Sights & Sounds: (Namiseom) Nami Island, Gangwon Province
|1 Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea|
|07 30 – 21 45|
W$ 8000/pax (one round trip)
|Recommended length of visit:||
Half day – 1 full day
Despite the wretched cold that caused me to have multiple brain freezes, numb fingers and toes, I might have left my warm heart turned frozen in Korea. Ah Korea oh Korea, what have you done to me? Many things apparently. I experienced so much in just 10 days. From the Korean culture, to the food and the sights, it was really a trip I won’t forget. To add on to that, it was my first time experiencing snowfall! It was a cold winter morning; we were on our merry way to church! So HALLELUJAH to that.
And I decided that of all the sights I have had the bliss to experience during my virgin trip to Korea with my Mama Dearest, I would like to start with Nami Island! The island is so huge (in my eyes) that there was really so much to see and be in complete awe about. Everywhere you turn, the peripheral view is just so breathtaking!
Nami Island is a half moon-shaped isle formed as a result of the inundated rising water from the North Han River due to the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam in 1944. In 2006, Nami Island declared its cultural independence and was called Naminara Republic. This island has its own national flag, an anthem, currency, passport and even certificate of citizenship. Like what what? Interesting huh…?
So if you were thinking if you need to bring your passport and have a different currency (other than the Korean Won) when on the island for transaction, the answer is no. You just need a ‘visa’ to enter Naminara Republic! So how do we get a ‘visa’ to Nami Island? Read ‘How to get there?’.
How to get there? + TIPS?! (MUST READ)
Nami Island is 63 km from Seoul in the North-Eastern direction towards Chuncheon. The easiest mode of transportation to the island is by the subway, then a quick bus/taxi ride and lastly a ferry ride. No cars are allowed on the island, so if you decide to drive, you would have to park your vehicle at the Namiseom Dock Parking Lot near the jetty and subsequently board the ferry. I obviously took public transportation. So here’s how it went:
1. From Seoul, take the subway to Gapyeong station (~1 hr 30 mins – 1 hr 50 mins train ride).
2. Upon alighting, take the exit on the right. You would see the Tourist Information centre outside of the subway station. Approach the staff to confirm the timing for the Gapyeong City Tour Bus that is heading to Nami Island. The bus stop is just in front of the Tourist Information centre. If you do not want to take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus, then a value for money alternative would be taking a taxi.
Easy ways to get to Nami Island Ferry Terminal (Gapyeong Wharf) from Gapyeong station
Gapyeong City Tour Bus
|W$6000/pax (payment to driver; CASH)|
~ W$4000 (taximeter; so the price may vary)
A maximum of 4 passengers
TIPS?! (MUST READ!)
To take the Gapyeong City Tour Bus OR Taxi?
The reason why the Gapyeong City Tour Bus is a little pricey as compared to the taxi is because this is a hop on and off tour bus! A one-time payment (in cash) to the driver would allow you to go to places of interest near the vicinity for that one day of purchase.
Popular places like the Petite France and Morning Calm Arboretum (a.k.a Garden of Morning Calm) are all accessible via this tour bus. It is super convenient, especially if you would like to cover other places and not just focus on Nami Island for the day.
So if you would like to visit Petite France and Morning Calm Arboretum, together with Nami Island, then I suggest you plan your time very accurately to ensure you have sufficient time spend at each attraction. See the tour bus timetable schedule (below) to aid you.
GRAB A HARDCOPY OF TOUR BUS BROCHURE FROM THE TOURIST INFORMATION COUNTER AS WELL! This will give you all the needed important information; like the bus schedule timings.
If you are going to spend the entire day at Nami Island, or are just interested in Nami Island and not the other attractions, then the taxi is imperatively a better value alternative.
3. The Gapyeong City Tour Bus from Gapyeong station would take an approximately 10 minutes to Nami Island bus stop, where you would have to head towards the ferry terminal (Gapyeong Wharf) (less than 100 m) to purchase your ‘visa’/ferry ticket/entrance ticket at W$ 8000/pax.
4. The ferry ride from Gapyeong Wharf is about 5 minutes to Nami Island. And violà, YOU HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED ON NAMI ISLAND where you can have some awesome exploration!
Operating Hours (Ferry Schedule)
07 30 – 09 00
|30 minute intervals|
|09 00 – 18 00||
10 – 20 minute intervals
|18 00 – 21 40||
30 minute intervals
Best season to visit?
Now this question is very subjective. It really depends on what you would like to experience. Is it the lush green full grown trees that sprawl the island or the red-orange crisp of autumn leaves or even the pristine rows of bare trees rooted to the ground of white snow and beyond that fancies you?
In hindsight, I would say visit Nami Island in its full blown AUTUMN season.
I mean, Nami Island in its transitioning from autumn to winter, or even in full blown winter won’t be half bad at all. But I reckoned the fall colours that would hang off the rows of trees would be most breathtaking!
Of course, if you are into the whole winter wonderland and snowfall showers, then winter season would just be perfect for you. I had my fair share of cold in Korea that I can endure and I have concluded that the cold isn’t what I need if I wanted to really immerse into the environment. When I was on Nami Island, I was basically trying to keeping warm 80% of the time by either chilling out in cafes with hot lattes or in souvenir shops!
So yeah, thinking back, if given a chance to go to Nami Island again, I would opt for an autumn option! 😀
Getting around Nami Island?
My Dad once said, on a fine night in Bangkok, whilst we were along the streets, ‘Walking is the best way to explore and experience a new place. You get to see a lot more.’ And I agree with him completely. If my legs can take me places forever, and never feeling the ache and fatigue, I would walk to explore new places (provided time permits of course). There are just so many sights to see and snap photo of at your own pace! You just have to stroll! It can be very therapeutic.
