As the host city for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics and 2018 Winter Paralympics, Pyeongchang is no doubt attracting attention as the next travel hotspot in Korea, including its neighbouring cities in Gangwon province, Gangneung and Jeongseon.
Not many travelers know about Pyeongchang and even fewer will put it on their bucket list, so here’s nine reasons why we think this city should be your next travel destination!
#1 – Filming Location for Dramas
If you are an avid fan of Korean dramas, then you should be familiar with Winter Sonata, Descendants of the Sun and Goblin. The Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon area is the hub for the Hallyu wave, where many drama filming locations could be found. Head over to Samtan Art Mine, the spot of the “lace-tying” scene in Descendants of the Sun and get to learn how a coal mine was operated back in the 1960s. Alternatively, try Jumunjin Beach in Gangneung, where you could explore the blue waters of the east coast and take a nice long stroll along the beach, reminiscing the scene in Goblin where Kim Go-eun and Gong Yoo first met on the rocks. Sounds pretty ideal for Korean drama fans, right?
#2 – Home of Tradition and History
Local currency is the most handy thing on hand when traveling, but have you ever taken a closer look on the crisp Korean bills? When you do, you will be greatly surprised by the amount of details on the notes and how much it tells you about the important historical figures present and their related tourist sites.
Observe the 5,000 won and 50,000 won bills and they reveal a secret that cannot be found on any other currency throughout the world! The special relationship of these bills is in the two figures depicted – they are the only two figures known to be related as mother and son. Shin Saimdang (1504-1551), featured on the 50,000 won bill, is also the only female on Korean currency, and well-known for being a good wife and a wise mother. The Ojukheon House, which is featured on the 5,000 won bill behind Shin Saimdang’s third son, Yulgok Yi I (1536-1584), is the birthplace of mother-son pair, and a filming site of the drama “Saimdang, Light’s Diary”. As such, it is an ideal attraction for those who love both history and hallyu.
If culture and tradition is your cup of tea, then a visit to the Korean Folk Village, a traditional culture theme park, is a must as well. This Joseon dynasty village composes of full-size houses that have been moved from each province, constructed or restored. Even the living culture is reproduced with thorough historical research, making your visit as authentic as it can be.
Various performances, hands-on crafts and traditional customs are being showcased as well. There are even hanboks (traditional Korean costumes) for rental, so you can dress up for an immersive experience life in the ‘Joseon period’; roam amid the staff dressed in traditional costumes, ranging from candy sellers, to the beggars on the streets, and even those who are demonstrating the traditional customs.
Interested in traditional architecture? A visit to a hanok (traditional Korean house) would definitely be memorable for you. The Seongyojang, a noble family residence dating back to the Joseon period, is a traditional Korean house that has been preserved for 300 years. A trail through the pine forest behind the hanok takes you on a trip to the past, where you can experience and get an inkling of how the noble class in the Joseon period lived.
Soak into the atmosphere of the Joseon period and take a trip down history lane. Wouldn’t that be a nice change from the usual monotonous city life?
#3 – An Array of Festivals
Here at Gangwon province, you get to enjoy an array of festivals all year round and there ought to be something that will catch your attention. From the Icicle Festival and Daegwallyeong Snow Festival in January to the Cherry Blossom Festival in April; the Hyoseok Cultural Festival and Zinnia Festival in September; the Coffee Festival and Arirang Festival in October, and the Trout Festival in December, you get to immerse in the local culture and find out more about what’s uniquely special in the area.
This time around, we got to catch the lovely spring flowers at the Gangneung Gyeongpoho Lake Cherry Blossom Festival. The view of the lake was calming, the weather was ideal and the cherry blossoms were simply breathtaking. Standing under a canopy of cherry blossoms to take in the beauty and scent of Spring was simply therapeutic. As the cherry blossoms cascaded from the swaying trees and petals flew along with the wind, the scene was absolutely Insta-worthy. If this ain’t a good enough reason for you to visit Gangneung in April, what else would be?
#4 – Some Sporting Action
For those who love to get your adrenaline pumping, how about some white-water rafting in the rapids of the 12km-long Donggang River? For those without a fear for heights, Byeongbangchi Skywalk offers a thrilling experience of ‘walking in the sky’ from the U-shaped observation deck – thanks to the tampered glass suspended from the cliff – at an altitude of 583m. For the adventurous, do try the zip-wire, which is one of the longest and steepest zip-wires in Asia.
