Jeollanam-do has beautiful scenery and some of the most interesting temples in the country. Many of them are outside the major cities, but they're worth a side trip.

Dadohae Maritime National Park

Dadohae-haesang ( includes Shinan-gun, Jindo-gun, and Goheung-gun of Yeosu-si and Wan-do-gun in Jeollanam-do. When it was designated as a national park in 1981, it became the largest one in the country. The entire park includes 1,596 islands and small islets (many of them uninhabited) with gorgeous views and varying landscapes. The eight sections of the park include the southern shore of Dolsan-do and a group of small islands to the south; the southern tip of the Goseun peninsula and Naro-do; Geomun-do, Baek-do, and their associated islands south of the Goheung peninsula; the southern tip of Wan-do, Shinji-do, and the islands to the south; the southern part of Jin-do and islands to its south; parts of Docho-do, Bigeum-do, and Eui-do; Heuksan-do and Hong-do and islands farther west; and the remote Manjae-do.

The most popular site in the park is the temple Hyangilam, which sits majestically upon a cliff on the southern tip of Dolsan-do. Since the maritime park consists of islands near and far, the best way to see parts of it is by ferry. Passenger boats are available to various islands from harbors on Mokpo, Yeosu, and Wan-do. Since some of the islands are remote, plan ahead and check the weather beforehand.

Naejangsan National Park

Declared a national park in 1971, Naejangsan is one of the smallest in the country. But that doesn't mean you should skip it -- quite the contrary. Naejang, which means "many secrets," is beautiful, particularly in the fall, thanks to the 13 varieties of maple that grow here. Its highest peak, Shinseon-bong, is relatively low, but still rugged for its height (only 763m/2,503 ft.). The valley and ridge trails aren't very strenuous, but those up the sides of the hills are very steep. That's why they've built a cable car that goes up to the peak from near the entrance to Naejangsa. If you follow the valley to the left from the ticket booth, you'll see Dodeok Falls. Geumseong Falls is farther along the valley, if you take the path to the left.

If you pass the wooden path lined with white oaks and maples in the southern part of the park, you'll arrive at the entrance to Baegyangsa, 26, Yaksu-li, Bukha-myeon, Jangseong-gun, Jeollanam-do (also spelled "Baekyangsa"). Built in 632 during the reign of King Mu of the Baekje Kingdom, its name was changed by Monk Chongtosa then again during the reign of Joseon King Sonjo. The word baegyang means "white sheep," based on a legend that one of the temple's monks, Hwanyangsonsa, was delivering a sermon and a white sheep came down from the mountain to listen. At the end of the ceremony, the sheep appeared again in the monk's dream and told him that he was turned into a sheep after having committed a crime in heaven. The next day, the sheep was found dead in the temple. Admission is W2,800 for adults, W1,300 for teens, W700 for children, free for those 65 and over and kids 6 and under. The temple is open daily March through October 9am to 6pm (until 5pm Nov-Feb). From the Gwangju Bus Terminal, buses run daily 6am to 7:50pm every hour, and the ride takes about an hour.

The other major temple in the mountains is farther away, but the scenic walk makes it worth the extra effort. When you enter the ticket booth, walk by the marketplace and shops, and you'll come to a small valley (Naejang-cheon). Walk on this trail for 30 minutes and you will come to a lotus pond with a garden house in the middle, the Uhwajeong. After you pass it, you'll come to a cable car -- walk beyond that, through a canopy of maple trees, and you'll reach the main entrance to Naejangsa ★★. Originally called Yeonggeunjosa, the temple was built by Monk Yeongeun-josa in 636 during the Baekje Period. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times, but it was completely destroyed during the Korean War and rebuilt in its current incarnation in the 1970s. Admission is W3,200 for adults, W1,300 for teens, W700 for children, free for those 65 and over and kids 6 and under. The temple is open daily from sunrise to sunset. From the Jeong-eup Bus Terminal take bus no. 171 to Naejangsan National Park. The bus runs every 20 minutes or so. Entrance to the park is W1,600 adults, W600 teens, W300 children.