Just like most parks, there would be an option for people who wants to move around on 2 wheels! The Bike Center is located in the middle of the island, near UNICEF Hall.
Type of Bike
W$ 4000 (30 minutes)
W$ 7000 (1 hour)
|W$ 8000 (30 minutes)
W$ 14000 (1 hour)
W$ 15000 (30 minutes)
W$ 10000 (30 minutes)
W$ 18000 (1 hour)
There are also other means of getting around the island: the UNICEF Train Ride, the Electronic car tour and via the Motor boat tour. For more details, click here.
What you might experience (during early winter)?
I was there in early December and it was in transition from autumn to winter. It wasn’t in full blown winter, but it already had aspects of winter sprouting. For instance, the cold was unbearable (for me), at -9 oC. The pavements and walkways were cover in ice and snow, some more slippery than others. Visitors had this huge pile of snow to play with and snow sculptures were seen all around.
However, the trees weren’t all bare. Some trees still insist on holding on tight to the orange autumn leaves or even its green ones too. A variety of colours from a tinge of red-orange and green in a sea of white icy ground really compliments each other; making the scene extra magical.
So when you have alighted at the wharf on Nami Island, you would be greeted by this ice fountain sculpture, which was an amazing sight if you have never visited Nami Island. Excited tourist would be hogging the vicinity to take a snap or two!
As we ventured further, we saw rows of trees to the right and left side. It was a pretty sight. On a normal summer’s day, we would probably continue to walk towards the east side of the island. But because it was freezing, so we decided to find a café to warm up. Based, on the map, we decide to walk towards the nearest café near the wharf; near The Song Museum, and landed ourselves in the Swing Café for the next few hours. Haha!
The view along Swing café was pretty amazing. Facing the river, the tranquil semi-frozen water and the hill opposite were just in perfect cosmos. Taking a stroll along the river could just be the perfect activity to do to find peace! The stretch just behind the café was a perfect autumn-winter scene. It was totally breath-taking. Speechless.
And because it was cold enough, you would find ice snowman sculptures everywhere! Just like this mini one; chilling on the bench! So adorable, don’t you think so? Haha! 😀
Central Korean Pine Tree Lane/Baekpungmilwon Maple Garden
We took a stroll down this lane and saw many people playing in a huge snow pile at the garden next to it! It was such a fun scene. Kids were having a blast, whilst mothers were busy trying to ensure their little ones were safe. Even adults were up on the snow pile!
Despite many people walking about, somehow the tree lane area seem pretty much peaceful. The evening sunset did set the mood for the perfect walk, with amazing views. What is there to really ask for, seriously? It was perfect.
The Song Garden
Along the Pine Tree Lane, was an enclosure where ostriches were kept. Bunnies were also roaming the area. It was so cute. The UNICEF Train track was just in front of the ostrich enclosure. It was definitely a nice picture worthy moment. Haha!
First Kiss Glass Sequoia Bridge/Eco Farm Yeonryeonji Pond
The pond was in its semi-frozen to frozen state. And because the bridges were pretty much covered with ice, we decided it wasn’t worth for us to risk slipping and decided to move on a little further to cover more ground as it was getting dark soon.
UNICEF Hall/Artshop Snowman May Café
Alas, we ended our exploration on Nami Island here. It was freezing, the sun was setting, and we had a long journey back to the city.
(a) Squeezing other attractions (e.g. Petite France & Garden of Morning Calm) in 1 day?
Since the other attractions are conveniently reachable by the Gapyeong City Tour Bus, most online articles or people would recommend you to include Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm along with Nami Island.
Well, in hindsight, I say the best combination to work with and get maximum relaxation and exploration would be to visit Nami Island on its own (a half day to a full day; whichever you are comfortable with). And visit Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm together on a separate day. Why?
Though Nami Island is not a very big island, it really has so many picturesque sights that would leave you in deep awe. There would be many moments you cannot resist to stand at a particular spot longer than expected. A nice slow-paced stroll pass the trees and chilling at the café or restaurant could easily pass the time and making it an entire day’s visit! Trust me!
(b) Head to the ‘OTHER’ side of the Island
The cold really did hit us back hard, and we spend more time in the café than we would like to. Alas, we did miss a few key highlights that one should not miss when on Nami Island, but hey that was fine. The most important thing was that we enjoyed ourselves on the island at a comfortable pace.
Some key highlights I do hope to see given a second chance would be:
(i) Ginkgo Tree Lane
(ii) Metasequoia Lane
Most of the famous sights are on the right side of the island (based on the brochure map). So if you are pressed for time, then you might want to skip what is in between and dive straight to the other side of the island! 🙂
(c) Go on a Weekday and Go in the Morning
It would usually be more crowded on the weekends, so if possible try to head over to Nami Island on a weekday! Unless you do not mind the crowd getting into your pictures when you are at Metasequoia Lane than I guess any time and any day wouldn’t matter at all. Haha! 😀
(d) Staying a night on Nami Island
There are accommodations available on the island if you would like to spend a night. The boutique hotel offers room types with beds or Korean-style heated floors (ondol). There are also bungalows and cottages suitable for couple, family or group stays. Though I have not stayed on the island before, I reckon this would be a memorable experience. You could probably enjoy the serene vicinity at night, as you stargaze? Isn’t that perfect? Haha! I would like to think so! 😀
Hope this prods you to capture some beauty around you! ‘Cause the world is really perfect when you have a kind heart willing to see it!
So remember to Travel Whenever!