Gangwon-do is known for having the cleanest environment in Korea, with fresh air and a thriving ecosystem. The cities of Pyeongchang and Jeongseon receive many tourists every year who come looking for a pollution-free environment to spend their vacation time. Pyeongchang, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, offers resorts galore where one can enjoy a variety of winter sports as well as natural sites such as Odaesan National Park and Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, which prove to be beautiful year round. These days, the nearby city of Jeongseon, known as the “City of Arirang” (Arirang is the representative Korean folk song), has also popped up on the vacation radar due to its refreshing environment. Provided below is a two-day itinerary to discover more about the excellent attractions these cities offer.
Tip) Transportation in Pyeongchang & Jeongseon
The public transportation in Pyeongchang and Jeongseon is not as well-developed as larger cities so traveling via bus can be quite inconvenient. We recommend renting a car in Seoul before starting out on your journey. It takes around 2 hours to drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang.
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19:00 AMTravel to Pyeongchang
211:00 AMLee Hyo-seok Culture Village & Memorial Hall
31:00 PMAlpensia Resort
43:00 PMDaegwallyeong Sheep Farm
55:00 PMWoljeongsa Temple
67:00 PMTravel to Jeongseon
Bongpyeong-myeon in Pyeongchang is famous for buckwheat, which grows abundantly here. It is especially beautiful in early autumn, when the fields surrounding the area of Lee Hyo-seok Culture Village are blanketed with tiny, white buckwheat blossoms. The village was named after Korean author Lee Hyo-seok, who grew up here, and was the setting of his famous novel “When Buckwheat Flowers Bloom.” To celebrate the author and his literary work, the Hyoseok Cultural Festival is held here every year in September. The festival offers a variety of fun events, including a literary program, walking through the fields of buckwheat, making foods with buckwheat, dyeing ones fingernails with flowers, playing traditional games and more.
When visiting Bongpyeong, you definitely have to try buckwheat foods! From memil-guksu (cold buckwheat noodles) to buchimgae (fried pancake) and jeonbyeong (crepe), the number of delicious foods is astounding. In order to find the largest variety, head to Hyo-seok Culture Village Buckwheat Food Street, where dozens of buckwheat restaurants are lined up, waiting to serve you.
If you’re interested in Korean culture, then visiting the Lee Hyo-seok Memorial Hall is a must. The hall is designed to show the timeline of Lee Hyo-seok’s literary life. The grounds of the memorial hall are popular for its beautiful walking paths. To enjoy the village to its fullest, we recommend taking a leisurely stroll through town by starting from the memorial hall and continuing until you reach the Birthplace of Lee Hyo-seok.
Set among the beautiful mountains of Daegwallyeong, Alpensia Resort was the venue of the opening ceremony for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. At the core of winter sports in Korea, the resort offers a ski jump ramp in addition to standard ski slopes and other sports facilities, including a golf course, convention center and a four-season water park, Alpensia Ocean 700.
The top of the tower also serves as an observation deck accessible to all visitors via monorail. Apart from general admission, there is special admission. For just a bit more, visitors can experience the thrill felt by ski jumpers by standing at the start of the ramp and looking down from the dizzying height.
Yet another thrilling attraction of Alpensia Resort is the Alpine Coaster, a down-hill rollercoaster reaching speeds of up to 40km per hour. Hop on to see the beautiful surroundings of Alpensia fly past as you race down the mountain!
The scenery of Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm’s vast field dotted with sheep slowly munching on grass is simply breathtaking. The field is encircled by a 1.2km walking trail which will take approximately 40 minutes to complete. However, most people spend at least an hour here, feeding hay to the sheep and taking photos among the beautiful scenery. In particular, a singular cabin set in the middle of the field is the focal point of many photos by tourists. Before leaving, don’t forget to walk up the hill of the sheep farm; the view from the peak unfolds to include the coastal city of Gangneung and the East Sea beyond.
Woljeongsa Temple is a representative cultural relic of Pyeongchang. It is known to have been built during the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – AD 935), making it over one thousand years old. The current buildings were rebuilt after the originals were destroyed during the Korean War. Despite their more recent renewal, the spirit and dignity of Woljeongsa Temple are still present in harmony with the nature of Odaesan Mountain.
In the middle of the spacious courtyard stands a treasured cultural heritage of Woljeongsa Temple, an octagonal nine-story stone pagoda built during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Just beyond the pagoda is a stone seated Bodhisattva kneeling with hands held together. In addition, national treasures related to Buddhism are currently on display at the Woljeongsa Museum.
To reach Woljeongsa Temple, visitors will have to walk approximately 1 km from Geumganggyo Bridge through a fir tree forest. The forest is populated with about 1,800 trees and has an average age of over 80 years. The scent of pine needles and the soft earth beneath your feet will surely lift your spirits.
