Gangwondo province, located in the mid-Eastern part of the peninsula, boasts some of the best scenic landscapes and vacation spots in Korea. The province, which is only 2 hours from Seoul, is a wonderful place to escape no matter the time of year. It is famous for its white sand beaches, hiking trails and scenic views. While living and teaching in Korea, you must plan a trip to Gangwondo. Every season has its own unique theme and beauty. Plan the ideal trip that you want, in the Fall, Summer or Winter!
Fall in love with Gangwondo
Koreans flock to Gangwondo in the Fall to enjoy some of the best foilage scenes in Korea, and this has made the province a big tourist destination at this time of year. Fall in Korea can be breathtaking, especially in Gangwondo province where there are rolling-mountains and lots of forests.
Hiking Sorak Mountain is the number one thing to do near Sokcho. The mountain is located in Soraksan National Park and is a major tourist destination for both serious and amateur hikers. The park is especially famous for its Fall scenes, that cover the landscape with colorful tree-top canopies and blue skies.
A famous hiking route through the park is Ulsanbawi route. This route is known for its intense 4 hour hike with beautiful scenery and historical sites. On this trail you can see Singheungsa Temple, Haeundaelbawi Rock, Gyejoam Rock, and Ulsanbawi peak. Singheungsa Temple was built in 590-658 by Jajangyulsa who was famous for traveling all over Korea in search of the best mountains for Queen Jindeok's dynasty. The temple is one of the oldest in Korea and is renowned for its giant Buddha statue.
If you stay close to Sorak Mountain you should discover the city of Sokcho. Sokcho is located close to North Korea and it is a good place to catch a glimpse of the border. The most interesting thing about Sokcho city, is that there are North Koreans living on Abai island, at the the Abai Village. The ‘island’ is a small piece of land that juts off from Sokcho city. You can get to the island by hopping on a plastic jetty, called a Gaetbae. It is a man-powered boat that holds 35 people. "Abai' means elderly and many old North Koreans fled to this village during the Korean War. Other things to try on the island is the Abai Sundae and the traditional North Korean nengmyeon (iced noodle dish).
A White Sand Summer
If you want a Summer filled with white sand beaches and breath-taking sunsets, then Gangwondo province is the place to go! The province houses some of the top beaches in Korea such as Naksan Beach, Jumunjin Beach and Sokcho Beach. These beaches lay on one of the most stunning coastlines of Korea and are renowned for their white sand and good beach culture.
Naksan beach is probably rated as one of the best beaches in Korea, because of its surrounding natural habitat and stunning ocean views. Some of the best sunsets I have seen in Korea were while sitting on Naksan Beach! Coming from a beach culture myself in South Africa, I really enjoy the mid-Eastern coastline, because of its whiter and softer sandy beaches. You can relax with plenty of good accommodation options, sun umbrellas and beach volleyball games.
One of the greatest hidden treasures at Naksan Beach is Naksan Temple. The temple is one of the most remarkable temples in Korea because, of its natural beauty and seaside landscape. Once strolling through the area, you can experience ringing a large bell and relax at a gondola overlooking the sea. You should also check out the large lily pond and the friendly monks praying inside the temple.
Skiing up North
Gangwondo is saturated with ski resorts! Most of these ski-resorts are currently under-construction, with huge renovations, as there is large focus on the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games. Just recently, the Pyeongchang committee broke ground at the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster, to stage a ceremonial start to the first Olympic eco-village!
Yongpyong Resort is three hours drive from Seoul and is currently the biggest ski-resort in Korea. It has an array of slopes that vary in levels and stages. You can try anything from Rainbow slope to the Mega Green slope. A Rainbow slope is the highest slope, elevated at 1,210 meters, and is one of the most exciting slopes to ride in Korea because of its numerous intersections.
Another famous ski resort located in Gangwondo is High1 Resort. This is a popular resort among the Koreans, with almost every Seoulite having visited this resort. High 1 Resort is a perfect four hour drive from Seoul and is easily accessible. High 1 Resort also houses Kangwonland – the only casino in Korea that Koreans can gamble at. You should ride the Victoria 1 slope and the Hera 2 slope. Also, for beginners, the resort produces a fluffier snow that makes it easier to not get hurt and avoid any serious injuries.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!