Escape to an idyllic natural wonderland in Gangnam
Swap Seoul’s city scenes for forested backdrops and babbling streams.
With its luxury shops and high-flying crowd, glamorous Gangnam may not be the first place you think of for a rustic retreat.
But while its main streets shimmer with steel-clad architectural gems, nature provides splendour of another kind along the Yangjaecheon Stream that runs through Gangnam and its surrounds.
From hiking its many scenic trails to finding moments of peace in a quiet sanctuary, your outdoor jaunt in Gangnam is sure to invigorate the senses and reset body and mind.
WANDER BY THE YANGJAECHEON STREAM
Seoul’s dedication to natural restoration projects has seen the successful greening of various parts of the city, such as the famous Cheonggyecheon Stream downtown. In Gangnam, the Yangjaecheon Stream similarly provides a beautiful green corridor to visitors and residents, with a different palette every season.
During winter, majestic metasequoia trees frame the lanes, their tall, frilly branches reaching for the skies. In spring, delicate cherry blossoms hover over the river, made all the prettier with lush, green grass. Come autumn, golden leaves turn the walking paths into a brilliant carpet, making the area an ideal spot for picnics, pictures and even walking meditation programmes.
The Yangjaecheon Stream brings the mountain waters of Gwanaksan and Cheongyesan into the city, revitalising the areas it passes with the ever refreshing presence of nature. Along its route in Gangnam, a stroll lets you discover surprising finds, including stone-path river crossings, an observatory and a fog fountain. Or join the locals barefoot on the 850m red clay road – the only one in a South Korean city – for its purported health-boosting effects.
HIKE AROUND YANGJAECHEON AND DAEMOSAN
To best enjoy the area south of the Yangjaecheon Stream on foot, try hiking one of these courses. The 7.7km Luxury River Trail starts from Maebong Station and takes one on a leisurely stroll along the waterway before going up at the Tancheon Stream and finishing at Suseo Station.
Those who want to continue walking will find two options at Suseo Station. The 7.7km Dulle Forest Trail winds through small paths and parks around Daemosan and the Dalteo neighbourhood before returning to Yangjaecheon and Maebong Station. On the 6.3km Ecological River Trail, you’ll traipse past cherry blossoms and the Segokcheon Stream before finishing at the Royal Tombs of Heolleung.
If you want to see the city from the top of Daemosan, continue your journey from Heolleung on the 5.4km Mountain Top Forest Trail, then down to Dogok Station.
If you are short on time, hire a car and opt for the 11.8km Green Nature Course that touts numerous nature-based pitstops near the Yangjaecheon Stream. Start near Dogok Station and enjoy a scenic drive past sites like the Irwon Eco Park and Tanheo Memorial Museum, where a revered Buddhist monk and his work are honoured.
Afterwards, visit the botanical cafe Sikmulgwan with its urban green exhibitions, or dine at Philkyunjae, which serves traditional Korean dishes in a 500-year-old hanok (traditional Korean house) built by a descendant of King Sejong the Great. End the trip with a drive up Daemosan for refreshing city views.
SOAK IN THE MOUNTAIN VIEWS AT DAEMOSAN
At just a little below 300m, the Daemosan Mountain is similar in height to Seoul’s Namsan. But while the latter is frequented by tourists and topped by a shiny observation tower, Daemosan is its more laidback sibling.
Various trails cut through different sections of the forest to give visitors a relaxing hike. Start at any of the well-paved paths and find yourself quickly enveloped by the dense woods. The lower trails welcome all with gentle inclines, and low-deck platforms improve accessibility, allowing the disabled and elderly to enjoy the mountain. Nearer to the top, one may encounter the odd step, but most will consider the trails here an easy to moderate climb.
Along the way, enjoy the occasional sightings of the Gangnam neighbourhood and upon reaching the peak, take in the panoramic views of the sparkling district.
FIND YOUR REST AT BONGEUNSA
For the utmost respite, how about stepping away from the secular? Bongeunsa Temple houses an enriching temple-stay experience that welcomes people of all faiths.
Within the 1,000-year-old compound founded in the Silla dynasty, one can find serenity in different ways. Enjoy a meditative tea ceremony or simply walk the immaculate grounds for some quiet contemplation. You can also take a guided tour that highlights the temple’s religious significance – it played a pivotal role in reviving Buddhism in the country – and admire various cultural artefacts, such as its intricate wood carvings.
Under the gaze of the temple’s 28m-tall Buddha statue – one of the tallest in South Korea – you may just rediscover the meaning of rest.
Kick back and relax into your Gangnam lifestyle on your next visit to Seoul.