Backpack or bikini?

Backpack or bikini?
PHOTO: Nam Kyung-don

The sizzling heat and torrid humidity of summer is also synonymous with the season of rest, relaxation and the thrill of being in the great outdoors.

And whether it's taking the sweltering heat like a bull by the horns, enjoying the most of nature cooling off in the water or putting one's calf muscles to work tackling the nation's countless trekking trails, many Koreans choose to spend their summers either on the seaside or mountainside.

With more than half of the peninsula made of mountain ranges, it should come as no surprise that hiking is one of the more popular outdoor activities among locals. Recommended popular valley hikes include Achimgari, nestled away in Gangwon's Mount Bangtaesan, Mount Cheonhwangsan's go-to Eoreumgol and "ice valley" in South Jeolla Province.

For trekking enthusiasts who are desperate to give their sweat glands a break, Seoul's annual nighttime trekking programme will be held in Yangcheon-gu this year, allowing hikers the unique experience of strolling through one of the city's many national parks in the cool, brisk evening air rather than in the crowd-filled, heat-sinking daytime weather.

For those who prefer swimwear to hiking gear, there's no place like the beach.

Looking to keep up with the trend for the summer season this year, one may consider chucking away the bikini or swim trunks and opt for skin-tight, covering-up. Much thanks to a handful of Hallyu celebrities, rash guards -- skin-tight bodysuits often worn for water sports -- have become all the rage this year.

The country has its obvious beachside hotspots for vacationers who wish to be in the thick of the crowds by visiting cliche destinations. However, for those who wish to be mavericks and vanish from the bustling crowds to more off-the-beaten-path destinations, there are a number of recommended hidden shoreside gems.

Tucked away on the eastern coast is Sageunjin Beach in Gangwon Province. Formerly closed to the public for decades, the pristine sandy beach is virtually free of loud, compact crowds and is considered to be an ideal location for sun bathers.

At the other side of the spectrum is the man-made beach of Woongcheon Beach Park in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province. Still relatively unknown to the mass public, the waterside -- equipped with a long-spanning wooden boardwalk and grassy woodland areas -- is considered an ideal location for families looking for a safe, and quaint, place for watersports, camping and grilling up some good eats on the barbecue.

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