There is no shortage of wonderful places in Korea, but perhaps none quite as naturally beautiful and pure as the Gangwon-do region. However, nature isn’t the only beauty waiting for tourists. The area is home to relics of traditional culture, galleries full of modern art, and many more unique attractions. This winter, take in the refinement of Gangwon-do’s nature and arts.
Woljeongsa Temple, located within the pristine beauty of Odaesan Mountain, recently rose to popularity thanks to appearing in the drama “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God.” Viewers will recognize Haetalgyo Bridge and the fir forest path, the latter of which is particularly worth a visit, stretching for nearly 1 kilometer from the main gate of Woljeongsa Temple. The release of phytoncides into the air makes this a must-visit attraction for weary travelers.
Woljeongsa Temple has a long history, having been established in AD 643, during the 12th year of Silla Queen Seondeok’s reign. The temple preserves many national treasures, including the Octagonal Nine-story Stone Pagoda of Woljeongsa Temple. These days, the templestay program here is flourishing. Visitors can enjoy spiritual healing, or learn more about Buddhism through an overnight stay at the temple.
Café Nandana, located within Woljeongsa Temple grounds, gets its name from the Buddhist term for a hanging garden. Visitors will understand the meaning behind the name when stepping out onto the terrace, set within the tree branches. Grab a seat and take in the beauty over a cup of house-made fruit tea or with some bread. The café’s bakery selection includes breads and muffins made with brown rice, sweetened with various dried fruits.
Sangjang-dong Mural Village is located in an old mining neighborhood. The murals portray the joys and sorrows of the miners and their families. The colorful paintings allow visitors to easily see how hard the work was as well as how many people lived in the very near past.
Bongpyeong 5-day Market is a traditional market where the shop owners gather on dates ending in a two or a seven. Because of the limited meetings, market days are sure to be bustling and active! The market is in close proximity to Lee Hyo-seok Culture Village, which hosts the Hyoseok Cultural Festival each year in September when the buckwheat blossoms white. The market recently underwent a redesign project, improving the market’s overall looks while still maintaining the traditional essence that makes it so special. Visitors can enjoy a variety of healthy foods made with the locally-grown buckwheat. Better yet, the marketplace foods are all priced around 3,000 to 5,000 won. Other products sold at the market include pottery and small handicraft items, perfect as souvenir gifts.
Eden Mill was originally a tteok (rice cake) shop, but the owner was so fond of coffee, she also began to use the mill for coffee beans to prepare pour over coffee. Visitors can choose from a variety of coffee roasts, including a house blend, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya AA, and Blue Mountain. Enjoy a cup of pour over coffee with a freshly prepared rice cake for a unique but tasty experience.
Buckwheat Voyage is a famous restaurant in Pyeongchang, serving up delicious memil jeonbyeong (buckwheat crepes) stuffed with kimchi and tofu, memil makguksu (spicy buckwheat noodles), and chewy susu bukkumi (half-moon sorghum cakes) filled with sweet red bean jam. The restaurant is also popular among vegetarians and people with dietary restrictions. Diners can choose the spicy bibim guksu (spicy noodles) or the refreshing mul guksu (cold noodles). Visitors who have a low spice level tolerance can still enjoy bibim guksu here, as the sauce is quite mild.
Mooee Arts Center is just a 10-minute drive from Bongpyeong 5-day Market. Located within the grounds of the closed Mooee Elementary School, the center has transformed the classrooms and playground into exhibition galleries and open studios for local artists. The man-made artwork harmonizes beautifully with the naturally made artwork of Bongpyeong’s landscape.
The exhibitions of lovely art pieces fill Mooee Arts Center from the entryway to the old classrooms. There are also organs placed throughout the center, open for all guests to play a tune. The second floor of the school is a resting space, equipped with plenty of seating and an open terrace to take in the wonderful view and enjoy the weather on a clear sunny day.
Vasello is located atop a hill covered with a lush forest. Despite the cozy, isolated feeling, the café is actually quite close to Bongpyeong 5-day Market and Jangpyeong Bus Terminal. It’s also close to Phoenix Snow Park, great for a ski trip itinerary. After a fun day on the slopes, feel the cold melt away at Vasello.
The entire interior of Vasello is filled with natural light, flowing in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Travelers looking for a bite to eat can fill up with the sweet cheese and honey combination of gorgonzola pizza. If you need to take short break from your travel, a cup of coffee or tea at Vasello is sure to do the trick.
Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm was Korea’s first sheep farm and is often called the Alps of Korea. Located at 850 meters above sea level, the large pasture is home to a herd of over 300 sheep. Visitors from May to early October will be able to enjoy watching the sheep graze freely on the green grass. In winter, the entire place transforms into a winter wonderland, with snow covering the fields and forest. All eyes will naturally be drawn to the wooden shack that stands out in the stark landscape.
If you visit Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, you can’t leave without a walk along the 1.2-kilometer long path that circles the grazing pasture. The uphill sections might have you huffing and puffing, but it’s worth it for the view from the top of the hill; on clear days, you can see as far as Donghae and Gangneung on the coast. Don’t forget to take a picture of the sheep farm spread out beneath your feet before heading back down!
* This column was last updated in February 2019, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.