Explore some of South Korea’s most spectacular natural wilds and embrace traditional culture as you venture through impressive national parks amongst the changing autumn colours.
Stay in a Buddhist temple and quaint hanok villages as you connect with nature and the customs of the South Korean people. Hiking in South Korea is a favourite past time of many locals, however it is only just starting to be recognised by the rest of the world as one of the most impressive hiking destinations. Come and explore on foot with us, as you delve into a side of South Korea you did not existed.
Welcome to South Korea! You will be met upon arrival at Incheon International Airport and transferred to your hotel.
Prepare to be impressed by Seoul, South Korea’s shiny, yet often underrated capital city. Enveloped by mountains, this giant metropolis is an exciting jumble of futuristic skyscrapers, castles and temples, with the ever-present backdrop of the many surrounding peaks. From young and funky districts where progressive art and cutting-edge fashion are to be found on every street, through to historic areas where cobbled streets lead to ancient temples, Seoul has one foot planted in the past, and the other stretched eagerly into the future. This is a city that comes alive at night, with its incredible food scene, dazzling neon lights, and a social “bang” (room) to suit every taste, from quirky karaoke bars, to a thriving café scene.
Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure to explore your surroundings.
Overnight L7 Myeongdong or similar
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before departing go visit Gyeongbok Palace. During the Josean Dynasty that ruled for over five centuries from 1392, this elegant building was the primary royal palace. You will witness the changing of the guard ceremony, a re-enactment which is performed exactly as it has been for centuries, including the use of traditional instruments and uniforms. Continue to the National Folk Museum which is housed in the palace grounds and contains over 4000 historical artefacts and relics. You will pass by the Blue House, which is the residence of the country’s Head of State. Continue to Bukchon Hanok Village, which has a 600 year history and contains hundreds of traditional Korean houses (hanoks). This atmospheric village is full of teahouse lined alleys, quaint houses and small guesthouses. Its pretty architecture and peaceful environment make it a wonderful place to explore.
You will continue to Jingwansa Temple, located at the entrance of Mt. Bukhansan National Park where you will overnight. This temple was established by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It was established in 1011 to repay the great Buddhist priest Jingwan for saving King Hyeon-jong’s life when he was young. This is the only temple in Seoul which serves ‘Suryukje’ (a Buddhist ceremony which provides food and Buddha’s teachings to spirits and starved demons who wander the land and sea) and provides training facilities for biguni (female monks).
Enjoy an orientation overview of the basic temple manners and customs, a temple tour and further briefing on included activities on your arrival. Dinner this evening is a traditional temple meal of Balwoo Gongyang. The meal is basic and typical of what the monks eat daily. Take your time to fully savour the subtle flavours and different textures of the vegetarian dishes which may range from rice porridge and delicate salads to dumplings and fried shitake mushrooms and mugwort in a sweet and sour sauce. The meal is different on a daily basis.
This evening, attend the evening service, Yebul. This is a Buddhist ceremonial service involving chanting. It is offered to pay homage to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Yebul is also practiced to cultivate oneself. Yebul begins with the Verse of Tea and is followed by the Verse of Five Scents, the Mantra of Incense Offering and the Ritual of Seven Prostrations. (B,D)
Overnight Jingwansa Temple or similar
Wake up early at 5am to attend the morning service and participate in meditation. There are two types of chamseon: jwaseon (seated meditation), and haengseon (walking meditation). You will be advised which is taking place.
Following your meditation, enjoy a traditional monastic breakfast before you visit a hermitage located nearby. Enjoy tea time with a Buddhist monk, known as Dado. Boiling and serving good tea is one of the oldest customs in Korea before it is then time to farewell your hosts as you continue to Bugaksan (Mt Bukak). The word “san” means mountain in Korean, and Seoul is surrounded by them, including Bugaksan, Namsan, Naksan, and Inwangsan to name a few of the major peaks that envelope the city. Bugaksan, the mountain located to the north of Seoul, is the highest among these and is a southern offshoot of Bukhansan Mountain. For decades access was restricted to this area, which meant nature has thrived on this mountain. Hiking along the fort walls you will see some incredible views of the city, and areas of historical significance such as bullet holes still showing in a tree from a clash between South Korean forces and armed commandos from the North Korean Army. The hike will take around 2 hours, after which you will travel to Sokcho (about 3.5 hours). You will then check into your hotel in Seorak which is just 200m away from Seoraksan National Park, home to the Taebaek Mountain Range. The mountainous landscape surrounds you at this accommodation, and you can enjoy it from the open-air terrace of your accommodation. (B)
Overnight Kensington Hotel Seorak or similar
After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, you will depart for a 4-5 hour hike in Seoraksan National Park. You will be hiking the Ulsan Rock Course, which will take you through valleys, past temples and up some steep sections and stairs that will give you impressive views of the National Park. This massive park is home to over 2000 species of animals, including musk deer and Korea Goral, so keep an eye out for the wildlife as you walk. There are also over 1200 different plant species to be found here, including Edelweis, and when travelling in Spring and Autumn, the colour changes of the bushland are dramatic and beautiful.
