fall foliage in korea guide

Complete Guide to Autumn Flowers and Fall Foliage in Korea

Reading Time: 6 minutes

After the summer, when the air gets crisp and the trees get ready to change color, that’s the best time to be outdoors. With nearly 70 percent of the country covered by mountains, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of choices for fall foliage in Korea where the scenery looks straight out of a traditional painting. 

Fall foliage in Korea starts in mid-September and can last until the end of November. Below is a list of the best places to enjoy autumn flowers and fall foliage in Korea and the best time to see them.

Buckwheat Flower Fields – September

Buckwheat is a staple in Korean cuisine, but the flowers are also a beautiful sight in September. That’s when the buckwheat flowers bloom in pure white. 

The best place to see them in full bloom is the Pyeongchang Hyoseok Cultural Festival. This festival was named after modern Korean writer Lee Hyo-Seok (이효석) (1907-1942) and his famous novel “When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom” published in 1936.

Red Spider Lily – September to October

These stunning flowers in Korea typically cover mountains near temples because red spider lily roots are ground into powder and dried as preservatives for Korean Buddhist paintings.

Each lily produces between four and six flowers, which all have curled petals and long stamens, creating a spider-like appearance – hence the name.

The lilies are in full bloom between September and October. With a large festival held in Hampyeong in Jeollanamdo around mid-September when the south Korean flowers reach their peak. Here, the best place to see the flowers is Yongcheonsa Temple. However, there are many other places where you can find these fiery red blossoms. 

The best places to spot red spider lilies in Korea are in the country’s southern half, in Ulsan, Boryeong, and Hampyeong. However, Seoul‘s Gilsangsa Temple in Seongbuk-gu is also a great destination if you live in the capital.

  • Yongcheonsa Temple (용천사) – 209 Yongcheonsa-gil, Haebo-myeon, Hampyeong-gun, Jeollanam-do
  • Daewangam Park (대왕암공원) – 905, Ilsan-dong, Dong-gu, Ulsan
  • Gilsangsa Temple (길상사) – 68 Seonjam-ro 5-gil, Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
  • Seongjusan Natural Recreation Forest (성주산연휴양림) – 57-228 Hwajanggol-gil, Seongju-myeon, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do
  • Sangnim Park (상림 공원) – 1047-1 Gyosan-ri, Hamyang-eup, Hamyang-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do
  • Miljae Rest Area (밀재휴게소) – Haebo-myeon, Hampyeong-gun
spider lily autumn flower

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Cosmos Flowers – September to October

One of the most popular autumn flowers in Korea is the cosmos. Olympic Park is a great place to enjoy these stunning flowers in a variety of hues of orange and pink.

Other places where to see cosmos flowers are Ichon Hangang Park in Yongsan-gu or Hangang River Park in Guri, as well as Gurye County in Jeollanam-do, as well as the city of Gyeongju.

The best time to see cosmos flowers in Korea is between September and October.

  • Ichon Hangang Park (이촌한강공원) – 389 Ichon 2(i)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
  • Guri Hangang Park (구리시민한강공원) – Topyeong-dong, Guri-si, Gyeonggi-do
  • Olympic Park (서울 올림픽 공원) – 424 Olympic-ro, Oryun-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul
  • Haneul Park (하늘공원) – 487-48 Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
cosmos flowers

Pink Muhly Grass – mid-September to early November

This fluffy pink grass has drawn a lot of attention in the last few autumn seasons and has become an attraction for locals and tourists alike. The mesmerizing pink muhly grass, often likened to the delicate flowers of South Korea, is native to the United States and turns pink in mid-September, usually lasting until the end of October or early November. There are so many places all around Korea where you can see pink muhly grass, the most beautiful of which is listed below.

An exceptionally beautiful pink muhly grass array can be found in Gyeongju, right around the famous Cheomseongdae astronomical observatory. There are also beautiful pink cosmos flowers here in the fall season.

Busan has quite a few locations to see lots of pink muhly. The best places are Daejeo Ecological Park, as well as Eulsukdo Ecological Park. 

Jeju Island is also a prime destination if you’re looking for pink muhly in Korea. Head to the Camellia Hill botanical garden or to the garden cafe Jeju Manor Blanc, both located near Seogwipo City, for the best photo spots.

  • Cheomseongdae (첨성대) – 140-25, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
  • Daejeo Ecological Park (대저생태공원) – Daejeo 1-dong, Gangseo-gu, Busan
  • Eulsukdo Ecological Park (을숙도 상태공원) – 1240, Nakdongnam-ro, Saha-gu, Busan
  • Haneul Park (하늘공원) – 121-250 95 Haneulgongwon-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Seoul Olympic Park (올림픽공원) – 424, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul
  • Jeonju Arboretum (전주수목원) – 462-45, Beonyeong-ro, Deokjin-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
  • Blend Mi (블랜드미) – Hyunyoung-gil 123-10, Iksan-si, Jeonbuk
  • Camellia Hill (카멜리아힐) – 166 Byeongak-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo, Jeju-do
  • Jeju Manor Blanc (마노르블랑) – 46 Iljuseo-ro 2100-beongil, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo, Jeju-do
pink muhly grass

Eulalia Grass – mid-October to early November

This type of grass has many different names, ranging from silver grass to Eulalia or susuki grass. In Korea, it is said that Eulalia’s silver fingertips wave farewell to summer and welcome the next autumn season. Eulalia grass was traditionally used to thatch Korean folk houses. Now, it serves as food for grazing animals.

