Discover Gapyeong: Information & Ideas for Visits

Nestled in the mountains northeast of Seoul lies the charming rural town of Gapyeong. Known for its beautiful natural scenery, traditional gardens, temples, hiking trails, and folk villages, Gapyeong is a popular weekend getaway destination for residents of Seoul and other nearby cities.

With its rolling hills, flowing rivers, and tranquil temples, Gapyeong provides a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of modern city life. Though it may be small in size, Gapyeong offers many interesting sights and activities for visitors of all ages and interests. From admiring gorgeous flower fields in the spring to river rafting in the summer to viewing brilliant fall foliage, there are enjoyable experiences to be had in Gapyeong year-round.

This comprehensive guide will provide an overview of Gapyeong, reasons to visit, how to get there, top attractions and activities, events and festivals, where to stay, dining options, and tips for making the most of your time there. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a weekend escape from Seoul, this guide will give you the information and ideas you need to discover the highlights of Gapyeong.

Gapyeong in autumn.

Overview of Gapyeong

Geography & Climate

Gapyeong is located in the far northeastern corner of Gyeonggi-do Province, approximately 64 km northeast of central Seoul. Beyond the mountains, Gapyeong sits in the valley formed by the Bukhangang River, which flows down from the North Korean border. The nearby peaks belong to the Baekdudaegan mountain range, which runs down the length of the Korean peninsula (1).

Gapyeong has a humid continental climate, with cold, dry winters and hot, humid summers. The average highs range from -2°C in January to 29°C in August. Snow is frequent in the winter months. Late spring and autumn are mild and pleasant seasons ideal for outdoor activities (2).

History & Culture

The Gapyeong region has been inhabited for thousands of years, with artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age found within the county borders. Gapyeong was part of the Goguryeo kingdom during Korea’s Three Kingdoms period. It later became a part of the Unified Silla kingdom. Under the Joseon Dynasty, the area was governed as part of Gwangju-mok and then Yongin-hyun (3).

An important cultural asset in Gapyeong is the Sanggwangbong Sericultural Farm, a traditional silk production facility founded in 1927 during the Japanese colonial period. It continues to preserve traditional Korean silk-making methods today. The town also has several old Confucian academies and schools dating back to the Joseon era (4).

Attractions & Sights

From serene temples tucked into forested hillsides to lively folk villages celebrating Korean traditions, Gapyeong offers many interesting attractions for visitors. Top sights include:

  • Nami Island – Half-moon shaped island famous for its beautiful tree-lined paths and featured in the K-drama “Winter Sonata.” Reachable via ferry (5).
  • Garden of Morning Calm – Stunning 20-themed gardens with thousands of plants and trees. Brilliant fall foliage spot (6).
  • Gapyeong Railbike – Pedal-powered railcarts that zip along abandoned train tracks with great valley views (7).
  • Cheongpyeongsa Temple – Ancient Buddhist temple dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty with mountain hermitages (8).
  • Bukhangang River Railbike – Another rail biking course running alongside the river (9).
  • Hwadong Cave – Large limestone cave with interesting rock formations and temples (10).
  • Sanggwangbong Sericultural Farm – Traditional silk production facility still using old methods (4).
  • Hanji Theme Park – Celebrates the art of traditional Korean handmade paper (hanji) (11).
  • Petite France – Whimsical French-style village inspired by The Little Prince (12).
  • Imjingak – Park with old train and monuments honoring Korean War soldiers (13).

Activities & Recreation

In addition to sightseeing, Gapyeong offers many fun outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Popular pursuits include:

Hiking – Trek through the mountains to temples, hermitages, and peaks. The 7-mile Nami Island loop trail is especially popular (14).

Biking – Rent a bike and cruise along pathways by the river or roads through hills and farmland. Rail biking is a unique option (7)(9).

Boating – Rent rowboats, motorboats, or kayaks at riverside boathouses to explore the water (15).

Rafting – Ride rapids along the upper Bukhangang River for an adventurous excursion (16).

Fishing – Cast a line for trout and other freshwater fish in the river. Day passes available (17).

Zip Lining – Soar over the valley and feel the rush at facilities like Hanong Sports (18).

ATV Riding – Drive rugged ATVs through the hills for an exciting off-road experience (19).

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Skiing – Hit the slopes at small ski resorts like Maple Hills Ski Resort in winter (20).

Seasonal Activities

Spring (March-May): Admire cherry blossoms and azaleas. Visit the Garden of Morning Calm tulip festival. Enjoy pleasant weather for hiking and cycling.

Summer (June-August): Escape the city heat at higher elevations. Go boating, swimming, fishing. Try water sports like rafting and kayaking.

