Gangwon-do, the northeastern region of Korea, is bordered by the East Sea and North Korea. The region is an extremely popular destination all year round, since it’s fairly close to Seoul and is rich in natural beauty. Each season reveals a new delight in Gangwon-do: everything from snowy mountains and beautiful spring flowers to autumn foliage, lush forests, and beachside havens.
1. Mountains and Forests
The first thing that comes to mind when hearing “Gangwon-do” is the image of mountainsides full of thick forests and valleys running with crystal clear waters. The most representative mountains of the area have been designated as National Parks, so they’re not hard to find! Each of these mountains has well-laid-out hiking courses, convenient visitor facilities, and beautiful valleys running with sparkling water. In addition to stunning natural landscapes, each mountain hides in its crevices a number of old temples and cultural heritages. There are even certain sections of the woodlands that are officially designated as “Natural Recreational Forests” and are equipped with accommodations and camping sites.
Seoraksan National Park ( OeSeorak,NaeSeorak)
This park has fantastic overlooks, a wide range of hiking courses and beautiful scenery throughout the year: flowers in spring, green vegetation in summer, colorful leaves in the fall, and glistening blankets of snow in winter.
Odaesan National Park
The park is known for its thick groves of trees, gentle mountain slopes, and thousand-year-old temples such as Woljeongsa Temple and Sanwonsa Temple.
Chiaksan National Park
A popular destination year-round, it’s famous for its tourist sites beautiful valleys, waterfalls, and temples.
Taebaeksan Provincial Park
Koreans believe Taebaeksan is “Yeongsan” (a holy mountain). On the top, is “Cheonjedan,” an altar where people pay tribute to the gods. Famous for the New Year’s Sunrise Festival and Snow Festival.
Daegwallyeong Recreational Forest
Korea’s first recreational forest. Main features include ancient groves of pines, rocks and valleys, yellow-soil thatched houses, and watermills.
Bangtaesan Recreational Forest
A forest full of many different species of trees and wildlife with campsites near a valley running deep with clean water.
Micheongol Recreational Forest
Located along a mountain valley, the forest includes accommodations, sports facilities, walking paths and campsites.
Sambong Recreational Forest
Sambong Recreational Forest is named after the three surrounding peaks (“Sambong” meaning “three peaks” in Korean). Mineral water from Sambong mineral water fountain located at the center of the forest is believed to be extremely effective in easing stomach diseases.
2. Unique Experiences
Gangwon-do is a region brimming with the wonders of nature! In recent years, a number of unique tourist sites and activities have opened in the area, designed to show visitors the many special aspects of the area. Take a train ride along the coast for majestic views of the ocean and large caves. Or, for a more active adventure, take the RailBike that runs along the abandoned railway through the heart of the countryside for a view of the sweeping pastures and towering mountains.
The largest limestone cave in the east. The cave is so large that in additional to majestic stalactites, it is also home to series of lakes and waterfalls.
Ride the monorail 140m into the cave for a close look at the cave’s deep lake and 8m-high waterfall.
6.3 km in length, the cave houses gigantic stalactites and stalagmites that are over 400 million years old, as well as a number of lakes, waterfalls, and stone columns.
A major gold mining site until the-mid 1900s, the cave holds a variety of beautiful treasures.
Samcheok Ocean Rail Bike
Riding along the eastern coastline, you’ll pedal past a beach, trees, fields, and through a number of tunnels expertly engineered with themed laser-light shows that are out of this world!
Jeongseon Auraji Rail Bike
While riding along a 7.2km abandoned railway, take in the view of the mountains, valleys, and expansive fields.
Kangwon Land Casino
Open to both locals and international visitors, this large recreational complex has everything: a hotel, a ski resort, and golf courses.
Daegwallyeong Samyang Ranch
Located in the high mountains of Daegwallyeong 850~1,470 meters above the sea level, the ranch houses sheep, ostriches, cows, and more. Visitors can explore the area by taking the footpath down from the windmills atop the mountain.
Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm
As the only sheep farm in Korea, the sprawling green pastures are a popular film location for Korean dramas.
A family vacation spot deep in the heart of nature, the farm is home to hundreds of kinds of herbs and is divided into 13 different themed gardens, complete with herbal foods and sweet herbal tea.
