There are few better times to visit and tour South Korea than in autumn. With leaves changing colors and the temperature reaching that perfect balance between summer and winter, the fall season is the perfect time to enjoy nature one last time before the frosts of winter take hold.
While Bukhansan, Naejangsan and Seoraksan might see some of the highest volumes of traffic during the autumn months and are well known for their impressive color palates, Suncheon, a frequently underestimated city in the South Jeolla Province, provides the perfect escape for people wanting to enjoy the warm tones of fall without the kind of crowds guaranteed in national parks.
Being on the southern coast of Korea, Suncheon offers a unique advantage over the northern fall foliage hot-spots in that the leaves down south are the last to change. Suncheon’s trees are not scheduled to change until weeks after Seoraksan and Bukhansan start showing their yellows and reds. For photographers and nature lovers alike, Suncheon offers several prime locations for experiencing fall’s changing colors long after many other locations have already begun their slow descent into the depths of winter.
Easily the best place to get into nature and see the changing colors of fall is on the Philosopher’s Hike in Jogyesan Provincial Park. Starting at Songgwang Temple, visitors can take a leisurely hike up the mountain to Seonam Temple on the other side of Jogye Mountain (named for the Jogye Buddhist Order). Not only does this hiking course provide elevated and dramatic views of the countryside and the autumn colors blanketing the nearby hills, but also the Philosophers’ Hike treats visitors to the beauty of Korean temples in this spectacular season. From beginning to end, this hike is an endless landscape of beautiful buildings at both temples, and provides the opportunity to enjoy serene seclusion on the valley walk back to the trail’s starting point.
Suncheon Garden and Bay
Less “off the beaten path” than the Philosophers’ Hike, Suncheon offers more in both historical sites and attractions focusing on nature. For people looking to witness dramatic color spectrums and natural vistas, the Suncheon Garden and Wetlands are perfect destinations. Known for its flowers and landscaping, the Garden Expo is most famous for its spring and summer flowers and plants. In fall, however, the gardens are still quite beautiful and the crowds are significantly reduced. The real unique quality of this area of Suncheon, though, is the connectedness. After touring the gardens, we recommend riding the Sky Cube rail system out to the Wetlands and Suncheon Bay. The Sky Cube is a private elevated rail system that allows for an aerial tour of the city, which is sure to have beautiful coloration this time of year. Once you arrive at the Wetlands, the nature tour can resume. The reeds will be a uniform, waving sea of golden yellow and are sure to be an interesting departure from the typical foliage.
Naganeupseong Folk Village
Nestled in the hills west of Suncheon, Naganeupseong Folk Village is a perfect metaphor for the season as a spectacular display of fading color surrounds and amplifies a remnant of Korea’s past. This folk village has been the site of Korean dramas and is very well maintained. Like with temples, traditional houses fit perfectly with the backdrop of fall. Although film crews are likely not to be present, it is hard not to imagine oneself being on the set of a television series or having been transported through time to an ancient village.
Hurry to Suncheon
As winter’s cold clutches start to emerge and the fall’s brilliant colors slowly fade, remember that there are still places in the Southern provinces that may be holding out for a few more weeks. While most of Korea will have finished changing colors and losing leaves, remember that places like Suncheon might offer one last weekend of spectacular autumn beauty before winter arrives. But you will need to hurry if you hope to catch Suncheon’s autumn beauty!