Around Gapyeong City: Nami Island + Petite France + The Garden of Morning Calm
One of my must-see places for South Korea first timers is Namiseom Island.
Also known as Nami, this half moon-shaped island is located outside Seoul in Chuncheon and is popular for its beautiful nature sceneries and Kdrama spots (Winter Sonata). Nearby attractions from Nami include Petite France and The Garden of Morning Calm. Because it's a bit far from Seoul, tourists usually plan a day tour including these three spots already. Make sure to leave your hotel early and manage your time wisely so you can appreciate every location! 😊
How To Go To Nami Island from Seoul
There are different ways that you can take to go to Nami from your hotel in Seoul. Not so popular among my peers is taking the direct Nami shuttle bus from Namdaemun Market going to the wharf in Gapyeong. Round trip bus ticket price is at 23 USD, inclusive of ferry tickets and entrance to Nami, and can be availed online in this website.
BY VAN SERVICE
If you want a more convenient way to go to Nami, you can avail a round-trip van transportation. Price is steeper than the other options at 67 USD (around Php 3,300+), but already includes a van with an English-speaking driver who will pick you up from Myeongdong, Hongdae, or Dongdaemun train station, and take you to Nami, Petite France, The Garden of Morning Calm, then back to Seoul. Price is already inclusive of entrance fees to these places, and doesn't involve tourist traps.
Meanwhile, the more popular route is by taking the train to Gapyeong Station. Brace yourself for many transfers, and long train rides. At the Gapyeong Station, you can either take a taxi to Nami's ferry dock so you don't have to wait for the bus.
OR you can wait for the Gapyeong City Bus at the bus station just in front of the train station (feel free to ask around). Fare is only 6,000 KRW (less than Php 300)--which you can already use the whole day if you're also planning to visit Petite France and The Garden of Morning Calm. Just make sure to keep your bus ticket all the time (you can buy this from the bus driver).
Here's the train route if you're coming from Myeongdong Station. Estimate travel time is 55 minutes, but that's just around the subway. There are 20 stops and 3 transfers to reach Gapyeong Station. Download the Seoul Metro App (yellow) to guide your commute.
Bus stop where you can wait for the next Gapyeong City Bus:
How the bus looks like:
Make sure to keep your bus ticket at all time! You can use this Gapyeong City Bus ticket for the whole day:
When you reach Nami's wharf, you will see the zip line which is one option to cross from the dock to the island. When I was there with my family, I jokingly told the parentals that this is the only way to reach Nami, hehehe. 😂
Zip line is at 38,000 Won (inclusive of entrance fee to Nami and return ferry), and is open from 9am to around 6pm. Operations may be discontinued due to strong winds, rain, or snow.
The most convenient and cheaper way, though, is still the ferry at 10,000 KRW(around Php 450+) which is already inclusive of roundtrip ferry ride and entrance to the island. Ferry leaves every 30 minutes, you can check this website for the complete timetable.
What To Do In Nami Island?
Nami Island is named after General Nami, a historical figure who lead the victory of the king against the rebels during the Joseon Dynasty. In the island, there are camp sites, recreational facilities, bike rentals, restaurants, and exhibit halls. To me, it's a nice place to enjoy nature with family or friends. Nami also looks different during Korea's four seasons.
Popular walk in Nami:
Couples take their piggy back photos here, ala Winter Sonata:
Navigate the whole island by renting a bike! Can't ride a 2-wheeler like me? They have family bikes too!
Nami's bike rental price list:
Two-wheeler bike - 4000 KRW (30 mins) / 7000 KRW (1 hour)
Tandem bike - 8000 KRW (30 mins) / 14000 (1 hour)
Family Bike - 15,000 KRW (30 mins)
E-Bike - 10,000 KRW (30 mins) / 18,000 KRW (1 hour)
Aside from biking, we also went to the different souvenir stores, hangout by the river, and dined in one of the restos. Really love my bibimbap here! Allot at least 3-4 hours to maximize your stay in Nami.
From Nami to Petite France
This is the route map of Gapyeong City Bus. As you can see, from Gapyeong Train Station the nearest destination is Nami Island. If you're planning to go to The Garden of Morning Calm first thing in the morning, you can opt to go down Cheongpyeong Train Station instead of Gapyeong--then go to Petite France second, and Nami Island last.
If Nami is your first destination, Petite France is the nearest stop. You can go here by again riding the Gapyeong City Bus and just showing the driver your bus ticket. Double check by asking the driver before riding the bus, and make sure to check every time the bus stops if you're already in your destination!
If you're a fan of The Little Prince, then you will enjoy this mini French cultural village. Petite France basically showcases this classic novel through exhibits and murals, but if you're not a fan, it's also a place to enjoy a bit of French culture. They have exhibit halls, puppet shows, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You can spend 1-2 hours here, depends on your interest, while ticket price is at 8000 KRW.
A cute entrance to one of Petite France's souvenir shops. During my first time here, I hoarded so much Little Prince themed pens and folders!
Baobab, one of the cafes inside Petite France:
Petite France is also the shooting location for a scene from My Love From Another Star. So much Do Min Joon and Cheong Song Yi feels!
The Garden of Morning Calm
After exploring Petite France, you can again take the Gapyeong City Bus again to The Garden of Morning Calm. If you're planning to go to just Nami and Garden of Morning Calm, you may opt for this direct van service from Seoul to these two destinations at 57 USD (inclusive of roundtrip van service and entrance fees).
I find this garden beautiful both during the day and night. At daytime, you may even visit and appreciate the pond which was used as setting in Love in the Moonlight (Moonlight Draw by Clouds) where the Crown Prince usually hangout and meet with Ra-on.
During summer, everything looks vibrant and photogenic!
At night, The Garden of Morning Calm is a romantic place with all the colorful lights brightening up the garden. Not sure if the lights is whole year round though, I was there during nighttime last November. The weather was really cold, it was almost winter, which added to the place's magic.
You can allot around 2-3 hours here at The Garden of Morning Calm. When my family went here last summer, we had our lunch in one of the vegetarian restos. If this is your last stop, make sure to check and double check on the bus timetable. Entrance fee is at 9000 KRW, discounted to I think 6000 KRW if you arrive a few minutes before closing (not sure how you can enjoy the lights at night if they also close before 7 or 8pm!).
There are other underrated tourist attractions around Gapyeong aside from these three. There's the Gangchon Rail Bike, strawberry picking, and I think even a ski resort during winter! There's a private tour van that offers to take you to 2, 3, or 4 Gapyeong destinations without the hassles.
Otherwise, a full day in Nami--strolling with your cone of ice cream--is always a good idea. ❤