Hiking in Namsan: an open-air museum!

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After marveling at the Royal Tombs and Lake Anapji and enjoying the best tables in Gyeongju, it was high time to get some exercise! And for that, nothing better than one of the most famous hiking spots in South Korea, Mount Namsan. In addition to an invigorating walk in the great outdoors, the Namsan is a veritable open-air museum. Long regarded as a sacred place of the Silla Kingdom, Namsan has no less than 100 temples, 80 Buddha statues and 60 pagodas scattered across the mountain! It’s therefore the perfect place to combine physical effort and cultural visit, let’s go for a hike in Namsan!

Namsan hike

Before even starting the hike, we are warmly welcomed at the entrance to the national park by a hostess who asks us a few questions, gives us a map and some explanations in English. Everything is well organized and we can see that the Koreans are making efforts to promote the park!

Before starting the ride, we decide to take a little detour which took us through a small cemetery. It is a more modest version of the imperial tombs discovered at Gyeongju, with much smaller mounds. A slightly strange atmosphere…

At the end of the path, we discover the Mangwolsa temple, with beautifully painted woodwork, even if they are not as worked as in Haeinsa, the temple where we spent the night a few days earlier.

After this little preliminary walk, we turn back to really start the hike. It begins gently with a wooden path through the forest. All this looks very European to tell the truth! But Asia comes back in force a few meters further with the first vestige of the Silla dynasty that stands on our way: a bust of Buddha.

As we advance in this refreshing forest, we discover new vestiges, in different forms: here, drawings carved in stone, there, seated Buddhas … the walk takes on the appearance of a cultural visit, for our most great pleasure ! You often have to be on the lookout for signs, as the remains are a little behind the main route.

Can you make out the drawings on the stone?

The place is still full of great spirituality. As old as these stones are, they still inspire respect and devotion in many hikers, who settle for a moment near them to meditate or pray. This gives a somewhat mystical and very authentic dimension to the visit. In many places, we notice small heaps of stone left there by walkers …

After a last effort, we arrive almost at the top of Mount Geumobong (468 meters), which offers us a magnificent view despite the slightly cloudy weather. The luxuriant vegetation lets glimpse the rice fields below, and the mountains further. We never tire of this landscape.

The summit of the mountain itself is quite disappointing as there is no view. However, there is a mailbox where you can send postcards that will be sent free worldwide. Tested and approved !

To descend, two solutions are possible: either turn back, or take another slightly longer path, the Yongjanggol valley which passes through new statues and pagodas. We of course choose the second option and we do not regret it because we cross quite splendid landscapes, with a few rice paddies on arrival.

Practical information for a hike in Namsan

How to get to Mount Namsan?

Mount Namsan is 5 km south of Gyeongju city. You can take buses 500, 505, 506, 507 or 508 from the city center and get off at the Samneung Royal Tombs stop. We preferred to save a little time and take a taxi, which cost us 6670 won (about 5 €) from the city center. For the return, things got tougher because we went out from the back of the site, much less laid out. We waited forever – 40 minutes – before a bus stopped, but it did take us to downtown for 3,400 won for two (around € 2.6).

What equipment for a hike in Namsan?

When we got there, we saw a lot of Koreans outfitted from head to toe, which scared us a little because we weren’t so well prepared. Finally, it turns out that hiking is one of the favorite sports of Koreans (and with such national parks, we understand!) And therefore they are fans of equipment! No worries, a good pair of sneakers will suffice for a hike in Namsan.
Obviously remember to bring enough water and something to eat on the go (nothing like stuffed rice sandwiches – Gimbap or some Samgak-Gimbap – at 7 eleven, very nutritious for only a few won).

What level to hike in Namsan?

I reassure you right away, we are not great hikers (although we must admit that we love these walks more and more in nature) and we nevertheless hiked in Namsan without any difficulty. You will even see many elderly people on the way, so get your sneakers! The hiking trail is 8 kilometers in all, to which we must add the small detour to the arrival and the exits to discover the remains, a good ten kilometers in all. It took us a good half day, with many breaks for taking photos and having lunch at a leisurely pace.

Ah yes, we almost forgot, entry is completely free! If you want more complete information to prepare your hike to Mount Namsan, take a quick tour of the Korea Tourist Office website. Finally, it is important to us to say a word about our human experience in Namsan. We visited the site during a national holiday, so we were far from the only hikers. However, the majority of visitors were Korean and we encountered very few Westerners, which earned us curious looks from other walkers. Along the way, we were treated to nods and, most importantly, food! We were fed throughout the day with a big smile. We didn’t have the words either, but what a pleasure to share these moments!

As you can see, we really liked this not too difficult hike which offers well marked and laid out trails, magnificent landscapes and well preserved Silla vestiges. We strongly recommend that you add Namsan to your South Korea itinerary! Have you ever hiked in Namsan?

Our trip to Korea

Our travels in Asia

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