Naesosa Temple and Jiksu Waterfall are in Byeonsan National Park, which is located in the west of Korea’s Jeollabuk-do Province. Byeonsan is definitely a must-see park and Naesosa and Jiksu are two of its top attractions, in addition to the dramatic Chaeseokgang Cliffs, a theme park, it’s sandy beaches, and breathtaking views of the ocean from the mountains. It also boasts a monkey school! Yet like most places that are worth seeing, it takes a little effort to get there.
There is only one direct bus from Jeonju Intercity Bus Terminal to Naesosa, a temple in Byeonsan located in the southeast of the park. This bus leaves at 8:50am only on Sundays. You will arrive at 10:50am. Otherwise, you have to travel to Buan from Jeonju’s Intercity Bus Terminal and then from Buan to Naesosa. This route is two hours and thirty minutes long. Yet you cannot catch a bus from Buan Intercity Bus Terminal to Byeonsan’s hiking trails…
Back in March I tried to go hiking in Byeonsan. I traveled from Jeonju Intercity Bus Terminal to Buan Intercity Bus Terminal, which is where I hoped to buy a ticket to Byeonsan. After telling the ticket attendant my request in Korean and showing her my Lonely Planet guide on my phone, she told me there aren’t any tickets at all.
The reason there aren’t any tickets is straightforward: you have to take a local bus from Buan to one of the many bus stops in Byeonsan National Park. The main problem with this is finding exactly where those bus stops are in Buan, the times they arrive, where the buses stop in Byeonsan, and what direction they travel so you know what side of the street to stand on to catch the bus.
Given all this, I took the bus directly to Naesosa to skip this step altogether.
Once at Naesosa and inside Byeonsan Park, you should carefully plan your hiking trip if you are going on a day-trip. Buses to the various stops in Byeonsan are infrequent, at least in the heart of Byeonsan where I was. My friend Mike has written a blog post with bus times from Naebyeonsan Parking Lot, so please visit his page to see it in addition to other information and pictures he has posted. Like him, I kept my trip tight: I went to Naesosa, then to Jikso Waterfall, and then to Naebyeonsan Parking Lot. Going on a massive hike is definitely possible, but make sure you know exactly where you are going to avoid getting lost before dusk. Missing the bus will be the least of your troubles…
However, don’t let the difficulty of reaching Byeonsan discourage you. Of the ten national and provincial parks I have visited it is easily the most beautiful and worthwhile. Besides, the journey to the places we want to see is half the fun of traveling!
Cost: A bus ticket to Naesosa from Jeonju’s Intercity Bus Terminal is ₩7,800. You can find the bus at Platform 9. A bus trip from Byeonsan Park to Buan may vary depending on the location, but probably no more than a few thousand won. The bus from Buan to Jeonju is around ₩5,000. Admission to the park and Naesosa is ₩3,000 as of September 2012.
Food and water: Like most Korean parks, there are plenty of restaurants and convenience stores lining the path to the park entrance. There is also a convenience store and some vending machines next to Naebyeonsan Parking Lot. You can find water at Naesosa if you need it. Otherwise, make sure you bring your own. I didn’t see any water fountains while I was hiking.
Tip: Get a closer look at Jikso Waterfall. It doesn’t look like you can from the access road. You can reach it one of two ways. One way is to scramble down the rocks closest to it. The other is by walking further down the path to the Jikso information platform and then backtracking along the river to the waterfall. If you want to get some good pictures of Jikso you can step over some rocks to the other side of the waterfall’s pool. Yet be careful: you will need to crawl across the face of some rocks and you could lose your camera if you aren’t careful (or you could fall in). These rocks are also wet in some places. Regardless, the view on the other side of the pond is well worth the effort!