Each seat faces the ocean, giving riders a perfect ocean view for the entire 58km-ride from Gangneung to Samcheok.
Festivals are a regular occurrence in Gangwon-do throughout the season. In spring, there are wild flowers festivals along the shore and in the mountains and national parks. In autumn, festivals showcase the local specialties; in winter, there are a range of events celebrating the snow, the ice, and the New Year’s sunrise. In summer, Gangwon-do is the location of the Gangneung Danoje Festival, a UNESCO-designated World Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Gyeongpodae Cherry Blossom Festival
Centered around Gyeongpodae, and Gyeongpoho Lake, this spring festival celebrates spring flowers such as cherry blossoms and forsythia.
Chuncheon International Mime Festival
Mime performances by teams from home and abroad. Held under the theme of “Body, Movement, and Image” throughout the famous tourist sites of Chuncheon.
Gangneung Danoje Festival
As a UNESCO-designated World Intangible Cultural Heritage, the festival features a thousand-year-old ritual ceremony, “Danogut,” and the “Gwanno Mask Drama.”
Yeongwol Donggang Festival
Experience rafting, fishing, and other programs at the breathtaking Donggang River.
Wonju Hanji Festival
This festival celebrates all things “Hanji,” from the Hanji Fashion Show to Hanji dolls and Hanji crafts.
Yangyang Songyi Mushroom Festival
Sample pine mushroom cuisine and discover more about the pine mushroom’s natural habitat.
Hoengseong Hanu Festival
Get a taste of Hoengseong Hanu: soft and juicy Korean beef.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival
“Ice Fishing” and “Catching Sancheoneo with Your Bare Hands” are among the wintertime favorites of this popular festival.
Taebaeksan Mountain Snow Festival
Enjoy snow sculpture exhibitions, sleigh rides, The Snowman Festival, and the sight of the countryside’s pristine blanket of snow.
Inje Icefish Festival
Ice fishing out on the lake, and sampling icefish cuisine (sashimi and deep-fried icefish) are only some of this festival’s unique draws.
Daegwallyeong Snow Festival
Experience a range of programs including building ice castles, riding ice slides, sledding, snow rafting, and making igloos.
Gyeongpo Sunrise Festival
Held at Gyeongpo Beach or Gyeongpodae, which are famous places for watching the sunrise. Make your New Year’s wish during this revered time.
Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival
Held at Jeongdongjin Beach. The “Flipping of the Hourglass” ceremony takes place at midnight on Jan. 1st.
4. DMZ Tours
Five of the counties of Gangwon-do are adjacent to the DMZ. Underground tunnels in Cheorwon and Yanggu, and the Unification Observatory and the Dam of Peace in Goseong are all well-known tourist sites that serve as solemn reminders of the nation’s claim to fame of being the only divided nation in the world. In additional to its historic and cultural significance, the DMZ has recently been gaining attention for its gorgeous ecosystem that has remained well-preserved thanks to being inaccessible by the general public for the past six decades.
The northernmost observatory in Korea, the Unification Observatory gives visitors a view of Geumgangsan Mountain (alt: 70m), where the Southern Limit Line and the MDL meet.
The Euliji Observatory is located 1km away from the MDL. Here, visitors can see the five peaks of Geumgangsan Mountain and its mystical ring of clouds.
Pyeonghwa (Peace) Dam
The dam is known as “the last symbol of Korea War,” since it was built from money donated by the general public after the war. Located next to the dam is Bell Park.
Woljeongri Station (Cheorui Samgakji Observatory – Iron Triangle Battlefield)
This observatory/train station has the famous slogan “The Iron Horse Wants to Run,” since only the back half of the train remains at the station, after the front was taken away by North Korean soldiers.
The 2nd Tunnel
The second underground tunnel discovered in Korea in 1975. This tunnel that North Korea made for their surprise attack against South Korea is about 3.5km away from the North Korean border.
The 4th Tunnel
The fourth tunnel found in Korea in 1990. The tunnel is open to the public all the way to 100m before the MDL.
For more information about Gangwon-do Trips, visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=1122000 or KTO’s main page http://visitkorea.or.kr