South Korea may be best known for its sprawling high-tech cities and world-famous entertainment industry, but this peninsular nation is also home to some truly spectacular natural sites as well. From the island-rich southern shore to the northern border, there’s no shortage of jagged mountains and lush forests to explore. If you’re planning a trip out to Seoul in the near future, be sure to set aside some extra time in your itinerary to explore the wild side of South Korea.
Seoraksan National Park
South Korea’s northeastern region may be lacking in world-class cities like Seoul and Busan, but the region more than makes up for it with its abundant natural beauty. Case in point—Seoraksan National Park, a roughly 98,000-acre expanse that’s packed full of jagged granite peaks. While the sprawling Gongnyong Ridge—or Dinosaur Ridge in English—is a popular attraction thanks to its dramatic appearance, Seoraksan National Park also earns acclaim for its living inhabitants as well. With over 1,000 recorded plant species and roughly 1,500 animal varieties found throughout the park, this is an absolute must-visit for those in search of indigenous Korean flora and fauna.
Jirisan National Park
Officially established in 1967, Jirisan is the oldest national park found within South Korea, with more than 116,000 acres of protected land spread out across three provinces. A haven for all walks of life, this massive region is home to close to 5,000 different plant and animal species living alongside historic Buddhist temples and roaring waterfalls. While elk and wildcats are two iconic creatures that call Jirisan home, the most iconic by far is the Asiatic black bear. With more than fifty individuals recorded across the park, Jirisan is certainly South Korea’s top attraction for spotting these majestic animals in the wild.
Bukhansan National Park
Located along the northern reaches of Seoul, the sprawling Bukhansan National Park offers a much-needed escape for any city-dwellers in need of a change of scenery. The park is known for its abundance of towering granite peaks including the 2,744-foot Baegundae, but in addition to its pristine natural beauty, Bukhansan is also home to a particularly notable man made attraction as well. Known as the Bukhansanseong, this stone fortress was completed in 1711 in the wake of invasions launched from the nearby Japanese archipelago as well as the forces of the Qing dynasty.
Hallasan National Park
South Korea’s Jeju Island is renowned for its distinct culture, tumultuous history, and above all, abundant natural beauty—the latter of which can be experienced firsthand at Hallasan National Park. While this verdant preserve is home to Hallasan, a roughly 6,300-foot-tall shield volcano that serves as South Korea’s tallest mountain, it’s far from the only natural attraction found within the park’s limits. The high elevation here has fostered a particularly fascinating array of native flora and fauna, with hundreds of plant species, more than 350 different bird varieties, and classic East Asian mammals like the wild boar and Siberian roe deer.
Wolchulsan National Park
Wolchulsan National Park may be South Korea’s smallest national park, but don’t let that discourage you—this roughly 14,000-acre preserve is home to a wealth of fascinating attractions in addition to its pristine natural sites. Upon arrival, visitors are welcome to trek across the vibrant Cloud Bridge—a 171-foot passage that’s perched 390 feet in the air—or pay a visit to the Dogapsa, an idyllic Buddhist temple equipped with ornate statues and detailed paintings depicting the life of The Buddha. For those in search of wildlife, Wolchulsan is a popular destination for birding, with over 75 different avian species recorded across the park.