Game for some winter sports? Go for some ski fun at Alpensia Ski Resort or Phoenix Park Ski Resort! At Alpensia Ski Resort, there are six slopes for skiers and snowboarders to enjoy, providing a dynamic experience for both beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders. Skilled snowboarders should look out for the exclusive zone to practice your skills. The Phoenix Park Ski Resort has a total of sixteen slopes and is known to be an environmentally friendly resort, where the ski routes are designed using natural geography. The unique slope design also results in spectacular panoramic views while offering 21 ski courses, catering to a dynamic experience depending on your preference of difficulty level.
Unfortunately, we visited the ski resorts during early spring when the snow were starting to melt and all winter sports had stopped. If I needed just one reason to head back to Pyeongchang, it is definitely to experience some ski fun, something that we would not get to experience in sunny Singapore.
(Fun Fact: Alpensia Ski Resort is not only for winter travelers as the year-round resort transforms the lower area of the mountain into a 100,000mᶟ wild flower garden during summer months.)
#5 – Back to Nature
Being constantly stuck in a concrete jungle, where all we see are buildings, buildings and more buildings, the thought of returning to nature during a vacation is welcoming. A trip to Daegwallyeong Skyranch no doubt brings out the best ranch experience, where you get a chance to hop on a tractor, ice-sled on fertilizer bags, ride a horse, feed ranch animals and even flock sheeps. Being the widest grassland ranch in Asia, Daegwallyeong Skyranch possesses fantastic panoramic views that look like something out of a dream while you walk amid the early morning mist. There is nothing better than spending some time in the arms of nature to recharge from the bustle of city life at this place where the locals call the ‘Asia version of the Alps of Swiss’.
#6 – The Games
With an approximate of 65,000 athletes and officials from over 95 countries for the 2018 Winter Olympics, and more than 3,000 athletes and officials from over 45 countries for the 2018 Winter Paralympic that will take place from 9 to 25 February 2018 and from 9 to 18 March 2018 respectively, the games is definitely something to look out for. By hosting the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Korea will become the sixth country to host four mega sporting events (the Winter and Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup and World Championship in Athletics), marking the games as a memorable and special one for Korea.
In addition, the competition venues are now located within closer proximity to one another as compared to past Olympic venues, reducing the travelling time for athletes to a maximum of 30 minutes. This not only reduces the athletics weariness while travelling from venue to venue, but also keeps the athletics in top conditions for the games.
Be a part of the big game while you are at Pyeongchang as you experience the adrenaline of the Korean cheering culture, and bask in glory with these athletics who have worked so hard for this moment. Get your tickets HERE to be part of the 2018 Winter Olympics and the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
If you want to get a glimpse of what to expect during the games, a visit to the Pyeongchang Olympic Promotion and Experience Center is the way to go. At the center, you get to learn more about the different types of winter sports at the games, completed with figures for visualization. There is also a 4D motion ride to get a feel of what it is like from the competitors’ point of view for lesser known winter sports such as bobsleighing and ski jumping and a VR (virtual reality) station that brings you a realistic experience skiing down the slopes. The best part of it all is that the Pyeongchang Olympic Promotion and Experience Center will remain open even after the Olympics.
With almost 90% of the competition venues’ construction completed as of now, we are excited as we countdown to the big days – the Pyeongchang winter games is definitely not to be missed by any winter sports fans.
#7 – Shorter Travelling Time
Getting to Pyeongchang from Seoul or Incheon is a three hour ride one the road at present. However, the journey will be less of a hassle as a high-speed rail linking Incheon to Pyeongchang and other locations in the Gangwon province is expected to be completed by the end of this year, in time for the games early next year. This will cut travelling time to just 90 minutes. More reasons to head to Pyeongchang now!
#8 – Some Quirky Art Fun
If you are looking for something out of the usual, fun and quirky, pay a visit to Haslla Art World. The outdoor Art Garden is filled with art pieces that are morbid, eccentric yet undeniably fascinating. This place eludes a strange charm that keeps you captivated, if not even, thought-provoking. Here, art has opened up to many interpretations with no right or wrong answers, plus it is definitely an ideal spot for some good me-time and self-reflections during your vacation.
#9 – Escape the Heat, Try Something New
And finally, having experienced summer 365 days a year on our little red dot, we all want to escape the heat and enjoy the beauty of the other seasons. Forget about Seoul, Busan and even Jeju for your next trip. It is time to dwell into something off the beaten track, into places that are as mesmerizing and more than often familiar, but often overlooked.
This article is brought to you by Korea Tourism Organization (Singapore).