of 108 tons of gilt-bronze. As the name implies, this statue represents the crucial wish of the Korean people for the reunification of a divided country.
With the mountain changing in color according to each season, a visit to Mt. Seoraksan guarantees a stunning landscape any time of the year. During spring, the mountains are awakened with thousands of flora and fauna, while in winter it’s transformed into a scenic snow-covered landscape; just like the name of the mountain.
But many people come here to admire the autumn foliage which is considered amongst the most spectacular in the country. Amidst the vibrant red and golden autumnal leaves raise 30 majestic rock formations. Adding a few waterfalls and clear water streams, you have scenery that seemingly comes out of a dream.
How to travel to Seoraksan from Seoul
- From Seoul, take the bus to Sokcho, which departs frequently from both the Seoul Express Bus Terminal and East Seoul Bus Terminal. The trip takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Sokcho Express Bus Terminal, take the bus 7 or 7-1 to Seoraksan National Park. The bus station is located on the opposite side of the main street.
- Bus tickets can be bought online or at the ticket booth. However, you can only buy the ticket online by using a Korean bank card. The bus is actually a limo coach with large and comfortable seats.
Tips for visiting Seoraksan National Park
- There are several hiking trails to choose from, depending on your fitness level and time budget. Please note that the park is closed at 18:00, and opened again at 6:00 on the next day.
- There is a cable car inside the Seoraksan National Park, which will bring you to the Gwongeumseong Fortress. From there, you can have a bird-eye view of the entire area. On a clear day, you can even see the beach of Sokcho. The hike takes only 5 minutes, but the waiting time might take much longer; especially during peak season and on weekends. The tickets cannot be booked in advance and are sold based on the “first come, first served” principle.
- Kensington Hotel Seorak is the closest accommodation to the famous vacation area. With a mahogany interior and royal emblems, the hotel surely evokes the graceful atmosphere of a British royal residence.