Fall in Korea is a magical time, full of the most beautiful scenery and some great snacks. Now, I may be a bit biased as Fall has always been my favourite season, but I honestly believe that Fall in Korea is especially magical. Read on for a few of my top reasons for loving this time of year, and the best tips on how to enjoy Fall in Korea to the fullest.
#1: Fall in Korea is breathtakingly beautiful
I may be biased here, because in general I think Korea is pretty beautiful. But since 70% of Korea is mountainous, and much of that is covered in trees, imagine how beautiful Fall is here. Korean cities also have a lot more trees than I was used to back home, so even the cities become covered with reds and golds. Many Korean cities nestle in between mountains, so it’s possible to find yourself a great rooftop restaurant or cafe with a Mountain View to really enjoy the outdoors without leaving your area.
Likewise, if you are traveling between cities using the great public transport system here, you’re going to catch glimpses of the Fall colors as you wind between the hills and through valleys. So book yourself a window seat and keep your GoPro battery charged.
#2: Korea is obsessed with the Great Outdoors
Korea has an incredible outdoor culture. In my experience, even though tourism is growing hugely in Korea, most of the time if you head to a hike or outdoor activity, it is filled with Korean people enjoying their country. This is especially true in the Fall, where Koreans make a point of traveling to their National Parks to take in the Fall colors.
Because Koreans love the outdoors so much, you can be sure that most of the well known hikes and trails are well marked, well designed and safe for you to use. Be aware though, that Koreans LOVE stairs, so if you are hiking here, prepare your butt for the thousands of stairs you will find on the trail.
One thing I love about hiking here is the food (yup, I’ve got my priorities straight). On the bigger hiking trails you will find rest stops along the way with little stores stocking ramen noodle cups, water, and probably alcohol of some sort. Koreans love to make hiking a social gathering, and you will see groups sitting together at rest stops chowing down on noodles, or sharing some soju.
There is also a sense of camaraderie amongst hikers, and we have often been given snacks by Koreans passing us by. Sharing food is definitely a thing here, in fact the other day we were on the bus going to the start of a hike and the Koreans behind us handed us some snacks they were having. I love this about Korean culture, as it really is so inclusive. Beware though, if a group of old men offers you soju on your hike, know that they have incredible alcohol tolerance, so choose wisely and hike safely!
#3: Fall weather in Korea is glorious
Summer in Korea is intense. It is hot and incredibly humid, and most people get by only through liberal use of their air conditioners. Fall in Korea is completely different. The wind picks up a bit and the evenings and mornings become crisp and chilly. It is the best of Fall weather in my opinion, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. Where elsewhere in Asia temperatures are still soaring, Korea is North enough to escape the heat and give you an entirely different experience.
I think that often people look at South East Asia as an option for cheap travel , and they overlook the countries further East such as Korea. I know that Korea is considerably more expensive, and perhaps less well known to travelers, but I honestly think you are missing out if you don’t get here at some point on your travels.
AirBnB and Booking.com have some great cheap deals for your accommodation and there really is no reason that you have to spend thousands. Korea is also a small country and it is easy to get around without your own car. Have a look at what is possible and use our $40 credit for your first AirBnB booking by clicking below!
#4: Diverse options to suit everyone
Korea is no one trick pony, even though it is tiny. If you don’t love the idea of hiking, Korea has amazing beaches that are still well worth a visit in Fall. If you aren’t a beach baby, then take in the awesome nightlife and coffee culture in Korean cities. Think great shopping, delicious food, and tons to do and see day and night.
If you are more of a country bumpkin like us then take in the Korean rural countryside. Fall is apple season, and Mungyeong has an epic apple festival every year in October. The area also has ziplining, historical sites and even TV sets to visit, check it out here. There really is something for everyone. If you don’t want to do things by yourself, or you have limited time. We highly recommend taking a look at what Trazy has to offer. They have high quality tours with great English speaking guides, and they are worth every penny.
