The Best Walks in South Korea

There are many things we take for granted. Walking — on two feet — probably tops that list. Strangely, we still haven’t been able to find the answer to: why our ancestors started walking upright and opted (if it was a choice of theirs to make) for bipedalism? It would be interesting, as a thought experiment, to imagine how different our life would have been — had we continued walking on all fours.
Mathematically, delta is a symbol used to denote a variation (or change) of a variable or function. When you apply it to walking, you can get some interesting results. Put simply, in travel jargon, we call it — wandering. As a traveller, even infinitesimal changes in the direction of your path, can show you a very different side to a place and sometimes, can take you to a totally different place.

Why do I love walking? I think, it’s one of the few outdoor activities that I’m reasonably good at. Fortunately, for me, it’s one of the top outdoor activities in South Korea. Many Koreans take their walking very seriously (like their hiking and cycling) and spend hours walking on designated trails — perfect to escape city life or the stresses of work.

Over the past year, we’ve discovered new places (without knowing their names), some of which — we’d never even find again, and yet, will always stay etched in our memory. Here’s a walk down memory lane.

Pyeonchang’s Mountain Roads

Pyeongchang is slowly gearing up for international spotlight. In 2018, the fortunes of this sleepy town are set to turn with the Winter Olympics. When we visited Pyeongchang, last December, the winding mountain roads were covered beneath a layer of snow. The main roads were buzzing with families looking forward to skiing and a day away from Seoul. Unlike other visitors, we had to walk to get around. We followed footsteps in the snow, walked into trails that didn’t exist, were chased by loyal guard dogs, and took refuge in a church — when we needed some rest.

Jeju’s Olle Trail

Jeju is undoubtedly Korea’s pride. Born from ancient volcanic activity, it’s an island sculpted by the elements and time. Not surprisingly, it made it to the list of the New 7 Wonders of NatureJeju Olle-gil Trails are designed to show you the diversity of the island — on your feet. Some of the trails involve serious walking and finding trail markers might not always be easy. We never intended to follow these trails (because we didn’t have the time) and yet, were fortunate to get lost, and find portions of the trail. From sweeping coastlines to lush forests — we covered a lot more ground by walking.

Chuncheon’s Rustic Countryside

Chuncheon is quite popular with tourists. Dubbed as the romantic city, there’s much to eat and see in Chuncheon. Ironically, the best sights are the ones that aren’t listed on popular tourist sites. When you walk away from the marked trails, you begin to realise the beauty of nothingness. Walking on frozen lakes, getting lost in the middle of nowhere, and crossing a dam are its top draws in winter.

 Taejongdae’s Plunging Cliffs

We visited Busan in 2015 (before we moved to Seoul). Taejongdae Recreation Area wasn’t on the cards and we thought it might be interesting after looking at a brochure. The rains had washed the park green and the whiff of wet mud filled the air. We had been walking for the whole day and strangely, we got a burst of energy when we set foot here. Who would have thought the dense tree cover hid the coast below? Walking along the path isn’t the challenge. Facing a fear of heights, to reach closer to the base, is where you’d need to muster some courage. Back then, I hadn’t overcome my fear of heights and we had to give it a miss. But, completing the entire trail was a new high for me.

 Seoul’s Gyeongui Forest Line

The Gyeongui Line Forest isn’t a tourist attraction. It’s a walking stretch that runs parallel to the old railway tracks and is the easiest way to escape Seoul’s dull, grey high rises. You can see the seasons turn here and witness the cycle of life with every walk. It’s where I get over the lows of expat life. It’s where I practice walking. And it’s where I feel the most at home — away from home.

51 responses to “The Best Walks in South Korea

  1. Oh my, I should have had those walking trails with you while I was there, at least one. So beautiful!
    I like this, “the beauty of nothingness.” Sounds so deep to me. 🙂

    • You won’t believe it! I thought of you yesterday! hahah..I know, it would be nice to travel together, life in Seoul gets so hectic though. 😦 Hope you’re doing well. I’m always wondering if I should write deep stuff or fun stuff…Thanks for appreciating both! 🙂

      • Ah, it’s the same, so that was why I looked through the blog, finding yours. : ❤
        For me, variety is always fine, it's all about how interesting you write it, whether it's deep or fun stuff. Thank you for always sharing nice writing. 🙂
        It's also hectic from moving and looking, on my side, wish you doing well there, through hectic and quit times. 🙂

      • I hope you settle well and fast. Returning home after a long time can be the most difficult part of travelling. Have a good week! 🙂

      • Thank you so much for encouragement, Cheryl. 🙂
        Yes, things are more challenging now.
        Have a great week!

