The natural beauty of this tiny peninsula is truly breathtaking. Ever since I’ve been a child, I’ve found that the only true way to recharge my batteries is by escaping into nature.
Living in Seoul is exciting, exhilarating and…exhausting. While the tall sky scrapers and modern infrastructure are a nice reminder of the impressive strength and determination Koreans emcompass, it can drive me a bit insane from time to time. To combat this feeling of urban Stockholm Syndrome, I love to explore the Korean countryside as often as possible. Here are my favorite places to visit outside of Seoul:
1. Garden of the Morning Calm
This place is just phenomenal. James and I decided to take a day trip here last September and I’m so happy we did. The lush gardens tucked within the mountains were an excellent escape from the bustling city and served as a beautiful reminder of how gorgeously awesome this planet is.
How to get to the Garden of the Morning Calm:
From Dong Seoul Bus Terminal take a bus bound for Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal, or take bus 1330 at Cheongnyangni Transfer Center (in front of Lotte Department Store) and get off at the Cheongpyeong Bus Terminal (travel time: 1hr 45min)
From Cheongpyeong Terminal, take Bus 31-7 to the Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원).
Travel time: 41min
Cheongpyeong Station (Gyeonchun Line) Exit 1.
Go left until you reach the 3-way intersection and turn right. Continue straight toward the Cheongpyeong Catholic Church. Pass by Cheongpyeong Elementary School, turn left, and you will see the Cheonpyeong Bus Terminal.
From Cheongpyeong Terminal, take Bus 31-7 to the Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원)
2. Nami Island
In my opinion, Nami Island is a must-visit while in Korea. It contains everything that is beautiful and goofy about Korea. It’s quite popular among K-Drama fans, as it was the scene where – gasp – two main characters from the TV show Winter Sonata shared their first kiss. The island is scattered with memorabilia from the show, though neither one of us were that interested if I’m honest. The island has lovely scenic walkways and is family-friendly as well as a great escape for couples and groups of friends alike.
How to get to Nami Island:
[Train] From Gapyeong Bus Terminal or Gapyeong Station, take a taxi to Namiseom parking lot. (Travel time: 10-15 min)
Take the ferry from Namiseom Dock to Namiseom Island. (Travel time: 5-6 min)
[Bus] (From Seoul to Namiseom Island)
* Bus Stop
1) Insa-dong (Jonggak Station, Subway Line 1, Exit 3): Next to Tapgol Park
2) Namdaemun Gate (Sungnyemum square bus stop in front of Namdaemun Market)
* Shuttle Bus Schedule:
Insa-dong, Namdaemun Gate → Namiseom Island: 09:30
Namiseom Island → Insa-dong, Namdaemun Gate: 16:00
Jebu Island is a small island located about an hour outside of Seoul. Not to be confused with Jeju Island, Jebu-do is an excellent alternative for anyone who is seeking an escape from the city without having to travel to the Eastern or Southern coasts. However, since the entire island is surrounded by mud flats, it isn’t somewhere people go to swim, rather just to relax. I went with a group of friends in the spring of 2014 and we had a blast. One thing my friends and I particularly enjoyed was a mini-hike through the hills surrounding the island. We unexpectedly stumbled upon an abandoned building complex during our walk which made a perfect location to watch the sunset.
How to get to Jebu Island:
Despite the fact that you can’t get to Jebu-do via the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system, it’s extremely easy to get to the island by bus.
Suwon Station (수원역), Exit #4, Bus 1004
Geumjeong Station (금정역), Exit #4, Bus 330
Both of these buses will take you to the Entrance of Jebudo bus stop, which is 제부도 입구 in hangul if you want to double check with a local or the bus driver.
My weekend in Chuncheon with my friends during spring 2014 is one of my favorite memories in Korea. This trip marked the first time I had ever trekked outside of the city, thus the first time I saw what Korea actually looks like (and sequentially when I fell in love with Korea’s landscape.)
Throughout the weekend, my friends and I stayed active and took in everything Chuncheon has to offer. We visited the beautiful Cheongpyeongsa Temple, rode the rail bikes at Gangchon Rail Park, hiked up to Soyang Dam, canoed the Mulle-gil, rented bikes and obviously drank soju and strained our vocal chords at a local norebang. I love abandoned places, so one of the standout moments for me was stumbling upon an old, out-of-service Korail train.
Chuncheon is known for two dishes: dak galbi (chicken marinated in gochujang, a Korean red spicy paste) as well as Makguksu, which is buckwheat noodles drenched in gochujang and vegetables. There are plenty dak galbi places to choose from, so make sure to ask locals for their recommendation!
How to get to Chuncheon:
You can catch the ITX (fast train) from Cheongnyangni Station as well as Yongsan Station. It takes approximately 74 minutes from Yongsan Station to Chuncheon Station, and approximately 64 minutes from Cheongnyangni Station to Chuncheon Station. Tickets will be about 9,800 won.
Muuido is a beautiful, tiny island located just outside of Seoul. It’s a wonderful place to escape with a group of friends during the summer. The island has a number of beachside huts and is surrounded by lovely forests. Though there is a cap for how many people are allowed in each hut, it’s definitely possible to fit more people than necessary if you and your friends are keen.
My friends and I left early in the morning to ensure we got huts as well as had ample time to relax on the beach. During the evening, we ate galbi at a local restaurant conveniently located right on the beach. Prior to dinner, some of us went on a hunt in the woods for some quality kindle and sticks for a late night campfire.
Don’t worry about bringing blankets or pillows – these are included with the cost of a hut. We purchased drinks and snacks on-site, so don’t worry about carrying cases of beer or anything on your journey, either. My friend Sydney and I made a bunch of breakfast burritos to soothe everyone’s hangover bellies which were cooked over the fire and consumed in record time.
How to get to Muuido:
The first part of the journey is getting to Incheon International Airport. From there, go to the third floor and stand near Stop 5, which is where you can board bus 222. Please note that there are two different 222 buses. One will take you directly to the ferry and the other will take you a short walking distance from the ferry. Either bus is okay!
Once you’ve arrived to the ferry, you’ll be asked to pay 3,000 won to board. The ferry ride takes about five minutes – the longest part is actually waiting for the engine to start. Once you’ve arrived on the island, you’ll be greeted with an archway that reads, “Welcome to Muuido.” Continue walking straight and you’ll see a stop for Bus 1. Take that bus to Hanagae Beach, which is the last stop. From here, you can just follow the crowds and pay for your hut and purchase anything else you need.
So there you have it. Whether you’re looking for a trip out of the city with your significant other, family or group of friends, these destinations won’t disappoint! Safe travels and most importantly have fun! Do you have a favorite destination that wasn’t listed?