A nation centered on people and nature co-existing, based on the ideas of a Mr. Minn Byeong-do back in the 60s, has transformed a once desolate island into a very prosperous endeavor. At only 63 kilometers from Seoul and accessible via a shuttle bus from Insa-dong or Jamsil, the subway, a normal bus from East Seoul Terminal or car it’s an easy day or weekend trip away from the city. After arriving in the area, a visa, or ticket, is necessary to ride the ferry across the water to the island. For those extreme types, there is also a zip wire now running to the island from the main land as well. Made as a result of the Cheongpyung Dam and cultivated over time, Nami Island (남이섬) successfully brings together nature and culture in a way that will leave all of your senses thrilled.
The island gets its name from a General Nami, who lived from 1441 to 1468. He became general at the young age of 17 under King Sejo. At the age of 26 he became the Minister of War after displaying courage and strength by containing the Riot of Yi Si-Ae and conquering Gyeonju. His life was cut short however when he was wrongfully convicted of high treason during the reign of King Yejong and was executed. The exact place of his burial is unknown, but a mound of rocks on Nami was believed by the villagers to be his grave. They believed that anyone who removed a rock from this place would bring bad luck to their family and so today there is a monument in this place for General Nami. His monument is the first thing that can be seen after getting off the ferry and walking into the park on the island.
Though the island offers some rides and activities to take part in, it is in no way a theme park. The island should be enjoyed by relaxing and taking in the nature as it was intended. Families can enjoy concerts, paddle boats, a small train that goes around the island and numerous recycled exhibits but these are hardly amusement park rides. Since the last time I was there nearly two years ago, they’ve added restaurants and more places to stay on the island as well. Aside from the main tree lined road made famous by the drama Winter Sonata where all of the exhibits and stages and rides can be found the rest of the island is rather quiet. There are fields where people can get together for a good game of whatever you enjoy and paths taking you in and out of different themed areas. There are benches and picnic tables everywhere to take in the beauty around you. There are also numerous birds, such as ducks and ostriches, rabbits, and more animals to happen upon as you meander around.
The island only takes a few hours to cover. A whole day can easily be spent here enjoying the atmosphere and possibly a paddle ride and a game of frisbee. After seeing all that can be seen, as the area is famous for its dalkgalbi, or spicy stir friend chicken, there are numerous restaurants around the ferry dock offering this specialty. Get a ride back to the mainland on one of the frequently running ferries and take your pick of restaurants. Dalkgalbi is a combination of chicken, cabbage, spicy red pepper sauce, rice cakes and sweet potatoes stir fried right on the table. It’s a personal favorite and should always be eaten when visiting the Chuncheon area that made this dish famous.
If you’re looking to get away and want something easy without much effort to get to from Seoul, this is the place for you. For the how tos check out their very informative and thorough Nami Island Webpage, in English. Also, Nami Island will be hosting the Rainbow Island music and camping festival featuring Jason Mraz and Christina Perri this coming June. The tickets are already on sale, so get yours early.
강원도 춘천시 남산면 방하리 198
198 Bangha-ri Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, Korea
Hours: 8:00am – 9:00pm*
*The island does have lodging available for those hoping to stay on the island, however for those that will not sleep over the last ferry back to the mainland is around 9:00pm. Check times upon arrival.
*Discount available for foreigners.
Parking Fee: W4,000 per day