Day 3: Seoraksan National Park
Welcome to day 3 of our trip!
Seoraksan National Park
On Day 3, we spent the whole day in one of South Korea's most famous national parks - Seoraksan National Park. Despite reading other blogs that recommended not doing this as a day trip but instead staying over at either one of the neighbouring towns of Sokcho or Yangyang, we had too many attractions to see on our itinerary list to spare a whole night. So onward we went on this ambitious plan! Did our risk pay off?
Our initial plan was to wake up at 6am, get ready, and take the earliest possible bus to Sokcho. We were aiming to be on the bus bound for Sokcho by about 8am. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach Sokcho in no traffic, and sometimes up to 4 hours in bad traffic. Clearly there was no time to spare.
This plan, however, did not come to fruition. Despite setting our alarms to 6am, we only woke up at 10am :( - wahh. We scrambled as fast as we could to get ready and arrive at the Seoul Express Bus Terminal. When we got to the Bus Terminal at 11am, we were faced with some bad news: the next bus with any vacancies would depart at 1:20pm. This meant that we would only arrive at around 3:30pm if we were lucky! Fred was especially disappointed as he was super keen to get some hikes in.
Tip: Learn from our mistakes! Reserve your bus tickets online at http://www.letskorail.com/. The website was a little hard for us to navigate so we risked it. Another alternative of course, is to rent a car and drive there.
To kill time, we had a look around the Seoul Express Bus Terminal markets on the ground floor. Most of the shops were geared toward women but there were some clothing stores for men too, as well as gifts and homeware stores. We found that the prices here were generally on the high end, so we wouldn't really recommend visiting here unless you had spare time up your sleeve like we did.
Finally our time had come to board the bus. Thankfully, traffic was minimal and we arrived at around 3:30pm...at the wrong bus station! Sigh.
The driver dropped us off at Yangyang Bus Station, which was in the city of Yangyang, instead of Sokcho Bus Station. With time being a pressing factor, we instead caught a taxi to get to Seoraksan National Park.
Seoraksan National Park offers an array of beautiful mountains for all levels of hikers. Not a hiker? You can take a scenic cable car up to Gwongeumseong Fortress which gives you a nice overlooking view of the mountains. There are also gift shops and surprisingly, many food outlets.
We arrived at Seoraksan at around 4:15pm. With not much time to spare at all, we headed straight towards the cable car which gives visitors and overlook of the huge national park. Following the cable car, you can take a 10 minute hike to get to the top of the Fortress. As you can see, we went on a particularly cloudy day as it had rained for the last 8 hours. The view at the top of the fortress was significantly obstructed by the heavy fog, so we couldn't actually see that much at all. We did have fun running a mini photo-shoot in the fog though.
With daylight quickly fading, we had to decide whether to do a hike (Fred was keen to see Ulsanbawi Rock, arguably the most famous rock formation in the National Park) or to take a general walk around the grounds. We opted for the latter, as we didn’t want to risk making our way home in total darkness. Strolling through the park in the rain, we visited Sinheungsa Temple, as well as the famous huge Buddha. We also made the hike halfway up to Biryong Falls before losing daylight.
If we had woken up earlier and reserved our tickets beforehand, we would have got to enjoy this vast, beautiful park a lot more. It wasn't a wasted visit though - as we still enjoyed walking around such a large national park filled with epic mountains that looked like a set straight from an apocalyptic movie.
If you have day or two, we recommend staying overnight and fully exploring this national park as it is a South Korean gem, and only a short bus ride from Seoul. Summer, with its wet weather and high temperatures, was possibly the worst time to go. If you go in the seasons of Spring or Autumn, the park will be especially gorgeous. The park can be particularly busy on Fridays and weekends, so try to go during the weekdays if possible.
Transport to Seoraksan Natioanl Park:
From Seoul Express Bus Terminal or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, take a bus to Sokcho (Travel time: approx. 2hr 30min~3hr 30 mins).
From Sokcho Express / Intercity Bus Terminal, take Bus No. 7 or 7-1. (Do NOT get off at Yangyang)
- Get off at Sogongwon Bus Stop (Travel time: approx. 45 min).
OR take a taxi to Seoraksan.
Where to stay when visiting Seoraksan National Park
There are limited accommodation options when visiting Seoraksan National Park, but there are a few places you can stay close to the National Park. Otherwise, there are more options in the town of Sokcho.
Some of your options include:
Seorak Kensington Hotel is probably our top choice for accommodation near Seoraksan National Park. It’s 5 stars, within walking distance of the national park entrance and is actually really affordable for a 5-star hotel.
HK Resort is another great accommodation option when visiting Seoraksan National Park. It’s a well-reviewed property and set only 300m away from the Seoraksan Cable Car.
The Red House is another property in close proximity to Seoraksan National Park. This property is also well-reviewed and a strategic option when visiting the park.
Where to stay in Seoul
To read about where to stay in Seoul, find our accommodation guide here.