Gangwon Province

The Road Best Traveled: Exploring Gangwon-do with K-Tour08

K-Tour08 Foreigner Tours offers a wide variety of tours throughout Korea. One thing that sets Tour08 apart from other tour groups is their partnerships with local governments. Thanks to these partnerships, costs are considerably cheaper than tours provided by other tour groups. Tour08 tours also take their explorers off the beaten path. Their tours provide authentic experiences in less traveled areas.

Tour08 invited me to spend the weekend in Gangwon-do. Gangwon-do features so many beautiful sites, and is a place I have wanted to explore. However, I was reluctant to travel to this area alone. Having limited free time, and no car, I worried I would not be able to see many sites. Tour08 solved this problem for me, and provided the opportunity to explore the area without the stress of finding my way around.

Jeongseon Arirang Traditional Market

We began our journey at Seoul Station. Including our tour guide, Elnaz, there were eleven of us in total. After introductions, we were shown to our KTX car, and assigned our seat numbers. We spent the next hour and a half watching the scenery roll by, and getting to know our seatmates. We then arrived at Jinbu Station, and were shown to a private bus.

Our first stop was Jeongseon Arirang Market. While many cities have traditional Korean markets, Jeongseon Arirang features ginseng products, wild mushrooms, and locally sourced honey. Visitors can wander the web of alleys and watch food being prepared in the many stalls. We had fun watching the vendors, and tasting some of the treats. Afterwards, we enjoyed a lunch of fresh and delicious bibimbap before setting off for our next adventure.

Auraji Lake and Jeongseon Arirang

After lunch, we visited Auraji Lake. This is a site where two rivers converge, and is well-known for its beautiful, clean mountains and rivers. The area is also famous for Jeongseon Arirang, a Korean folk song. Although there are several variations of this arirang, my favorite version references real life events. According to legend, a young maiden took her life in the lake after the death of her beloved, who drowned in the lake as well.

A statue commemorating the grief-stricken maiden.

We had time to explore the area. This is a stunning location, sure to please nature lovers and photographers alike. The water was partially frozen over, and we laughed as we hopped and slid across icy stones to access two beautiful bridges and a pagoda. We also caught a glimpse of our next adventure: rail biking.

Riding the Rails: Exploring by Rail Bike and Scenic Train

Rail biking is a popular past time in Korea, and Jeongseon Rail Bike was the first rail bike location to open in the nation. Spanning 7.2 kilometers, the path utilizes an abandoned railroad track to transport passengers through stunning natural scenery. Visitors choose from either two or four person rail bikes, then pedal their way along a river, through a forest, and across gorgeous fields set against soaring mountains.

This was honestly my favorite part of this day. We chose a four person bike, and had so much fun pedaling our way into the countryside. Having never tried rail biking before, I was surprised at how quickly the time flew by. We passed through several tunnels that had fun light displays. I felt as though I were in the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

After our bike railing adventure came to an end, we took a scenery train back to meet our bus. Hungry from the day’s activities, we headed to dinner before going to our hotel in Gangneung. Our hotel was very nice, and we stayed in an area surrounded by restaurants and cute cafés. Because we had free time in the evening, a small group of us went for dessert at a lovely nearby bakery.

Coastal Walk: Geumjin Beach to Simgokhang Port

We were up bright and early the next morning to begin the day’s adventures. After eating a fantastic buffet breakfast provided by our hotel, we boarded our bus. We were dropped at Geumjin Beach, a quiet and secluded stretch of sand along the East Sea. While other beaches in the area are often teeming with tourists, this beach is much less crowded, and makes for the perfect seaside escape.

Enjoying the sun and views at Geumjin Beach.

There truly is something soothing about being by the sea. We spent some time soaking in the sights, sounds, and sun before walking to Simgokhang Port. It takes nearly forty minutes to walk from the beach to the port, and the journey takes you along the Heonhwa Coastal road. This road is known as the road closest to the sea in South Korea, with the two-kilometer section between Geumjin Beach and Simgokhang Port considered the highlight. Here you can take in beautiful beaches, magnificent coastal cliffs, and stunning sea views.

With no limit to gorgeous beaches, we also visited Sandglass Park and Jeongdongjin Beach. Sandglass Park was established in 1999 by the city of Gangneung and Samsung Electronics, Co. to commemorate the millennium. In the center of the park stands a sandglass that is set to measure one year. It takes one year for the sand to reach the bottom. Afterwards, the sandglass resets each year at midnight.

Like sands through the hourglass…

Where Art Meets Nature: Haslla Art World

After grabbing a quick lunch, we moved to Haslla Art World. Having long been on my list of places I wanted to visit, I was excited to finally have a chance to see this incredible place. Haslla Art World is a modern seaside complex that includes an art museum, hotel, café, and sculpture park.

The concept of Haslla Art World is “art meets nature,’ which perfectly sums up what you will find. Set against a dramatic backdrop of the sea, visitors are encouraged to explore this multi-acre estate. The museum combines dramatic and colorful works of art with architecture that highlights the beautiful views of the sea below.

I loved exploring this space. The museum is very large, and includes several sections. I particularly enjoyed the Pinocchio exhibition, which included several motion activated marionettes. We had fun dancing and waving along with our new wooden friends. Although we spent a couple of hours at Haslla Art World, there are so many areas, and so much ground to cover, I feel I could easily spend a day here. I definitely plan to return in the near future.

Wolhwa Street Market

Our final destination was Wolhwa Street Market. Wolhwa Street Market combines a traditional Korean market with a hip, revitalized space. Although the market is famous for its dried fish and seafood, you can find many vendors in quaint shops selling modern versions of traditional Korean foods. I absolutely had to try the chocolate hotteok ice cream. My taste buds sang when I bit into the warm, chocolatey goodness!

It was finally time to return home. We said goodbye to our very kind bus driver, and boarded the KTX for Seoul. Happy and tired from the weekend of adventure, many people napped, or sorted through freshly captured content. After we arrived in Seoul, we exchanged hugs and said our goodbyes. Having arrived not knowing anyone, I left with ten new friends.

Why Choose K-Tour08?

Having traveled with several tour groups in Korea, I can honestly say that K-Tour08 is one of the best tour companies I have traveled with. The tours are very well organized, and offer unique experiences. Many companies will hit only famous locations, while Tour08 offers a range of authentic experiences, and takes their clients to some off-the-beaten path locations.

Furthermore, the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, and I really enjoyed not having to worry about getting from one place to the next. Our guide, Elnaz, was with us every step of the way. She provided a great deal of information, while always ensuring we were having fun along the way.

If you would like to explore Gangwon-do, or other areas of Korea, I recommend traveling with K-Tour08.