Recently we went for a trip to mount Jirisan. I had wanted to go for a while after seeing photos of it covered in snow and photos or beautiful autumn foliage but the opportunity came outside of these seasons just a couple of weekends ago. Being early spring we planned the visit to match with Jirisan Sansuyu flower festival.
The festival itself was OK, not something I would have chosen to travel 3 hours by bus form Seoul for but Jirisan National Park, Hwaeomsa temple and watching sunrise from Sasungam temple were the highlights of the weekend and experiences that have filled my heart with yet more beautiful memories of South Korea.
Hwaeomsa is a beautiful temple at the foot of Jirisan National Park near the town of Gurye. The temple comprises a number of buildings of different dimensions that are beautifully surrounded by mountains. We visited the temple on a Sunday morning and even though it was bustling with many visitors I still felt a special vibe at this place. Take time to visit the tea house located towards the far end of the temple grounds on the opposite side of the main entrance. We sat with a monk and 3 ladies to sip what felt like rivers of tea and it was very relaxing (even though we had limited time as we had to catch the bus back to Seoul). On exiting the building where we had tea I greeted another monk who was coming down a path with a branch of herbs in his hands. After a short conversation he invited us to his room and offered us some food, he talked to us about the importance of sharing and left me with a warm heart and a special memory of this beautiful weekend. Hwaeomsa like many other temples in South Korea offers a temple stay program. Another experience from my South Korean bucket list.
Jirisan National Park
Jirisan National Park is incredibly beautiful, perhaps this is the most beautiful national park I have trekked in South Korea so far. Even though the trees were not quite as lush as they will be soon with the arrival of summer, or as colourful as they must be in during the foliage in Autumn it was still an amazing sight. Jirisan is a vast park and when you raise to the top you can see several peaks and the valley below. With the mist and the haze it makes for a beautiful and mesmerising view. In May the Azalaeas will be flowering and it will be quite amazing but this is a park that is stunning at any time of the year! The path from Gurye to Nogodan is a relatively short path that can be done within the day. Overall it is not difficult though there is one middle section that is quite steep and can put your knees to test. This park is also home to the Asiatic Black Bear and while we did not encounter any, we did see a tree trunk with fresh scratches that looked suspiciously like territorial markings in the proximity of what I think was a camera trap hidden in the bushes. The trail was full of warnings about watching out for bears!
Sunrise from Sasungam Hermitage
Sasungam Hermitage is a small pretty temple on the top of a mountain. We arrived here by taxi while it was still dark with the aim of watching sunrise from its peak. When we arrived there was only us and a couole of girls who were sleeping in a tent under the pavilion at the top. It was amazingly peaceful and beautiful. Soon after sunrise the temple bells started ringing and the repetitive buddhist chants filled the air. People started to come up to the temple to pray and pay their respects. We had a last look at the view, visited the small temple perched on the rocks and we made our way down by bus for breakfast stopping at the base of Mount Osan for a stroll under the beautiful cherry blossom.
Practical information for Gurye and Jirisan National Park
Getting to Gurye
We traveled from Seoul Nambu Terminal to Gurye by bus. The direct bus takes about 3 hours and it can be booked one way to Gurye. We bought the return ticket in Gurye bus station. The ticket from Seoul to Gurye can be booked online from
Accommodation in Gurye
We stayed at the Mountain Love Pension. This is a simple pension in a great location in Gurye. We could walk up directly up the path from here to Nagodan without the need of additional transportation. You can also easily walk to Hwaeomsa temple from this pension. There are some Korean restaurants serving local food within walking distance. The owner speaks English and is very helpful and hospitable. I would stay there again. The taxi fare from Gurye bus terminal to the pension was about 7,000 won. This pension can be booked on Agoda but you can also call the pension and speak in english to the owner.