If there is one thing I like about Korea much more than in the Canary Islands, that’s the seasons. For the good and for the bad, having 4 distinct seasons brings you the advantage of enjoying very different and beautiful scenes every year. My favorite season here is autumn. Sure, a white Christmas is as magical as it can get, but Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas anyway, so winter is not as great as I had thought. However, autumn surprised me, as it gets really pretty with all the colors of the trees and the mountains.
[To find out how to get to Namiseom by subway/train, please scroll down to the end of the post ^^]
Since last year I was meaning to visit Nami Island (or Namiseom, or Namisum, or Nami nara, Republic of Nami), but because it is quite far from my place and because I heard it is always overcrowded, we ended up missing it. This year, with my parents visiting, we decided it was time to make that promised visit to Nami. In order to avoid the crowds, we decided to stay in the hotel on Nami. However, when I called to book a few days in advance (we decided to go kind of last minute…), it was way too late, and rooms had been all booked until the end of December for weekends! Fortunately I found a hotel called Iris at the shore in front of the wharf that goes to Nami, and they still had rooms available for W120,000 each room. The hotel is a bit pricey, but that’s the price you pay to be able to catch the 7:30 ferry in the morning and it offers a quite complete room.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon, just in time to see the sunset and have some dinner. Chuncheon is famous for dakgalbi, a stir-fried chicken in a red sauce (not necessarily spicy) along with cabbage and some ddeok. There are plenty of restaurants serving this dish.
We left the hotel at 7:15 to buy tickets for the first ferry. Each ticket costs W10,000 or W8,000 if you have a foreign passport (remember to bring your passport, or you can’t enter the island!). The owner of the island (yes, it is privately owned) has made it so that Nami Island counts as a Republic, independent from South Korea, and you need to bring your passport in order to get the Visa (which is just a entry ticket). The visa will include the short ferry ride to the island’s shore. Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for it, you can enter the island via zip-line for W38,000. We didn’t take this option because the first one was at 9 am, and going that late would defeat the purpose of staying in the nearby hotel.
Anyway, it was really foggy and cold that morning, but it somehow made it even more magical. We took pictures, regretting not bringing a pair of gloves, and rushed into the ship before it left. 5 minutes later we were on the Nami island, and while most people rushed out towards the other side of the island, we decided to take our time and take pictures around. It was really nice to take the early ferry because there were not many people, so our pictures came out pretty clean in the first hours. The ferry runs every 30 minutes from 7:30 to 9:00, and after that it starts having a 10 minutes frequency.
There are many types of trees on the island, all neatly aligned by species. Some lanes like the meta-sequoia one were still green, other like the ginkgo were completely yellow, and the maple trees were completely red. Another popular set of trees is the cherry blossom lane, although that one is the highlight in Spring time only. These lanes are located in different parts of the islands, and you can find out the info by looking at the brochure’s map. We decided to just walk from one side to another, but my guess is that most people were rushing in the morning to get to the gingko trees that had just turned yellow.
Besides lots of trees, squirrels and nature, there are also ostrich, amazing recycled art (such as cans or bottles), ponds, and references to the famous “Winter Sonata” drama (that I never watched nor will watch). There are many restaurants and cafes, which will get completely full at lunch time, as well as a place to rent bikes, double bikes, family 4-wheel bikes and other transportation devices. There are even motor boats that tour you around the island.
We decided to walk all the way because the island was starting to get crowded anyway, and biking wouldn’t be so easy. We walked for a good 4h (7:30~12:30, with a break for a coffee & breakfast) and took about a hundred pictures, most of them romantic, and some of them just fun for the memories.
Namiseom is actually an artifitial island, in the sense that it was created by the man indirectly. After building a dam in 1944, the water raised and inundated the area. Some rich man bought the island in order to use it as his home near the nature, but eventually it became a theme park. Most of the trees were planted with the purpose of making it a pretty place for people to come spend a day, and nowadays it is one of the many busy weekend spaces in Korea. Besides nature, it also offers a fair amount of culture, and so they invite artists to stay there and create artwork.
Unfortunately, the pretty autumn season doesn’t last that long and I’m not sure if it’s still like that this weekend, specially after all that rain! But hey, if you’re in Korea next year, make sure you pay a visit! It’s perfect for couples, families, or just groups of friends that like taking pictures together. I think we got some really pretty pictures thanks to going early in the morning, and completely recommend doing the same! Winter would also be a good time to go if the island is snowy, but make sure to bring a good coat, it was already really cold there!
The trip from Suwon to Nami takes more than 3h by subway/itx but it is a cheap fare. We left on a Saturday afternoon and came back on Sunday around 2. All subways were packed and it was hard to find a seat, so be prepared.
Once in Gapyeong station, you will see a taxi stop outside. Grab a taxi to the wharf and from there take the namiseom boat (after buying the VISA/ticket W8,000~don’t forget yo bring your passport!). Alternatively, you can get to the island by Zipline (W38,000). The prices are for round trip, and they won’t check the tickets to go back to mainland. Also, for the zipline there are 2 courses, one of them goes faster than the other, but anyway it takes about 1~2 minutes.