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Travel Report: Ingwansan Mountain, Seoul.

Ingwansan Mountain Seoul Korea

Ingwansan Mountain, Seoul.

February 2015. One of the many highlights of my week in Seoul was an invigorating hike up Ingwangsan, a 338-meter mountain with a handful of impressive granite peaks. Situated right in the heart of the South Korean capital, a hike here results in unparalleled views of the cityscape. Moreover, unlike Seoul Tower, Ingwansan’s panoramic is free!

A good friend of mine, Johnny Paintbox, used to live in Seoul and was keen to put me in touch with some of his old buddies. Hence I found myself invited to climb Ingwansan one afternoon. 

Ingwansan Mountain.

Kinect (left) Brannon (middle) Jacob (right).

Kinect, Brannon and Jacob were, at that time, veteran Seoul expats, having lived in the city for a number of years. They’d already climbed Ingwansan countless times, so I knew I was in good hands.

When ascending, there’s only one main hiking path, which follows the old fortress wall. Dating back to 1396, the city wall defended the capital (known then as Hanyang) for virtually the entire Joseon Dynasty period, which lasted until 1897.

Ingwansan Mountain, Seoul.

Ingwansan Mountain Seoul.

Branching off the main trail.

My hosts clearly knew the mountain inside out. After a while we branched off the main trail to negotiate some hairy boulder paths through the woodland. Just for kicks.

Bugaksan Mountain Seoul.

Bugaksan Mountain.

Ingwansan isn’t the only mountain in Seoul. As you climb, there are fine views of Ansan, Bugaksan, Bukansan and Namsan mountains. When we began our hike, the sky had seemed reasonably clear. Unfortunately, the higher we climbed, the hazier the views became.

Ingwansan Mountain South Korea.

Ingwansan Mountain.

There are some curious rock formations peppered along the mountain. Of these, I remember gazing up at Buchonimbawi, the so-called Buddha Face Rock.

Military base Ingwansan Mountain.

Buddha Face Rock.

Directly above the Buddha Head, lies a military base overlooking Gyeongbokgung Palace and The Blue House, home of the South Korean president. Yes, that’s a massive anti aircraft gun you can see in the top right of the photo. “Yeaaaah, we don’t want to wander anywhere near that place” mused Jacob.

Military base Ingwansan Mountain.

Military base, Ingwansan Mountain.

The base sprang up in 1968 following a terrifying incident in which North Korean Special forces actually infiltrated The Blue House! The mission had been to assassinate then President Park Chung-hee. However, he survived unharmed and guards managed to kill all thirty one invading soldiers. Sadly for Park Chung-hee, a later assassination attempt in 1979 proved successful.

What To See and do, Seoul.

No photos in this direction Ingwansan Mountain.

No photos!

As a result of the attack, the government closed Ingwansan to the public, a ban that eventually got lifted in 1993. In addition to assessing security threats over the palace and presidential quarters, the military base also monitors hiker and tourist activity. Basically, it’s forbidden to photograph both buildings from the mountain. Nevertheless, with a bit of discretion, I managed to get the job done. #bitofarisk

The Blue House Seoul.

The Blue House, Seoul.

At the time of my visit, The Blue House was just about visible through the haze. Park Chung-hee’s daughter, Park Geun-hye was president back then. Just two years later, in March 2017, she was impeached and forced out of office due to convictions of bribery, coercion and the leaking of government secrets. She’s currently serving a twenty five year sentence at Seoul Detention Centre. 

Hikers Ingwansan Mountain.

Ingwansan Mountain.

Fnally closing in on the mountains highest platforms, we found ourselves in a race against time with the ever-increasing poor visibility. In fact, these were soon becoming views to rival those of my Beijing days. In the below photo, I just managed to pick out the shadowy form of Seoul Tower on the horizon.

Ingwansan Mountain, Seoul.

Hazy afternoon Seoul.

A hazy Seoul afternoon.

Ingwansan’s views over Seoul are really impressive, even on a smoggy day like this one. It shows just how immense the city is and what a tiny place you occupy in a metropolis of nearly ten million people. 

Panoramic Seoul Seoul Korea.

Seoul’s seemingly relentless urban sprawl.

Ingwansan Mountain is free to enter and open twenty four hours a day from Tuesday to Sunday. And yes, night time hiking is popular with locals and visitors alike. There are a number of paths that lead to the main trail. To find out all the entry and exit points, including excellent maps, subway station info and walking directions, check out this cool article from koreatodo.com. Just scroll right down to the bottom of the article.

Hiking up Ingwansan Mountain.

Ingwansan Mountain.

I dedicate this article to my mountain guides, Kinect, Brannon and Jacob. It was a great day, even with the haze, and already so damn long ago.

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Like this? Then why not check out my other articles on Seoul.

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8 Comments

  • Choi

    Great shot of the blue house! Happy travels!

    September 7, 2017 - 8:36 am Reply
    • leightonliterature

      Thanks Choi! Have been enjoying your recent articles too.

      September 7, 2017 - 9:20 am Reply
      • Choi

        thank you! happy blogging!

        September 12, 2017 - 3:19 am
  • Mary Phillips

    Thanks for allowing me to travel from my easy chair!

    September 7, 2017 - 12:52 pm Reply
  • Monkey's Tale

    Looks like an interesting place, but the smog! It really does look like Beijing.

    October 31, 2020 - 4:22 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Impressive place to hike. Some of the shots are vaguely reminiscent of The Great Wall. Any indication if it was the inspiration?

    October 31, 2020 - 5:00 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hm, didn’t read anything about a Great Walk connection while working on this article. But you’re right, it does have a GW feel to it.

      October 31, 2020 - 5:06 pm Reply

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