Monday, August 12, 2013

[Korea] Catching the Autumn Foliage in Korea

So, you have been planning a trip to Korea for the longest time to see the autumn foliage.  The travel guidebooks say that autumn season is from September to November but does it mean that you can expect to see the red autumn leaves anytime from September to November?  If your answer is no, you are absolutely right.  Just like spring blooms, the most beautiful period of the autumn season is only for about 2 weeks. 

Another important consideration is the location where you will be.  The northern part of the country gets the autumn foliage first and it gradually moves south-wards.  The difference is about 2 weeks.

I went to Korea in mid October last year, hoping to see the autumn leaves.  Instead of taking a typical itinerary of going to Soraksan, I explored a mountain that was in the southern part of Korea.  This was my experience.

On 17 October, as per our itinerary, the guide brought the group to Naejangsan National Park (내장산 국립공원), which is said to be the most famous mountain to view the autumn foliage. It is located in the Jeollanam-do. Naejangsa (Naejang Temple), one of the oldest temple in South Korea built during the 7th century, was found deep in the mountain. Because it is located in the southern part, it was way too early to see the crimson leaves. In fact, the peak of the autumn foliage only happened at the 2nd week of November!

(Entrance to the Naejang Temple)

(Mainly green leaves on the trees)

(Only a handful of trees have started to turn orangy)
(The beautiful temple at the serene mountain top) 

On 18 October, we visited the Metasequoia-lined Road, located at Jeollanam-do, Damyang-gun.  It is a 4-km boulevard, lined with Metasequoia trees on both sides of the path.  Here's my experience with autumn leaves in this area - trees were all very green still, with no signs of autumn.  How sad!  But anyway, the following 3 photos will give you some ideas when would be a good time to catch the beautiful autumn leaves at the Jeollanam-do area.

 (Photo taken on 18 Oct 2012)

(Photo taken in mid November 2012 during the peak of the autumn foliage)

(Photo taken in early December 2007 during an earlier trip.  The leaves had started to turn brownish.)

As mentioned earlier, the northern areas experience autumn foliage earlier then the southern areas.  Travelling north-wards, Everland, located in Gyeonggi-do, might be a possible place that you can catch autumn leaves here and there.  These photos were taken on 19 October and it shows that the leaves were only starting to change colour.  They were somewhat yellowish still and mostly still greenish.

In fact, Seoul, located in the northern part of South Korea and has more scenic autumn leaves compared to the southern places that I travelled to earlier before reaching Seoul.  You may be surprised but university campuses in Korea looks somewhat like a park with its beautiful trees and shrubs planted within their campus.  The photos were taken at Ewha Womans University last October.  Although the crimson leaves were not in full bloom yet, there were more colourful trees in the campus.

The Korea Tourism Organisation website publishes the nation-wide estimated autumn foliage dates in late September.  That information would be useful for you to plan your autumn travel dates.  You can use the 2012 dates as a reference since the 2013 dates are not released yet.  A quick summary for 2012's autumn foliage calendar shows that the first foliage took place between 3 Oct to 27 Oct while the peak foliage was between 18 Oct to 5 Nov.  So, choose your dates and the places you want to visit carefully to avoid any disappointment. =)

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- Gangwon-do: Chuncheong Dakgalbi (Click here)
- Exploring Korean Traditional Markets on Subway Line 5 (Click here)

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