Posted on

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, Korea

According to a poll taken by Gallup Korea in 2015, hiking is Korea’s favorite pastime. Wanting to see fall mountain colors, get much needed exercise, and to feel crisp mountain air, we headed to Seoul!

With over 25 million people, the Seoul Capital Area is the second largest metropolitan area in the world and contains half of the population of South Korea. Seoul’s city proper (officially Seoul Special City) population density is almost twice that of New York City! It does not seem possible that within a short subway ride you can be in the middle of spectacular, world-class hiking!

Seoul has the best and most user-friendly public transportation system that I have ever used. The subway system, often cited as the longest subway system in the world, is massive and well-connected, making getting around Seoul very easy.

While this was not an eating holiday, the restaurants near our hotel were fantastic. Our favorite Korean meals were kimchi stew, dak galbi, and bulgogi. Keep in mind that raw garlic is often served as a side dish. If your husband loves to eat garlic, this may not be the best romantic holiday spot…

Seoul, Korea

Day 1

Immediately after clearing immigration, we each purchased a T-money card (2500 won / 2 USD) and added an additional 50,000 won / 42 USD to the balance. Not only does it save time and money on public transportation, you can also use it for purchases at convenience stores like 7-Eleven and GS 25. At the end of your trip, the balance can be refunded, less a 500 won / .50 USD service charge. You keep the card to recharge on your next visit.

From the Airport – We took the AREX Express Train to Seoul Station. It takes about 50 minutes and costs 8000 won / 6.75 USD each. Trains leave every 30 minutes. Note: You cannot use your T-money card to make this purchase.

Checked in to Hotel Nafore (102,000 won / 87 USD per night) – From Seoul Station, we took the subway to Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station (Exit 14) and walked to the hotel. If you have heavy luggage (we travel very light), you may want to consider the Airport Limo Bus 6002 because the transfer at Seoul Station is a long walk with stairs.

We loved Hotel Nafore. It is a nice hotel that is very strategically positioned to explore the city. It is a short walk to both Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station which has three lines (1, 3, 5) and Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station which has two lines (2, 3).

Gyeongbokgung Palace (3000 won / 2.5 USD each) – Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3), Exit 5. We arrived just in time for the informative 3:30 PM free tour in English.

Gyeongbokgung Palace - Seoul, Korea

Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty.

Gyeongbokgung Palace - Seoul, Korea

Day 2

Hiked Inwangsan Mountain Trail (free) – Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3), Exit 3. Walk straight 90 meters to the Gyeongbokgung Station bus stop. Take Bus 09 and get off at Ogin Apartments; it is the end of the bus route. Follow the path and walk 660 meters to Inwangsan Mountain. Note: Closed every Monday (If Monday falls on a holiday, closed the day after the holiday).

At the trail entrance, a soldier that spoke very good English outlined two options to the top, and we took his recommended path. The trail was easy to follow.

Inwangsan Mountain - Seoul, Korea

Inwangsan is an active military area, and photography is restricted in certain areas. Access to the mountain was prohibited after a unit of the North Korean Special Forces infiltrated Seoul on January 21, 1968. It was reopened to the public in 1993.

Inwangsan Mountain - Seoul, Korea

Once you get to the top, the hike follows a section of the castle wall (Seoul City Wall) built on the outskirts of Seoul.

Inwangsan Mountain - Seoul, Korea

The War Memorial of Korea (free) – Samgakji Station (Lines 4, 6), Exit 12. Note: Closed every Monday (If Monday falls on a holiday, closed the day after the holiday).

This is a HUGE museum that is worth at least 2 hours. It does a great job of documenting the history of the Korean War. Inside there are seven exhibits: the Memorial Hall, the War History Room, the Korean War Rooms, the Expeditionary Forces Room, the ROK Armed Forces Room, the Hall of Donated Relics, and the Children’s Museum.

War Memorial of Korea - Seoul, Korea

Outside there are many different military vehicles and weapons to view.

War Memorial of Korea - Seoul, Korea

Day 3

Baegundae Peak Hike (free) – Located in Bukhansan National Park. Gupabal Station (Line 3), Exit 1. Take bus 704 bound to Bukhansanseong Fortress. Get off at the Bukhansan Mountain entrance bus stop. The easiest way to locate the stop is to watch where the other hikers exit. It is very easy to spot Korean hikers; most are decked out from head to toe in the latest brand name outdoors clothing!

