Think beyond Japan for Cherry Blossom season. South Korea is often missed as travellers get wrapped up in Japan’s Sakura season or ‘Golden Week’.
Follow ‘Dream Road’ in South Korea as you hike and weave through lush forests bursting with soft cherry blossoms. Bowing overhead as you follow abandoned train tracks and pass gurgling streams, explore on foot and absorb nature at its most elegant. Move into the remote mountains to Mt. Songnisan National Park, one of the countries best kept secrets. Here you will be introduced to the zen of Buddhism at a traditional temple stay. Enjoy alms under the starry sky and meditation in the mountains and traditional tea ceremony’s with the monks and nuns. The perfect introduction to both the Korean and Buddhist culture and the beautiful natural world often hidden from many travellers minds.
Welcome to South Korea! Upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, you will be met by a local English speaking guide and transferred to Busan by KTX, a bullet train. Busan, South Korea’s second largest city is framed by electric blue oceans, lush mountains and mouthwatering cuisine, it’s a city bursting with surprises and a chilled vibe and the perfect base to start your journey from. The remainder of the day is at leisure. If you are interested, why not head to Gamcheon Cultural Village or explore the fish markets right near your hotel?
Overnight at Hotel Noah or similar
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before you transfer to Changwon (1hr. drive). On arrival, you will visit Anmingogae Hill, which is a 9 kilometre-long hill that reaches from Taebaek-dong in Jinhae to Anmin-dong in Changwon. Six of the nine kilometres are lined with cherry blossoms, making up the famous Jinhae Cherry Blossom Tunnel. The hill is also known for its view of Jinhaeman Bay, Ungsan Mountain (alt. 703m), Sirubong Peak (alt. 630m) and Cheonjabong Peak (502m).
You will also visit the area around Yeojwacheon Stream which is well known as one of the best locations for viewing the spectacular cherry blossoms. Each April, the entire city of Jinhae is filled with cherry blossoms, but the Yeojwacheon Stream area has the most beautiful cherry blossoms.
Your last stop of the day is Gyeonghwa Station. Also a famous spot for cherry blossom viewing and is a small railway station. The station is neighboured by Seongjusa Station to the north and Jinhae Station to the south. Railway services in and out of Gyeonghwa Station have been discontinued allowing you to walk through the tracks surround by rows of cherry blossom trees. The creates a beautiful tunnel effect filled with flowers. (B)
3 nights in a local guesthouse
Enjoy breakfast this morning at a local restaurant before you get ready to depart on foot to walk two sections of the Dream Road totalling 14km and taking approx 6 hours. Listen to the birds singing in the surrounding forest as you walk the Dream Road. The sweet scent of the cherry blossoms floats on the air and their petals will rain on you like soft snow flakes.
Depending on what time you finish walking today, for those interested, you may wish to visit the birthplace of Seongheungsa and Kim Daejin, a famed poet and Kim Daejin’s literature museum, located at the end of the Dream Road. (B)
Fuel up again this morning in a local restaurant for breakfast before you depart on two more sections of the Dream Road covering 13.4km and taking approx 6 hours. Walk through the cooling forest as your mind clears and you absorb the spectacular nature around you. (B)
Following breakfast in a local restaurant, you will depart and drive to Mt. Songnisan National Park (approx 3.5hrs), one of the most incredible sites in Korea. Here you will have the opportunity to hike in spectacular scenery and join in the unique temple stay program as you are introduced to the zen of Buddhism.
The peaceful, lush green landscapes of Songnisan National Park is made up of quietly profound mountains, containing 1500 years of history. Beopjusa means a temple where the teaching of the Buddha resides. Founded in 553 CE, the ancient space cherishes innumerable cultural treasures, which will give you access to the essence of both Buddhist and Korean traditional culture, bringing both local and foreign visitors together. The humble, but pristine and gorgeous temple welcomes everyone with its wide-open doors.
Beopjusa is especially well-known for its cultural properties. The temple highlights are Geumdongmireukdaebul (gilded bronze Buddha statue 33 metres or over 100 feet high), Palsangjeon (five-story wooden pagoda), Daeungbojeon (considered one of three major Buddhist halls in Korea), Ssangsajaseokdeung (twin-lion stone lamp), Lotus-Shaped Stone Fountain and Palsangjeon Hall.
Regardless of your religion, this experience is where you can stay in a traditional Buddhist temple to be immersed in the spiritual culture and practice of Buddhism. Be part of nature and turn inwards to self-reflection.
Dinner this evening is a simple vegetarian temple meal. Following dinner, participate in an evening Yebul.
In the daily routine of Korean temples, the most important event is the Buddhist ceremony – yebul. This ceremony refers to paying respect to the Buddhas enshrined in the Dharma halls three times a day and repeating the teachings. Yebul is also called the “ceremony of five fragrances (obunhyangnye)” because participants reaffirm the five virtues that practitioners hope to perfect. Yebul is the ceremony that regulates the day and is attended by everyone possible in the temple compound.
Different instruments are used to symbolically call all beings to join the ceremony. First of all the large bell is sounded, next the drum calls all animals, then the wooden fish for the water-dwelling animals and finally the cloud-shaped gong for the animals of the air. The ceremony continues with a re-affirmation of the refuge we take in the various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and generations of Seon Patriarchs. Then follows the recitation of the Heart Sutra and the Wishes for the welfare of the temple and all people (Barunmoon). Lights are out in the temple by 9pm. (B,L,D)
Overnight temple stay
Participate in an early morning chant (yebel) with the monks under the moonlight and stars before returning to main temple for breakfast.
Enjoy some Zen meditation, meditation in the mountains and a tea ceremony with the monks and nuns where you have the opportunity for Q&A.
Enjoy a temple lunch before departing at midday to return to Incheon International Airport for your onward flight. (B)
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**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 4 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.