Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of Seoul?
Trying to relax and enjoy the outdoors before winter sets in? Looking for a spot to snap epic photos of the fall leaves... or do you want to be a little adventurous?
Less than a couple hours outside of the city lies a teeny tiny 'island' in the middle of the Han River where you can do all of these things and more - Nami Island.
Whether you're visiting South Korea or living there, Nami Island should be on your to-do list. Keep reading to find out why!
Nami exploded as a tourist destination for Korean drama fans, as many scenes from the wildly popular film Winter Sonata were shot there. If you're into K-dramas, you'll enjoy retracing the character's steps and recreating scenes at various spots around the island. If you're not into K-dramas, expect to see lots of people queuing up for identical pictures that you don't understand - Confusion can be avioded by joining the club and watching the film before you go. I didn't... but you could. Anyway, peace and quiet can be hard to come by when you suddenly find yourself in a mass of tripods and selfie sticks all competing for the same shot. It depends entirely on the time of day & time of year that you go, but the army of selfie takers can typically be avoided by going early.
Personally, I enjoy Nami because it's nice get away from the concrete jungle, honking cars, and busy city streets. The trip is well worth it, if for nothing more than to be surrounded by nature's sky scrapers for a bit. There is a definite bonus to visiting in the fall... The already picturesque tree-lined paths become a work of art, and make Nami Island an absolute autumn wonderland.
If you're planning to just pop in for a quick visit to Nami Island, keep in mind that it IS a bit of a hike from central Seoul (about 1.5 hours on the subway). I'd recommend making a day of it and seeing some of the other sights nearby - see the end of this article for other things to do and see near Nami Island.
We decided to make the trip to Nami this past weekend. I knew that it would probably be insanelyyyy busy since the fall leaves are at their prime, so I talked my friends into waking up at the literal crack of dawn on Sunday morning to beat the rush.
Even though my bed was extremely warm and cozy, I somehow fought the urge to snooze my fifth and final alarm. However, when I got a text from one of my friends telling me it was 0.5°C outside... (that's 33°F for all you Americans), I almost doze headfirst right back under the covers. ALMOST. Again... I fought the urge to hibernate, and at 6:47 on a SUNDAY MORNING, I rolled out of my apartment and began the train journey to Gapyeong Station.
I'm REALLY glad I didn't hit snooze, because our day-trip to Nami Island ended up being incredible.
I'd visited Nami before, but I went in February (so I was freezing), and I also went alone. This time was much different... and much better. It might have been the makgeolli (traditional Korean rice wine) we had for breakfast... or maybe just being outside, soaking up the sunshine... possibly the random ostrich sightings, but, most likely, the beautiful fall leaves surrounding us. We all looked and felt like a bunch of little kids again.
Once we arrived at Gapyeong Station, we caught a cab to the Nami "Immigration" zone, bee-lined to the convenience store for our makgeolli breakfasts, and spent the morning by the river. We sipped our rice wine to stay warm, and killed time before it was our turn to zip-line - yes, I said zip-line - to Nami Island.
There are two ways to get to Nami - by boat and by zip-line... so we obviously chose the later.
Even though we got to Gapyeong literally as early as humanly possible... there was still already a line for the zip-line! Of our two options, we chose the course that had the shortest wait time - The Adventure Course. On the Adventure Course, we zip-lined to a smaller, nearby island first. From there, we rode what was, for us, a practically private ferry (with only 3 other people on board) over to Nami. For 38,000 won you can either take the Adventure Course or go for the Family Course which zips you straight over to Nami. Both options include a return ferry ride! - (After doing both, I'd recommend the Adventure Course. It takes a bit longer, but you get more for your money).
Once we arrived on the island, we were all still feeling an adrenaline rush from the zip-line ride.
I spotted a massive clearing where the ground was covered in yellow leaves and literally made a run for it. We spent the next few hours rolling around in the grass, throwing leaves at each other, gawking at the random ostriches in the middle of the island, and climbing trees like a bunch of little kids. The makgeolli, the sunshine, the laughter... and likely the running around... warmed us right up.
A visit to Nami was the perfect way to spend a fall Sunday.
Don't believe me? - Go see for yourself!
If you're in Korea, get your butt out of bed and get over to Nami as early as possible NEXT WEEKEND to catch the end of this beautiful, golden season. You won't regret it.
