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How to get there? + TIPS?! (MUST READ) 

Best season to visit? 

Getting around Nami Island? 

What you might see/experience (during early winter)? 

TIPS?! 

Address:

1 Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea

Operating Hours:

07 30 – 21 45
Entrance/Ferry Fee:

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)
Taxi

~ 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.

HOWEVER… …

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?

1. Walking

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.

2. Biking

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

Cost
One-person

W$ 4000 (30 minutes)

W$ 7000 (1 hour)

Tandem

W$ 8000 (30 minutes)

W$ 14000 (1 hour)

Quadruplet

W$ 15000 (30 minutes)

Electronic bicycle

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.

Nami Wharf

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!

Swing Café

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.

TIPS?!

(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!

Dee

Route: Parking Lot –> Swing Bridge –> Series of Mini Waterfalls –> Elevated Track –> Lake Marian –> And Back
Total Distance: 2.4 km (1.5 miles)
Average Walk Time:

~ 4 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots, light snacking & a quick swim)

Seasonal Restrictions: Do not walk around the edge of the lake during the snow/avalanche season (winter and spring)
Difficulty: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Scenery: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there? 

Highlights and Views 

TIPS? 

Well, I reckoned New Zealand needs no prelude whatsoever. Everything about it just never stops to inspire me in a frivolous way. And it was probably the first time I jaunted through trails and treks every other day for a month until my feet got sore and blistered. I would imagine this to be otherwise for anyone else. So yes, a weakling I was?

But it was all worth every drop of sweat to climb. It was all worth every minor or major slipups along the way. And it was all definitely worth (at times) sacrificing sleep for the enthralling views that time sleeping will never give. Lake Marian is imperatively impeccable, and I would recommend this trek to anyone, that is without a doubt!

The closest town to Lake Marian would be Te Anau. It is also the closest town to the famous Milford Sound attraction in the South Island of New Zealand. Te Anau is a quiet, humble little town, with quite a selection of restaurants and smaller eateries. A nice place to be away from the buzz of city life, and still be able to enjoy amenities of excellent food, accommodation and at the same time satisfying those basic grocery needs.

 

How to get there?

Though Te Anau township is the closest to Lake Marian, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. A straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 20 mins.

Just remember to make a turn right soon after Pop’s View lookout, onto Hollyford Track when you see the signage ‘Lower Hollyford’, otherwise, you would be on your merry way to Milford Sound, which is also not a bad option. Haha!

Drive down about 1 km on the unsealed gravelled Hollyford Track a.k.a Hollyford Road and you would reach the Lake Marian carpark!

 

Highlights and Views

1. Swing Bridge

The start of the trek to Lake Marian requires the crossing of the swing bridge which hovered above the Hollyford River (Whakatapu Ka Tuku). The river was in its clear refreshing blue and the sounds of the waters crashing against the rocks as it rushed down with gravity was invigoratingly welcoming! What an excellent way to start a morning! 😀

I recalled I was so tempted to go down to douse my hands in the refreshing and presumably cold waters. But as I made my way down gingerly across large rocks and boulders to the edge of the river and I squatted down, I realised my hands were too short to reach into the waters. Haha! Yup, woes of having short hands.

Looking to both of my sides along the river, it seemed very unlikely I could reach down into the waters unless I sat down on the rocks or something like that. Hence, I decided to give it a miss and head back up, for the waters at Lake Marian would definitely be as refreshing too right? And definitely easier to reach in…

2. Series of Mini Waterfalls

About a short 10 minute stroll on the boardwalk past the swing bridge was the next highlight of the Lake Marian trek: the exhilarating rush of the waterfalls. It was quite thunderously deafening when we walked deeper into the track; closer to the top of the waterfall. With the morning sun beaming all so strongly, the waters that flowed down glistened crystal white. Which really was not a bad sight for a morning!

There were some people who visited this place just for the mini waterfalls. Because it was a relatively easy paved short walk, some would decide to have a nice easy morning stroll and would give the slightly more advance tramping track a miss. That could be an option, but if you are more able-bodied, then continue on the elevated track to Lake Marian ‘cause the reward at the end is just mind-blowing! Period!

3. Elevated Track (through the forest)

After the end of the series of mini waterfalls, where the initial road underfoot was still well-paved and easy to walk on, came the start of the elevated tracks to Lake Marian! Which by then, consists of gravel roads, steep inclined and at times, wet and muddy pathways. From here on, it was approximately 1.5 hours to the beautiful Lake Marian as stated on the signage.

So into the native forest we ascended, starting with steady inclines up on uneven rocky road. It was still relatively manageable at the start, with very obvious reasons. It was enjoyable and exciting to wander through the amazing forest. Even the sweat and the panting from climbing up against gravity were all part of the package of adventure! Totally enrapturing!

But the climb soon became a little relentless as time passed. However, thinking about it now just made me missed manoeuvring through the dense forest like some explorer on a mission; a mission to find the hidden gem of a lake that is! Haha! 😀

After trotting through the rocky, and at times narrow paths, feeling all sweltering, we arrived to an area of openness. There weren’t any shelter from the sun by the trees like before, and if one would just have a quick glance at the entire peripheral view on its own without being meticulous in the details, one would totally missed out the orange beacon (which we all know is there for the very reason to guide trekkers in the right direction)!

And we decided, of all places, to take respite in an unshaded open piece of area surrounded by trees and huge logs. Hhhmmm… And the idea of respite is to dance silly as if the trees were the compelled audiences there to stay. Haha… You can see the embarrassing footage in the video linked below.

Click for Lake Marian video!