We stopped at the Bukhansanseong Information Center upon arrival and picked up a map. A very informative ranger told us the hike that she liked best. It is a tough, one-way hike up one side to the Baegundae Peak and back down the other side to Ui Dulegil Visitor Center. At the end of the hike, you follow the road to the bus station which will be on your left. The map comes in very handy for this section. If all else fails, follow the other hikers. Return by bus 120 and exit at Suyu Station (Line 4).

It was an awesome hike, even better than we had anticipated!Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

The fall colors were amazing. They got better and better the higher we climbed.

Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

The views from the top were breath-taking.

Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

There are some tricky spots that require rock scrambling. At one point, we had to wait before going to the peak because of falling rocks.

Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

We made it! While the peak is only 836 meters (2743 feet), it feels much higher.

Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

It is hard to believe you are just outside of Seoul!

Bukhansan National Park - Seoul, Korea

Day 4

Koridoor DMZ Full Day Tour (96,000 won / 81 USD each) – There are several subway stations that you can exit based on your starting location. The tour starts at the USO located at Camp Kim.

Our tour was the DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour and was from 11:30-19:00. We had a great time and it was fascinating to see history happening real-time. Included in our tour was (in the order that we did them) the Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dorasan Station, the Dora Observatory, and the JSA.

DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour - Korea

The highlight of the tour is visiting the Joint Security Area and seeing North Korean soldiers on the other side.

DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour - Korea

We got to go inside of a JSA conference room where meetings are held.

DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour - Korea

From Panmunjeom, you can view the gigantic North Korean flag in Kijong-dong. The flagpole is the world’s fourth-tallest at 525 feet in height. The flag weighs 595 lbs! It was built in response to the South Korean 323 foot tall flagpole with a 287 lb flag in Daeseong-dong.

DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour - Korea

Day 5

Hwaseong Fortress and Hwaseong Haenggung Palace (Fortress entry was free on the day that we visited, 1,500 won / 1.25 USD each for Palace entry) – Suwon Station (Line 1, Bundang Line), Exit 5. Then take bus 11, 13, 36, or 39 to the gates of the fortress (about 10 minutes).

A UNESCO world heritage site, Hwaseong is the wall surrounding the center of Suwon.

Hwaseong Fortress - Seoul, Korea

Hwaseong Fortress was built over two and a half years, from 1794 to 1796.

Hwaseong Fortress - Seoul, Korea

Normally I am immune to tourist traps, but I did pay 1000 won / .85 USD to ring this bell three times! Worth every won…

Hwaseong Fortress - Seoul, Korea

Day 6

Hike Gwanaksan Trail to Yeunjudae (free) – Gwacheon Station (Line 4), Exit 7. Walk straight out of exit 7 and take a left at the main intersection where the walk-way ends. Follow the road until you see a brown sign on your right, this is the entrance to the mountain.

Gwanaksan Trail - Seoul, Korea
Turn right here.

Cross over the stream-bed and follow the road to the right, past some restaurants. The well-marked trail starts and ends near a small parking lot.

Gwanaksan Trail - Seoul, Korea
Trail start.

The hike is peaceful and very easy to follow. There are restrooms located along the trail.

Gwanaksan Trail - Seoul, Korea

If you arrive at noon at the Younjuam Temple, near the summit of Gwanak Mountain, you will be served a delicious free lunch.

Younjuam Temple - Seoul, Korea

500 meters above Younjuam Temple is Younjudae, a prayer hermitage at the mountain’s peak.

Younjudae - Seoul, Korea

The peak is a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful views of Seoul!

Gwanaksan Trail - Seoul, Korea

Let’s Run Park Horse Track (Race day: 2,000 won, Non-race day: free) – Seoul Racecourse Park Station (Line 4), Exit 2 or 3. We stopped by on a non-race day to take a look at the track.

This huge racetrack has a total attendance capacity of more than 50,000 people and a stable that can accommodate up to 1,400 horses. The park also has a family park, horse riding experience zone, and equine museum.

Let's Run Park Horse Track - Seoul, Korea

We would love to go to a horse race here! Next time….

Let's Run Park Horse Track - Seoul, Korea

Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) Playoff Game (30,000 won / 25 USD each) – Sports Complex Station (Line 2), Exit 5. Doosan Bears vs NC Dinos Game 4 – The Bears defeated the NC Dinos 7-0 at home, forcing a deciding Game 5 in their second round playoff series.

Korean Baseball Organization - Seoul, Korea

Before heading into the stadium purchase some snacks and drinks to take with you. The only restriction is no cans or glass bottles. John’s favorite: octopus!

