Gangwon (강원, 江原,) is a province in the northeastern corner of South Korea, bordering North Korea and having a long coast along the East Sea (Sea of Japan). Remote and off the traditional tourist trail, the region is relatively undeveloped being 82% mountainous and only sparsely populated. The northern border is sealed off by the Korean DMZ, with the Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains and Mount Baekdusan in North Korea close by. The beauty of Gangwondo's four seasons radiates even more against the rich natural environment here, with many leisure activities available each season. During the winter snow falls, the Gangwon-do mountains become a skiing paradise. The town of Pyeongchang has been selected as the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Gangwon is sparsely populated, and many in the list below would be better described as large villages or towns.
- Chuncheon - Capital city of Gangwon-do.
- Donghae - Port city
- Pyeongchang - Ski resort and the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
- Sokcho - Coastal town close to the DMZ and gateway to the Seoraksan National Park
- Wonju - city with an airport
- Yangyang - Remote coastal town with an airport
- Seoraksan National Park One of the tourist attractions overseas visitors consider the most memorable is Seoraksan. Outer Seoraksan has fantastic cliffs and big fountains, while the beautiful inner Seoraksan exhibits the highest level of splendor and sensation by displaying various forms and colors that nature can offer during the four seasons. The Seoraksan Mountains have multiple hiking courses, valleys, and cultural artifacts hidden in each valley, and are internationally renowned as a habitat for rare plants and animals. UNESCO designated the region in 1992 as a Biosphere Reserve.
- The Korean Demilitarized Zone borders North Korea. Cheorwon is a district along a remote part of the DMZ border with North Korea and has many DMZ attractions to see. Yanggu is another district along the border with a deep connection to the Korean war.
- Goseong county
- Hwacheon county
- Inje county - White water rafting and other mountain activities
- Jeongseon county
Many parts of the region are remote, and English isn't widely understood there. Traveling in this region is much easier if you can read and speak Korean.
Yangyang International Airport is the main airport. There are flights to Busan's Gimhae International Airport, the south west city of Gwangju and Shanghai in China. Wonju Airport has a daily flight to Jeju island, but nowhere else. Alternatively, fly into Seoul's Incheon International Airport and take a direct bus from there.
Gangwon province is serviced by three train lines. Both Saemuel and Mugunghwa trains operate on these lines. There are no high speed KTX trains running in Gangwon.
- The Gyeongchun metro line connects Sangbong station in Seoul to Chuncheon city
- The Youngdong-seon line terminates at Gangneung city
- The Joongang-seon line connects Taebaek and Wonju city.
Almost all cities and counties in South Korea have an express bus to the Gangwon province.
- Seoul Express Bus +82-2-535-4151
- Dong-Seoul Suburban Bus Terminal +82-2-446-8000
- Sangbong Suburban Bus Terminal +82-2-435-2129
- Gyeongchoon Highway: connecting Chuncheon
- Youngdong Highway: connecting to Gangneung via Wonju and Pyeongchang
- Joongang Highway: connecting to Wonju via Hongcheon and Hoengseong
Cities and counties of Gangwon province also have an extensive bus service. Each of city and county have citybus line and intercity bus lines. So you can look around Gangwon comfortably and connect to other regions of South Korea easily.
There are plenty of taxis prowling the street of cities and counties. Regular taxi flag drop is ₩1,800 for the first two kilometers, then the meter starts ticking at ₩100 for each 169m.
- Chiaksan National Park. Centering around Birobong that stands at 1,288 meters above sea level are other peaks up to 1,000 meters. Mt. Chiaksan with its steep cliffs and solemn physical aspects is a sharp contrast to the smooth, feminine Mt. Odaesan. You can find precious elements of the regional cultural heritage such as beautiful valleys, Sinseondae, Guryongso, Seryeom Falls and Sangwonsa Temple. The park changes color as the seasons pass: azalea and royal azalea in spring, thick forest in summer, red maples in autumn and snow in winter.
- Jeongdongjin station. Jeongdongjin is the world's closest train station to the ocean, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. It is one of the favorite traveling sites for young couples in Korea for its romantic scenery and white sand. On top of the cliff where you can look down on Jeongdongjin Station, there is a sculpture park surrounded by palm trees.
- Royal tombs. The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty in the provinces of Gangwon and Gyeonggi (and a few elsewhere in South Korea) are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The DMZ (Demilitarized zone) is the dividing line set up according to the Korean War cease-fire agreement on June 27, 1953. It is a buffer zone to stave off hostilities between North and South. Military activity or equipment is prohibited in strip of land four kilometers wide that runs the width of the entire peninsula and constitutes approximately 0.5 percent of Korean territory North and South. The United Nations Committee of Military Administration manages the Southern half of the DMZ. DMZ tours offer visitors a chance see how time has been at a standstill for the past half century. In Gangwon-do, DMZ tours are available in Cheorwon at the far West of the province, in Yanggu county in the center, and on the East coast at Goseong, about 50km North of Sokcho.