Fall (September-November): Marvel at brilliant foliage. Visit Nami Island and its gardens to see peak colors. Enjoy hiking and harvest festivals.

Winter (December-February): Ski or sledge at local resorts. Sip hot chocolate beside snowy river trails. See temples dusted with powder.

When to Visit

Gapyeong can be visited year-round, but spring and autumn are ideal due to moderate weather and stunning scenery.

Spring comes late to Gapyeong. April – May is the peak season for cherry blossoms, azaleas, and other flowers with comfortable weather for hiking and biking.

Summers are hot and humid, but the mountains provide cooler relief. Head to the river for boating and water play.

Autumn might be the best time to visit. September – November is gorgeous, with brilliant fall foliage in fiery reds, yellows, and oranges.

Winters are cold and snowy but offer opportunities for winter sports like skiing and sledding. The temples take on a serene beauty frosted in white.

Traveling to Gapyeong

Public Transportation:

Take the ITX train from Yongsan or Cheongnyangni Stations in Seoul to Gapyeong Station for a scenic journey. The trip takes about 70 minutes one-way (21).

Buses to Gapyeong run from Sangbong Terminal and Dong-Seoul Terminal in Seoul. These take 90-120 minutes, depending on traffic (22).

High-speed KTX trains go from Seoul to Cheongnyangni Station, where you can transfer to the ITX or buses.

Driving:

Take the Gyeongbu Expressway north to the Yangpyeong exit by car from Seoul. Follow signs for Gapyeong (about a 60-minute drive).

Parking is available at major attractions and public lots around town. Some parking fees may apply.

Taxis and shuttle buses are also readily available for getting around the Gapyeong area.

Top Attractions & Things To Do

Here are some of the top attractions and activities to enjoy during a visit to Gapyeong:

Nami Island

Perhaps Gapyeong’s most famous attraction is Nami Island, located in the middle of the Bukhangang River. Named after General Nami, an important figure in Korean history, the half-moon-shaped island features groves of trees, walking trails, and beautiful gardens (5).

It rose to prominence after being featured in the hit Korean drama “Winter Sonata” in 2002. Scenes of the main characters strolling among the island’s snow-covered paths and falling in love are fondly remembered by fans. Nami Island draws over 2 million visitors annually (23).

A leading highlight is the grand Metasequoia Road, named for the towering red-tinged metasequoia trees that form a canopy over the lane. Other attractions include the Observatory Deck with river views, the Snowman Christmas statues that pop up during winter, and restaurants serving ddeokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and other snacks (24).

Visitors can walk, bike, or ride on the island using the rental facilities near the entrance. The island can be reached via ferry boats that frequently shuttle from the mainland wharf (5).

Garden of Morning Calm

Designed as a retreat from the stress of urban life, the Garden of Morning Calm is considered one of Korea’s best gardens. The park features nearly two dozen themed areas with ornate pavilions set amid thousands of plants and trees (6).

In spring, the garden explodes with over 5,000 different flowers and 20,000 bulbs, including tulips, iris, and lily of the valley. The tulips are especially vibrant during the annual tulip festival held in May. Other notable areas include the bonsai garden with intricate mini trees and the traditional Korean thatched roof houses (25).

Various Korean historical eras and stories inspire the 20 unique gardens. Visitors can meander along trails past waterfalls, ponds, and pagodas, taking in gorgeous scenery and snapping photos around every turn. Also, stop inside the small museum to see Korean folk paintings (nakwha) and antiques (26).

Gapyeong Rail Bike

Pedal your way through the countryside on the Gapyeong Rail Bike course for a fun and scenic activity unlike anywhere else. After renting your pedal railcart at the station, you’ll coast down gentle slopes and pump yourself back up hills while rolling along abandoned train tracks (7).

The 7.9 km course runs parallel to the Bukhangang River, offering great valley views along with patches of forest and farmland. The rail bikes have four seats, so couples or families can ride together. Riders travel from the Railbike Village to Cheongnyangni Station before returning down the tracks (27).

The rail bikes were featured in the hit Korean drama “Crash Landing on You,” adding to their popularity. The attraction offers a unique way to take in the scenery leisurely.

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Cheongpyeongsa Temple

Nestled in the forests of Obongsan Mountain lies Cheongpyeongsa, an ancient Korean Buddhist temple with a peaceful, faraway feel. First built during Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty in the year 924, the temple has gone through destruction and restoration over the centuries (8).

Visitors can tour the decorated Daeungjeon main hall with its guardian paintings and sculptures, breathe in the heavy incense of the main temple, and admire the colorful murals inside the newer Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Smaller hermitages like Guryongam and Jaeyaksru perch on the hillsides (28).

