Asan Gingko Tree Road
Those who travel to Korea during autumn are often in search of stunning landscapes, and this is the epitome of all fall scenery. The Asan Gingko Tree Road is a long avenue lined with towering trees, the leaves of which turn a gorgeous golden yellow in the fall. This, indeed, is the yellow brick road brought to life.
The beauty about fall is how picturesque the leaves look on the trees, and also on the ground. Lining the banks of a river, the trees form a canopy tunnel of sorts above an extensive yellow carpet. Do note that this avenue is a hotspot for photographers; we recommend visiting early, or spending a night in Asan, to ensure that your visit is free from the hordes of crowds. Feel free to skip or ruffle through the leaves – come the next morning, there’ll be a fresh layer coating the ground.
Located right in the heart of Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace’s Secret Garden offers visitors entrance to a whole new world. As hidden as it is enigmatic, the Secret Garden was a place for olden royalty to gain some respite from their duties and, by extension, the outside world. True to its name, the Secret Garden is shrouded in overhanging foliage, and seems to be encased in its own little bubble of tranquility. Gone are the sounds of cars and chatter; here you can be one with nature whilst enjoying some treasured peace and quiet.
It’s said that Changdeokgung Palace’s Secret Garden is simply breathtaking in autumn, and rightly so. Feast your eyes on fountains of red maple leaves cascading over a gently rippling pond, the red gracefully interspersed with hues of yellow and orange. Exploration of the Secret Garden is permitted by tour only, and it’s no surprise that autumn sees a surge in attendance. There are a few tours running a day, and only 100 tickets are sold for each tour. 50 tickets per tour can be booked online, whilst the other 50 are reserved for walk-ins. It’s recommended to book your tickets at least an hour in advance, and to allow yourself 20 minutes to get from the main gate to the Secret Garden.
Shot to fame as the filming location of dreamy Korean drama, ‘Winter Sonata’, Nami Island remains a staple on any traveller’s Korea itinerary. Stroll down the avenue of honey yellow trees, and watch as the sunlight reflects off the surface of the Han River. If you’re up for a little more adventure, however, Nami Island is a great place to try some watersports. Set out in a banana boat, tear up the water in a jet ski, or paddle leisurely in an adorable swan boat. One benefit of being out on the water is the ability to gaze upon Nami Island’s autumn foliage in its entirety; marvel at how the island seems to be covered in varying tints of colour.
Many combine a visit to Nami Island with a visit to Petite France and Gangchon Rail Bike, but our advice for you is to take it slow. Autumn brings cool temperatures and gentle winds, and the grasses are dry and smooth. Sit back or lie down, relax, and watch as the world around you comes to a still. For those who can’t get enough, book a night’s stay at the lodge on the island and revel in the hushed silence that dusk brings.
Seoraksan National Park
Autumn foliage can indeed be found everywhere in Korea, but why not make an entire trip out of it? Venture out of the city to Seoraksan National Park, where you can, quite literally, be surrounded by enveloping colours. Choose to embark on the many hiking trails or, if you’re there just for the view, hop onto the cable car that will bring you right to the top of Mt. Seoraksan. Fun fact: Mt. Seoraksan is actually South Korea’s third highest mountain! At the top, go on a short 5-10 minute hike to Gwongeumseong Fortress, the walls of which are covered with creeping branches full of red maple leaves.
Gaze at the vibrant colours juxtaposed starkly against sheer rock faces – it’s truly a sight to behold. For beginner hikers looking to get in on the action, we recommend attempting the trail leading to Biseondae Rocks, which starts not far from Sinheungsa Temple located near the entrance. The trail is two kilometres long, and won’t take more than an hour to complete. Make your way to the Fairy Pools, a bubbling pool of water perfect for a refreshing dip. Depending on your stamina, make your way further for another 30 minutes to reach Geumganggul Cave, from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley covered in red, orange and yellow.
Jeonju Hanok Village
The bigger counterpart of Seoul’s Bukchon Hanok Village, the Jeonju Hanok Village gives visitors the opportunity to gain insight into the local’s quaint and rustic way of life. We recommend renting a hanbok (Korean traditional costume) and slowly weaving your way through the village’s numerous alleys nestled in between more than 800 houses. Did you know that Jeonju is where bibimbap (Korean mixed rice) originated? Drop by the food street for an authentic taste and, if you wish to spend longer exploring the village, spend the night in one of the traditional houses. One interesting fact about these houses is that they employ a sub-floor heating system, ensuring that the floor remains heated no matter the season. Talk about comfort!
Naejangsan National Park
“Naejang” means “many secrets”, and that’s exactly what you’d find within the Naejangsan National Park – tree-lined paths boasting vibrant ‘traffic light colours’, the park’s iconic Uhwajeong Pavilion, and even a little waterfall or two. Despite being a little out of the way, Naejangsan National Park remains to be one of the country’s most popular autumn foliage viewing spots, with locals and tourists alike flocking here to see this truly magnificent sight for themselves.
Why waste any time indoors during this spectacular season? Pack a picnic, bring some music and lie back beneath the lavish display of colours. In fact, the park hosts a yearly Maple Tree festival, which only serves to add to the fun.
Bulguksa Temple is found in South Korea’s ancient capital of Gyeongju, which is also fondly known as ‘the museum of walls’. It’s possible to visit on a day trip, but why rush your experience? We recommend signing up for a temple stay, where you’ll get to experience a traditional tea ceremony, waking up at the crack of dawn together with the monks, and more. One good thing about the temple stay is having the opportunity to explore the hallowed temple grounds early in the morning, where virtually no tourists are around. Take your time to wander around the various wooden and stone structures, or appreciating the vivid red foliage.
Treasure the opportunity to marvel at the wonders of autumn without external interference. Your photos will also be blissfully devoid of people! Whilst you’re there, do make the time to visit Seokguram Grotto as well, which together with Bulguksa Temple, make up a UNESCO World Heritage site.