Following the orange beacon prudently along, we were on our merry way back into the forest under the cool shelter from the sun. But from this section on, the path was definitely way more exciting to manoeuvre through. Much more narrower pave, and even at times having to balance on thick tree trunks and all. I imperatively enjoyed my climb for this particular trek during my whole stay in the South Island of New Zealand. I found the zeal and passion just moving through the forest. Yes, it was tiring, but I found the joy in it. I felt so alive and just plain satisfied. I really don’t know how else to explain this feeling but it was pure simple happiness! 😀

I recalled we did asked other trekkers who were descending back from the lake, how much more distance we had to cover. And the answers to that were always, “Oh yeah yeah, soon, very soon.” And after a while, we figured, “… soon, very soon.” was but a mere sentence. Totally inaccurate. Well in their defence, probably the distance was short, but maybe we were already quite worn out that “… soon, very soon.” seemed “… far, all so very far.” Haha!

We just had to ramble through and press forward!

So trust me when I say that these huge pieces of logs that you have to cross over, is a pretty good indicator that the end is near. The end to eternal ethereal beauty of Lake Marian was just so close within our reach. Honest!

4. Lake Marian

Lake Marian is an alpine lake in a hanging valley formed by glacial action. This lake lies above the bush line and is surrounded by the amazing Darren Mountains. The Lake Marian region probably provides the most enticing setting of a hidden gem in the Fiordland National Park region. Perfect for photographers!

Albeit jaded, the breeze from the lake just doused the tiredness and rekindled a whole new feeling of enthusiasm and glow! When we first saw the sight of Lake Marian, we were awestricken. Speechless. Dumbfounded.

I needed a moment to soak in the wondrous beauty of it all. The distant partially white snow-capped Darren Mountains as backdrop and the undisturbed clear waters were just in a perfect cosmos. It was really impressive how incredible Mother Nature was. And time and again, she never failed to amaze and blow me away. It was like a wallpaper that I would only imagined and dreamed about, but there it was, sprawled right in front of me in my peripheral vision, unimpeded!

The hours of climb through the forest and all the pushing through was all worth it. Worth it to be in the moment as such, and to have that memory to have at least seen and felt it just once was bliss enough.

We spend quite a long time by the alpine lake. Having our packed lunch of sandwiches, admiring the beauty, and of course taking loads of photos. Haha!

It was so beautiful, we were quite reluctant to leave. But we did have quite a journey back to the parking lot. Alas, we had to leave to make up for the time before it turned dark.

 

TIPS?

(a) Start the trek EARLY

Before embarking on this Lake Marian trek, I already knew we had to start the trek early. But because we were beat out from previous nights, we decided that we would still get up early, but… just not so much earlier.

Hence, we missed out on the magnificent reflections of the Darren Mountains on the lake waters; which could be seen when the weather was calm making the waters in Lake Marian very much still. And that usually happened at dawn when the air would be crisp and the breeze at its minimal. When we were heading towards the lake, we stopped to have a conversation with a couple from Israel. They headed to the lake extremely early in the wee morning, and were already on their way back. We saw some of the shots they took of Lake Marian early in the morning, they were GORGEOUS! Words cannot describe.

So if you want to have amazing reflection shots of the mountains imprinted on the lake waters, a good timing to arrive at Lake Marian would be around 8 – 9 am? That was according to the Israeli couple.

If not, Lake Marian is still a gorgeous sight in the late morning early afternoon; which was what we got to see. Still ain’t half bad you know. 😀

(b) Go for a SWIM

Minor regrets in life comes when you thought you were all packed for a trek, but didn’t occur to you that you could actually bring your swimming gear. I didn’t know swimming was allowed at Lake Marian, well… apparently so it seemed. If I had a do over, I would make sure I pack my swimming essentials that’s for sure. I am positively sure the waters would be so refreshing after a long arduous climb up. Totally energising!

But because we were not prepared for a swim, we only doused our hands in the waters, which was extremely chilly!

(c) Beacon of SAFETY

The start of the tramping track on this Lake Marian trek would be after the series of mini waterfalls. The pathway started to get more uneven underfoot and the route was not at all straightforward. Hence, it would definitely be advisable that one should be of moderate to good level of fitness and also have a certain level of navigation and survival skills.

Getting to Lake Marian was still somewhat manageable. We just had to find orange beacon arrows mounted on tree trunks, or any form of track markers or indicators. Of which, some were very obviously spotted, while others required a wee bit more eye for details. But either way, it was still alright, coming from someone who really do not have much jungle experience.

However, on the way back, we had probably missed a beacon and sort of side tracked a little. The pathway did not seemed at all crossable. Hence, in such situation it would definitely be wise to trust your gut, retract your steps and find the orange beacon or any indicator that you might have missed, sometimes it could be a red ribbon or something like that.

Always remember to be safe. If you don’t feel that it is right, even the slightest bit, to move forward… don’t. Trust yourself.

The Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawbai, a government agency in charge of conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage, placed Lake Marian Track to be in the ‘Advanced: Tramping track’ category.

In New Zealand, tracks that are listed in this government agency website, are placed in one of six categories. And to be placed under ‘Advanced: Tramping track’, indicates that the Lake Marian Track is considered to be the second most demanding track, with ‘Expert: Route’ being the most challenging one.

Click for more information about the six walking track categories.

Hence, it is always wise to stay safe and be mindful of the surroundings!

Trekking is always a good way to avoid huddled groups of people, and a great way to find solace. I always relish the moments spend trekking. The serenity of it all just cannot be bought with money! And I do hope to conquer more treks in the future.

Hope this prods you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee