The summer heat has finally passed, making time spent outdoors even more enjoyable! While urban parks are convenient, nothing can top the peace you’ll feel relaxing in the heart of a mountain valley or before a cooling waterfall. Many of the valleys feature walking paths, swimming areas, restaurants serving local foods, and accommodations ranging from camping to staying in a traditional house.
If you’re a fan of K-dramas and films, you’ve probably seen Bidulginangpokpo Falls without knowing the name. Appearing in popular dramas like “Kingdom (2019)” and “Arthdal Chronicles (2019),” this waterfall is located within the Hantangang National Geopark in Pocheon. The waterfall’s name, meaning Pigeon Falls in Korean, comes from the droves of wild pigeons that used to live in the caves around the waterfall. Many people come here for the mysterious ambiance and profound coloring of the pool, easily captured in photographs.
The area around Bidulginangpokpo Falls features many columnar joints formed by volcanic activity, similar to those found on Jeju Island. Perhaps more fantastic though is the half-moon shaped cave that formed below the joints and behind the waterfall. Thanks to the moist atmosphere, there are plenty of mosses, vines, and ferns growing around the waterfall and pool.
After admiring the waterfall, enjoy some time along the Hantangang Dulle Trail. You can cross the river using the impressive Hantangang Sky Bridge, a suspension bridge that offers a great view of the gorge. Meonguri Gorge, located around 7 kilometers from the waterfall, stretches for 4 kilometers, and has been called the “Grand Canyon of Korea.”
Hantangang Sky Bridge
Gyeongju, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, is rich in history with many attractions like Cheomseongdae Observatory, Bulguksa Temple, and Daereungwon Tomb Complex. To escape modern life and enjoy the tranquil passage of time here, relax at Dongnakdang House, a 500-year-old house on the way to UNESCO-recognized Oksanseowon Confucian Academy. The house is backed by a quiet valley stream.
While most of the stream is quite shallow, there is a section near Oksanseowon that is deep enough for swimming. While here, be sure to stroll through the academy grounds. A center for scholarly pursuits during the Joseon period, the temple offers the majesty and grandeur of the royal palaces, but on a more pulled-back scale.
Heungjeonggyegok Valley is located in the pristine natural environment of Pyeongchang, the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The valley stream is popular for summer vacations, with the water depth being just right for splashing around and auto-campgrounds located nearby. Aside from summer, the lush forest also attracts many people, with over 50,000 visitors coming every year.
While in Pyeongchang, be sure to try dishes made with the local specialty, buckwheat! The makguksu (spicky buckwheat noodles) and memilmuk (buckwheat jelly) are made with a higher amount of buckwheat for a stronger flavor. For a full set of buckwheat dishes, add on an order of memil jeonbyeong (buckwheat crepes).
If you’re still in the mood for nature, head to the nearby Herbnara Farm. This themed garden is home to over 100 types of herbs and flowers, releasing an aromatic medley that fills the area.
You can still enjoy a relaxing valley experience, even if traveling out of Seoul is difficult. Baeksasilgyegok Valley in Buam-dong is easily accessible within one hour via public transportation and a bit of walking, yet remains relatively hidden within a deep forest north of the main city area.
Baeksasilgyegok Valley is located at the foot of Bugaksan Mountain, and is so isolated, it can be hard to match the peaceful ambiance with that of the bustling city just outside the forest. The valley itself is a natural environment conservation area, meaning you won’t be able to dip your feet in the water here. However, the gently bubbling stream and the cool shade of the forest are enough to make Baeksasilgyegok Valley a relaxing escape from the city.
Near the valley is the site of an old garden from the Joseon dynasty. Baekseokdongcheon Garden used to have a pavilion before a pond; now all that remains are the old stone pillar posts. If you walk a bit further to Buam-dong, you can visit the popular Sanmotungi Café or Palgakjeong Pavilion for views of the city spread below.
* This column was last updated in August 2021, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.