One-day tour from Seoul
Both attractions: Nami Island and Petit France are almost a mandatory program for those tourists who want to spend one day outside Seoul. Almost all local travel agencies offer organized trips to both places, so there are many offers to choose from. Sometimes the trip proposals are mixed with a visit to the “Garden of the morning calm“, but the trip we participated in, did not have this place in the program.
Even though both attractions can be reached from Seoul by public transport – we went there with the local travel agency KLOOK. The main reason for choosing an office offer was the commuting time and long distance between the two attractions. The organized trip not only offers integrated transport but also a guide and entry tickets. So instead of worrying about where to get in, where to get off, where to go and where to buy tickets – we could concentrate on resting and taking pictures. In a word, such an organized tour is a pure pleasure. It is giving you time to relax and the possibility of pleasant spending of the time.
The offer we choose from had in the program exploring the Island of Nami and visiting the town of Petit France, but an additional “bonus” during this trip was also a ride on the “Gangchon rail bike”.
Contrary to our earlier expectations that during the trip we will see mainly foreigners, it turned out that Koreans themselves love all these places and often come to them to relax with their families. It was thanks to the time spent together with “local” tourists that I had the opportunity to get to know them better. For me, it’s the most valuable experience I’ve brought with me from South Korea.
Nami Island is located 63 kilometres from Seoul, in Chuncheon City, Gangwon Province. You can get to the island in two ways: traditional or more modern.
The traditional method is a ferry. Average travel time to Nami Island takes from 5 to 6 minutes.
The ferry departures to the island every day between 7.30 a.m. and 9.40 p.m. During peak hours (between 9.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.) it runs every 10-20 minutes, other hours – every 30 minutes.
The modern method is flying on the high of 80 m, with the “Nami Skyline ZipWire Zip Rider” which is one of the largest zipline facilities in Asia.
Although the ride is quite expensive (KRW 40,000 / about 35$), you must stand in a long queue to get there as it is a very popular attraction. The ride itself takes only 4 minutes and the route is 940 meters long. It is recommended to book a ticket in advance via the website, which will allow you to skip a long queue. More about this offer you can read on ziprider.com
Nami Island has an area of 460,000 m2, and the length of the coastline is 5 km. It is said that although there are no mountains on the island, there are “trees so tall that they touch the sky”. Walking between the forest paths you can meet here hares, ostriches, squirrels, ducks and numerous species of birds living here.
The name Nami was given to the island in honour of General Nami – a national hero who made a name for himself in Korean history. Unfortunately, he died on the battlefield at the age of 26. His grave is on the island.
In 1944, as a result of the construction of the Cheongpyeong dam, an artificial island was established on the river. In 1965, thousands of trees were planted on it, so today you can feel there as in the middle of the forest.
It is believed that the magic of this place lies in the fact that people, animals and nature meet here to create harmony and peace away from the noise of the big city and civilization.
It is also a favourite place of Koreans. They often come here for family picnics or numerous festivals, performances or exhibitions. The popular Korean soap opera – Winter Sonata – was also filmed on the island. in this case – fans of this film constitute a large group of visitors.
Attractions on the Nami Island
The official name of the island of Nami is “Republic of Naminara“.
This name was given to her after the local authorities declared her cultural independence from the Republic of Korea, with her own diplomatic and cultural policy. The Naminara Republic celebrates the imagination, numerous fairy tales, songs and poems for children are created here.
The island has many attractions that attract tourists throughout the year. In truth, however, a visit to this place is in itself a very interesting experience. In my opinion, the most valuable is nature here, and this makes this place so attractive. But what else can you do here?
Nature and recreation
On the island, there are forest avenues overgrown with interesting trees. There is an avenue of cherry, larch, pine and rare species such as metasequoia.
Also, there are numerous small themed gardens and several small ponds.
There are also many works of art done by local and international artists throughout the park. Here you can find romantic sculptures showing couples in love, sculptures of gnomes, trees with human faces, a gallery of goblins and numerous forest “sprites”.
For the youngest, the Water Garden Swimming Pool is a real attraction.
In 2010, Nami Island was recognized as a UNICEF child-friendly park.
It was the first in Korea and only the 14th park in the world to receive such a marking. Nami was chosen because of UNICEF’s ongoing financial support and cultural activities for children. For example, such as the Nami Island International Children’s Book Festival (Nambook).
The island of Nami has also been awarded by the Human Rights Forum of People with Disabilities in South Korea. It was rewarded because of the ease of access that is offered to all visitors to the island.
