Technically I’ve written about Nami Island before, but when I did it was the first time I’d gone and I focused on the Children’s library on the island and the fact I’d gone to it on a teacher’s trip my first year. Since then I’ve been to Nami a lot.
Nami Island, Namiseom (남이섬), or Naminara Republic is an island that was created by Minn Byeong Do and it acts as its own mini country. If you love nature I highly suggest a visit.
There’s plenty to do and see, no matter the season Nami island is insanely popular, especially as a day trip. But before I get into what to do there let’s start with how to get there.
First you need to get to Gapyeong. While some websites state that Nami island is part of Chuncheon, going all the way to Chuncheon station will be a waste of your time and energy. You can take a bus to Gapyeong bus terminal or to Gapyeong station.
To get to Gapyeong station you have two options. The ITX or Korail’s Gyongchun (경춘선) line. If you’re trying to save money and have more time on your hand taking the Korail is cheaper. You can catch the train at Sangbong station (and depending on the time Cheonyangi or Kwangwoon University). From Sangbong station it is a 55 minute journey and only about 2,250 won. (~$2.25) Please however keep in mind that this train does not come nearly as frequently as other trains in Seoul so be very careful while planning out your trip. The last train back to Seoul leaves around 11:13pm, after which you will be stuck in Gapyeong for the night (unless you can catch an intercity bus from the terminal, but the local buses stop running in Gapyeong after 10pm.) For an extensive guide on how to take the ITX please read my post here.
From the station you have a couple options. You can take a taxi, a tour bus (which is a great option if you’re wanting to go to other tourist spots in the area that day. But if you only want to visit Nami island take a local bus instead.)
Above I’ve included a map of Gapyeong station. At the top in orange are trains coming from Sangbong station in the direction of Chuncheon. Both ITX and Korail come and go from the same platforms so this is where you will get off. There are escalators, stairs and an elevator, so take what you want. The green is back towards Seoul aka Sangbon station. This is the same, both ITX and Korail also use these platforms. Usually it’s platform 3. But if the ITX and Korail are arriving around the same time the Korail will come up behind you. Make sure you get on the correct train you plan to take, either ITX or Korail because they stop at different stations (Korail hits all of them on the way to Sangbong, while ITX is faster and costs a bit more). This platform also has all the same options for going up or down.
There are bathrooms in the station just outside of the gates. They have soap and toilet paper and hand dryers though the hand dryers spit out cold weak air. (A luxury in Korea.) There is also a tiny shop in the station to buy a snack. Sometimes it closes and changes so don’t rely on it for your food.
When leaving the station on your left is an ATM and a Storyway. On the right is a specialty store where you can buy local things (Gapyeong is famous for pine nuts, you’ll also find wine and mulled (vin chaud) mix from the annual Jazz festival here) and a cafe that closes shortly after 8pm. There is also an information booth if you need directions or want more information. The black star on the map above is where buses drop off people and is usually the end of the line, so if you see a green bus there’s a large chance you can’t get on. But this is also the pick up point for the sightseeing tourist bus, which is usually larger and will have English on the side noting the stops. Keep in mind though that if it’s full you’ll have to wait for the next one and this means waiting quite awhile. I suggest asking the people at the information booth the hours of the bus if they’re open.
The yellow star is the taxi stand. If you’re in a hurry and want to get to Nami island or you have a lot of luggage this might be your best option, depending on season and how busy it is, going to Nami island should be fairly quick and simple. (All bets are off in summer.)
The pink star is for the regular local buses. This is all of them. The bus that takes me to my town out in the mountains stops here as well as a whole myriad of them. And sometimes the bus just says BUS on the front and not the number. The majority of these will take you into Gapyeong city to the bus station, which is not in the same direction as Nami island at all. You’re going to want one of the following buses: 33-5 or 33-8.
If there’s a lot of people waiting there’s a good chance that the majority of them are heading where you are. But if you want to see how much time you’ve got then take a look at the paper guides taped on the glass of the bus stop. (Like the one in the picture above.) This should tell you the bus times and among them there should be one with a bit of English. You can also just go up to the bus and ask “Nami?” and the driver will either nod or shake their head.
The bus will take you towards Nami pier. You will not be dropped off at the actual pier, this is the same with taxis. You will be dropped off near the parking lot instead. So it might be a bit confusing at first. There are lots of things in the area, especially restaurants, like dakgalbi. Since Nami island is near-ish Chuncheon the majority of the restaurants in the area before you go through “immigration” are dakgabli, which is a spicy chicken stir fry. It’s really good if you like spicy food. If you don’t, pack your lunch or eat something on the island as the area surrounding it does not have a lot of options. There is an information booth though near the pier that can help you out. (There are a couple restaurants that serve food other than dakgalbi, at least one that serves rice bowls, and a burger shop as well as a ton of cafes.)
