|A man takes a picture of his family in Ahopsan Forest in Busan. / Courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization|
By Jun Ji-hye
Recreational forests across the mountainous landscape of Korea are emerging as popular summer vacation destinations, as an increasing number of people are seeking to relax at quiet and less-crowded spots amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and operators of the recreation facilities.
The forests, offering the shade of trees and cool streams, are attracting many tourists as such spots allow for social distancing, especially compared to other summer destinations such as beaches.
The forest on Mount Jangryeong located in Okcheon, North Chungcheong Province, reopened to visitors who make reservations, July 22, after a month-long shutdown due to the pandemic.
"Our accommodation and camping facilities for Friday and Saturday are almost fully booked until Sept. 1," an official from the forest said, noting that the reservation rate for weekdays is also higher than last year.
As a precaution against COVID-19 transmission, the forest service asks all visitors to complete a health questionnaire, and does not allow groups of 10 or more visitors to enter.
Most of the 150 forest destinations spread across the country have seen about a 20 percent year-on-year increase in their reservation rates for the summer vacation season, according to tourism officials.
Amid the growing popularity of forests as travel destinations, the KTO has selected six forests worth visiting in August to refresh tired bodies and minds.
The six spots include Ahopsan Forest in Busan, the National Center for Forest Therapy in Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, and Jathyanggi Pureunsup Forest in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province.
"Forests that help boost the immune system are an ideal place for people to take care of their physical and mental state," a KTO official said. "We advise people to check opening hours and other information before visiting as the COVID-19 situation could cause some changes."