South Korea is a destination that can be bittersweet for many, at least it was for me the first time I visited it. Still, when I revisited South Korea, I did it by taking the must-see sites out of my head and focusing on enjoying it my own way. This is how visiting Seoraksan National Park became a goal during my second trip to South Korea.
I want to tell you why you should visit Seoraksan and all the useful information you need for it.
Basic park information
Seoraksan National Park gets its name from its large mountains that are covered in snow for most of the year. I visited it during the month of June but it is open throughout the year. However, Seoraksan looks prettier in autumn because of the colors of the leaves on the trees. Several routes may be closed during winter due to bad weather or snow on the road.
To enter the Seoraksan park, you have to pay an entrance fee at the ticket offices. The prices are:
- Adults (over 20 years old): 2.800 KRW
- Students (14-19 years old)) : 1.300 KRW
- Children (from 8 to 13 years old): 700 KRW
- Children under 7 and People over 65: Free
I recommend you read my travel budget to visit South Korea in 15 days.
How to get to the Seoraksan Natural Park
Sokchohe is the closest city to the Seoraksan Natural Park. I took a bus from Seol with my sister, who lives there, to Sokcho where we spent a couple of nights.
You can get to Sokcho by bus from the important cities in South Korea, such as Seoul, Daegu or Busan. The time taken yu bus from Seoul to Sokcho is 2h30min, 3h from Daegu, and almost 5h from Busan.
You can buy bus tickets at the bus station. The buses in South Korea are very comfortable, at least all the ones I’ve taken between cities so far. The seats are large armchairs, wide and reclining. Ideal to take a good nap on the way. They will normally stop at least once during the journey at a large service station. Here, you will have time to go to the bathroom, buy souvenirs, or grab a quick bite.
What to see in the Seoraksan Natural Park
There are many options and routes available to check out Seoraksan Natural Park. I can recommend some depending on your physical shape, the time you want to spend in the park, and the type of experience you are looking for. I am going to tell you about the places that I visited which are all the must-see places in Seoraksan. Still, I recommend climbing to the highest peak in the park if you are hiking. I did not do it due to the lack of time and I was left wanting.
Jwabul Buddha Statue
As you move into the park, you will come across a large Buddha statue on your right. This is Jwabul. This bronze statue, measuring 14.5m, symbolizes the union of the two Koreas, north and south. It is a point where the locals go to pray. There are stairs behind the Buddha statue that go down to a small temple with a statue of Bodhisattva Guan Yin.
A few meters after the big Buddha, you will reach the Sinheungsa temple. It is a temple of the Jogye branch of Korean Buddhism. There are several theories about its origin, one of them says that it was built in 653 and is the oldest Zen temple in the world. It was burned down and later rebuilt.
You can walk inside and see the different buildings that form the temple. Many of the hikers who go up to the summit of the park stop at the temple first to ask for good luck.
One of the simple routes that can be done is to the Biseondae rock. I recommend this one If you are looking for a simple route. The trail is only 2.4km. The beginning of it is paved and then it is rocky with some sections made with iron stairs. You will come to a point in the middle of the river with light-colored rocks. ]You can enjoy a beautiful waterfall if it has rained. Poets are said to have gone there to draw inspiration for their works.
Gwongeumseong summit on the funicular
I recommend taking the funicular up to Gwongeumseong if you want to enjoy beautiful views. It is one of the peaks in the Seoraksan Natural Park, but having access by funicular lets all visitors reach it. The ticket for the funicular costs 10,000 KRW round trip. Keep in mind that tickets end quickly in high season. In my case, there was only a little local tourism in the middle of June.
Once you reach the top you can enjoy a small viewpoint and buy the odd snack. You will have to walk a few meters along a narrow and unpaved road to reach the current summit of Gwongeumseong. Personally, I think the place has spectacular views from the summit.
Still, the fact that it is so easily accessible thanks to the funicular, makes you find yourself on top of a mountain, with rocky terrain, seeing people in skirts, flip flops, children running around, and many selfie sticks. I didn’t like that image of the place. From what I understand, you were able to hike to the highest point of the summit until fall 2018. Access was prohibited for me to hike to the summit in June 2019. A pity, but after seeing the panorama, it does not surprise me. It was prohibited because some people had fallen down the mountain while trying to take photos of themselves.
There is a path on the left with directions to Biryeong Falls just as you enter the Seoraksan National Park, before reaching the temple. This route is longer than the one to the Biseondae rock and is very uneven with many stairs. It is pretty tiring and can be a little overwhelming if you go on a hot day. Still, the path is well enabled and you can stop to enjoy the scenery, drink water, and take pictures whenever you want.
Still haven’t planned your travel itinerary to South Korea? Here is the itinerary of my first visit to South Korea.
You will come to a shy waterfall at the end of the path, but it is still worth it because of all the scenery you see until you get there.
Once at the Biryeong waterfall, there is a path that indicates a viewpoint “just 500 steps away.” My sister decided to wait for me while I, with great motivation, said “I’ll be back in 10 minutes!”. I didn’t know what 500 steps were in that heat. The path can be difficult since it is literally climbing stairs and more stairs but once you get to the top, the views with now a high and great waterfall, are beautiful.
Where to stay to visit Seoraksan
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the closest city to Seoraksan is Sokcho. When looking for accommodation in Sokcho, we decided to look for one near the Bus Terminal, north of Sokcho. Error! It is best to look for accommodation at the Express Bus Terminal, which is at the south of Sokcho. This way, you will save half an hour by bus to get to the natural park.
Still, if your bus arrives at the Bus Terminal and you decide to stay in this area, I highly recommend the Haru Hostel Guesthouse Sokcho. It is a very modern hostel, with both private and shared rooms, with breakfast included and a super spacious common area and a very cool design. It is right in front of the Bus Terminal and has the odd konbini nearby. You can walk to the main street of Sokcho where you can check out the shops and restaurants as well as the city market. The truth is that Sokcho does not have much charm, but you can find many mountaineering shops in case you are missing some clothes or equipment to go to Seoraksan Park.