Wolchulsan National Park

Wolchulsan's granite peaks rise dramatically from the flat fields surrounding it. It has a narrow and deep valley and interesting trails. The highest peak in the area is Cheonghwang-bong, which climbs up 809m (2,654 ft.). To the south lies Muwisa and to the west is the quiet Dogapsa, a temple built by the Shilla monk Doseonguksa that was burned during the Korean War and has yet to be restored. Still, it's worth a quick visit (Dogap-li, Gunseo-myeon, Yongam-gun, Jeollanam-do; tel. 061/473-5122). The main entrance is the oldest structure still standing in the temple complex (built in 1493). The newer main hall has newly painted pillars and walls. During its repair in 1960, an ink sign was discovered, shedding light on the temple's history. It read that the temple was built by the great Monk Sinmi in the fourth year of King Seonjong. Monk Sinmi was highly trusted by King Sejo and probably received compensation from him to build the temple. During the height of its glory, 730 monks lived on-site.

About 500m (1,640 ft.) down from the top of Gujeong-bong is the Maae Yeorae Jwasang, a stone Buddha carved in the rock there. Some say that his eyes are looking at the west sea, but to me, they look closed as if he is meditating or sleeping. The Maae Buddha is said to have been created in the year A.D. 9.

Though most people take day trips to the area, there are camping facilities available in the Cheonghwangsa area. There is also a minbak area in the Gyeongpodae district.

Just outside of the national park is Gurim Village, which has an ancient history (as you can see by the prehistoric relics found here). It is starting to get more popular because of its 4th- and 5th-century kilns and its Yeongnam Pottery Culture Center, 354 Seogurim-li, Gunseo-myeon, Yeongnam-gun, Jeollanam-do (tel. 061/470-2566), which is on the site of the original kilns where they first produced glazed pottery during the Unified Shilla Period. Not only do they house artifacts which have been excavated from the area, but they also create replicas of historic works for sale. The center is open daily 9am to 6pm throughout the year; admission is W1,600 adults, W600 teens, W300 children.

Duryunsan Provincial Park

Located on the southernmost point on the Korean peninsula, Duryunsan with its beautiful scenery is home to many temples and ruins. Its dense forest of subtropical plants leads up to a rocky peak, with views of the surrounding sea and nearby islands.

The most famous temple here is Daedunsa (aka Daeheungsa), built during the fifth year of Baekje King Jinheng's reign by Monk Ado. Situated on the northern slope of Mt. Duryun, the temple is the headquarters of the Jogye Buddhist order. There is a free shuttle that will take you up the first 2km (1 1/4 miles) of the mountain, if you don't want to make the full hike. The long walk through the forest to the temple entrance is supposed to be part of the meditation process of visiting. You will be rewarded with the view of 1,000 smiling Buddha statues inside the Cheonbuljeon. The temple is open daily from 9am to 6pm throughout the year, and admission is W2,500 for adults, W1,500 for teens, W1,000 for children, free for kids 6 and under and seniors 65 and up. In a separate area to the right is Pyochungsa, a shrine built in 1788. It is dedicated to the warrior monk generals who fought the invading Japanese army during the Imjin Waeran. There are many trails spidering out from Daedunsa, but the most popular goes up to its associated hermitage Bungmireuk-am, where a majestic stone Buddha has been sculpted from the flat rock face (now housed inside a wooden hall). It's worth the 45-minute climb up for the wonderful views.

There are seven buses daily from Seoul to Haenam, starting at 7:30am with the last bus at 5:55pm. The 5 1/2-hour ride costs W17,800 (W26,500 for deluxe buses). From the Haenam Intercity Bus Terminal take a bus bound for Daedunsa. Buses run every 30 minutes daily, 7:30am to 8pm.

The Haenam Cable Car (tel. 061/534-8992; 138-6 Gurim-li, Samseon-myeon, Haenam-gun; starts at the village and goes to the tallest peak of Duryunsan. The 10-minute ride, which affords a spectacular view of the surrounding scenery, costs W8,000 adults, W5,000 children ages 3 to 12. The cable car runs daily 8am to 6pm (until 5pm Dec-Mar).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.