After walking through the parking lot, or along side it you will find “Immigration”, don’t worry you don’t need your passport or any sort of form of ID, this is just where you’ll buy your tickets before boarding the ferry. (You will need to show your ticket to some “guards” before heading to the ferry and they will ask you where you’re from but it’s more of a friendly thing.) Tickets are 13,000 won, (~$13) but may be on discount depending on season and your age. This is also where you can get a map of the island, there’s many different languages available so look around for yours. You could also take the zipwire (zip line) to Nami island if you want, it’s 44,000 won. (~$44)
There are bathrooms, information and lockers near immigration.
It’s a short ferry ride to Nami Island. From Gapyeong Warf the ferry comes within 30 minute intervals starting at 7:30am until 9:00 am. From 9am until 6pm it comes every 10 or 20 minutes. From 6pm until 9:40 pm the ferry comes every thirty minutes again. (The last departure is at 9:40pm.)
Right off the boat tends to get somewhat crowded, with people taking pictures at the entrance and nearby fountain. (No matter the season.) If you want a photo here I suggest waiting for the crowds to disperse or to do it when you’re planning to leave.
You have a couple routes you can take and it all depends on what you want to do and see. Do you want to see things from the Korean drama “Winter Sonata”? Do you have kids with you who want to play? Do you want to grab a bite to eat? Want to ride a bike around? Take some pictures? Do some bird watching? Ride on the train?
There’s plenty to do, all sorts of animals you can find while you’re out and about, some easy to find and others a delightful surprise. There are several ostriches that can easily be found close to the entrance. A variety of birds also visit and call the island home, so if you love to bird watch I’m sure you’ll have fun seeing what you find. I stumbled upon a peacock just wandering about once. The island also has squirrels which tend to draw a crowd and it is pet friendly and you may see several visitors with their dogs.
There’s also plenty of places to grab a snack like this pine nut gelato that I got at the cafe next to the Children’s Library. (If you have kids make sure to pop in, they often have fun little crafts you can do and there is a place to play, as well as children books from all over the world.)
I usually bring my own food or eat before going to the island, but that’s because I live nearby so it seems silly to go to Nami island for lunch when I can go to Pizza School in town and have a full pizza for 5,000 won (~$5) or pack my own lunch. If you’re going for a day trip then it’s up to you, it’s a good area to try traditional Korean foods. There are currently 6 restaurants on the island that don’t just serve traditional Korean street food like tteokbokki or stews but also pizza and there’s even a Halal friendly restaurant. Your food adventure is up to you, most restaurants have menus outside or you can check out their menus online here. Or you can picnic, pack yourself a lunch or buy some kimbap, wine and cheese, and a blanket or mat from Daiso and enjoy the beautiful nature around you. There are also 6 cafes you can go to for your coffee fix.
Nami is just stunning all year long. It’s a winter wonderland that is filled with flowering trees in the spring and beautiful yellow ginko’s in the fall. Just prepare yourself ahead of time for the weather. Many of the paths are just dirt so if it rained recently, or is raining/snowing the ground can turn into mud. If it’s dry out they send cars around to pour water on the paths so the dust doesn’t get too kicked up. I suggest bringing an umbrella just in case and wearing comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. If you love trees expect to find: metasequoias (There’s a lane of these that are hugely popular and many people stop for photos here, see the cover image), ginkos (sometimes smelly but turn bright yellow in fall), cherry trees (beautiful in spring), Korean pines (lovely all year long), white birch and tulip trees. There’s beautiful paths between these trees that are just lovely and magical to walk through. There are also nice paths along the water to visit.
If you want to stay longer in Gapyeong there are a ton of pensions in the area. Gapyeong has more pensions then any other part of the country which makes summer insanely crowded, however pensions are not easy to book if you don’t understand or speak Korean so ask for help booking these. You can stay on Nami island. There is a boutique hotel called Jeonggwanru on the island. You can stay in the hotel or in the bungalows near the edge of the island that look out onto the water or in one of the cottages (2 of the cottages are pet friendly). You can book up to three months in advance on their website here. Prices range from 119,000 won (~106)- 380,000 won (~$339.)
Why stay at the hotel? Each of the rooms are done by a different artist/theme. And if you want a traditional style visit (i.e. sleeping on the floor) or you actually want to sleep on a bed you have the option. (Every time I’ve stayed at pension my only option has been the floor.) There’s also spaces for large groups of up to 14 people to stay.
Other fun things to do on the island include going for a bike ride. There’s a couple different options. You can rent a bike on your own, ride a bike for two or rent a family bike. (4,000won, 8,000 won, 15,000won /30mins) Or you can ride the sky bike. (3,000won) which will give you a unique view of the island. (Note the seats can feel a bit slippery so be very cautious with your items. Near the bike rental area there are lockers you can rent.)
I really just love walking around Nami island, getting away from the crowds near the entrance and enjoying the peace and nature. There’s so much to do and see that it makes a wonderful day trip (which is why I’m not surprised that when anyone visits Nami island is where we end up.)
Summer is probably the busiest time of year to visit, and if you really want to go during summer go for it. There’s all sorts of events happening no matter when you go, from musical performances, to arts and crafts you can participate in to the occasional book event. Living nearby I think has made me take this beautiful art loving and cultural island for granted, but it’s absolutely worth the visit and the amount of visitors it gets proves how magical it is with people from all over the world and all age ranges.