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When & where to see autumn in Korea 2019: Best spots & more tips

Autumn’s a lovely and rather underrated time to visit Korea. The crowds that come for the cherry blossoms in spring have long gone, while the heat of the summer has dissipated to make way for pleasantly cool weather accompanied by the resplendent hues of red, orange and yellow. Indeed, autumn in Korea brings with it some of the most majestic sceneries the country has to offer.

To top it off, autumn in Korea falls between September to November, making it ideal for the traveller who is averse to the school holiday mob. If you’d like to witness the autumn foliage, this is a guide that will give you the best locations to visit in Seoul, Busan, Jeju and other destinations, as well as the best dates.

When is the best time to see autumn in Korea: Autumn foliage prediction 2019

Autumn in Korea

Autumn in Korea unveils itself the earliest up in mountains such as Seoraksan at the end of September, before making an appearance in the mainland in places like Seoul, Incheon and Gyeongju in mid-October. It sweeps down the country, towards Busan and Jeju Island at the end of October, changing the colours of the leaves from lush green to crimson.

Your best chance to experience the best of autumn in Korea would be in October. If you have your eyes set on a vacation, you should book a flight to Korea or check out our autumn travel deals.

Do take note that the time period indicated are predictions and the actual autumn foliage dates may differ, depending on the weather patterns. We will continue to update this page with the latest prediction, if any.

Where are the best places to see autumn in Korea

1. Seoul

When to go: Mid October to end October

The capital of South Korea may be a large metropolis but it has pockets of nature that you can weave into your Seoul itinerary.

One of the most accessible sightseeing spots to see the transformation of the landscape from verdant green to autumn red would be the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first and largest royal palace built during the Joseon Dynasty. Simply walk around the palace grounds and your eyes will be drawn to a stunning backdrop that’s just as impressive as the palace architecture. Picture a riot of colours bathing in the sunlight! Offering a similar autumn sight are the other palaces in Seoul, such as Deoksugung, Gyeonghuigung, Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgung.

How to get to Gyeongbokgung Palace: Take the Seoul subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Exit 5).

Not far from Seoul, the half-moon-shaped Nami Island is a gorgeous autumn destination. This location was popularised through the Korean drama Winter Sonata, and it’s known for its tree-lined roads. Autumn is arguably the best time to visit Nami Island because its pine and maple trees become painted in golden red, and you can take Instagram photos that are aesthetically pleasing to those with an unfailing eye for symmetry and beauty.

How to get to Nami Island: Take the ITX train to Gapyeong Station, then ride city bus number 33-5 or 33-36.

For those who love hiking amidst nature, Bukhansan, or Bukhan Mountain, is another top spot. Your breath will be taken away as you wander along the hiking paths that connect the three major peaks high above and the valleys down below. Look out for the temples, pavilions, and iconic granite rocks that pepper this attraction.

How to get to Bukhansan: Take the subway to Gupabal Station (Exit 1), then ride bus number 704 towards Bukhansanseong Fortress. Disembark at the entrance of Bukhansan.

2. Jeju Island

When to go: End October to Early November

Boasting rugged coastlines, tranquil beaches, breathtaking waterfalls and vast flower fields, Jeju Island is a natural choice of destination for nature lovers.

To make most out of autumn in Jeju Island, rent a car and make your way to the southeastern part of the island for the Saryeoni Forest Path. You could choose to drive through this narrow road (National Road No. 1112), or you could give your legs a stretch and tackle it on foot. When you’re in the silent forest, surrounded by mighty Japanese cedars dressed in a tinge of red, you’ll understand why this is a place for healing and meditation.

How to get to the Saryeoni Forest Path: Drive your Jeju rental car to the starting point, which is National Road No. 1112.

Another place to bask in the full glory of autumn in Jeju Island would be Hallasan, South Korea’s tallest mountain and also a shield volcano. Standing at a lofty 1,950 metres, Hallasan has a handful of trails for you to choose from; Gwaneumsa Trail and Seongpanak Trail will take you to the crater lip, while Eorimok Trail will take you to a viewpoint halfway up. Whichever trail you pick, you’ll be treated to an autumn spectacle and the satisfying crunch of leaves underneath your hiking shoes.

How to get to Hallasan: The best way will be to rent a car while in Jeju and drive to the start of the Hallasan trail. By public transportation, take bus 782, 782-1 or 782-2 from Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal, or bus 781 or 781-1 from Jeju-si Intercity Bus Terminal.

3. Busan

When to go: End October to Early November

After Seoul and Jeju Island, Busan is probably Korea’s third most popular travel destination. Combine all three for an epic Korea itinerary, or perhaps fly direct to Busan to fully discover what it has to offer in autumn. Before you book your accommodation, look into the best places to stay in Busan.

North of Busan’s city centre, Geumgang Park sits on the foot of Geumjeong Mountain. Hop on the Geumgang Park Ropeway, a cable car ride that stretches 1,260 metres, for a bird’s eye view of the city and the mountain ranges. You’ll be deposited at the summit of the mountain where you can hit the hiking trails that take you through the thick pine forest. In the midst of the vibrant autumn landscapes, keep a lookout for the strange rock formations that make this park unique.

How to get to Geumgang Park: Take the Busan subway to Oncheonjang Station (Exit 1). Continue by foot.

Then, get a mix of nature, history and culture at Beomeosa Temple at the eastern edge of Geumjeongsan Mountain. Originally built in the seventh century, this temple is adorned with pavilions, gates and hermitages that have seen the changing of kingdoms and dynasties. Surrounding the temple are wisteria woods that weep in leaves of fiery red.

How to get to Beomeosa Temple: Take the Busan subway to Beomeosa Station (Exit 5 or Exit 7), then ride bus number 90 from Samsin Bus Stop.

