Jenn is a graduate of BS Geography who has a passion for traveling and discovering the world.
Downtown Seoul offers many sights and attractions that tourists love to visit, but if you have a day to spare, I recommend exploring the outskirts of this progressive city. Don't get me wrong; I love Seoul. It is an amazing and vibrant place, but a change of scenery—even for just one day—can make your entire vacation a little more exciting and eye-opening. The calmness and serenity of a small town can provide you with a different perspective.
The following day trips will allow you to see a bit of the countryside and learn about South Korean culture and history. Each of these locations is easily accessible from Seoul by subway and/or bus in just 1–2 hours. Happy exploring!
1. Nami Island
Nami Island in Chuncheon, Gangwon province, is probably the most popular day trip from Seoul. If you Google "places to visit in Seoul" (though it is not really in Seoul) Nami Island is always among the top recommendations. And I definitely agree that it should be.
Nami Island, or Naminara Republic, is a small half-moon-shaped island that is self-governing. It has its own currency, visa and passport (which, as tourists, we see as sort of an entrance fee/ticket to the island), and there are no telephone/electrical poles on the island . . . at least not visible ones. All lines were built underground to preserve the beauty of nature, so there are no big poles and wires obstructing the view.
There are many reasons why Nami Island remains a favorite among tourists for a day trip outside of Seoul.
Reasons to Visit Nami Island
- Abundant Natural Beauty: There is no doubt that the trees and surrounding body of water make the island look magical. The tree-lined pathways, especially during fall (for the tall Gingko trees) and spring (for the cherry blossoms), make the scenery look breathtaking.
- K-Drama Filming Location: All you k-drama fans out there have surely already heard about Nami Island. This is where famous k-dramas such as Winter Sonata and Full House were filmed. There is even a statue of Yoo Jin and Joon Sang as a tribute to the worldwide popularity of the show (which made the island popular as well).
- Activities and Performances: The island offers a lot of activities to enjoy and performances scheduled through every season. They offer pottery and painting classes sometimes (be sure to check out their website if you are interested in engaging in their activities), and there are performances halls and exhibition centers where you can learn more about the culture/tradition/history of Korea.
2. Korean Folk Village
If you are interested in learning more about the history and culture of Korea, I highly recommend a visit to Korean Folk Village in Yongin. This is also a filming location for period k-dramas such as Sungkyunkwan Scandal and My Love From the Star. Similar to Nami Island, there are also various performances you can watch at the amphitheater throughout the day. You will also find a small museum and one section of the village that is dedicated to ghost stories. That was rather unexpected, but interesting all the same.
To see the entire village could take a whole day, as there is lots to see and experience. You can take a paid bus here or use the free shuttle bus they offer at Suwon Station. Make sure to check the schedule of the free shuttle bus if you would like to take this option.
3. DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)
The Demilitarized Zone is not easily accessible and can only be reached through a guided tour. Here, you get to discover more about the tension between North and South Korea and what happens at the border. This place is highly restricted, so make sure to listen to your guide carefully.
This is definitely an interesting tour as it provides more perspective about the two countries and what went on during the war. You are not allowed to photograph some areas (of course) but seeing the DMZ with your own eyes is an intriguing experience.
4. Pocheon Herb Island
Also named by some people as the most random and most bizarre theme park, Pocheon Herb Island offers visitors a Venice-cum-Provence-cum-Santa Village atmosphere.
This is a place that not many people know of or bother going. At the time I visited, there were only a handful of people there. I can understand why—the place is difficult for tourists to get to and hardly anyone in the area speaks English. Still, I recommend coming here if you are interested in gardens or if you just need a quiet place to go to outside of Seoul.
There is a lavender field here that is decorated with various versions of Santa Claus (not sure why, since it was still summer when we visited) and there are several greenhouses that grow various herbs and plants.
There are restaurants, bakeries and cafes inside, so you don't have to worry about food. Restrooms are also available free for visitors.
How to Get Pocheon Herb Island:
- Take subway line 1 up to Soyosan Station. It would be the last station.
- Cross the street and take bus #57 and get off at Pocheon Samjeongri Elementary School. Let the driver know where you are stopping if you can't read Hangeul, as the stops flashing on the TV inside the bus are written in Hangeul. My mom and I were lucky because another passenger got off the same stop.
Entrance fee: KRW 6,000
5. Paju Provence Village
The real Provence in France is one of my dream destinations, but it is still a distant dream for me for now. So when I heard of Paju Provence Village in South Korea, I couldn't not visit. Flower fields are my happy place.
There are no lavender fields in Paju Provence Village, but the small village is quaint and has everything that I love: pastel-colored shops, a small flower garden, cobblestone alleys and not too many people. The village is mostly shops and cafes. There is a small flower garden in the middle with a plot for lavender and cafes that sell various plants. The whole village is scattered with blossoming and fragrant flowers. A visit can last about 2 hours, including snacks and/or lunch in a restaurant or cafe.
There are restaurants, bakeries and cafes inside so you don't have to worry about food. Restrooms are also available free for visitors.
How to Get to Paju Provence Village:
- Take subway line 2, get off at Hapjeong station and take exit 1.
- Take bus #2200 and get off at 맛고을입구. It's the 13th stop.
- Cross the street and take the narrow alley directly across the bus station you got off at.
- Just walk straight for about 10–15 minutes and you will reach Provence Village.
There is no entrance fee, as this place is filled only with shops, cafes and restaurants; it is not a theme park.
© 2019 Jenn
Liz Westwood from UK on September 22, 2019:
You give some great ideas for trips out of Seoul. This is a great guide for anyone travelling to the city and wishing to explore further afield.