One of my favorite places to go outside of Seoul in Korea is Seoraksan National Park, near Sokcho city. If you're living in Korea, Seoraksan is a must-see for sure. We got there by taking a bus from Express Bus Terminal to Sokcho bus terminal (usually about 2.5-3 hours, but unfortunately for us since we traveled on a 3 day weekend, it took 5!), then taking a local bus or a taxi to the base of Seoraksan National Park. On a previous trip to Seoraksan, we hiked to the top of towering Daecheongbong peak, but this time, we opted for the shorter Ulsanbawi hike. It took us about 1 hour and 50 minutes to get to the top, and another 1.5 hours down. A normal time estimate is about 3.5-5 hours I believe, depending on how fast you hike. While there were certainly a lot of stairs and the hike did get challenging cardio wise at times, it wasn't that bad. There's so many hikes to do at Seoraksan and it's so nice to just get away from the city and out into nature. Even if you're not a big hiker I encourage you to come here to at least walk around. You can take a cable car up the mountain for 8,000 won also to get some beautiful views. Just be careful on going on 3 day weekends! I recommend going on just a regular weekend, maybe on a Friday night, hiking Saturday, and coming back on a Sunday. However, it is very possible to go to Seoraksan just for the day if you leave early enough and do a shorter hike. Either way, get out there and explore Korea! You won't regret it ;)
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The Garden of the Morning Calm, located in Gapyeong, South Korea, is maybe the prettiest place in Korea I have ever been to (falling closely behind Seoraksan national park and Hallasan mountain in the winter). While walking around there, I couldn't believe we had waited more than a year and a half to come. The Garden is huge, and you could spend at least half a day walking around the property. The Garden is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and forest that provide clean air and smells of pine while you breathe. I came in the spring time (April), when there were all sorts of different flowers and plants in bloom, but the garden looks beautiful in all seasons. The Garden is also located near Nami Island, so if you start early, you might be able to see both in the same day (and there is a specific tour bus that goes between both locations for this reason). It takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes on the subway to come to Cheongpyeong station, and then about another 20 minutes on bus. Though this may seem long, believe me, it's worth it. Check out my video below to see the Garden in the spring!
Here is the website for more information and directions: http://www.morningcalm.co.kr/_ENG/html/main.php
Directions from Seoul by Subway (the cheapest way):
Travel by subway to Sangbong station. The way I did this is by taking the Gyeongui-Jungang line from Ichon station.
At Sangbong station, transfer to the Gyeongchun line.
Then, travel by train to Cheongpyeong station.
At Cheongypyeong station, walk about 10 minutes to Cheongpyeong bus terminal.
From there, take a bus (20 minutes)to the Garden of the Morning Calm (they don't have numbers, just look for the one for the Garden (아침고요수목원)
For our Chuseok 2015 vacation, my friends and I decided we wanted to explore more of Korea. I heard from a friend how great Seonyudo island is, and I read some other reviews and thought it looked beautiful. It also seemed easy enough to get to since normally it is just a 2.5 hour bus ride from Seoul, to Gunsan, the major city near Seonyudo Island. From there, you take a ferry for 1.5 hours to the island. Because we went during Chuseok, however, the bus ride for us took around 4 hours. We stayed one night at a hotel in Gunsan, so that we could take the ferry to Seonyudo the following morning. If you can avoid it, I wouldn't recommend staying in Gunsan, there wasn't too much to do there compared to Seoul! On that sunday morning, we took the ferry from the Gunsan Coastal Ferry Terminal (연안여객터미) to Seonyudo Island. The ferry costs around 25,000 won for a round trip ticket to Seonyudo and back. It is possible to make a reservation for the ferry online ahead of time, but the website is completely in Korean, so have a Korean friend or coteacher help you out with it. I don't think it's completely necessary to make a reservation ahead of time, but it may depend on how soon you arrive before the ferry departs (the ferries run 2 or 3 times a day). Once you get to Seonyudo, there are a few guesthouses or pensions, as Koreans like to call them, you can stay in. We paid around 100,000 for 1 night at Seonyudo, split between 4 people. We had our own bathroom and slept on Korean floor mats and blankets. You can make a reservation for a guesthouse ahead of time too, but I would also have a Korean person help you out with this. If not, I've read plenty of reviews of people just finding a place to stay once you get there as well. After we checked-in to our guesthouse, we rented bicycles near by for 10,000 for 1 day, and went off to explore the island. The island is actually 3 separate islands separated by bridges that you can bike between. The views were fantastic, and it was so nice enjoying the beautiful weather and being out of the city. There are only a few restaurants on the island, but we managed to have some pretty good soups and jjigaes the whole weekend. On the island there is also a small zipline you can do, and plenty of hiking on the small mountains on the island. We kept ourselves busy for about 24 hours just exploring, relaxing, and taking in the beautiful scenery. Because of the island's position in the west sea (yellow sea) the island had some gorgeous sunsets. If you're looking for somewhere to go for a 2 or 3 day weekend, I highly recommend Seonyudo. It was probably the most beautiful place in Korea I've been to so far. Keep exploring!