Happy Garden Sculpture Gallery – by Yu Quingcheng
On the Nami Island, there is a special art gallery named: “Happy Garden Sculpture Gallery”. The gallery presents clay sculptures made by a popular artist from China – Yu Qing Cheng. However, these are not ordinary sculptures, but a tribute to mothers, their children and family life. The author himself in China received the title of “Pioneer of folk art”. UNESCO gave him the title: “Master of folk art”. The author himself says: “sexuality is the essential need of man”, therefore the characters depicted by him are naked with clearly oversized sexual attributes.
However, sculptures are presented in a very positive way: they show happy family life, playing children, the joy of life and the warmth of family home.
On the Nami Island, besides the gallery itself, there are many sculptures of this author scattered in many places. Watching them makes everyone smile and feel good.
How to commute on Nami Island
You can use various transport options on site. Although there are no cars, the transport offer is very wide. Rental point is open from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
- Bicycle. Renting for 30 minutes costs 4000 WON (approx. 3,5$)
- Three-wheel electric scooter. 30 min. costs 12,000 WON (about 10$)
- “Sky-bike” – a railbike for 2-4 people moving on rails, in some places suspended high above the heads of passers-by. The cost of the trip is 3000 WON (about 2,5$)
- “UNICEF Charity Train,” or a journey on a coloured electric train with wagons. A one-way trip costs 3000 WON (about 2,5$) and the journey time is about 15 minutes.
- You can also rent a speedboat and sail the island around. Cost for 5 people – 40000 WON (about 35 USD)
For the children, you can rent a stroller for the price of 3000 WON (about 2,5 USD per day). It is also possible to borrow a wheelchair – free of charge.
The island can also be visited on foot. At a slow pace, we’ll have 2 hours to visit it all. On the spot, you can get a map of the whole area, which helps you plan your route or choose only the places that interest you the most.
Map of Nami Island
Where and what to it?
On Nami Island there are several cafes and restaurants serving Korean and Asian cuisine. There is also a restaurant specializing in serving spicy grilled chicken and serving Italian pasta. The attraction in cafes is an ice cream desserts made of frozen water or frozen milk, in the shape of a snowman. Also, in the shape of a snowman or snowflake, cookies are served with sweet topping and with seasonal fruits.
Is it possible to stay there for longer?
On the island, you can stay longer, as there are several places offering accommodation. You can rent a room for 2 or 4 people at the Jeonggwanru Hotel, which is located in the main building of the complex. Here you can choose a room with a traditional bed or sleep on the mat on a heated floor – in traditional Korean style.
You can also rent holiday houses on-site where you can stay with your dog.
How to get by public transport?
A special bus departs from Seoul to reach the island. Buses leave every day at 9.30 a.m.
- Insa-dong, west gate stop, Tagpol Park,
- Namdaemun, Sungnyemun Square Bus Stop, opposite Namdaemun Market
- Myeong-dong, back Alley of Shinsegate Department Store (Main)
Return from Nami Island is every day at 4.00 p.m. Bus stop is at the parking lot opposite the main registers.
One-way ticket – 9000 WON (about 8$), round trip 18,000 WON (about 16$).
From Seoul can reach Nami by ITX train, from Cheongnyangi Station. Travel time is approx. 40 min. You need to get off at Gapyeong Station, from where you need to reach the ferry harbour on foot – about 2 km (20 min.)
Nami Island entry tickets
A one-time entry ticket is 13,000 WON (about 11$). For those who visit this place regularly, there is an attractive discount provided. A year-round entry pass costs 45,000 WON (about 38$) and offers an unlimited number of entrances.
More about Nami Island / Republic of Naminara, you can read directly on the website: namisum.com
Gangchon Rail Park
Railbike, it is a fantastic adventure. This entertainment is perfect for everyone – regardless of age. Pedalling does not require any special effort, because most of the route the trolleys slide downhill or move using electronic assistance. Fun and travel experience are unforgettable and fantastic.
We were on the Gimyujeong – Gangchon route. This route is one way. After approximately 45 minutes, the trolleys stop at a place where they cannot go further for safety reasons. In that place, there is a train waiting for all passengers. After getting on the train, after 20 minutes you reach the final station.
The trolleys start at every full hour, between 9.00 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. In the winter season (November – February), the last departure is at 4.30 p.m.
A 2-seater trolley costs 30,000 WON (about 38$), a 4-seater wagon of 40,000 WON (about 34$). The ticket is paid for the car and not per person.
Gangchon Rail Park Route
On the route, there are some interesting attractions and beautiful views.