Korean Baseball Organization - Seoul, Korea

We had great seats with a good view of the field, somewhere in the mid-price range.

Korean Baseball Organization - Seoul, Korea

The crowd was very energetic and cheered the entire game. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It was my first professional baseball game!

Korean Baseball Organization - Seoul, Korea

Follow-up – The Doosan Bears advanced to the championship final. The Bears came from behind to defeat the NC Dinos 6-4 on the road at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Korea, taking the best of five playoff series 3-2.

Day 7

Mount Dobongsan Jaunbong Peak Hike (free) – Located in Bukhansan National Park. Dobongsan Station (Line 1 or 7), Exit 1. After exiting the station, follow the signs and the hikers to the entrance.

We stopped at the Dobong Information Center upon arrival and a super-enthusiastic ranger told us the easy, medium, and scary dangerous hiking options. Even though we had planned on an easy, relaxing hike, I knew as soon as I heard the ranger say “scary dangerous” and “helicopter rescues,” John would choose that hike! This loop hike was spectacular.

Mount Dobongsan Jaunbong Peak Hike - Seoul, Korea

We loved the views from the top.

Mount Dobongsan Jaunbong Peak Hike - Seoul, Korea

This exhilarating hike was a great way to end our hiking trip to Korea!

Mount Dobongsan Jaunbong Peak Hike - Seoul, Korea

Day 8

We checked out of our hotel and returned to the airport via the subway and AREX Express Train (8000 won / 6.75 USD each). At the airport we cashed out our T-money card balances at a GS 25 prior to going through security to catch our return flight.

We loved our visit to South Korea. We hiked as much as our bodies would let us, and we have not even scratched the surface. There are many, many more national parks that we would like to visit and trails that we would like to hike. We eagerly look forward to returning to South Korea!

Trip Details

  • Time of Year: October 2015
  • Length of Stay: 8 Days, 7 Nights
  • Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 1395 USD*
  • Cost Per Day / Per Person: 87 USD*
  • Visa Information: U.S. citizens are granted 90 days visa-free entry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

*Excluded from the cost analysis:

  • International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.

GPS Coordinates: Click to expand

Day 1
Incheon International Airport @ 37.460191,126.440696
Hotel Nafore @ 37.568899,126.990763
Gyeongbokgung Palace @ 37.579617,126.977041

Day 2
Bus Stop at Ogin Apartments @ 37.582122,126.964278
Inwangsan Mountain @ 37.585107,126.957740
Seven Luck Casino Gangbuk @ 37.508582,127.039927
War Memorial and Museum @ 37.536952,126.977124

Day 3
Exit Bus for Hike @ 37.658221,126.946144
Hike Start Point @ 37.655017,126.950588
Baekundae Peak@ 37.659036,126.977927
Hike End Point @ 37.658058,126.991181
Catch Bus 120 @ 37.662834,127.011143

Day 4
Koridoor DMZ Tour – Camp Kim @ 37.53867,126.973283
The Third Infiltration Tunnel @ 37.901779,126.710343
Dorasan Station – DMZ @ 37.898597,126.70985
Dora Observatory @ 37.908958,126.704874
Joint Security Area (JSA) @ 37.955664,126.676871
Bridge of No Return @ 37.955954,126.670331

Day 5
Catch Bus @ 37.268180,126.999551
Exit Bus @ 37.277149,127.017005
Hwaseong Fortress @ 37.280794,127.010246

Day 6
Mount Gwanaksan @ 37.442938,126.961002
Lotte World Mall @ 37.513708,127.103923
Let’s Run Park Horse Track @ 37.446264,127.012126
Jamsil Stadium @ 37.512258,127.071901

Day 7
Mount Dobongsan @ 37.700463,127.015684
Trail Start and End Point @ 37.686612,127.037958

Subway Station GPS Coordinates
Anguk Station @ 37.576556,126.985472
Dobongsan Station @ 37.689603,127.046347
Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station @ 37.566286,126.992617
Gupabal Station @ 37.636581,126.918833
Gwacheon Station @ 37.433205,126.996404
Gyeongbokgung Station @ 37.575848,126.973589
Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station @ 37.570467,126.990141
Samgakji Station @ 37.535592,126.973948
Seoul National University Station @ 37.481209,126.952712
Seoul Station @ 37.555107,126.970691
Suwon Station @ 37.265669,127.000223

click here to collapse

You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.