South Korea // Jeolla //

Seonunsan National Park

SEONUNSAN NATIONAL PARK (선운산 국립 공원) has more than a few aces hidden up its leafy sleeves. It offers some of the country’s best rock-climbing and a few enjoyable hikes; these may not be as well signed as others in Korea, but some may find this liberating. A streamside path, lined with stalls selling delicious mountain berry juice in the summer and autumn, heads straight from the main entrance to Seonunsa (선운사), a dusty collection of buildings, stupas and the like that appear to have been thrown together with little care. It’s quite possibly the least satisfying temple complex in the province, and the small hermitages strewn around the park are of more interest.

Once past the temple, you’ll have a diverse range of trails to choose from. Hikers should head for the hills; the peaks are puny by Korean standards, rarely reaching above 400m, but this makes for some easy day-hikes, and you may be rewarded with occasional views of the West Sea. For more hardcore thrills, continue further on the temple path, across the river; hidden a ten-minute hike behind a small restaurant is a spectacular rock-climbing course. This is a tough route and should not be attempted alone or without equipment – see whttp://www.koreaontherocks.com for climb details, and to contact the few Koreans (and expats) au fait with holds, conglomerates and juggy overhangs. Back towards the entrance, an underused side path heads along the temple wall and up a gorgeous valley lined with rows of tea trees and a few rustic dwellings. You’ll soon come across a small, beautiful farming village, where one house offers minbak accommodation; if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom and sleeping on the floor, it’s the best place to stay in the area.