4. Incheon

When to go:  Mid October to End October

You may be familiar with Incheon as it lends its name to the country’s main airport, but Incheon is also home to several parks and palaces that come alive in colours during the depths of autumn in Korea.

Start your discovery at the Incheon Grand Park, an oasis of unlikely calm in the midst of an urban jungle. The park is great for walking, cycling and breaking up the monotony of city life. In springtime, cherry blossoms pop up all over, while in autumn, the shades of red, orange and yellow take over by storm.

How to get to Incheon Grand Park: Take the Seoul subway to Songnae Station (Exit 1), then ride bus number 103, 16-1 or 909 bound for Incheon Grand Park.

Another park in Incheon for a breath of crisp autumn air is Songdo Central Park. Spot birds, healthy rabbits and deer with huge antlers (within a safe distance from the deer enclosure, of course). There’s also a man-made lake where you can rent boats to paddle. In close proximity to high-rise buildings, this park is a great version of the one it modelled after, which is the Central Park in New York City.

How to get to Songdo Central Park: Take the Incheon subway to Central Park Station (Exit 4).

After all the relaxation in parks, change the scenery by going to Yongheunggung Palace on Ganghwa Island, the residence of Joseon Dynasty ruler King Cheoljong before his ascension to the throne. Aptly named Palace of the Rising Dragon, this attraction gives you a glimpse into the architectural features of a royal residence, including the traditional half-hipped roof known as paljak as well as the supporting columns designed in Jusimpo style.

How to get to Yongheunggung Palace: From the bus stop in Artreon near Seoul’s Sinchon Station, take bus Bus 3000 to Ganghwa Bus Terminal. Then, it’s a short taxi ride to the palace.

5. Sokcho

When to go: End September to Mid October

Located in the northeast of South Korea in the Gangwon-do province, Sokcho was once a part of North Korea. This city and region is host to plenty of attractions, but none is quite as appealing in autumn as Seoraksan, or Seorak Mountain.

Soaring 1,708 metres high, Seoraksan is the third highest mountain in the country. Fret not if you’re not an avid hiker – you could simply take a leisurely stroll at lower elevations to enjoy your fair share of gigantic waterfalls, rock formations and of course, autumn foliage like no other. As Seoraksan National Park is massive, spreading beyond Sokcho to other counties, you should plan carefully which of the many hiking courses you’d like to tackle.

How to get to Seoraksan: Take the bus from Seoul Express Bus terminal to Sokcho City, then change to bus number 7 or 7-1 to Outer Seorak.

6. Jeonju

When to go: End October to Early November

A city in the west of South Korea, Jeonju is fast gaining prominence as a tourist hotspot. Its main attraction, Jeonju Hanok Village, is also one of the best places for viewing the colours of autumn. As its name suggests, this village features traditional hanok homes. The main street is lined by restaurants, street food stalls and shops catering to tourists, but wander into the alleys and you’ll bask in the rustic charm of this area. Complete your trip by renting a hanbok and having a photo shoot that captures the beauty of the hanok homes and the colourful canopy surrounding them.

How to get to Jeonju Hanok Village: Take an intercity bus from Seoul to Jeonju and from Jeonju terminal, take bus number 5-1 or 79. Disembark at Jeondong Cathedral (Hanok Village) bus stop.

If you have the wilderness in mind, then Naejangsan, south of Jeonju, is the place for you. This mountain is often referred to as the best place to view the crimson leaves of autumn. Take your chance to witness the grandeur of Dodeokpokpo Falls and Geumseonpokpo Falls, and don’t miss Naejangsa Temple which is exceptionally splendid in autumn.

How to get to Naejangsan: Take an intercity bus from Seoul to Jeonju. From Jeonju Bus Terminal, take a direct bus to Jeongeup Bus Terminal. Then, switch to bus number 171 to the town closest to Naejangsa Temple.

7. Gyeongju

When to go: Mid October to End October

A coastal city in the North Gyeongsang Province, Gyeongju can be visited as a day trip from Busan but if you have the time, it’s also worth a few days on its own.

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with Seokguram Grotto), Bulguksa Temple has perched on the slopes of Mount Toham since the eighth century. This Buddhist temple complex houses an impressive statue of Buddha looking out to the sea, as well as stone terraces, pagodas and bridges. In autumn, the gardens of the temple impress visitors with the changing colours of the leaves. As this is a very popular tourist attraction, come early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

How to get to Bulguksa Temple: Take the train from Busan Station (or Seoul Station and take bus No. 11 from Gyeongju Train Station.

Another serene spot for viewing the autumn leaves in Gyeongju is Bomun Lake, found in the heart of the Bomun Tourist District. Take a stroll around the lake for a natural red carpet, or rent a duck boat for a slow cruise. As you’d expect in a special area geared for tourists, there are plenty of things to see and do. Check out the spas and hot springs, the drive-in theatre, the artificial waterfall, and the shopping mall.

How to get to Bomun Lake: Take an intercity bus from Busan (nearer, compared to Seoul) to Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal and take bus number 10 or 18 to Bomun Lake Resort.

What to wear during autumn in Korea

Dressing up right for autumn in Korea is important so you can have a comfortable holiday. If you’re coming in October, gear up for pleasantly warm daytime temperatures which hover in the low 20 degrees Celsius. At night, however, this can dip to slightly below 10 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, while you can get away with wearing a t-shirt in the day, do pack a thick fleece jacket or a light down jacket for the chilly nights. You may also want to bring leggings that can be worn underneath your pants.

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Once you’ve ticked autumn in Korea off your travel list, you might just be inspired to catch more resplendent autumn landscapes in Japan, Taiwan, and around the world. Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget that you can find the cheapest flights to Korea through Skyscanner!