It started with a drama series.
Like most of us, I learned about Nami Island when it was used as a setting for Winter Sonata, a Korean drama that became a phenomenal hit in many Asian countries, adding more fuel to the already unstoppable Korean wave that took the world by storm. But injecting another Korean dose to global pop culture wasn’t the only thing this romantic flick has done. It has also sparked interest in Nami Island as a major tourist destination, with the number of tourists skyrocketing from 270,000 in 2001 to over 650,000 in 2002 to over 3 million in 2014.
But what is Nami Island really? Other than its lanes of metasequoia and ginkgo trees, what else awaits in this cinematic piece of paradise?
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Understanding Nami Island
Although part of Chuncheon’s territory, Nami Island or Namiseom is most easily accessible from a wharf in Gapyeong County, its main gateway and jump-off point.
Before it became most famous as a Winter Sonata filming location, it is best known as the final resting place of General Nami, a controversial historical figure in the Joseon Dynasty. He rose to fame in the mid-1400s when he led a victorious campaign to crush a massive rebellion. At age 25, he was honored by King Sejo, who gave him a top position in the government. But when King Sejo died, his successor falsely accused him of being a traitor, which led to his and his family’s execution. It wasn’t until almost 400 years later when he was exonerated.
Nami Island covers an area of 430,000 square meters. This half-moon shaped island in the middle of the Han River was an almost barren patch of land with only a handful of chestnut trees. But when retired Bank of Korea governor Minn Byeong-do purchased the island in 1965, he reforested and transformed the island into the resort town that it is today. Over the past decades, it has hosted many events promoting art, culture, and environment-related causes.
Because of its proximity to Seoul, Nami Island easily became a popular day tour destination.
How to Get to Nami Island from Seoul
There are many ways to reach Nami Island, but these are the most popular options.
Seoul to Nami Island by Train
- Travel by train to Gapyeong Station.
- Walk or take a cab from the station to the ferry wharf.
- At the wharf, buy tickets to the island, which costs ₩13,000.
The 13,000-won fee already covers both the entrance fee and roundtrip ferry fare.
There used to be a discounted rate for foreigners, ₩8000 per person. But the rate increased in January 2018 to ₩13,000.
Seoul to Nami Island by Bus
- Reserve a bus seat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +82-2-753-1247. Roundtrip fare is ₩15,000.
- Catch the shuttle bus in Insadong (near the West Gate of Tapgol Park) or Sungnyemun Square Bus Stop in front of Namdaemun Market. Bus leaves at 9:30am. This will take you to the wharf in Gapyeong.
- Board the ferry to Nami Island. Entrance Fee: ₩13,000.
Where to Stay Near Nami Island
There are no hotels in the island itself. The closest is Gapyeong, where the Nami Island ferry picks up passengers. In my personal opinion, however, one day is enough to experience most of what Nami Island has to offer. Hence, if your main destination is Seoul, you might want to visit Namiseom on a day trip. Whatever your decision is, below are the top budget hotels in Seoul and Gapyeong.
Top Budget Hotels in Seoul Under $60 (P3000)
- Staz Hotel Myeongdong II. Check Rates & Availability.
- Makers Hotel. Check Rates & Availability.
- HOTEL GS Jongno. Check Rates & Availability.
- Youngbin Hotel. Check Rates & Availability.
Top Hostels in Seoul
- YE4 Guesthouse. Check Rates & Availability.
- Gateway Korea Guesthouse. Check Rates & Availability.
- Brownie Guesthouse. Check Rates & Availability.
- Hostel HARU. Check Rates & Availability.