From October to early November, the most popular destinations in Korea include splendid regional mountains, such as Seoraksan Mountain and Odaesan Mountain. A mountain decorated with colorful foliage makes for a stunning photo backdrop, whether zoomed in or not. However, such famous fall foliage destinations are always packed with tourists. These days, people prefer to head to new, less crowded destinations, not so far from Seoul, where they can enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves at their leisure. Let’s discover Korea’s secret fall foliage destinations—although I really ought to keep them to myself!
Located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, the Hwadam Botanic Garden is an ecological arboretum 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Seoul via public transportation. Visitors will enjoy walking amid some 4,300 plant species in a forest-like atmosphere. Tourists can easily take the monorail, which travels all around the location, to the top of the garden and enjoy its breathtaking fall view. Visitors who stroll along the walking deck may even meet a small wild animal, such as a hedgehog or squirrel.
Hwadam Botanic Garden
In autumn, the Ginkgo Grove in Hongcheon becomes tinged with gold. This impressive grove, which boasts some 2,000 ginkgo trees planted in perfect order, is the setting of a story about a local couple. According to this tale, a husband planted a ginkgo tree every year for 30 years while praying for his sick wife’s complete recovery. Although the grove is on private land, it is opened to the public every October and charms many people even from a distance. Nearby attractions include the Sambong Mineral Spring in Gachilbong Peak, one of the Nine Sights of Hongcheon, and Yeolmogeo Village, highly recommended one-day travel destinations.
Ginkgo Grove in Hongcheon
Located in Gochang, Jeollabuk-do, Seonunsa Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple with more than 1,460 years of tradition. Known for its camellia grove, which paints the area in red hues every April, the temple is a hidden spot appreciated for its beautiful fall foliage. In particular, Dosolcheon stream by the temple is an ideal photo spot with a mysterious and magnificent backdrop. In addition, Seonunsa Temple is also an attractive tourist attraction for those interested in Korean Buddhist culture because it houses various natural monuments and cultural heritage relics and offers a templestay program.
Located in Damyang, Jeollanam-do, Gwangbangje is a 6-kilometer embankment built along the Gwangbangcheon Stream. There is also a dense, 2-kilometer forest named Gwangbangjerim Forest because of its beautiful landscape. In the fall, the forest is tinged with vivid autumn colors. Various outdoor sculptures are illuminated with bright lights when the sun goes down, creating a romantic atmosphere that attracts couples. Gwangbangjerim Forest is renowned for its dreamlike combination of colorful autumn leaves and early morning fog. If you want to take a fantastic souvenir photo, visit early in the morning. The surrounding attractions include water bicycles, a sculpture garden, and engaging experience programs.
The Secret Garden, located in Gapdun-ri, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do, is off-limits to civilians because it is in a military operation area. Although there are many restrictions and taking photos is only allowed in the roadside photo zone, the garden is a popular destination among photographers who appreciate the virgin forest. The Secret Garden, encompassed by the mountain edge, is home to needleleaf and broadleaf trees and rounded shrubs. It is known for the mysterious scenery created by the harmony of its s-shaped dirt path and the early morning fog.
Located nearby the garden, Wondae-ri Birch Forest is one of the best fall foliage destinations in Inje. The forest is known for its picturesque scenery made up of some 70,000 birch trees planted in an orderly manner and colorful autumn leaves. The best time to visit the Secret Garden and appreciate its landscape is early morning. When the sun rises and the fog disappears, we recommend visiting the Birch Forest.
Wondae-ri Birch Forest
* This column was last updated in November 2021, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check the details before visiting.