Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Korea Bucket List: Nami Island

This blog entry was originally published on the Aclipse Blog, which is produced by current Chungdahm Learning teachers in Korea. The blog features entries on current events around Korea, advice for incoming teachers, and the best spots sightseeing, shopping, and eating. The original entry can be viewed here. It has been edited slightly for content. For more information about Aclipse and Chungdahm Learning, click here

A couple weekends ago, I was excited to cross another destination off my ever growing Korea Bucket List: Namiseom. This gorgeous, half moon shaped island has always looked appealing with its famous tree-lined paths and photogenic surroundings.

Before I get into the details of the trip, here's some quick background history on the place: Nami is an "island" in Chuncheon, formed by water from the Han River when the Cheongpyeong Dam was built in the 1940s. It gets its name from General Nami, of the Joseon Dynasty era, whose tomb is located on the island. After its creation, it was basically landscaped and reforested to become the tourist destination that it is today. It was also used as a filming location in some popular dramas, the most famous being "Winter Sonata" in 2002. In 2006, it also declared itself a self-governing country, issuing its own currency and a "passport" to enter. Of course, this is all a gimmick -- just for funsies, which I'm sure kids absolutely love.

Our trip began at 9am, since we were headed in from Incheon. We met up with one friend, Riyas, at Yongsan Station in Seoul, where we were going to be catching an ITX train so we could make better time out to the Chuncheon area. You can get there via Seoul Metro, it just takes longer. The scenery as we headed into the mountainous countryside was just gorgeous:

From the train window, somewhere between Seoul and Chuncheon.
After an hour on the ITX from Yongsan, we arrived at Gapyeong Station, where we waited for the other half of our party to arrive. Since we had time to kill, we decided to grab some lunch. Chuncheon is known for originating one of my favorite Korean dishes, dak galbi. So, obviously, this is what we had to eat. Luckily, a billion dak galbi restaurants were right down the street from the station.

They made us put on aprons, which was smart, since it a) spits and splatters while it cooks and b) I drop food on myself more often than I should at nearly 28 years old.
Before and after -- delicious, delicious dak galbi. Corey, Riyas, and I practically inhaled the whole pan. SO good.
After lunch, Kellie, Chris, and Neo had made it to Gapyeong, so we flagged down some cabs and headed to the ferry terminal for Nami. The cab ride was quick and cheap -- only about 5 minutes in medium traffic and under ₩3,000. From there, it was time to buy tickets and board the ferry.

There's a "visa" fee discount of a couple bucks for foreigners, so that was cool. The dollars saved also helped justify buying ice cream later on...
The adorable little ferry.
In case you don't fancy taking the ferry to the island, you also have the option of zip-lining, which is definitely on my to-do list, possibly for the next time I go to Nami:

Yes, those little dots are people. 

After a ferry ride that took less than five minutes, we were dropped at the "port" and set off to wander aimlessly around the island. The scenery is so beautiful -- this post is definitely more image-heavy than most (as you've probably already noticed) because I couldn't stop taking pictures. So, heads up, and also, sorry I'm not sorry.

A guide to the tiny island.
Iconic snowmen from "Winter Sonata" and a soju bottle tree. (I don't know.)

The entire island is landscaped really beautifully with so many different trees.
General Nami's tomb.
The tree-lined paths were my favorites, as cliché as it may be, seeing as they're one of the iconic images from "Winter Sonata." But seriously, it really is nice just wandering around between all these tall trees.

L-R: Corey, me, Neo, Riyas, Chris, and Kellie.
As we walked, we realized we had made a huge mistake by not bringing swimsuits or watersport-friendly clothes -- Nami has so many water-related activities to offer! Besides just cruising around on a boat, they offer tubing, swan pedal boats, and whatever you want to call this: 

Top of the list for the next visit, right next to zip-lining. 
Nami also offers a ton of bicycle options. Hourly bike rentals (single, tandem, and little four-seater family cars) are available so you can cruise around the island's paths, but what we ended up doing was the Sky Bike. 

It was a pretty short ride, but it was still fun to pedal along and see some of the island from a (slightly) higher vantage point. We were tempted to rent bikes as well, but opted not to split into groups and just walked around instead. It was still fun, however, to watch all the other people cycle by.

Recycling is really important on Nami, as evidenced by their numerous art pieces made out of old soju bottles. The island tries to be very environmentally conscious -- all of the trash bins around the island had separate slots to make recycling easier. (Which, given Korea's notorious lack of public trashcans out on the sidewalks, was more exciting to see than it should be...) 

