One of the best things about Seoul is how easy it is to get out of. Don’t get me wrong, I harbor a deep love for this chaotic, bustling metropolis, but an escape from the concrete jungle is necessary every now and then. So whenever I need a quick break from the crowds, I like to head to one of my favorite weekend getaway destinations: Gapyeong.
Tucked away at the edge of the Gyeonggi Province just northeast of Seoul, Gapyeong is one of the most convenient vacation spots you can visit from the city. The area is especially popular among Koreans during the summer months because of its natural beauty.
Gapyeong boasts lush greenery, scenic views of steep hills along the Bukhan River, and offers a variety of activities. No matter what kind of vacation you are looking for, Gapyeong will deliver. So here are some essential tips for anyone interested in visiting the area.
How to Get to Gapyeong
One of the most common complaints I hear from expats about trying to get out of Seoul is traffic.
And trust me, it’s warranted. Koreans love to travel during the summer, and since Seoul has such a high population density, it makes for some very packed highways. I’ve spent six hours in a bus for a journey that was supposed to be three hours, and once even sat in a car for 14 hours when the total trip was estimated to take seven.
So even though it is actually easy to get out of Seoul because of its top-notch public transportation, that really only applies to some destinations. Luckily, this includes Gapyeong.
The area can be reached via the subway system, which is timely, cheap, and hassle-free. Gapyeong Station is located on the Gyeongchun Line with the two-way ride costing under 5,000 Korean won ($4.50). It takes around two hours if you’re leaving from somewhere in the city. You can also travel to Gapyeong by bus, but you risk running into traffic.
Another option is getting the ITX train, which is faster and runs along the same route as the subway. However, these tickets might need to be booked in advance and are a little more expensive than the subway option. Once you reach the station, you can grab a cheap taxi to whatever pension, hotel, or resort you plan to stay at.
Accommodation – Korea Style
One of the most popular types of accommodations in Korea is pensions. These are basically just smaller guest houses in the countryside/rural areas.
In Gapyeong, most people stay in pensions because they are cheap, cozy, and have more of a rustic feel to them. They usually offer both Western-style rooms with beds, and Korean-style options, which are cheaper but usually come with floor mats to sleep on instead.
There are also resorts, campsites, and hotels in the area, but I’ve always found pensions to be preferable because they are smaller and still have great facilities such as barbecue pits and pools. They’re also normally run by older Koreans who show you a wealth of hospitality. They have offered me free food, booze, and rides on more than one occasion. Those friendly pension owners love to help foreigners out.
What to Do in Gapyeong
Gapyeong is known for its beautiful natural features. There are plenty of hiking trails, cycling paths, and swimming holes. Along the Bukhan River, there are various places that offer day passes to parks that include inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and floating areas on the water. These facilities also often provide boat trips if you’re interested in wakeboarding, tubing, or water skiing.
While in Korea, I’ve picked up wakeboarding and love to spend a day on the water whenever I visit the area. Of course, Gapyeong is also great for relaxing by the pool with a beer or just enjoying the views from a good reading nook.
If you want to head to a tourist attraction, you can take a bus or a taxi to scenic destinations including Nami Island, The Garden of Morning Calm, or Petite France. I usually opt to avoid these areas because of crowds, but they’re known in Korea as must-see attractions.
What to Eat in Gapyeong
Another great part of visiting Gapyeong is the local food. Dak galbi is a spicy stir-fried chicken dish that includes boneless chicken, rice cakes, green cabbage, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. It’s a local favorite and can easily be found in various restaurants throughout Gapyeong. There is also a version that only features the chicken which is charcoal fired, although this dish is slightly harder to find. Pair this dish with soju (Korean rice wine), beer, or makgeolli (sparkling rice wine) for a more boozy experience that will really make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Another great option is buying meat from a local supermarket and barbecuing at your pension. This service usually costs a bit extra (around 15-20,000 won) but is worth it when you can grill your own samgyeopsal (pork belly) or beef outside while looking out over the hills and river. The best part about Gapyeong is being outside, so dining alfresco is simply a must in this idyllic setting.
Although Gapyeong makes for a great weekend trip throughout the year, the area comes alive during the summer months. There’s nothing better than spending a day outside in the sun swimming and hiking, and then enjoying a late-night feast with your friends. Of course, there are tons of amazing destinations with plenty to offer in Korea, but Gapyeong truly tops the list for convenience, versatility, and fun.
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by: Elise Brunsvold