Outdoor recreation sports
You can go rafting in the Naerincheon region and in the Donggang river in Yeongwol. Good places for hiking, a popular Korean pastime, include the Naerincheon riverside and the region around Wondaegyo. The latter is also a destination for mountain bikers. For those who want to try out being a bird for a while, the Habgangjeong region offers paragliding at Mount Giryong and bungee jumping.
Gangwon-do offers a range of hot springs for you to enjoy:
- Seorak Hanwha Waterpia. Korea's largest hot springs theme park with huge hot springs facilities such as modern facilities using natural spring water that comes out of the ground at 49°C, outdoor leisure spa facilities, pulp wood baths and warm water baths at 8 degrees. Visitors can enjoy various types of spas against the background of the ulsan stones that stand out like folding screens - the landmark of Gangwon-do.
- Daemyung Resort Seorak Aqua Aqua World. Daemyung Resort Sorak’s most recognizable facility is the 1.6 ac. Hot Spring Theme Park. It has various hot spring baths, including a high-tech bath that provides different massages with different flows of hot spring water, an outdoor bath, a Jasmine bath, a pine tree bath (Hinoki bath), and others. Sorak Aqua World also provides special attractions, such as an outdoor recreational pool surrounded by the beauty of Mt. Seoraksan, special barbeque parties in summer season, and world-famous Thai massages.
- Seorak Pine Resort. ‘Garden Spa,’ an outdoor bath of Seorak Pine Resort, is equipped with various hot spring baths, high-tech sauna and massage rooms, and a world-class indoor pool. It is well-known for hot spring baths that use various herbs, such as green tea, angelica, mint, and many more, a “lover’s bath” scented with lemon, and a waterfall bath that provides massages under natural waterfalls.
- Yeongwol Danjong Festival. Early April, for three days. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism gave special designation to the Yeongwol Danjong Festival. It is held to console the spirits of King Danjong, whose life ended in a tragedy after exile by King Sejo, the sixth king of the Joseon dynasty, and his followers who sacrificed their lives. The festival starts with a commemorative funeral followed by a parade honoring King Danjong's life, and a traditional marriage.
- Sundubu (순두부): Made from the clean water of the Seoraksan Mountains and salt from the East Sea, Sundubu, Korean-style silken tofu, has a mild, sleek and delicious flavor. A truly gourmet dish. Try Sokcho's Haksapyeong Sundubu Village and the Sinheung's Sundubu Stew Village.
- Chobap (초밥): The best chobab, Korean-style sushi, is from fish caught at dawn and eaten right away. Gangwon's East coast offers many fresh fish markets. Once you try fresh raw fish, you will become an ardent fan. Excellent sushi can be found Sokcho's Daepo Port, just past the international ferry terminal, and around Dongmyeong Port.
- Roasted Hwangtae (황태): Hwangtae is salt-removed Pollack dried in a cool, dry place. Gangwon-do takes pride in the best hwangtae in Korea, properly dried by adequate wind and cold. It is cooked in a hot cauldron with special spices and condiments. It is also called "yellow pollack" for its color after washing and drying the pollack that was salt-dried during winter.
- Bibimbap (비빔밥) and Sanchaejeongsik (산채정식): Bibimbap is a mouth-watering dish of boiled rice and various greens and vegetables, sometimes meat, and peppered to your taste with spicy sauce which you mix yourself in a large bowl. Sanchaejeongsik (Rice with mixed wild vegetables) is a particular kind of Bibimbap that uses vegetables picked out in the mountains, small restaurants in rural areas of Gangwon-do often have the best Sanchaejeongsik in all of Korean.
- Hongcheon hwarosutbulgui (홍천 화로숫불고기): This is pork flavored with 20 different types of spices and charcoal broiled. People of all ages love this cuisine for its abundant spices and non-greasy flavor.
- Chodang Sundubu (초당 순두부): Sundubu stew is made of soft bean curd, famous for its delicate taste and flavored with salt from the East Sea. The sundubu is cooked from early in the morning, so soft it melts in your mouth. Try restaurants in Gangneung's Chodang-dong district.
- Chuncheon Dalk-galbi (춘천닭갈비): A spicy barbecue chicken dish where the cook grills richly flavored chicken with fresh vegetables on a steel plate in front of the customers. Each restaurant has its secret formula of spices. While the best Chuncheon chicken can be found only in Chuncheon, many restaurants throughout Gangwon-do offer both Chuncheon-style, and their own regional variations of this dish.
- Chuncheon Makguksu (춘천막국수): Chuncheon Makguksu is made of buckwheat instead of flour and flavored with spicy condiments. It stimulates your appetite and enhances the beauty of your skin. à Usually sold at barbecue spicy chicken restaurants