Along the way, there is a real railroad crossroad. Traffic on the road is guarded by a guard. All cars must stop in front of the railway barrier, to let the entire group of trolleys pass. It is worth to mention, that there are about 80 trolleys taking part in a single ride. That means the whole “peloton” is really long and waiting time for cars on a crossroad is long.
During the journey, you are driving through several tunnels, each of which offers various attractions. In one tunnel there was total darkness, but it looked like a starry milky way. You could not see the rails, only a shadow of the people riding in front of you. In the background, there was a romantic song played. That experience gave us great emotions and shivers on the skin.
In another tunnel, there were colourful strobe lights, lasers and very loud K-pop music. We all drove through this tunnel dancing and singing 😊.
In the third tunnel, there was a land of happy bubbles, meaning that colourful soap bubbles were flying in the air.
For those willing, it is possible to rent VIR glasses. In the last – fourth tunnel, passengers caring special glasses see an alternate reality. With those glasses, they can see dangerous monsters that must be killed. They are earning points for each killed creature. Costs for renting VIR glasses is 5000 WON (about 4,5$ per person).
Part of the route runs along the high bank of the cliff, and a wide river meander below.
What to watch out for when travelling
During the whole trip, you must be careful only about two things.
- First one: you should keep the distance and not hit the stroller in front of you.
- Second one: hold your cap firmly, because strong gusts of wind may take it away from you.
Along the route, there are few information boards. For example, they are notifying about the length of the approaching tunnel or about bubbles in the tunnel that are harmless to the human body.
or about the fact that in a moment there will be a point, where the machine will take us a picture. Of course, such a photo can then be bought, packed in a frame with the name of the tour operator. Photo cost is 10,000 WON (about 8,5$).
I give a very high rating on this attraction. I think it is great entertainment and the perfect way to have fun and relax.
For more information, please visit railpark.co.kr
Petit France is a French-style theme park that was built in July 2008. This small French town is dedicated to the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and the famous hero of one of his fairy tales – the Little Prince.
The park has several art galleries, small museums, some colourful sculptures themed exhibitions and handicraft workshops.
Of course, there are several places where you can eat something good or drink coffee. In the middle of the town, there is a small amphitheatre, in which there are exhibitions with puppets.
When we arrive at the Petit France village there was a concert on stage 🙂
Of course, the park’s main motif is the Little Prince, so he is a character who can be found in almost any place and in any form.
The whole park is very colourful, with fragrant gardens and houses painted in vibrant colours. The town is built on a small hill so walking around the park you must climb many stairs.
In the park, there are several designated zones for taking a “selfie”. There are also viewpoints from which there is a picturesque view of the surroundings: the forest, lake and mountains.
Nevertheless – Petit France is an attraction mainly aimed at children, but I do not regret having visited this place. First of all, because being in Korea I did not expect to see a small, colourful French town. This is an interesting attraction and a good moment to remember the times when each of us was a child :-).
Petit France worth to know
Worth to mention, there is also a short educational path in the town, running through the middle of the forest. Spectacular views and a very relaxing walk.
- Visiting the park is possible between 9.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. (last entrance at 5.00 p.m.).
- Admission ticket –10,000 WON (about 8,5$).
Nami Island and Petit France – how to get to individual attractions
All the above-mentioned attractions (Nami Island, Garden of Morning Calm, Petit France and Gangchon Rail Park) are located in the city of Chuncheon, in close proximity to each other.
From Seoul, it’s best to get to Gapyeong Station. From Myeong-dong or Seoul Station, travel time with transfers will be around 90 minutes. Directly from the exit of the station is the Gapyeong Shuttle Bus stop, which travels between all attractions in the region. The whole day ticket costs 6000 WON (about 5$) and can be bought directly from the driver.
The journey time from Gapyeong to Petit France station is about 30 minutes.
Worth to know:
- Note that these buses run quite rarely (once every hour).
- However, this is convenient transport, because you can get on and off the bus several times during the day.
- Everything can be travelled with one ticket. Anyway, it’s worth checking the exact departure time, so that you don’t have to wait another hour for the bus.
- If you miss the bus or don’t want to wait for it, you can take a taxi.
- For example, a ride from Petit France to Nami Island costs 18,000 WON (about 15$). It takes about 20 minutes to get to the spot.
Nami Island and Petit France – my personal overview
I think this one day trip was very interesting. We did not focus on any important monuments, religious sites or cultural heritage from the UNESCO list. There were no historic sites to visit, nothing serious to remember. Instead, this trip was full of fun, well-being and children’s joy. From time to time, each of us deserves just such a day! 🙂
SOUTH KOREA – MY OTHER POSTS
I also encourage you to read my other posts about Seoul and South Korea: