Stepping Out Of Seoul

Printer-friendly version


It can be pretty hard to find proper tourist guides for South Korea, especially if you want to look outside of Seoul, and it annoys me. Why? Because there are so many beautiful and interesting places to visit.

We’ve had so many good experiences exploring Korea (not counting the times we’ve gotten lost on local buses and ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere) and found many things which are worthwhile doing, even if they’re not advertised in tourist brochures.

Here is my expat guide to places outside of the capital city, things to do when you want to step out of Seoul.

Chiaksan National Park

580155_10151820711179305_1297232972_n 1151017_10152041508684305_278084491_n

Ok, so with Chiaksan right on my doorstep (as I live in Wonju) it’s an obvious place for me to visit. But it is definitely worth taking a trip to; the hike is definitely tough though, so be prepared. But the good thing about Chiaksan is that you don’t have to reach the peak to experience the beauty of the place; there are temples, waterfalls, rivers and so much gorgeous greenery before you even reach the incline. We have been a couple of times just to wander around the temple and walk the gentle walk to the main waterfall, which is a great picnic area.

For hikers and nature lovers, this is truly somewhere you should take the time to visit. (Oh, but I’d advise you not to visit Chiak Dreamland which is close by- I’ve heard only negative things about it, so it doesn’t seem worth the time or money).

1000537_10151820711684305_749170804_n 601593_10152041511339305_35622768_n 1044783_10151820712644305_1967918676_n

Baegunsan National Forest

1237123_10151990926469305_687122696_nIMG_1331  IMG_1262

This is another beauty spot right where I live, so I’ve got no excuse not to visit! But if you’re near the Wonju area, Baegunsan Forest is another prime hiking and nature spot definitely worth taking the time to explore. It is less famous than Chiaksan, but the scenery is beautiful and there are so many nice spots to sit and relax, that in my opinion it’s just as worthwhile visiting.

There are a few different hiking options: a longer gentle course and a tougher short route. But the reason I love Baegunsan is the lakes and rocky areas at the bottom of the mountain. You could spend a couple of hours exploring these or having a picnic. If you’re craving serenity, Baegunsan would be an ideal place!

IMG_1330IMG_1332 IMG_1346

Seoraksan National Park

1461185_10152140072469305_2010075647_n 1468679_10152140072714305_1066934649_n 1471392_10152140073604305_898575318_n

This is the last hiking place, promise.

Again, an area of amazing scenery which is lovely to walk around. The hike is tough, so prepare for a lot of steps, but it’s much shorter than other mountains such as Chiaksan, which makes it much more doable. There is also a cable car you can take to another peak if hiking isn’t your thing!

Sokcho itself is a wonderful area too, with beaches and a fish market (Jungang Market) so it’s a nice place to spend a weekend.

1450195_10152140070134305_51118057_n 1459326_10152140069524305_1746768396_n 1456560_10152140070914305_1014711904_n

 Gangneung (Gyeongpo) 

IMG_0539IMG_0537  IMG_0541

Who doesn’t like the beach? And if you’d rather a less crowded beach than those down in Busan, Gangneung and Gyeongpo Beach is a good alternative. It’s particularly nice because it’s surrounded by trees and it’s also next to Gyeongpo Lake which is pretty and peaceful.

In the area there’s also a sea train and a zip line, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous. Plenty to do to make for a good day out!

Oh, one thing- check the weather forecast before you go as it tends to be breezier than other areas. One time we went we found this out the hard way, by nearly being blown over the moment we reached the beach- bad times.

IMG_0556 IMG_0558 IMG_0555

 Nami Island

IMG_0687 IMG_0692 IMG_0744

Ok, so yes it’s touristy and yes it’s all artificial and yes it can get very busy. But, that being said, if you want to go somewhere for a nice wander round, maybe a cycle, perhaps a bike ride, and have the chance for a short ferry ride (only 5 minutes), then Nami Island is a nice place for a day out. As long as you’re not expecting it to be the most beautiful place in Korea, you won’t be disappointed.

Take a picnic, visit the ostriches, read a book by the water- it’s a pleasant place, just don’t expect anything wonderful.

IMG_0694 IMG_0703 IMG_0741 IMG_1161

Chuncheon’s Dakgalbi Alley and Myeongdong Street

1374326_10152041514524305_2086301037_nFor any dakgalbi lovers, this place is perfect. A whole street full of dakgalbi restaurants. It’s pretty delicious! The only problem is choosing which restaurant to go in…

As for Myeongdong Street- it’s a good place to go shopping, but don’t expect it to be as good as Myeongdong in Seoul by any means. There is a large underground market and lots of shops for sure, but it isn’t as good as the real thing.