The sturdy grass also has a deep meaning for the natives of Jeju island. They see the grass correspond with their ability to endure harsh winds and infertile soil. That’s why it also has a particular name on Jeju island: “eoksae” or “gaeldae.” Darangshi Oreum near Jeju City is a significant destination to see Eulalia grass on the island.

On the mainland, one of the most prominent places to see silver grass in mainland Korea is in Midongsan, where The Mindungsan Eulalia Festival takes place every fall.

Suncheon Bay is also a great place to see beautiful Eulalia grass in the fall. There’s also a Suncheon Bay Ecological Garden, where you can see pink muhly grass and other autumnal south Korean flowers and plants during this part of the year.

  • Darangshi Oreum (다랑쉬오름) – 2705 Sehwa-ri, Gujwa-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do
  • Haneul Park (하늘공원) – 121-250 95 Haneulgongwon-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
  • Suncheon Bay (순천만국가정원) – 47, Gukgajeongwon1ho-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do
  • Mindungsan Mountain (민둥산) – 12, Mindungsan-ro, Jeongseon-gun, Gangwon-do
  • Dream Park (드림파크) – 61, Geowol-ro, Seo-gu, Incheon
eulalia grass

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Maple Foliage – mid-October to mid-November

When it comes to maple and general fall foliage in Korea, there is an abundance of locations to choose from. The most popular national parks and mountains to enjoy fall foliage are Bukhansan, Seoraksan, Gayasan, Jirisan, and Sognisan. 

I visited Bukhansan during fall foliage before, and it was an incredibly colorful hike. However, I made the mistake and visited on Hangeul Day, a public holiday in South Korea, and it was packed with tourists. Try to avoid to visit on a day like this whenever possible.

However, you don’t have to go full-on hiking to enjoy the fall foliage. Seonunsa Temple in Jeollado is a great place to enjoy fall foliage in the brightest reds, oranges, and yellows, as is Magoksa Temple in Gongju in Chungnam.

If you’re looking for something a little different than the usual leaves, head down to Damyang (where the famous bamboo forest is). There, you’ll find an 8.5 kilometer-long boulevard lined with huge Metasequoia trees that shine bright orange in the fall. 

One of my favorite spots for fall foliage adventures is Hwadam Botanic Garden. Here, you can ride the monorail straight through the fall foliage. This place is not only beautiful in the autumn season but also in the spring when you can explore the cherry blossoms from the monorail car as well.

  • Seonunsa Temple (선운사) – 250 Seonunsa-ro, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun, Jeollabuk-do
  • Damyang Metasequoia Road (담양 메타세쿼이아길) – 12 Metasekwoia-ro, Damyang-eup, Damyang-gun, Jeollanam-do
  • Magoksa Temple (마곡사) – 966 Magoksa-ro, Sagok-myeon, Gongju-si, Chungcheongnam-do
  • Hwadam Botanic Garden (화담숲) – 278 Docheogwit-ro, Docheok-myeon, Gwangju-si, Gyeonggi-do

Yellow Ginkgo Foliage – early November

These golden trees of fall are one of Asia’s oldest stunners. Seemingly overnight, their elegant, fan-shaped leaves turn into a vibrant, sun-bright yellow in early November. There are many places where you can spot golden ginkgo trees, for example, right around Gyeongbokgung Palace in the center of Seoul, but also in many other parts of the country.

Hongcheon Ginkgo Forest in Gangwondo is lined with more than 2,000 ginkgo trees. It takes about 2.5 hours by car to reach this ginkgo forest.

Another prime location for ginkgo foliage is Asan Gokgyo River Ginkgo Tree Road in Chungnam Province, also about 2.5 hours south of Seoul. You might have seen photos of this next location as it’s one of the most instagrammable places for fall in Korea: Jeonju Confucian School. This historic place dates back to 1603 and counts 99 rooms. The courtyard has several large, century-old ginkgo trees that shine in the brightest golden yellow in the late fall.

The final place I want to mention is a lesser-known lake area near Goesan in Chungbuk Province. Mungwang Reservoir is my favorite place to enjoy yellow ginkgo trees in the fall due to its remote location and fewer visitors.

  • Hongcheon Ginkgo Forest (홍천 은행나무숲) – 686-4 Gwangwon-ri, Nae-myeon, Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon-do
  • Asan Gokgyo River Ginkgo Tree Road (곡교천) – Gokgyo-ri, Yeomchi-eup, Asan-si, Chungcheongnam-do
  • Jeonju Hyanggyo Confucian School (전주향교) – 139 Hyanggyo-gil, Pungnam-dong, Wansan-gu, Jeonju-si, Jeollabuk-do
  • Mungwang Reservoir (문광저수지) – 16 Yanggok-ri, Mungwang-myeon, Goesan-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do

Other curiosities about fall in Korea

The national korean flower is the mugunghwa. The flower appears on national emblems, and Korea is poetically compared to it in the South Korean national anthem. This famous flower of Korea is known by the name hibiscus syriacus.

Other beautiful flowers native to Korea include:

  • Haebaragi (Sunflower)
  • Jangmi (Rose)
  • Beotkkot Cherry Blossoms)
  • Maehwa (Plum Blossom)
  • Baekhab (Lily)
  • Sansuyu (Cornelian Cherry Flower)
  • Nan (Orchid)

Enjoy Fall Foliage in Korea!

As you can see, there are plenty of options to enjoy the beauty of fall in South Korea. Whether you’re looking for autumnal flowers like cosmos, red spider lily, or buckwheat flowers, are interested in fall grass, like pink muhly or Eulalia grass, or want to see all the hues of maple or ginkgo foliage, you’ll find amazing fall spots all over South Korea.

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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