Throughout my year living in Seoul I have aimed to make the most of the convenient and cheap transport around the city and its surrounding areas. Utilising travel guides, websites, and with the advice of friends I have successfully accomplished a lot of travelling around Korea! For this post I have compiled a list of my top three favourite, and not-so-well travelled, day trips from Seoul.
The Garden of Morning Calm
The Garden of Morning Calm was built by Professor Han Sang-kyung whose aim was to spread the concept of Korean natural beauty throughout the world. The garden consists of 20 different themed sections which contain ponds, greenhouses, and thousands of species of plants. There is a different festival held at the garden for each season of the year, so it can be visited at any time. I attended the Spring Garden festival this year when the Cherry blossoms where in full bloom. From the centre of Seoul a single train can be taken to Cheongpyeong station where public buses take you to the Garden. This trip can also be combined with a visit to Namiseom island which is located nearby.
Located on the border of North Korea, travel to this island takes approximately 2 and a half hours. The island is maybe most famous for its ancient stone dolmens which are scattered across the island. What’s more, there are long stretches of beaches to be visited as well as local fish markets to be visited. By climbing Mani Mountain incredible views can be seen across the western Korean sea and inland Korea. Nevertheless, the island’s highlight in my opinion is the Ganghwa peace observatory. As you approach the observatory North Korean propaganda music can be clearly heard being blasted across the river towards the south. An incredible and truly unique view of North Korea is possible from here; peering through mounted binoculars North Korean citizens can be seen going about their daily lives as well as soldiers posted at their stations along the river bank.
Even though Muuido Island is located only minutes away from Incheon airport via a short bus and ferry ride it feels worlds away. The island consists of white sand beaches, coastal forest trails, and local fish restaurants. If time permits, I would highly recommend staying the night on the island; it is possible to stay in beach huts on Hanagae Beach for a one-of-a-kind experience (and at a fantastically low price). Visiting in late spring or early autumn lends the perfect weather for all activities.
Written by Samuel Simpson – Seoul National University, South Korea