A 2.6 km hiking trail connects the temple complex to the hermitages, winding past pine trees and stone pagodas. On the hike, you may spot remnants of traditional monk residence huts tucked into the mountainside. Exploring the forested grounds and temple architecture creates a serene retreat from daily life.

Bukhangang River Railbike

Similar to the Gapyeong course but running closer to the river is the Bukhangang River Railbike. You’ll feel the wind in your hair as you pedal your railcart down gentle slopes and coast along even grades, tracking the flowing blue-green river beside willow trees and flowers (9).

The 5.4 km course starts from the riverside Manggyeong Railbike Station and rolls past rice fields, greenhouses, and villages before looping back. Up to 4 people can ride per railcart. The attraction is located near other sights like the Hwadong Cave and Imjingak Park (29).

Gliding beside the shimmering river and through the countryside by railbike makes for a memorable experience unmatched by regular biking. The rail biking course offers fun for all ages while showing off Gapyeong’s natural scenery.

Hwadong Cave

Discover fantastic limestone cave formations and historic temples at Hwadong Cave, located on the slopes of Seonggoksan Mountain near the Bukhangang River. The cave contains interesting rock textures and patterns created over millions of years by eroding groundwater (10).

A 30-minute guided tour takes you along the main 400-meter route to see highlights like the mystical Miruk Hall with seven Buddha statues and a 22-meter giant column called the Sky Pillar. Other notable formations have names like the Dragon’s Jaw and Lion Rock based on their shapes. The cave maintains a steady cool temperature around 5-10°C year-round (30).

Just outside Hwadong Cave sits Hwadong Temple, originally built during the Goryeo Dynasty. It contains a main hall and a small hermitage overlooking the river. Further up the mountain lies Sangwol Temple and more small retreat huts to discover (31).

Sanggwangbong Sericultural Farm

To learn about Korea’s silk-making history, visit the Sanggwangbong Sericultural Farm in Gapyeong. The farm was first established in 1927 during the Japanese colonial period to produce high-quality silk. It remains one of the leading silk producers in Korea today (4).

Visitors can tour facilities like the mulberry cultivation ground, silkworm incubation rooms, and the traditional cotton processing house. Friendly guides will explain the labor-intensive process of harvesting cocoons and unraveling the fine threads using old wooden machinery (32).

You can purchase various silk products in the gift shop, like fabric rolls, scarves, or garments. There is also an outdoor exhibition of traditional Korean silk clothing you can try on for photos. Exploring the historic farm provides an illuminating look into this specialized industry.

Hanji Theme Park

Hanji refers to the traditional handmade paper that plays an important role in Korean art and culture. To learn about hanji craftsmanship, visit the Hanji Theme Park located east of Gapyeong. The park aims to preserve the 1,500-year-old tradition of hanji production (11).

You can observe traditional methods for harvesting and processing the mulberry plants used to make hanji. The Papermill Workshop lets you craft your own keepsakes using fragranced pressed flowers. The Korea House introduced hanji’s applications in door panels, furniture, and clothing (33).

The experience highlights how hanji is eco-friendly and requires great skill to produce by hand. Visitors can purchase locally made hanji journals, lamps, toys, and more at the souvenir shop. Trying the craft gives a new appreciation for this cultural art form.

Petite France

Get a taste of European storybook charm at Petite France, a whimsical village modeled after the folktales of French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, most famous for The Little Prince. The visually striking village sits tucked into the hills just 10 minutes from Gapyeong (12).

Petite France features ornate French-style architecture with colorful facades, brick towers, and winding cobblestone lanes. You’ll see storybook motifs like the Prince’s red scarf fluttering on a clothesline and the friendly fox character. Other highlights include the Saint-Exupéry Museum, the Little Prince sculptures posing for photos, and the adorable Poivre bakery and café (34).

With its fairytale cottages and buildings, Petite France makes you feel like you’ve stepped through a portal into a European storybook. It’s a charming spot for photos and while enjoying the cafes and shops.

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Imjingak

Honoring the tragic legacy of the Korean War, Imjingak Park contains war monuments, preserved relics from the war, and picturesque grounds popular with families. It sits just south of the DMZ (the border with North Korea) near the Freedom Bridge, where prisoners of war were exchanged (13).

Notable memorials include the Freedom Bridge Monument, the MacArthur Statue, and the rusty steam locomotive displayed with signs detailing its history of evacuating people south during the war. Despite the somber history, the park’s bridge crossing the Imjin River offers an idyllic scene (35).