From here, you will travel to Andong. This interesting city if famous for a variety of ancient sites, as well as its wooden masks, mackeral, and strong local vodka (soju). You will check into your hotel and have the evening at leisure. (B)
Overnight Andong Grand Hotel or similar
This morning you will visit Angong Hahow Cultural Village, a delightful and sleepy folk village nestled between rolling green hills and a river, that will give you a glimpse into traditional village life. Acting like an open-air museum, this large village still has a community living here and its tree lined streets, thatched roof houses, and interesting alleys are wonderful to explore.
You will then transfer to Mt Jiri where you will be hiking the Guryong Waterfall Course which is a 3.1km path of walkways and bridges that led you through the Guryong Valley with its nine impressive waterfalls. The local legend is that 9 dragons come down from the heavens to each take a place by a waterfall on a particular day of the lunar calendar. This course takes you by dramatic ravines, pasts ponds and springs and other beautiful scenery.
Continue to Namwon, where you will check into your hotel. (B)
Overnight Namwon Suites Hotel or similar
Today will be your longest day of hiking, as you travel to Mt. Naejang. This mountain is one of the best in Korea for viewing Korea’s incredible autumn colours, particularly the red maple leaves. Bright crimson, red and orange leaves blanket the mountain at this time of year and it is a stunning display of nature at its finest. Your hike today will be for around 6-7 hours as you explore the forest paths and discover lakes and waterfalls.
You will then travel to Gwangju, where you will check into your hotel. Enjoy dinner then an evening at leisure. (B)
Overnight Holiday Inn Gwangju or similar
After breakfast this morning, you will travel to Jeonju (approx. 2 hours), a charming city that in parts feels a little like you have stepped back in time. Jeonju was one of the key cities of the Joseon Dynasty, whose rule stretched from the 14th to the 19th Century and the traditional architecture still found in the city, as well as the continuation of culture and customs from that time mean that this city acts as an open-air museum.
You will visit Jeonju hanok village. This charming village has over 800 hanoks, with their wooden beams and curved tiled roofs. While other parts of the city are completely modern, this traditional Korean village helps to give a glimpse into the way life was lived centuries ago. Strolling through the peaceful village, you will feel a bit like you are in a bubble as on its outskirts, the city backdrop of skyscrapers remind you of the modern world, but in the quaint village lanes, you feel quite removed. Make sure to sample some of the amazing food on offer in this village as well, including Jeonju bibimbap, a Korean rice dish that is beloved around the world, and has a special style in this region.
You will also visit Jaman Mural Village. Local artists have painted murals all throughout this cliffside village, creating an open-air art gallery.
Tonight, you will enjoy a traditional hanok stay. A hanok is a traditional Korean home, with a simple design created using natural materials. A typical hanok will have very little furniture, futon beds and an underfloor heating system called ondol. This traditional home heating system was used in ancient Korea, where heated stones from the kitchen were used to keep the floor of a room warm. Technology means the heat is now generated by hot water pipes running under the wooden floors surface, creating a perfect temperature especially at the coldest times of year. Having a warm floor has shaped the daily life of the Korean people, who will often sit, eat and socialize on the floor as opposed to chairs, and floor mattresses similar to futons are often used for beds, to take advantage of this additional warmth. (B)
Overnight Gaeunchae Hanok stay
Enjoy breakfast at a local restaurant, before returning to Seoul by car (approx. 3.5 hours). Enjoy some free time in the afternoon before heading out for your farewell dinner with your group. (B,D)
Overnight L7 Myeongdong or similar
Today your South Korea adventure comes to an end. Enjoy breakfast and free time until your transfer to the airport to meet your onwards flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 3 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.