Catching fall's golden glimmer

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Catching fall's golden glimmer

When we hear the Korean term "forest bathing," we think of elves. It's a rather inexplicable image since "forest bathing" is supposed to imply health and communion with nature.

Forest bathing, in its simplest form, is to go to the woods, stand tall, expand your chest and inhale. Suck the cold air into your lungs. Then exhale. That's it.

According to forest bathing proponents, luxuriating in forest air will clear your head and rid your body of impurities. Perhaps it's this forest bathing that helps elves live hundreds of years, makes them light and swift and even erases the wrinkles from their skin.

We can't guarantee that you'll see any elves at these forest resorts. But if you go at the right time, you won't see too many people. You'll find hiking trails, mountain views and rustic cabins.

On clear nights, you'll see stars. And if you're lucky, you might hear an elf or two rustling in the woods.


Anmyeondo Forest Resort, South Chungcheong Province

The best sunset on the west coast, some say, is at Kkotgae Beach on Anmyeon island. Here, the forest and sea and spectacular sunrises and sunsets can be enjoyed in a single day. The island has 10 beaches, as well as natural monuments and cultural relics. It's known for its clear water, curious rock formations -- look for the "Grandmother" and "Grandfather" rocks -- and a pristine white sand beach.

Nearby are the islands of Naepasu and Oepasu. You can go crabbing or trawling for shrimp. Or take a walk to the observation platform for a view of the west coast.

Anmyeon, the sixth largest island in Korea, is named after the Anmyeon pine tree. There are about 50,000 pines in the 1.8 million square meter forest. The island is part of the Taean Maritime National Park, and is the only seashore park in Korea where the Anmyon tree grows.

According to legend, Anmyeon island was once part of the mainland. During the Joseon dynasty, a canal was dug to let boats pass and the island was created.

Nearby: Cheonsuman Bay, in the southern part of Seosan peninsula, is one of the best fishing and bird-watching grounds. A track of reclaimed land is a winter bird habitat.

Local delicacy: The Taean blue crab is exceptionally tasty. Crabs are in season until the end of May. Try blue crab in kkotgaetang, a spicy soup, or steamed, kkotgejjim.

Bring it home: The thick skin of Anmyeondo red peppers produces excellent red pepper powder.

Getting there: From Seoul Nambu Terminal, take a bus to Anmyeon island. Take a five-minute cab ride to Anmyeondo Jayeonhyuyangrim. The entire trip takes 2.5 hours.

Reservation: (041) 674-5019. Rates are 20,000 to 70,000 won ($17-$56) per night.


Mount Unjang Forest Resort, North Jeolla Province

Mount Unjang, towering 1,126 meters above sea level, is the best peak in the Noryeong mountains to view the scenery.

In fact, Mount Unjang and Mount Gubong (1,002 meters) are the most popular peaks for day hikes. They are usually packed with trekkers during weekends.

Mount Chilbo Recreation Park is in Mount Unjang valley, which is approximately 7 kilometers long. The outcroppings, streams and forests surrounding the valley are spectacular, especially with the crimson, gold and orange foliage.

Local delicacies include roast and steamed suckling pig and wild greens.

Bring it home: Regional favorites include ginseng, dried permission and oil-and-honey pastry.

Reservations: You can reserve a cabin or condos at Mount Chilbo Recreation Park at or by calling (063) 432-1193. Rates are 34,000 to 70,000 won a night. There are nominal park entrance and parking fees.

Getting there: Take the Daejeon-Tongyeong highway to the Geumsan interchange. Follow B795 toward Jinan for 36 kilometers. At a three-way junction for Jeongcheon and Jucheon, head toward Jucheon for 2 kilometers. The drive from Seoul takes four hours.


Mount Bangjang Forest Park, South Jeolla Province

The peak of Mount Bangjang, along with Mount Jiri and Mount Mudeung, is hidden in a layer of clouds. The area, near Honam, is popular among paragliding fans, and a paragliding competition is held here annually.

