Busan has it all — the ocean, the mountains, a high-tech metropolis of business and brands; it’s no wonder Busan was named Lonely Planet’s “Best Place to Visit in Asia for 2018”. But just when you thought you’d explored every part of the city, you take a left turn and end up somewhere completely new.

Right in the heart of the city, nestled near the peak of Geumnyeonsan mountain, lies the Geumnyeonsan Youth Training Institute (부산광역시 금련산청소년수련원). At first glance, the name of the venue seems to suggest you’ll be sleeping in barracks and doing push-ups before breakfast, however, the GYTI houses a number of wonderful facilities whilst simultaneously being set in the middle of Busan’s breathtaking natural landscape.

The GYTI runs as a youth training center, managed by Busan Metropolitan City, and boasts numerous facilities including a youth campground, dormitories, an astronomy observatory, an auditorium, and a fitness center. The center and grounds are open to the public and are frequented by locals and tourists alike.

There is also an outdoor stage area with plenty of seating, an army-type assault course, walking paths, an acupressure path and the cutest outdoor library you ever-did-see. Other facilities include a planetarium, physical training facilities and Haeoreum artificial rock climbing wall which, although I didn’t scale it, looked pretty awesome.

The training center grounds are spread comfortably across the mountain, with healing paths and promenades manicured and maintained beautifully, and the roads wide enough for coaches full of would-be astrologers. Look out from the pagoda at the top of the grounds for a real treat; spectacular views sprawling across the city, with the iconic Gwangan ‘Diamond’ Bridge right there below you like a Lego model city, constructed with brick-by-brick precision.

There are a number of public toilets within the grounds, and you’ll see nature-lovers of all ages enjoying the mountain air on any given day. However, given the recent weather, check the air quality before you head out, and invest in a high-quality KF mask, available in any pharmacy in the city.

The GYTI is pretty far up the mountain, access to the grounds is easiest by car or taxi, and parking is available for just 2,000 won (pay on entry). If you think you’d manage the hike to the top, you’ll be met with refreshment-stocked outdoor vending machines as well as a beautiful, calming place to lay down and catch your breath (read: regain consciousness). 

The GYTI runs programs including physical fitness activities, emotional cultivation activities, and natural science activities, and the facilities can also be rented privately or by groups for a very small fee, and you can stay over in the log cabin or the dormitory.

It was great to walk around, taking in views of Busan from above, soaking in the sound of birds in the trees and branches cracking underfoot. We spent around an hour and a half walking through wisteria-lined paths, picking up pine cones and spotting mountain tabbies. We played on the equipment and really enjoyed the calming atmosphere of the area, despite the winter chill nipping at the fingers.

If you’re looking for a place to relax, invigorate, learn and play all at the same time, Geumnyeonsan Youth Training Institute offers all of the above and more. Programs run year-round for all ages.

If you want more information, you can call the Busan Travel Hotline 1330 and +82-2-1330 from abroad. Assistance in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese is available. Alternatively, call the Center directly at +82-51-625-0709 or visit the website www.youth.busan.go.kr (Korean only).

Getting there on foot:

Take the subway to Geumnyeonsan Station (subway Line 2) and exit through gate number six.

Go straight and take a right at the first alley. Continue straight until you see the Nam Busan Post Office Distribution Center. Take a left and continue for around 32 meters then take a right at the three-way intersection.

When you see Busan Joongang Presbyterian Church (부산중앙교회), keep walking along the trail until you reach the venue. The distance is around 1.3km but might feel longer with the incline and especially on a hot day! Don’t forget to bring water!

MAP

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