A Trip to Jiri Mountain National Park in Korea

Cheerful guardians at Ssanggye temple (Ssanggyesa)

A few years ago we went to Korea to visit Kim’s family and do some travelling. One place we chose was Jiri Mountain National Park located in the southern part of the country. With Kim’s sister and her niece along for the ride, we drove to the park for an overnight trip.

Spanning three provinces, it is the largest national park in Korea and has hiking trails, temples and other sights to see. Jiri Mountain (jirisan) is the second tallest mountain in Korea and tallest on the mainland. The name “Jirisan” means the mountain of the odd and wise people” and it has a history of attracting people who want to get away from city life.

Our first stop was the Seomjin River on the way to the mountain. There we stopped, enjoyed the river on a hot day and searched for a type of small freshwater clam called corbicula. (jaechup in Korean) . We gave the ones we found to the local people picking them as they are usually used in a soup called jaechup-kuk that is quite good.

Walking out to the river. The sandy banks were quite wide
Looking for the clams
Got one!

From there we stopped off at the guest house to drop off our things. The place had a very unusual style. There were different guest places shaped like yurts that had a great view of the river from our room.

Our place on the left
View from our room

We next drove to Ssanggyesa, a Buddhist temple located near the mountain. Although it was over 1000 years old, the temple was rebuilt in the 17th century because of its destruction from a Japanese invasion. At this point there was a steady rain but it added to the mood of the quiet temple setting.

Kim entering the first gate of the temple
A bamboo forest just inside the gate
Going through the second gate
Inside the temple

That evening we went to a traditional country restaurant that was close to the guest house. There were so many fresh options available as side dishes are a key part of Korean cooking, and this restaurant specialized in them.

So many side dishes
Traditional rice wine (makkoli). It’s a delicious fermented drink that usually has about 6-8% alcohol and goes down very easily
Deodeok gui (grilled bellflower root). It’s a delicious spicy vegetarian main dish often found in country restaurants

The next day we went to Hadong, a town located between the river and Jiri Mountain. It’s an area known for tea leaf cultivation so we decided to check out the local tea museum.

Tea leaf bushes next to the museum
Tea leaves

Entry to the tea museum was free. There we could learn all about tea: the different types of tea, how it is harvested, items used in tea ceremonies and the history of tea cultivation in Korea.

The tea museum
Display on types of teas in the museum

The best part was the end of the tour, as there was a free sampling table set up near the museum entrance. We were able to try different teas grown in the region.

Museum staff member preparing a free sampling of a variety of teas
At the end of the sampling we were each given a free ceramic pig!

Next it was time to head up the mountain for great views of Jiri mountain and the many other mountains surrounding it. It was a long walk up to the viewpoint but the views at the top were worth it.

Our last stop was Hwaum temple (Hwaumsa), a different temple located near the base of the mountain. This temple is almost 1500 years old and offers a tranquil setting for a visit. It’s even possible to do a temple stay there, which includes a 3:30 a.m. wake up for prayer time and lots of quiet time for meditation!

Temple entrance
The temple grounds
Temple stay guesthouse
Monk sounding the bell

It was a great couple of days enjoying the open spaces and beautiful scenery around Jiri mountain. It gave us the chance to do some hiking as well as enjoy the food and culture of the region. It’s easy to understand why some people leave the rat race behind and move to this region to live among nature.

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