Mount Bangjang provides an excellent view of the high plains and the Yellow Sea in a distance. The rugged mountains were once a popular hiding place for thieves. A woman kidnapped by one bandit sang a song called "Bangdeungga" (an old name for Mount Bangjang) that has since been passed down through the generations. It's a lament sung when she tired of waiting for her husband to rescue her.

Places to visit nearby are Mount Jiri National Park, which has a famous Buddhist temple and Mount Naejang National Park, popular for its autumn leaves. Also nearby is the Seokjeong spa.

Reservations: Reservations for Mount Bangjang Forest Park can be made at or by calling (061) 394-5523. Cabins or condos are 44,000 to 80,000 won a night. There are nominal park entrance and parking fees.

Getting there: Take Honam highway to the Baegyangsa interchange, turn toward Gochang on B894 and drive 6 kilometers. The drive from Seoul takes 3 1/2 hours.


Daegwanryeong Forest Park, Gangwon Province

"Good air and good health for the common man," are the benefits of Daegwanryeong Recreation Resort, according to Lee Hyeong-yong, the resort's manager.

Daegwanryeong, built in 1988, was one of the first of its kind to open in Korea. It is part of the national Korea Forest Service and has become popular among Seoul and Incheon residents.

The area is known for its dense pine-tree forests. Some of the trees are a century old. A crop of younger trees were planted between 1922 and 1926.

There is a youth training center nearby with a campfire site.

Comfy: New cabins were christened earlier this month.

Don't leave home without: Pack food, pots, utensils and sturdy shoes. There are no convenience stores nearby, just excellent hiking trails.

Reservations: Daegwanryeong Recreation Resort can be contacted online at or by phoning (033) 644-8327. Three-day, four-night visits are available for 44,000 to 80,000 won a night.

Getting there: From Central Bus Terminal, take a bus to Gangryeong Bus Terminal. Then hail a taxi for the five-minute ride to Daegwanryeong Jayeonghyuyangrim. The entire trip takes 3.5 hours.


Mount Jungmi Forest Resort, Gyeongi Province

Seclusion is the main attraction at Mount Jungmi Forest Resort. Its 12 cabins, scattered through the forest -- with no restaurants for 5 kilometers in any direction -- are booked a month in advance.

Winter draws adults in their 40s and 50s looking for peace and solitude. Summer attracts a younger crowd. Most visitors from Seoul spend two days and a night at the resort.

Five of the smaller cabins don't have bathrooms, so requests for indoor plumbing should be made with reservations. Most visitors pack in food and cooking utensils since the closest restaurants are a fair distance away.

A 12-kilometer path winds around the grounds, which is occasionally used as a mind-and-body training center.

Celestial sightings: Jungmi Observatory is about 5 kilometers away. On a clear winter night, you can see Pegasus and Andromeda.

Reservations: (031) 771-7166. Rates are 40,000 to 44,000 won per night.

Getting there: From Sangbong Bus Terminal or East Seoul Bus Terminal, take a bus to Yangpyeong. Then take a 15-minute tax ride to Jungmisan Jayeonhyuyangrim. The trip from Seoul takes 1 1/2 hours.


Mount Chilbo Recreation Park, North Gyeongsang Province

Halfway up Mount Chilbo, you can see the entire white, sandy coastline in one view. Some of the most popular beaches are Goraebol and Daejin. From an observation platform, you can catch the sunrise in the east. Many people come here on New Year's Eve and stay until dawn.

Families visit Mount Chilbo Recreation Park to enjoy both the forest and the beach at the same time.

Yuhwang spa is 30 minutes away. Seongnyugul, one of the country's best caves, is an hour's drive. During the summer, visitors also go to Andong dam, about two hours away, to water ski or ride a motorboat.

There are no stores near Mount Chilbo Recreation Park so food and utensils must be hauled in.

Reservations: You can book a cabin at Mount Chilbo Recreation Park online at or by phoning (054) 732-1607. The rates are 44,000 to 80,000 won a night. In addition, there are nominal park entrance and parking fees.

Getting there: From Andong go to Yeongdeok. At the Yeongdeok three-way intersection, turn left toward Uljin and go 400 meters past the Chilbosan rest stop. The drive from Seoul takes six hours. No public transportation is available.

by Joe Yong-hee, Min Byung-hee

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