After all that talk about Seoul in my previous post, it’s time for us to move a little bit away from the capital. Regardless of the season, it’s worth it to schedule several daytrips from Seoul into your itinerary. There are many interesting places you can visit that are an hour or two away by bus from Seoul. The places I will mention in this post are more like the quintessential places to visit during winter, but if you want more unique locations, you’ll have to check out this post instead. Some of the locations there are a bit farther away though.
[READ ALSO: My WoW Korea Winter Experience from 2016]
Daytrips from Seoul have now become incredibly convenient thanks to services like Klook and KKDay. Even if you like to DIY your trips, there is some value to booking transportation services that will remove all the hassles of commuting. I am not promoting these services as an affiliate or whatever, but I definitely appreciate how much it eased my own worries about catching the right bus at the right time. I was partly responsible for 10 people during this trip after all. If we had commuted on our own from the start to the end it would’ve been a nightmare for me!
Now the downside to getting packaged transportation services is that you can’t fully explore each location. You have to follow a set schedule. There are definitely pros and cons to each option! Now if you want to learn how to get there on your own, you can check out this link here and here for some helpful information. For first-timers though, I highly recommend just booking. Not worrying about the logistics gives you more time to focus on your wardrobe!
There are four words you need to know if you’re traveling to Korea in December: IT WILL BE COLD. I have a little Winter Survival Guide here in case you need some tips on what to pack for your trip. I personally think how warm you are will make or break your winter vacation. It doesn’t matter where you are and how beautiful the view in front of you is. The moment you feel cold to your insides, you won’t be able to enjoy anything. Remember to keep warm as you go along your daytrips from Seoul!
[READ ALSO: How to survive your first winter trip]
Without further ado, let me give you the four spots that I feel are the CLASSIC winter daytrips you should take from Seoul, especially if it’s your first time to experience winter in this lovely country.
1. Nami Island 남이섬
Nami Island is probably the first thing that comes to mind when talking about daytrips from Seoul. Located in Gangwon Province about 63 kilometers away from Seoul, it usually takes about an hour or more of travel to get to Namiseom. The moon-shaped isle is just around 4 kilometers in diameter, so it’s not impossible to explore in a day. The interesting thing about Namiseom is that it is considered a “micro-nation”, or a self-governing country. Formally, it’s called Naminara (Nami Country), with its own “visa” and even its own “passport”. Indeed, you actually need this “visa” to be able to enter Namiseom.
This Island was named after General Nami of the Joseon Dynasty. He was killed at the young age of 28 after being falsely accused of treason. His remains are said to be on the island, although I think they never actually dared to investigate the site thoroughly due to some superstitious beliefs. Later on, the rough estimate of where his remains might be was properly covered with soil and marked so that his spirit may rest in peace.
The Nami Island of today was developed to become a place where people can experience nature and culture at the same time. It has picture-perfect tree lanes that everyone wants a piece of. The woodlands are very serene as well. I noticed how even though there were a lot of tourists here on Nami Island, there are still pockets of private spaces where one can get away from the crowd. If it weren’t so cold, I’d give myself a longer time to appreciate the calming sounds of nature in one of these quiet places.
Now the thing that made Nami Island so popular among foreign tourists was actually the Korean Drama ‘Winter Sonata’. I think I was an incoming high school freshman when this aired here in the Philippines. (Such a long time ago!) Everyone started becoming curious about the picturesque backdrop used in the drama, and it literally put this small island on the map. That’s why they honor the drama so much over here. There is literally an area dedicated to ‘Winter Sonata’, with lots of photos, memorabilia, and even a statue immortalizing a scene where the characters played by Bae Yong Joon and Choi Ji Woo meet.
Unfortunately, we did not get to witness the magical look of a Nami Island blanketed in snow as seen on the drama. It didn’t snow on the day we arrived. (It was actually very sunny and a lot warmer than Seoul.) Instead, what we got were super dusty roads. I kept coughing every time a car passed and disturbed the dust particles! I hope you guys will have better luck.
Address: 1 Namiseom-gil, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea
Hours: 7:30 AM to 9:45 PM Daily
Entrance fee: 13,000 won, inclusive of roundtrip ferry tickets
2. Petit France 쁘띠프랑스
When you book a Nami Island package with most agencies, a stop at Petit France is usually included. Personally, I think you can skip this quaint little village if your time is really limited. But if you have a very real love for ‘The Little Prince’, then you will find a lot to love in this French-style theme park. There’s even a Saint-Exupery Memorial Hall here which celebrates the life of author Antoine Saint-Exupery. In it you get to learn about the writing process of ‘The Little Prince’ novel too. I honestly don’t know where this Korean obsession with ‘The Little Prince’ comes from, but it’s cute.
