South Korean's are familiar with obsessions. Ask a group of teen girls or women who their favourite K-pop group and you could find yourself faced with quite a heated argument. I've hear men with strong opinions of the topic as well. The same is true for K-drama's. South Korean's will travel hundreds of kilometres to take photographs at the shooting location of their favourite K-drama's. That is, in part what brings so many domestic, and international tourists to the beautiful Nami Island.
The drama catapulting Nami Island to fame is Winter Sonata (겨울연가) originally released in 2002. People flock to the tiny island to replicate scenes with small snowmen, tree lined streets, and the famous bike riding scenes.
If you are not a fan of the show fear not, I am not either. Nami Island will still show you a good time. The island itself is quite small in size, 3 hours should be enough for your to see all that Nami has to offer, eat something, take some pictures, and queue for the ferry.
We visited at the end of winter (March) before the official beginning of spring, though it is beautiful any time of the year. The island is privately owned and for that reason it seems well managed and marketed. There are different events held on the island depending on the season, in winter there were snow sculptures. These were being removed during our visit.
Upon arrival, we rented a tandem bike and rode around the island for an hour. The bike was basic at best and certainly not built to cope with the weight of the two of us. A single geared contraption, it made a terrible noise every time we went over a bump and at times, when trying to go up hill, the gear would slip completely. It sounds terrible but really we had to laugh as everyone stared at us on this tiny little bike. It was really quite funny.
On one end of the island is a deck you can stand on and look out over the river and dream you are somewhere in Switzerland. The other end looks back on the city of Gangwon. Here we found a cluster of adorable squirrels who were fighting a turf war.
In terms of food, there was quite a lot on offer. We tried a 'nami sausage' which was delicious and good for a snack. We also ducked in to the coffee shop and ordered a Nami snowman cake and a magkeolli and yogurt smoothie. Highly recommend the smoothie as it uses the islands famous pine nut magkeolli (fermented rice wine liquor). It was tangy and refreshing.
Wandering around the island there is a tonne of art, water sculptures, trees, galleries and art exhibitions, including a Praque exhibit which ended with me accepting the throne of a foreign nation.
A great day out, easy to access from the city and something very different to what is on offer in nearby Seoul. No wonder so many people bring their girlfriend here for a first date, there is even a marker on the island where you can have your first kiss.
Watch out for the wild ostriches, the mascot of the Island. If you like them you can purchase a 'souvenir ostrich' to take home with you.
To get there:
Take the ITX from Yongsan Station to NamChuncheon station (W7,400 per person). From there change to the metro and take a train to Gapyeong. From the station you can walk, as we did (we were hatching Pokemon at the time) or take a W3,000 taxi ride to the ferry.
There is a W10,000 'visa fee', don't worry you will not need your passport. This fee includes a return journey to the island on the ferry. There are no other costs to arrive on the island. If you want to rent a bike; W7,000 for a single W14,000 for tandem (double). You can buy food and drinks on the island. Most shops accept card, there is a KEB ATM on the island near the bike rental.