Photo: Winter at Samyang Ranch
If the stresses and responsibilities of daily life have you feeling down, plan a trip to Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games. Your worries will fly away as your take in the pure air and beautiful scenery of Pyeongchang. Here, you can see fluffy sheep leisurely grazing in vast pastures beneath a deep blue sky. In fall, the fields fill with the clean white color of buckwheat flowers, the backdrop of the Hyoseok Cultural Festival.
Pyeongchang offers wonderful outdoor activities year round, but the best time to visit is in winter, when the mountains are blanketed in snow. Visitors have a pick of the many ski resorts, some of the best in the nation, and winter festivals in the area. The city has so much to offer, it was selected as one of the “52 Places to Go in 2016” by American newspaper The New York Times. Keep reading for an in-depth look at all this eco-city has to offer.
Photo: Phoenix Snow Park (top) / Windmill sculpture at Montblanc (bottom left) / Blue Canyon water park (bottom right)
Phoenix Snow Park, the famous filming site of K-drama "Autumn in My Heart (2000)," is one of Pyeongchang's many ski resorts. As the host venue for PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics' snow board arena, a grand total of 21 ski slopes are certified by the International Ski Federation, and skiers can freely choose their course down the mountain from the peak. Getting to the peak, Montblanc at 1,050m above sea level is easy and comfortable when you take the gondola up! Even if skiing or boarding down from the peak is a bit out of your capabilities, the view of the canyon is something not to be missed.
If snow and ice isn’t really your thing, spend your time at Phoenix Park Blue Canyon. Blue Canyon is more than just a water park. With spa facilities in addition to water slides and swimming pools, this indoor water park, open year round, is fun for the entire family.
Photo: Ski Jump Tower at Alpensia Resort (top) / Panorama of the ski resort (bottom left) / Alpensia Ocean 700 water park (bottom right)
Alpensia Resort is a tourism complex located in the beautiful and pure nature of Daegwallyeong. The resort is divided into a winter sports area and a golf village and resort area. The resort's main area features hotels and condominiums, as well as entertainment facilities such as Alpensia Ocean 700, a year-round indoor water park. In addition, the winter sports section consists of a variety of ski slopes and a Ski Jump Tower.
The ski jump tower was featured in the Korean movie "Take Off (2009)," and variety program "Infinity Challenge", and will be used for the ski jumping competition of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. In addition, from now till the start of the Winter Olympics, the ski jump tower serves as an observatory and is temporary opened to the public for special admission. Visitors can take a monorail up to this great vantage point to view the beautiful scenery, and may also indirectly experience the thrill of ski jumping at the athletes' regular practice zone.
Moreover, Alpensia Resort will be a vital venue for the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, hosting sporting events such as biathlon and cross-country skiing in addition to ski jumping. Thus, all visitors can enjoy a memorable time at the actual venue of the Winter Olympics in advance!
Photo: Snowboarders enjoying the slopes at Yongpyong Resort (top) / Interior of ski lodge (bottom left) / Filming site of “Winter Sonata (2002)” (bottom right)
Providing the setting for the popular drama "Winter Sonata (2002)," Yongpyong Resort will be hosting the main stage for Alpine competition for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics. The resort receives an annual average snowfall of 250cm, starting from mid-November and continuing until early April. This unique situation allows the ski season at Yongpyong Resort to operate much longer than at other ski resorts.
The fun doesn't stop when the ski season ends; starting in April, guests can enjoy golfing at the resort's 9-hole course open to the public or two 18-hole courses for members only. Other fun activities include mountain courses and four-season sledding, zip line and other extreme sports. The mountains are especially beautiful for hiking in spring and autumn. We recommend taking the cable car to the Balwangsan Mountain peak and enjoying the fresh air as you hike down.
Photo: Wind generators of Samyang Ranch
Asia's largest green pasture, Samyang Ranch is located on a plateau with a magnificent landscape. The ranch has been featured in many popular Korean dramas and movies including "Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (2004)," "Lovers' Concerto (2002)" and "Autumn in My Heart (2000)." Herds of cows and sheep graze across the extensive grasslands; on the top of the hill stands a stretch of towering wind generators that create a fairy tale-like landscape, making it a must-go destination among travelers.
In spring, the pasture blooms with wildflowers, and cool breezes blow away the summer heat. The mountains display their majesty with autumn foliage while white snow blankets the fields in winter. No matter the season, Samyang Ranch is always a sight to behold.
Photo: Snow blankets Samyang Ranch
If you are looking for some light trekking session during spring or autumn seasons, this is a recommended place for you. From the entrance of Samyang Ranch to Daegwallyeong Observatory is a stretch of about 4.5km, which takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. When the skies are clear, visitors may view as far as the East Sea. As it is located on the highlands, the vast temperature difference makes it much colder at the peak, so preparing long-sleeved clothing is recommended, even during summer.
Photo: Beautiful snow-covered landscape of Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm (top) / Sheep in the vast grass fields (bottom left) / Sheep feeding experience (bottom right)
Often described as the "Alps of Korea," Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm is where visitors can appreciate and enjoy the picturesque landscape of wide grass fields along with the East Sea against the clear blue skies. During spring, summer and autumn, herds of white sheep roam on the spacious green plains and visitors can also experience feeding the sheep with dry grass provided by the farm.
Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm is also famous in winter as it is especially known amongst photographers for the perfect amount of snow which covers the fields like a blanket. In particular, there is a wooden shack that stands in the midst of the snowy field and serves as the focal point in most visitors' landscape photos. A 1.2m walking trail, which takes about 40 minutes to complete, surrounds the sheep's grazing field. Visitors can view the sheep and take pictures from all angles as they stroll along the path.
Photo: Herbnara Farm
Herbnara Farm is a beautiful recreation area filled with a natural ambiance and herb fragrances. Azalea flowers bloom in spring, while the warm tones of fall foliage cover the valley in autumn. In summer, the refreshing and cool valley serves as a water playground for children and adults alike to enjoy, while winter brings a stunning view of a snow-covered landscape.
There are about 100 types of herbs, each with its own special benefit or purpose. Several themed gardens can be found including the Palette Garden, Children's' Garden, Shakespeare Garden and more. Visitors can also drop by the restaurant and bakery which serve dishes and drinks made of herbs cultivated on the farm. Herbal tea and other herb products are also available for purchase in the shops, ideal as gifts or mementos.
Photo: Panoramic view of Hyo-seok Culture Village (top) / Lee Hyo-seok Literary House (left) / Food made with buckwheat (bottom right)
Every autumn, buckwheat flowers blossom throughout Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun. At the peak of the blooming season, you can enjoy the beautiful and romantic scenery of the snow-white fields of buckwheat flowers in the village. The village is also the setting of well-known Korean author Lee Hyo-seok’s story "When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom,” and thus Pyeongchang Hyoseok Cultural Festival is held here every September to commemorate the novel.
Although there are a variety of things to see and hands-on activities to experience in this village, the Bongpyeong Traditional Market that was reproduced from the 1930s is definitely one of the attractions that you should not miss. From memil guksu (buckwheat noodles) to memil buchim (buckwheat pancake), memil jjinbbang (steamed buckwheat bun) and more, a variety of buckwheat-related foods can be found in this market.
Even during the non-seasonal period of the buckwheat flowers, food vendors at Bongpyeong Traditional Market are always ready to serve the customers who flock to visit the Birthplace of Lee Hyo-seok and Lee Hyo-seok Memorial Hall.
Photo: Jangdok, traditional Korean jars for fermented food storage (left) / Panoramic view of Jeonggangwon (right)
Jeonggangwon (Korea Traditional Food Culture Experience Center) was established in order to preserve, research, distribute and promote the values and merits of traditional Korean food culture to the world.
Various activities are held in hanok-style buildings including education rooms and a food museum, as well as a hanbok experience for anyone who wants to learn more and take part in various aspects of the traditional Korean food and culture. A restaurant that offers traditional hanjeongsik (Korean table d’hôte) is also available.
With the beautiful hanok architecture as the backdrop, visitors can take as many photos as they desire. In particular, the fireplace and the area where hundreds of jangdok (traditional Korean crock) are gathered are especially popular among international visitors.
Photo: Nine-story Octagonal Pagoda at Woljeongsa Temple (top) / View of Woljeongsa Temple (bottom left) / Fir Tree Road (bottom right)
Established during the Silla Kingdom (57 BC-AD 935), Woljeongsa Temple boasts a history of over 1,000 years, making it a proud cultural site in Pyeongchang county. Though many cultural assets were destroyed during the Korean War and then later reconstructed, visitors can still sense the strong coexistence of Odaesan Mountain's nature with Woljeongsa Temple's dignity and spirit.
Upon entering the temple, visitors will be greeted with a towering nine-story octagonal pagoda, a cultural relic from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). In addition to this pagoda, many national treasures have been excavated and are preserved in Woljeongsa Museum, a definite must-see if you are visiting the temple.
From the entrance of Woljeongsa Temple, a separate road leads off to a path through a dense fir tree forest. Not only magnificent in appearance, walking through this pathway filled with fir trees can be equally relaxing and refreshing to one's mind, making it a popular destination among the locals.
Photo: Scenes at Pyeongchang Trout Festival
Every winter, Pyeongchang Trout Festival opens with the theme of “Winter Story of Snow, Ice, and Trout.” The festival offers a variety of fun winter activities including the ever-popular ice fishing and sledding experiences. During the coldest days of winter, the frozen river is dotted with people sitting on small chairs and gazing down through holes in the ice, anxiously waiting for the first bite of the trout swimming just below their feet. All the supplies needed for fishing can be purchased on-site so all you need to prepare are warm clothes to keep the cold at bay. Get settled on the ice to catch your dinner! Cooks are standing by waiting to prepare your freshly caught trout in a variety of styles.
Photo: Trout hoe (left) / Fried trout (right)
There is no need to go hungry if you don’t have any luck catching a fish. Plenty of Korean foods are available in the food center, including trout served fried, grilled, or as hoe (sliced raw fish). After an active day on the stream, re-energize your body by getting your fill of delicious food.
If fishing doesn’t catch your fancy, spend your time enjoying the many exciting winter activities. From the river come peals of laughter from everyone, both young and old, echoing throughout the festival grounds. The completely frozen river provides the perfect location for traditional sledding and modern ice carts and bicycles.
* Related page:
Two Days in the Pure Scenery of Pyeongchang & Jeongseon
* This column was last updated in December 2016, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.