  2. We loved walking in South Korea too, though I know none of the walks you describe. I would love to have been able to get off the beaten track a bit though!

    • It really depends on the time you had. It’s not easy to find these places, because most of them aren’t listed on the tourist grid. That’s what I tell my friends who work with the tourism department! We didn’t have a car (my husband hasn’t applied for a license yet) and had to walk to get by. 🙂 And we love walking. Maybe, on your next trip? 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Cheryl

      • I agree. Sometimes a month isn’t enough. So many wonderful places to visit. We’ve been here for a year and we haven’t been to hold the places we’d like to go to.

    • I wish I could believe in luck, Arvind. These walks come with a lot of effort (mental and physical). It isn’t easy travelling here because language can be a big problem and when you’re lost, you’re on your own. That’s the price you pay for those gorgeous pictures! 🙂
      I kind of dislike the word ‘luck’ in life or otherwise. We make/break our own luck! I wish I could walk in the Himalayas and lead an ascetic life — away from the throes of capitalism. 🙂 The grass is always greener on the other side.

      • I will choose to agree with you. We always feel someone experiencing what we want to is lucky and we are deprived one. Everyone is lucky from other person’s perspective! New country…language problem … definitely an issue. As for physical effort in these walks? Well I kind of like to push myself and enjoy inflicting some pain. This explains as to why one chooses to trek in Himalaya! I’m sure you’ll get to have your share of Himalaya too Cheryl….. Someday! 😊

  3. Of course, I love seeing (and re-seeing) so many of your beautiful Korean walks, but what I enjoyed most about your post today is your application of the mathematical delta sign to walking! As an economics major with lots of math-y equations and concepts in my background, I am well versed in the delta symbol and still use it to stand in for the word “change” when I am taking quick notes! I just love your expression of that change as the altered view of a place or thing – perfect link to travel and wandering!

    • Phew! I was worried if it would be understood at all (like most of my posts). 🙂 It wasn’t a very easy fit. I majored in Physics and haven’t touched my books for more than 10 years. Back in the day, we used the delta symbol for every problem. Yesterday, I struggled to make sense of it (relative to this post) and got lost in Newton’s Laws of Motion, (speed)scalars, (velocity)vectors, and the technicality of it all! I came to the conclusion that I’d have to just have fun with it (and hope no physics major points out the inherent flaws).
      We haven’t travelled anywhere for 2 months. I’m so glad you still enjoy seeing our travel pictures you’ve probably seen over the past year. I hope we can add new content soon! Fingers crossed.

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  5. Goodness. This is beautiful. My daughter and her husband just visited there a couple of weeks ago and were entranced. I can see why. Thanks for sharing and educating.

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  7. I’m in love with the Jeju’s Olle Trail, I love seascapes, especially when the coast is so dramatic and wild! It’s a very original interpretation of the theme Delta 🙂

    • We were there for only 2 days, so we couldn’t really do much. I just checked your post. Wow! It looks fantastic. My husband might go for a work trip to Busan. He could try exploring this trail. 🙂

  8. Haha, I loved how you equated walking with the mathematical term delta. Quite an interesting connection, and there is so many variations with walking – flat terrain, higher ground, fast, slow and more. Loved going through these places to walk in Korea. Didn’t know there were so many, and so many spots of nature to walk through and admire. Good to hear in Busan you completed the trail, and many more trails after that too. Looks like you hiked all the seasons too 😀

    Loved how you told about a simple walk to round it off. Near or far, any walk can touch our heart if we immerse ourselves fully into it 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed our walks, Mabel! 🙂 It’s been quite a journey so far. Looking back — it’s hard not to get nostalgic. I hope our second year here (in Seoul) will be equally fascinating. 🙂

  9. Walking is about the only physical skill I can claim to have, too! I can’t run or cycle, am a rubbish swimmer, and even worse at coordinated sports like tennis. Not much hope for me, really 🙂 🙂 But I love being out in nature.

    • Wow! Thanks so much. I’m so glad you liked it. I wanted to add so many more to this list. At the end of the next year — I hope I can add to this list. 🙂

  10. Taejeongdae! Definitely the highlight of my visit to Busan back in 2015. 🙂 South Korea definitely has a way of making you want to walk all the time. In my case, whatever can’t be reached by train, I walk. Last time I almost forgot there were taxis haha!

    • It was a fantastic place! And we had walked so much to get there. 🙂 “In my case, whatever can’t be reached by train, I walk” So true! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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