A 20-minute drive from Woljeongsa Temple leads to the venue of the annual Pyeongchang Trout Festival held in winter. Visitors of all ages can have fun by ice fishing for trout, riding on sleds and so on in their numerous exciting activities. If you’re visiting Pyeongchang in winter, be sure to stop by the festival grounds!
19:00 AMByeongbangchi Skywalk
41:00 PMHwaamdonggul Cave
54:00 PMSamtan Art Mine
66:00 PMHigh1 Resort
Named after the shape of the Korean peninsula in miniature form, Byeongbangchi Skywalk offers a grand view of the stunning surroundings from 583 meters in the air. With a glass floor, you can see the hill falling away below your feet. Despite the thrill of being held above nothing, there is no need to fear falling through, as extremely thick glass is used and supported thoroughly. In order to protect the glass from scratches, you must first put on cloth overshoes before entering.
If simply standing over this height isn’t enough of a thrill for you, challenge yourself to ride on a zip line! Stretching approximately 330 meters and reaching a speed of 100km per hour, zip lining offers the experience of flying. Even better, the zip line near Byeongbangchi Skywalk can accommodate group runs of up to four people!
Ararichon offers a glimpse into the past, with tile-roofed houses, traditional slate-roofed houses from Jeongseon, and five other traditional house styles, as well as other hard-to-see items and sculptures depicting scenes of life in the Joseon Dynasty. The loudspeakers placed inconspicuously throughout Ararichon play the traditional folk song of the region, “Jeongseon Arirang.” The song may be unfamiliar, but you will soon find yourself humming along with the melody. Be sure to take advantage of the many experiences available while you’re here, such as making pottery or cloisonné.
At the entrance, you will be given Jeongseon Arirang gift certificates worth 3,000 won in exchange for the 3,000 won admission. These certificates can be used inside Ararichon at the café or for experience programs as well as be used like cash at accommodations, restaurants, the traditional markets and more throughout Jeongseon.
There are many restaurants gathered by the entrance to Hwaamdonggul Cave, especially those that specialize in gondeure namul-bap, a famous food of Jeongseon made of mixing wild thistle leaves and seasoning with rice. The wild thistles used in the meal grow plentiful on the mountains, and provide a savory flavor when mixed in with white rice. To round out the meal, order a side of gamja-jeon (potato pancake) or gamja-tteok (potato rice cake), another popular food in Gangwon-do.
Hwaamdonggul Cave originally operated as a gold mine from 1922 to 1945, until natural stalactites were discovered after digging through a wall in search of gold. The cave is now operated as an attraction with the slogan, “where gold and nature meet.” The entire course is 1,803 meters long and divided into five sections with unique themes, taking around one and a half hours to complete. Since the entrance and exit are located far away from each other, you’ll have to complete the course once you enter the cave. However, after walking down the steep stairs, the overall journey will be pleasurable as the easy walking path will guide you to new scenes around every corner.
Among the cave’s five themed areas, the History Room shows the cave as it was when used as a gold mine. Visitors can experience the mysterious atmosphere of the cave as they transition from the straight-cut mine trail into the naturally winding path called the 365 Steps Along the Gold Vein. Fantasy Land uses cartoon characters to easily explain the development of gold mining and the value of gold. Gold World displays a 185 kg gold bar and videos that explain all you could ever wonder about gold. The last section of the cave is dedicated to the theme Mysterious Mother Nature and features fantastic cave formations from flowstone to stalactites, stalagmites and stone pillars formed by meeting of the two formations.
The cave entrance is about a 20-minute uphill walk from the parking lot. Visitors can ride the monorail up to arrive more comfortably and easily.
Samtan Art Mine is a cultural art space created at the site of an abandoned mine. The entrance starts at the lounge on the fourth floor and the viewing path leads down one floor at a time. The third floor serves as a museum and brings history to life with a display of a variety of mining materials. Also located on the third floor is CAM, a high-level modern art museum. On the second floor there is a collection of over 100,000 art pieces from around the world in a storage area and shower room used by the miners, which is preserved as it is, now used as a gallery space. The gallery has gained popularity after its appearance in the hit drama “Descendents of the Sun (2016).”
After exiting the art museum, head to the Rail by Museum building next door where the switchyard is located. The switchyard, with its conveyer, rails and other industrial materials, creates a unique atmosphere, making it popular as a filming site. It has also been featured in the variety program“Running Man.”
High1 Resort offers a casino, ski slopes, golf course and other entertainment facilities, drawing in tourists throughout all four seasons. Among the many attractions within the resort, Kangwon Land Casino, the largest casino in Korea, is open to both Koreans and international visitors. In addition, popular facilities include the tourist gondola, which offers a view of the mountains covered in wildflowers from spring to fall; the Casa Cinema that have live performances, and Unamjeong, a restaurant that serves Korean food.