Til' then, get yourself pumped up by watching this recap video!
(Note - Look out for the Nami fun police, as they will tell you to stop climbing the trees).
Want to go to Nami Island?
Not sure how to get there?
Good news! - you've got options!
The bad news is, you've got so many options that the sheer number of choices may confuse you even more.
I've tried to simplify things a bit.
Getting to Nami by Metro
Take the metro to Gapyeong Station located on the light green Gyeongchun ITX line. My friends and I were all coming from Eastern Seoul, so the metro was our quickest and most convenient option. From my station, the trip only cost 2,350 won (this amount will vary).
If you're traveling from Western or Central Seoul, I'd recommend taking the ITX – Cheongchun High Speed Train from Yongsan Station to Gapyeong Station. This line operates from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has trains departing from Yongsan station on every hour. Gapyeong is only three stops away, so you should arrive at the station in a little under an hour. The cost is 6,900 won each way.
Keep in mind this train doesn't run very often, so check the schedule ahead of time or book online here.
By Shuttle Bus
I've never personally taken the shuttle bus, but it seems like a great option for people travelling from the Insadong/Myeongdong areas in Northern Seoul. The following are the shuttle bus departure times. A one-way adult fare costs 7,500 won... and roundtrip will cost you 15,000.
Seoul Insa-dong - 09:30 - (Nearby the West Gate of Tapgol Park)
Seoul Namdaemun - 09:30 - (Sungnyemun Square Bus Stop in front of Namdaemun Market)
Seoul Myeong-dong - 09:45 - (Back Alley of Shinsegae Department Store (Main))
Nami Island - 16:00 - (Parking lot in front of ticket office)
If you want to depart Nami at a different time, only purchase a one way ticket.
For more information on shuttle bus schedules, fares, and packages, click here.
Several tour groups have organized trips to Nami Island (and usually at least one or two other destinations) as a part of a package deal. Check out Trazy.com and KoreaTravelEasy.com to book a smooth sailing, (almost) no strings attached tour to Nami - the only string that's attached is that by going with a group you're not able to be on your own schedule. Still, it takes the guess work out of the trip and might be your best choice if you're not familiar with public transportation in South Korea.
from Gapyeong Station
Again, you have options here! Either follow the cars and walk (which will take about 20-30 minutes), take a cab for 5-6,000 won, or take the Gapyeong City Shuttle bus for 6,000 won. I would only recommend the last option if you plan on seeing other attractions while you're in the area. Other than that, your quickest and cheapest option (especially if you're travelling with friends) is to split the cost of a cab.
Once you arrive at the "Immigration Zone," you have yet another choice to make - ferry or zip-line to Nami.
The ferry to Nami Island costs 10,000 won roundtrip, but foreigners get a discounted price of 8,000 won. The daily schedule is as follows
07:30-09:00 (30 minute intervals)
09:00-18:00 (10-20 minute intervals)
18:00-21:40 (30 minute intervals
Zip-lining to Nami Island costs 38,000 won. This includes your admission fee for the island, so if you plan to zip-line head straight to the tall building on your left, and DON'T wait in the, likely very long, "immigration lines." Those lines are just for ferry tickets.
You can choose from two courses - the Adventure Course and the Family Course. The Adventure Course zips you over to a smaller island, and, from there, you take a more private ferry to Nami Island. With the Family Course, you zip-line straight to Nami Island.
From April to October the zip-line operates from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. From November to March it closes at 6:00 p.m.
When is the best time to go?
According to VisitKorea.com, the reccommended periods to visit Nami Island are May, July-August, and October. I was a big sucker for the fall leaves when I visited in early November, however, I don't really think there's a bad time to visit.
What else is there to do nearby?
If you make the trip all the way to Chuncheon, you might as well make a day of it and see what else is there! Petite France and Garden of the Morning Calm are both located in Gapyeong (and on the city tour shuttle bus route). For more information about this shuttle bus, click here.
To read about my trip to Petite France and Garden of the Morning Calm with KoreaTravelEasy, click here.
One more place to visit is the abandoned amusement part, Yongma Land, located just a 10 minute walk away from Mangu Station (also on the Gyeongchun line, and on the way to Gapyeong station if you take the metro). Read about my trip to Yongma Land here.
Need a place to stay?
Click here to book discounted accommodations in Gapyeong-gun with Agoda!
Did you go to Nami Island? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!