The traditional restaurants around the park serve specialties like grilled black pork and pheasant. On the edge of Imjingak sits Mangbaedan, an altar where people pray for the reunification of North and South Korea (36). Visiting Imjingak provides an opportunity to reflect on Korea’s history and hope for the future.

Events & Festivals

Throughout the year, Gapyeong hosts fun seasonal events and lively festivals celebrating Korean culture:

Garden of Morning Calm Lighting Festival (Nov – early Dec) – One million LED lights transform the garden into a fantasy nighttime wonderland (37).

Gapyeong Trout Festival (late Jan) – Ice fishing contest and activities like catching trout barehanded (38).

Nami Island Tulip Festival (April) – Brilliant display of 200,000 tulips blooming across the island (39).

Sanggwangbong Sericulture Festival (May) – Celebrating silk crafts with cocoon collecting, trying on hanbok costumes, folk games, and more (40).

Gapyeong Railbike Blues Train Festival (October) – Pedal along the railbike route enjoying blues music performances (41).

Gapyeong Chunhyang Festival (May) – Brings the classic Korean folk tale alive through costumes, dance, music, and theater (42).

Where to Stay in Gapyeong

Gapyeong offers many lodging options for relaxing stays near the mountains, river and attractions:

  • Benikea Nami Island (hotel) – Luxury hotel located directly on scenic Nami Island (43).
  • Riverhill Pension (guesthouse) – Cozy guest rooms overlooking the Bukhangang River and mountains (44).

Dining in Gapyeong

Gapyeong’s cool climate and fertile land make it ideal for producing delicious, fresh seasonal ingredients. Some local specialties and top restaurants include:

Trout
Known for its clean waters with plenty of trout, Gapyeong is a trout lover’s paradise. Popular restaurants to try fresh grilled trout include:

  • Cheongpyeong Hoetjip a rustic wooden restaurant along the river serving seasoned grilled trout and fried fish cakes (48).
  • Modeok Sikdang – Humble, family-run restaurant with delicious butterflied trout and side dishes (49).
  • Nami Island Trout House – Casual eatery specializing in trout dishes cooked over charcoal (50).

Seasonal Greens & Mountain Foods
Gapyeong’s cool mountain climate brings tasty greens and foraged foods. Look for:

  • Namul (seasoned greens) like sigumchi (spinach) and gosari (bracken ferns)
  • Sansuyu (mountain herbs and buds)
  • Wild sesame
  • Mushrooms like king oyster and porcini

Popular menus highlighting these ingredients include N-Seoul Tower’s Sanchae Bibimbap with over 30 types of namul and the 15-course foraged foods tasting menu at Jangsoo Meditation Retreat Center (51)(52).

Hanwoo Beef
As a cattle town, Gapyeong boasts top-quality, well-marbled hanwoo (Korean) beef. It’s best enjoyed at:

  • Hanwoo Daeji Gui House – Specializes in premium cuts like rib eye cooked on tabletop grills (53).
  • Byeonggang Sikdang – Rustic restaurant serving tender, smoky grilled hanwoo (54).
  • Chalbori – Stylish, contemporary space plating beautifully marbled hanwoo in modern courses (55).

Korean Sweets
Indulge your sweet tooth with delicious Korean desserts and pastries like:

  • Hotteok – Warm, fried dough pockets filled with sugars, nuts, and seeds.
  • Injeolmi – Chewy multigrain rice cakes coated in a sweet bean powder.
  • Dasik – Colorful pressed or jelly treats in flower, fish, and other shapes.

Top spots to try outstanding traditional sweets include the cafes inside Hanji Theme Park and Garden of Morning Calm (56)(57).

Tips for Visiting Gapyeong

To make the most of your time exploring Gapyeong, keep these tips in mind:

  • Visit during spring or fall for pleasant weather and stunning scenery.
  • Book tickets for Nami Island and other top attractions in advance to secure a spot.
  • Hire a tour guide to maximize time efficiency in seeing key sights.
  • Stay centrally in Gapyeong or on Nami Island to minimize travel time.
  • Pack light layers and comfortable walking shoes to stay cozy while hiking.
  • Allot 2-3 days to fully experience highlights at a relaxed pace.
  • Check event calendars and schedule your visit around festivals for added fun.
  • Wake up early to beat crowds and enjoy cool, peaceful mornings.

With its breathtaking nature, fascinating heritage, and various activities, Gapyeong offers an enriching getaway just outside Seoul. Following this guide will help you craft an amazing trip filled with scenic beauty, cultural insight, and wonderful memories. Let the charms of Gapyeong inspire your next weekend’s journey.

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Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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