When you already explored Seoul and got tired disentangling the shopping centers, look for day tours out of the megalopolis. This is great when you’re in South Korea’s capital because traveling outside of the city is a cakewalk. Thanks to their very efficient subway and bus system. On my third day, I availed a day tour to Nami Island and Petite France. Both are located in Gapyeong, a county located in the Gyeonggi Province, approximately 1.5 hours away from Seoul by bus.
I had my tour reservation booked via Klook Travel where I got my e-ticket instantly straight to my phone. Tour operator affiliated with Klook has 3 pick-up locations: Hongik University, Myeongdong, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park stations. I’ve chosen the last option as my accommodation is just a station away.
Willy, our tour guide for that day, mentioned about Filipinos remembering him because of a Filipino celebrity of same name. He then asked if there are Filipinos on the tour and if the Willy in the Philippines is handsome. In unison, I heard loud “no”. That was a big sign that I wasn’t the only Filipino on that bus that day.
Travel time to Nami Island takes about one and a half ride from Seoul. We were briefed on the number of hours we were allowed to spend on the island as well as the plate number of the bus. Since I was part of an organized tour, the guide did everything including the part of securing the tickets for the short ferry ride to the island. But what’s interesting is that everyone can roam freely without a guided tour. Willy just stayed in the bus during our exploration of Nami Island.
Red gates marked with Immigration serves as entry point for the departure area of the port where ferries dock and load tourists for Nami Island. But before that, you need to present your entry visa that serves as your roundtrip ticket for the ferry. Lines were long and filled with excited tourists but since the ferry can accommodate hundreds at the same time, waiting time was not that long. It’s cute to find the edges of the ferries dotted with country flags.
Ferries ply the Gapyeong Wharf to Nami Wharf and a Namimaid Statue welcomes everyone docking on the island. Information guide is very straight forward in terms of showing the locations of the must-visit spots of Nami Island. It was expected that horde of tourists would be present so I planned my route. Instead of going directly on the most visited sites, I went the other way. Here’s a list of spots in Nami Island, in order of visit, to avoid the throng of rabid tourists.
NAMI ISLAND SPOTS NOT TO MISS
Riverside Walking Course to Bungalow Row Riverside Path
Instead of starting at the Nami Train Station, I took a right and headed south on the riverside walking course. Lanes of trees are ubiquitous in the island and the path already has some. Circumnavigating the west side of the island lets you pass two other wharfs, and the environmental conservation center. You can also pass by Forest Lounge, a café having an alfresco upper deck perfect for outdoor dining. Next to it is the Shinsegae Lane, a long wooden walkway on the edge of Dream Village and flanked with trees like anemone, begonia, cosmos, dahlia, and edelweiss.
Riverside Lover’s Gingko Tree Lane
After the boardwalk is another tree lane, not as grand as the Metasequioa and Gingko lanes but its location on the riverside makes it incomparable from the two. Tourists are rare on this area and only those who rented bikes visit the lane as part of their course. Nonetheless, it’s a great location to capture the perfectly-lined trees clear from tourists. At the far end of the lane is the Changgyeongdae garden and platform.
From the south going east, the Hut Bridge offers a scenic view of the island on its east side. Compared to the wooden walkway on the southwest, the Hut Bridge courses above the water. Combination of logs and plywood serve as the decking. Near the bridge are the Samcheok Paddy Field and Yuyeongji Pond.
Gingko Tree Lane
Most people got excited to pose for their best shot at Metasequoia Lane but I find the Gingko Lane better. The canopy of trees is lower and leaves of the trees are bright green that turn yellow during autumn. Since most of the tourists stay on the famous spot in the island, the Gingko Tree Lane barely has tourists on the background. Great time to snap those Winter Sonata shots, on spring time though. On both sides of the lane are gardens filled with Kimchi Huts. I read somewhere that the kimchi is put on ground and the native hut was built to regulate the temperature.
Metasequoia Tree Lane
Probably the most photographed spot and became a symbol of Nami Island because of the Korean series Winter Sonata. The trees, referred to as living fossils, was actually from the nursery of College of Agriculture of Seoul National University. It was transferred to the island in 1977 and became an attraction due to its towering height creating a astounding canopied path.
Winter Sonata Statue
Winter Sonata takes credit as to why Nami Island became a must-visit destination in South Korea. With that, all significant moments on the Korean drama series are marked in the entire island. On one end of Metasequoia Lane is a Winter Sonata statue of Joon-sang and Yoo-jin, the main characters of the Korean drama.
Baekpungmilwon Maple Garden
It’s rare to find maple trees in the Philippines and I must admit that my visit to Nami Island was the first for me to see the tree. Baekpungmilwon Maple Garden has countless maple trees and even created a walking path lined with the trees. When I went back to the Central Korean Pine Tree Lane from the garden, I was amazed by the snowman statues dressed with national costumes of some countries including the Philippines. Walk on the First Kiss Glass Sequoia bridge before heading to the northern tip of the island.
Tomb of General Nami
Before leaving the island and enjoying some walks on these tree lanes, drop by the Tomb of General Nami. The island was named after General Nami, died at the age of 28 when he was accused of treason during the reign of King Sejo, the seventh king of then Joseon Dynasty.
Nami Island is 63 kilometers away from Seoul, in the middle of Han River covering a total area of 46 hectares. Apart from Winter Sonata, the island became prominent because of its walking paths, scenic landscape, grassy gardens, and lanes of trees. I find the leisure walks on the wooden boardwalks and tree lanes perfect moment to be in harmony with nature. Add to that the soothing breeze of the spring wind softly damping your skin. Nami Island is a small island to roam around but you won’t get tired visiting its spots numerous times.