More than 70 per cent of South Korea is made up of mountainous terrain. So it’s little wonder then that hiking is the nation’s number one leisure activity.
Despite its small size, South Korea has 22 National Parks. Each features a diverse range of trails, from half-day jaunts to overnight treks.
The mountain landscape changes dramatically with the seasons. Expect lush cool greenery in the summer, colourful leaves in autumn, fragrant blossoms in spring and a snowy wonderland in winter.
South Korea hiking trails
Perhaps the best-known walking trail in South Korea is the Jeju Olle Trail that takes you around the circumference of the UNESCO Natural Heritage Listed island.
Broken down by 26 individual hikes, you can collect a stamp in your Jeju Olle Trail Passport as you complete one of the routes each day.
Jeju is the largest island in South Korea. It was formed during the eruption of an underwater volcano approximately 2 million years ago. These days it’s best known for beach resorts and a volcanic landscape of craters and cavelike lava tubes.
Serious hikers should take one of the four trails to the top of the extinct volcano – Hallasan Mountain (1950m), South Korea’s tallest peak.
Once at the top you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Jeju Island down to the coastline. Don’t miss the caves of Bengdwigul, Manjanggul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul and Dangcheomuldonggul which form part of the Geomun Oreum Lava Tube System.
If that all seems like too much hard work, Jeju Island’s three-tiered Cheonjeyeon Waterfall is a much easier 40-minute hike through lush forest.
The waterfall’s name means “The Pond of God”. Just east of the first waterfall is an incredibly special cave. Water falls from the ceiling inside. In the past, people believed this water had healing properties, with many people bathing in the waters.
Seoraksan Mountain (1708m), in the northern regions of South Korea, rivals Hallasan Mountain for its beauty.
Hikers will love the brightly coloured flowers or leaves (depending on the season) as well as crystal-clear streams and waterfalls.
The Seoraksan National Park is the ideal place to head for hiking serenity – stunning vistas of mist-shrouded crags or valleys with quiet temples and hot springs. Make sure you stop at Biryongpokpo and Oryeonpokpo, two large and incredibly stunning waterfalls.
If it is great views and temples you’re interested in, you should hike Dalmasan Mountain.
The 489m mountain offers views over ‘Lands Edge’, the southernmost point of the Korean peninsula and its outlying islands.
Hikers will find themselves immersed in ancient forests. Keep walking deep into the mountain to find Daeheungsa Temple, one of South Korea’s most well-known Buddhist monasteries, founded in 5CAD.
Dosolam Hermitage, hidden in the crags of Dalmasan Mountain is a must-see.
More temple hikes
Around Chungcheongbuk-do you can wander through the hillside Guinsa Temple, below the Yeonhwa area of Sobaek Mountain. This impressive building is the Buddhist administrative centre of over 140 temples across South Korea.
Chungcheongbuk-do is home to some of Koreas most intriguing and impressive temples. Make sure your hike passes the rare five-storey wooden pagoda Palsangjeon at Beopju-Sa.
You don’t have to head to the country to experience some of South Korea’s best hikes.
For a more inner-city vibe try the Seoul City Wall Trail which takes you in an 18.6km ring over the peaks of Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan and Inwangsan.
The original city wall of Seoul was built in 1386 and was made up of four major gates and four sub gates. Only six remain today.
This article was produced with content supplied by South Korea Tourism and is a Signature Luxury Travel & Style digital exclusive. Be the first to see more exclusive online content by subscribing to the enewsletter.