This bridge leads to another really famous spot from "Winter Sonata," where the two main characters have their first kiss: 

Fake snow and snowmen so you can ~recreate the scene.~ This area was pretty crowded with people waiting to take their picture at the table. 
We spent hours just walking around the island. The shade from all the trees keeps the temperature cooler, and it was just so lovely to soak up the out-of-doors. The island has lots of food options, from sit-down restaurants to food tents and stalls, selling everything you could want. After a long stretch of wandering, we found ourselves at a picnic table for a couple hours, buying a few rounds of beer from the nearest tent and its kind ajumma. A few rounds in, she brought some grilled octopus and a spicy dipping sauce over as "service" because we'd bought so many drinks. It made a nice addition to our afternoon snacks. 

After we sat for a bit, we decided to finish our loop around the island. You can easily walk around the whole thing in a day -- and that's going at a slow pace, taking your sweet time. While there are areas we didn't fully explore, it's definitely easy to see it all. 

Rabbits were all over the place. Just... sitting around. In the path into the bathroom. Just staring at you and refusing to move. Apparently, they're a bit dangerous, too...?
Before coming to Nami, I'd read that there were ostriches. Ostriches? Yes, you read that right -- ostriches. Just... walkin' around. Being ostriches. A few were actually in an enclosure, but most of the ones we came across were roaming free, looking kind of freaky, and getting a little too close...

In hindsight, this was probably a poor decision. 
This one just walked right up to us when we were hanging out in the grass. Definitely not people-shy... 
After our interesting run-ins with the ostriches, it was starting to get late. We had return tickets on the ITX at 9:30pm, so we were nearing the time to catch a late ferry and grab dinner near Gapyeong Station. The island was significantly less crowded at this point, so we enjoyed one last stroll through the trees back to the ferry terminal.

So pretty!
For dinner, we decided to take advantage of being in the land of delicious chicken dishes, and instead of getting dak galbi for a second time, we went for chicken BBQ. Somehow, chicken BBQ doesn't seem to be all that popular? I haven't seen it at many restaurants -- though maybe I'm just not looking hard enough. Regardless, I was pretty excited and it was goooood. 

Added bonus: our restaurant was right on the water, so we had a nice view from the window. 
Next time, I want to stay in the area overnight and really take advantage of everything it has to offer. There's some kind of "French" area nearby, called Petit France... Looks like it might be interesting. Nami does actually have overnight accomodations -- from little bungalows to larger condo-style pensions, it's definitely a possibility to spend the night on the island itself. We peeked into a few of them as we walked around and they look pretty nice, as well as sizable. It would be easy and affordable to get a group together and just all crash on the floor in one of them. 

Plus, making an overnight-stay-full-weekend trip would allow for easily changing clothes for participation in zip-lining and some of those water activities... 

Have you been to Nami Island? Have you had a run-in with an ostrich? Leave a comment below! 


  1. Hello~ I'm a job seeker living in Chuncheon city. I was writing a self introduction paper to get a job in Naminara republic. I needed some information on how other people think of Nami island. Your blog became a big help. Thank you very much.

    1. Awesome! I'm glad I could be helpful! Thanks for reading! :)

  2. Hi!

    I'm glad i stumbled upon your blog! Am planning to go to Korea soon and was wondering if it would really be necessary to join a tour to get to Nami Island. But i think we'll be able to just wander around freely and it doesnt seem that hard to get around. And will look out for dak galbi and BBQ chicken! haha


    1. Hey! We didn't join a tour -- we just showed up and wandered around aimlessly. It's easy to get there on your own, so that's definitely what I recommend. Have fun! And you're welcome! :)

  3. Hi. How many hours from incheon to nami? Thanks

    1. it depends on where in incheon you are. from my neighborhood to yongsan station on the subway is about an hour and a half, then from yongsan to station closest to nami is about an hour.

      there's a great app for smartphones that can calculate the travel time on the subway -- search for "korea subway" or "jihachul" in the app store! it's really helpful for mapping out a subway route.

  4. The information in this blog is extremely useful for the people. vietnam tour

  5. We are visiting Korea from Idaho Falls and I've loved reading your blog. We just went to Nami island today and would have never had gone without your great blog post. Just thought I'd say thanks!

    1. Aw, you're welcome! Thank you for the kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  6. Hi, may I ask if how much is the rental for bikes? Hahaha and other than the bikes and sky bike are there anything else to do in the island?

  7. Hi! I'm wondering of 2 hours will be enough just to get the best of what Nami has to offer since we'll be squeezing Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm in our itinerary for a day :) Thank you so much!

  8. Your description was like what i am seeing now. Awesome.