#5: Themed snacks and coffee
Now we come to my most favorite topic of all: snacks. Fall in Korea is street food heaven. As the temperatures drop, people head out onto the streets to enjoy late night markets and shopping, which of course needs delicious street food to warm them up and keep the energy going. As I’ve said, apples are most delicious in the Fall, but it is also persimmon season. If, like me, you are wondering what a persimmon is, you will be delighted to find that this little fruit makes some seriously great snacks.
The best for me is a drink called Sujeonggwa, which is a mix of persimmon, cinnamon, honey, brown sugar and pine nuts. You don’t get more Fall flavored than that! Although of course you can find tons of pumpkin spiced drinks at coffee shops, Sujeonggwa is a great Korean alternative, and I recommend trying it hot and cold to really get a taste for it.
Fall in Korea is also full of roast chestnuts and roast sweet potatoes, both of which are delicious and great for on the go eating. My absolute number one best of everything street food though, is Hoddeok. Hoddeok are little doughy pancakes stuffed with piping hot honey and cinnamon. They are the ultimate comfort food, and I could eat 30 a day with no problem whatsoever. The only down side is that you have to slow yourself down so that you don’t incinerate your mouth while trying to inhale these babies.
Korea is also known for Juk, or porridge. Now I know what you’re thinking, how can you put porridge on a best of food list? But Korean Juk is something completely different to what we know in the west. There are entire restaurants that only serve Juk, in all it’s various glorious flavors and incarnations. In Fall you need to try Juk with sweet pumpkin for that Halloween goodness, or for a more quintessentially Korean flavor, go for the red bean Juk. Juk is what Koreans feed each other when they are unwell or sad, their version of chicken soup, and it really is the best comfort food available. If you need more convincing about Korea food and its deliciousness, have a look at our food post here.
Where to take in Fall in Korea
Some of the most beautiful Fall hiking can be found in Seoraksan National Park in Gangwon on the East coast. This 63 square mile park is home to amazing cliffs and over 2000 species of animal, so it is a very special place.
Jirisan National Park is the biggest in Korea and spans 182 square miles and 3 provinces. It even houses Hwaeomsa Temple, so it is the place to be for nature and history lovers alike.
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, take in one of Korea’s beautiful islands. Jeju Island off the South coast houses Korea’s highest peak, Hallasan, and is an impressive hike. The whole island is spectacular, and you can read about our adventures on Jeju and hiking Hallasan here.
Less known but no less beautiful is Ulleung Island, off the East coast of Korea. Here you can hike up Seonginbong, surrounded by primeval forest that shines gold in the Fall. The whole island is tiny and can be explored in a weekend, so it makes the perfect short trip. Read our in depth experience of the island here. Also, Ulleungdo is a little of the tourist trail, so read how to book your trip here.
If you are staying in Seoul then take in the 11 mile hike (or part thereof) around the Seoul Fortress. Start at Waryeong Park and take your passport as you’ll need to register at the Sukjeongnun rest area along the way. This is a hike for the history buffs, and I recommend booking a guided hike so that you can get the full story of Seoul’s amazing history.
If you’re not super into the hiking vibe, or if you need a day to rest the butt, take in the Fall foliage at one of Seoul’s palaces. These amazing architectural beauties have stunning gardens that turn crimson in the Fall. Transport yourself back in time and rent traditional Korean hanboks to really get some instagram-worthy photos amongst the Fall beauty. Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the palaces and can be easily reached by bus and subway. Walk around the area to find Hanbok rental places, some of them will even do your hair too!
When is the best time to arrive for Fall in Korea?
The country may be small, but Fall hits at different times depending if you are heading to the North or the South. Here is 2018’s Fall foliage forecast, so that you can time your visit perfectly.
I hope that this post got you as excited as I am for Fall in Korea. Whether you are motivated by seeing beautiful things or eating wonderful things, there really is no better time to visit this Land of the Morning Calm. Do you have any recommendations for other things to do during Fall in Korea? Comment below and let me know!
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