Still, a large shopping area right next to a whole street of dakgalbi restaurants? It can’t be that bad, can it?!

 Cheongpyeong Temple and Soyang Dam

1383299_10152041523149305_431251470_n IMG_1180 1378641_10152041522999305_2114339137_n

This area is definitely worth a mention. The Soyang Dam is at the head of the Soyang river and is absolutely huge. But the real attraction is the area over the river; you can take a short ferry over to a beautiful valley where you can walk to the Cheongpyeong Temple, seeing waterfalls, statues, and streams along the way.

If you like hiking then you can also hike around the area instead of taking a ferry over. Whichever way you go, it’s worth it.

1377350_10152041515809305_1443201904_n 1381432_10152041516949305_1928685922_n 1383384_10152041517909305_1067117894_n 1385553_10152041517419305_1703695433_n

Garden of Morning Calm- Lighting Festival

1911737_10152422195229305_886755176_n1911725_10152422195719305_150950725_n 1789_10152422196714305_1998496790_n

It’s hard to show how spectacular this place was in photos, but it really was amazing and exceeded my expectations. I’ve never been to the Garden Of Morning Calm during the day, but at night, lit up with thousands of lights, it was stunning. You can spend a good couple of hours walking around the gardens, there are even different areas with different ‘themes’, so there’s plenty to look around. There’s also a couple of nice restaurants and a few street-food stalls, so you can make an evening out of it.

One tip- be careful about when you go. We made the mistake of going on the last weekend, which also happened to be White Day and it was absolutely packed- it took over an hour in standstill traffic on a local bus to get there, and the bus going back was delayed for over an hour. Also, taxis refused to go there because it was so busy. Lesson learnt.

Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival

1604589_10152306769474305_1131783484_n154817_10152306766609305_465130121_n 62044_10152306764519305_1282230830_n

Another unique experience which was a lot of fun! The sculptures were pretty incredible, and again, the festival was in such a nice area, surrounded by mountains that it was a pretty place to explore.

The only negative is that it was a lot smaller than expected and we were finished pretty quickly. A lot of the attractions, such as the snow slide and small skating pond were aimed more for children than adults. So I wouldn’t advise anyone to travel for hours to get to the festival, as it might not be worth the journey.

1544987_10152306767439305_755986783_n1535447_10152306769579305_873231749_n  72877_10152306767609305_1517190399_n

Hanu Beef Festival 

IMG_7395IMG_7361 IMG_7390

This was a surprisingly good festival, in another beautiful area. The festival was on a river and surrounded by forestry. Even better, there are some hot springs close by which you can visit a the same time.

A highlight for me was seeing all the cattle; it was almost like visiting a farm (smell included, unfortunately). There were tons of stalls selling various food and beauty products, and enough street-food stalls to please any foodie. On top of this there were pop-up restaurants, selling a good selection of delicious foods, including of course the famous Hanu beef.

Great scenic area, animals, shopping and good food- what’s not to love?

IMG_7400 IMG_7381 IMG_7409

DMZ Tour

10155571_10152503484179305_7628741842963396819_n 10009295_10152503484804305_3471563221641708838_n

We did the DMZ tour with the WINK group on Facebook and it was a good choice, the only negative being that we didn’t visit the Panmunjeom area, which was a shame. Instead, we saw the Freedom Bridge, two of the tunnels, an observation desk, and a solider took us on tour of a battle field. So we definitely managed to do a lot of interesting things in one day, and it was well organised.

A surprising highlight of the trip was where we stopped for lunch in Cheolwon; there was a beautiful canyon which we had time to visit, and it was a such a lovely place to stop. This made the trip that bit more special, and I’d definitely recommend it.

10294487_10152503488774305_8983217495279788736_n 10277367_10152503488349305_2454000557944715555_n

 This is just a handful of places outside of Seoul, but they alone prove that there are so many wonderful places to visit which aren’t hugely advertised to tourists. If you have any more suggestions of interesting places, please let me know so I can go on some new adventures, and explore Korea some more…


Kathryn's Living


Koreabridge - RSS Feeds 
Features @koreabridge     Blogs  @koreablogs
Jobs @koreabridgejobs  Classifieds @kb_classifieds

Koreabridge - Facebook Group