Nami Island is a very famous spot in Korea and will be recognizable to classic K-drama fans. Nami is a tiny island resort and nature preserve in Chuncheon. It’s away from the craziness of Seoul, but easily accessible from public transportation.
From Gapyeong Station it’s easy to take a bus to Nami or Chuncheon’s other attractions. If you can make a weekend of it you can hit all three of Chuncheon’s most famous spots: Nami Island, The Garden of the Morning Calm, and Petite France. The Garden of the Morning Calm is one of the biggest dedicated gardens in the country with year-round events and displays. Petite France is a faux-French village in vibrant color inspired by the book The Little Prince (which is incredibly popular in Korea).
But I’m focusing just on Nami Island and how you can enjoy your time there. We visited in the late summer so it was still quite hot and most things were in bloom. It was over Chuseok weekend, so it was a gamble as to whether that would make the island completely empty or even fuller than usual. It was definitely busy and full of families enjoying their holiday off together. Still, it was worth the visit.
It’s actually an island! Readers of my blog will know that when we took a winter visit to Herb Island I was disappointed to find that it was not at all an island. Nami is the real deal. You must take a ferry to get on to the island as there are no bridges. You also pay for a “visa” to Nami. It helps add to the impression that Nami is somehow separate from everything else around it. They even declared themselves an independent micro-nation in 2006 becoming Naminara, not just Nami. You can buy a “passport” to Nami which serves as a sort of season pass. And Nami also has its own currency, though Korean won is accepted there too.
If ferries aren’t your thing, you can also take a zip line on to the island to get a bird’s eye view. It was tempting, but it was almost ten times the price of the ferry, so we stuck with that mode of transport.
Ecology and recycling: Nami is a nature park. All electrical wires are underground so as not to get in the way of trees and spoil the view. There’s an environmental protection school on the island and a lot of artwork featuring recycled material, especially glass bottles.
There’s a huge variety of plant life on Nami as well as an animal preserve where you can get up close to Emus and other creatures. One of the most famous views in Nami is the Metasequoia Path lined with redwood trees. The view in autumn is printed on Nami’s information brochure and that setting was famously used in the beloved Korean drama Winter Sonata. Many scenes from the drama were shot on Nami and certain spots are marked with references to it. You can take your picture on the spot where the lead couple first kissed for example.
Commitment to fairy tales and imagination: The point of the Republic of Nami (according to their official website) is to create and live in fairy tales. The island definitely reflects the idea of whimsy and creativity. As you might expect, it’s a very family-friendly spot. Plenty of things to see and areas to play and interact.
What captured my imagination most was the extensive walking trails. The island is very small and we had circled it before I knew it, but its extensive paths for walking (and biking) let you meander through different spots all day long taking you out to little ponds, gardens, and copses of trees.
The island is also home to arts and craft studios that are mainly dedicated to sculpture and pottery. The island is dotted with sculptures big and small. Including this very eye-catching sculpture of a mother creatively finding a way to nurse two children at once. You can also glimpse inside pottery studios and purchase finished pieces if you’d like.
It’s still touristy of course: Like most attractions in Korea, it will be crowded most of the year. Especially if you visit over a weekend or holiday. The number of visitors didn’t spoil the scenery though. Something about the island makes everything seem peaceful in spite of the crowds. Plenty of Korean and foreign visitors enjoy visiting with their families and significant others and there are accommodations to even stay overnight in rented rooms or entire cabins on the island.
Some other amenities include bike rentals, swan boat outings, and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Fortunately, the food is reasonably priced in spite of the high volume of visitors. You can find classic street foods like hoddeok (crispy fried dough filled with honey or brown sugar with seeds and nuts), traditional Korean favorites like lunch boxes, bibimbap, jeon (savory pancakes), or even some western cuisine like pizza at the one Italian restaurant on the island. And since it’s Korea (in spite of their micro-nation status), you can easily find a spot to get coffee as well.
Naminara is a picturesque getaway from city life. You can even rent one of the small cabins on the island and extend your trip overnight. It’s a great spot for a date or a family trip. And though it will be crowded in some sections, it’s definitely possible to find some peace and quiet for yourself if that’s what you’re looking for. If not, there’s plenty of lively excitement and activity to keep you busy as well.