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Songnisan National Park/South Korea

Introducing Songnisan National Park

This park (542 5267; adult/youth/child W3800/1500/1200; 5am-8pm) covers one of central Korea’s finest scenic areas with forested mountains and rocky granite outcrops. Its name means ‘Remote from the Ordinary World Mountain’, which refers to its famous temple Beopjusa. A tourist information centre (542 5267; 9am-6pm) is in the park’s bus-terminal building.

The large temple complex of Beopjusa dates back to AD 553, but has often been rebuilt. Dae·ungbojeon, with its large golden Buddha statues, and Palsangjeon, a unique five-storeyed wooden pagoda, are outstanding features. The huge, 33m bronze standing Buddha weighs 160 tonnes and was completed in 1990 at a cost of US$4 million. Ancient relics include stone lanterns, an elegant Unified Shilla seated Buddha hewn out of rock, a massive bell and a giant iron cauldron, cast in AD 720, that was used to cook rice for the hundreds of monks who once lived at the temple.

Beyond the temple, hiking trails extend up to a series of 1000m-high peaks. A popular hike is the relatively easy climb up Manjangdae (1033m); back in 1464 King Sejo was carried up to the top in a palanquin. Using your own two feet, it’s three hours up and two hours down. If you still have the energy, at the top you can return via Munsubong and Sinseondae, or even carry on to Ipseokdae and Birobong before heading back down. The highest peak, Cheonhwangbong, (1058m) is not on the loop and is too far for most hikers to attempt.

Buses leave Cheongju (W6200, 1¾ hours, every 30 minutes) for Songnisan National Park.