Autumn is my favorite season to travel in Korea. Temperatures are milder than in summer, the grey summer sky changes to cobalt blue and nature shows off with its splendid colors displayed by the many trees like ginkgo and the different types of acer or maple tree.
The changing of leaves is called danpoong (단풍) in Korean. Koreans love danpoong and travel massively all around the country to see the autumn foliage. National and provincial parks are good places to enjoy this beautiful autumn colors. My favorite place to enjoy the changing leaves is undoubtely NAEJANGSAN national park.
NAEJANGSAN (내장산) national park is located in Jeollabuk province, not far from Jeong-eup city.
Jeong-eup can be easily reached by train (even KTX stops here) or by an Intercity bus. A city bus brings you to the entrance of the park within 45 minutes.
The original name of the park was Yeongeunsan, hereby referring to the temple in the park, who also changed into Naejangsa. Naejangsan is especially famous for breathtaking picturesque sceneries during autumn season. I visited this park for the first time in autumn 2008 and it became one of my favorite places in Korea.
The park has a diversity of flora which makes it pretty in every season. But in late autumn, during the last week of October or first week of November, the park reaches its peak of visitors, welcoming hundred thousand of people a day ! At that time the yearly Maple Tree festival takes place and no need to say that this event brings a lot of people to the park.
The maple tree is my favorite tree, so no wonder why I like Naejangsan, since there are so many different kind of maple trees. The maple tree belongs to the family of Aceraceae and is therefore also known as ‘Acer’. There are more than 100 types of acers, mainly grown in Asia.
The Acer we find in Europe is imported from Asian countries and is difficult to maintain in good condition since they are quite vulnerable to a number of fungal diseases. However here in Korea they seem to grow easily without any problems.
NAEJANGSAN park has a lot to offer. The name NAEJANGSAN consists of NAE (내), which means inside, while JANG (장) stands for hidden and SAN (산) for mountain. It refers to the fact that there are so many beautiful things to discover in this park. Walking around here will never make you bored.
The park has a couple of small mountains, all connected to the Baekdudaegan, Korea’s backbone that runs from north to south. Sinseonbong with only 763 metres is the highest among the nine peaks around the park. If you don’t have time for hiking up the mountain or if you want to save you muscles from doing some quite difficult work on the ridges than you can take a ride up in the cable car, which was not available yet on my first visit in 2008.
There are also a lot of streams and beside the many different types of Acers the park houses many other types of plants and animals, among them some endangered species. In the park you can see many trees with persimmons or gam in Korea, heart shaped orange fruits.
The area around Jeong-eup is famous for its persimmon farms and on your way to the park you will definitely pass many persimmon merchants selling their persimmons along the road.
NAEJANGSAN also houses some temples like Naejangsa , Byeongnyeonam and Wonjeogam. Those can be easily visited in a one day course. An other famous temple in Naejangsan park is Baekgyangsa, which can not be visited from the same acces point as the three other temples.
During my second visit in autumn 2014 we found out that the Main Hall of Naejangsa was burnt down and that the pagoda had been moved to an other place. Because of the location it remains still one of the most beautiful temples.
Naejangsan will be one of my most remarkable and ever lasting memories of my Korea travels.
After admiring its stunning beauty I can imagine why many people call it the ‘ Geumgang of Honam’.