The mountainous terrain surrounding South Korea makes hiking one of the more popular activities for both the old and young to participate in. This past weekend I had the opportunity of joining a guided hiking tour up a portion of Hanyandoseong, or the wall surrounding Seoul. Originally used for military purposes to protect Korea’s capital from invaders in the Joseon dynasty, it was recently opened for public use in 2007. On our tour we were given background information regarding the history of the wall’s architecture, design, and original purpose.
The hike was only a distance of around 2 kilometers but took around 3 hours due to the high inclination near the beginning of the trek. As a novice to hiking, the small portion of the hike we did was still challenging and left some of our group feeling tired and sore after. However, as fitness and gyms aren’t as popular in Seoul, it felt great to get a nice workout in amidst our busy lives as students studying abroad.
You could also notice when going on a hike that there many other experienced hikers even dressed in specific hiking attire. Moreover, there are a noticeable abundance of elderly individuals going hiking in groups. The reason for this is that hiking is especially popular with the elderly population in Korea, as it encompasses all the elements of a perfect activity. They are able to socialize in nature, take breaks enjoying snacks and “makgeolli”, a traditional rice wine, and exercise, maintaining their health in their old age.
This whole experience felt particularly unique to life in Seoul. Hiking is such a quintessential part of living in a city surrounded by mountains. Staying only in the city for my first month in Seoul, getting out in nature and seeing breathtaking views felt like a breath of fresh air. Looking at Seoul from such a high altitude really allows you to get a feel for the landscaping of the city. I was personally shocked to see just how many mountains and greenery surround the different towns in Seoul. I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable first experience hiking in Seoul and I will most definitely be looking for more trails and mountains to hike up.