This is yet another location made famous by another Korean drama, the mega hit ‘My Love From The Stars’. (I must be one of the few K-drama fans who didn’t watch this show. It just didn’t appeal to me.) I can see why this place would make a good filming site. It does give off a very European vibe. Plus, there’s an outdoor sitting area here where you can settle down with a snack and enjoy the lovely view. Indeed, Petit France does have its own charms.
I actually really love the layout and the colors of the French-inspired houses in this little village. It feels whimsical and storybook-like. If you walk around and allow yourself to wander about, you will come across a lot of interesting things too. There are murals and paintings on the walls and a lot of random, weird statues and art installations. However there isn’t that much to do here aside from snap pictures, so I would say that winter isn’t exactly the most ideal time to visit. I recommend either spring or autumn since it’s much easier to do photoshoots if your fingers aren’t frozen stiff!
Address: Hoban-ro, Oeseo-myeon, Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM Daily
Entrance fee: 10,000 won
3. Garden of Morning Calm 아침고요수목원
A garden is not the first thing you think about when you hear the word winter, but trust me, this place is definitely a worthy stop if you’re picking out locations for daytrips from Seoul. At 30,000 square meters, I would consider this massive for a private botanical garden. During the winter, the garden transforms into a magical place of lights. From December to March every year, the Garden of Morning Calm mounts an impressive Lighting Festival that I can honestly say is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
My biggest regret from this winter trip to Korea was not getting to explore this place more. Normally, if you book a tour that includes Nami Island, Petit France, and the Garden of Morning Calm, they reserve the garden for last. Yes it makes sense since the lights are prettier at night, but then you also get the least amount of time here. I am tempted to make a return trip just to this garden alone another time, even though it will take at least 2 hours from Seoul. I haven’t decided if I’ll do it during the fall though, because honestly, it was so freaking cold here lol.
In case you haven’t noticed from all my previous travel posts, I actually really like gardens. I’m willing to skip Namiseom and Petit France just to come here.
Anyway, a little background information about the Garden of Morning Calm. The name of the garden was inspired by a poem written by Sir Rabindranath Tagore, a visiting Indian poet, during the Joseon Dynasty. In his poem he referred to Korea as “The Land of the Morning Calm”, and the name simply fit. Professor Han Sang-kyung of Sahmyook University first came up with the idea of this garden, envisioning how it would showcase the calm beauty of Korea through nature.
The way the garden is structured is actually quite impressive. There is a certain symmetry and shape to each section of flowers. The garden is divided into 20 themed sections, and I barely managed to see any of them lol. Out of the 5,000+ kinds of plants in here, 300 varieties are actually native to the Baekdu Mountain in North Korea. Baekdusan is considered a spiritual mountain, and so the people working in the Garden of Morning Calm are proud of the fact that they managed to cultivate certain plants from there. Aside from that, there’s a certain meaningfulness to having North Korean flowers alongside South Korean ones, don’t you think?
Address: 432 Sumogwon-ro, Sang-myeon, 상면 Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Hours: 8:30 AM to 7 PM Daily
Entrance fee: 9,500 won
4. Vivaldi Park Snowyland
This final location is probably the most fun out of the daytrips from Seoul in this list. If you’ve been hankering for some snow activities and none of the places above have given you that, this is the place to go. The Vivaldi Park is a gigantic resort located at Gangwon Province. Although Snowyland and ski slopes are only open during winter, this resort actually has several different attractions for different seasons.
We booked a ticket via Klook that included transport to the resort. The ticket already includes a ride on the cable cars that will take you to the highest peak of the resort, where Snowyland is located. There are separate packages for the ski slope (with or without ski gear) but since we were only here for some milder snow activities, we went straight to Snowyland.
I wouldn’t say this area is solely for kids, because they have several rides that have adult-level drops and are a lot of fun. Just be prepared to feel cold from your soles up to your fingers while waiting in line for your turn on the ride! There was a point during our visit to Snowyland where I felt like a proper tour guide, assisting my family members on their first time sledding. The slopes were small and cute compared to the one I got to sled on in Sapporo, so it was perfect for more elderly persons and nervous first timers. I had fun pushing them down the slope lol. By the way, the sleds are free to use as long as you can find one lying around.
Also, I just want to mention that if you come here, consider wearing shoes that have good grip on slippery surfaces. There is always a risk of slipping when walking on snow-covered areas so DO NOT RUN. Walk at a leisurely pace, and just remember to enjoy your time here!
Well this was a lot of fun for me to write! I got to kind of step back into the memories I have of this time and these places and see them a little more clearly. No matter what daytrip from Seoul you choose to take, or even if you simply decide to stay in Seoul, remember to keep warm and have fun! Those are the two best advice I can give.
To end this post, I will leave you with the video diary of the four locations I mentioned above. There are a lot of things in the video that aren’t in the photos in this post so you might want to check it out: