Written by Hannah Vancaillie
The weather is getting better in South Korea, which means outdoor activities are a must.
If there is one outdoor activity that Koreans like to do, it is hiking. So on days outside the office, the Korean citizens want to go to the nearby national parks to breathe in some healing fresh air on the top of the highest peaks.
I never really understood this hiking trend, mainly because Belgium does not have any high peaks to climb.
However, in Korea, the land exists mostly of nature and mountains, which offers many hiking trails to walk. That is why I felt the need to discover one of the most popular National Parks for trekking; Seoraksan National Park.
During this trip, I accompanied a group of 15 travelers on this adventurous weekend to Gangwon Province, where we would hike Ulsan Bawhi, which is one of the most challenging hiking courses in the park.
We got the choice between two trails—an easy and a hard one. But after everyone chose the difficult one, I felt the need to follow and try it myself, even with 0 hiking experience.
The bus ride from Seoul to Seoraksan took about 3 hours. We even decided to have a rest stop halfway to get some lunch and fuel ourselves for the sporty day ahead of us.
Once we arrived in Seoraksan, it was time to do some stretching and start our two-hour-long hike up 울산바위 (Ulsan Bawi). On the way to the start of the trail, we got the chance to walk through the beautiful park. Since it is currently Spring, flowers are in bloom, and everything is colored in diverse colors.
I was able to take many pictures of the temple and surrounding nature.
The hike up the mountain was for sure not an easy one. The trail consists of gravel and rocks and ends in a lot of stairs. But it was nice to see I wasn’t the only one struggling. Many people take breaks on the way up. However, it was encouraging seeing all different generations trying this route. Many strangers offer motivational words on the way up to support fellow hikers.
In the end, I was rewarded with an extraordinary view over Seoraksan National Park and the possibility to breathe in the fresh air. Which is something you can not often get in the congested city of Seoul.
The walk back down was not effortless either. The rocky path often allows for missteps and slipping. So you have to be careful and look down on where you walk.
Our evening was well spent eating some Korean BBQ and cozily sitting by the campfire singing songs together with the travelers. Everyone was super social, and drinking some soju and beer made the atmosphere even more relaxed.
The following day, after some relax-time and a hearty breakfast and lunch, we departed to do Via Ferrata.
Via Ferrata, also called The Iron Way, is a form of mountain climbing where you wear a harness with two leashes with carabiners. These carabiners are used to attach yourself to the iron cables on the way up.
The point of Via Ferrata is explained in its name, translating to The Iron Way. You follow a patch of iron fixtures drilled into the rocks. These you can use to support your feet and climb your way up.
During the first steps, you will feel your body tensing up. But halfway, the stress disappears, and you can occasionally rest on the rocks and enjoy the view around you while waiting for the person in front of you to advance.
I was in front of our instructor, who patiently waited for me to figure out my way in the difficult areas. And he also offered me his assistance if I needed it.
Thanks to him, I felt assured and completed the course without worrying or backing out.
At the top, we got a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains and waterfall. A rewarding sight after putting in all my efforts to climb the rock.
I have to say that the views I experienced this weekend relaxed my mind to the fullest. Living in Seoul is great, and there is always something to do in this city that never sleeps.
However, going outside the busy capital made me realize what more Korea has to offer in sceneries.
The amount of greenery and mountains combined with fresh air allowed my body to come at ease and prepare myself for another busy week at work.