In recent years, the growing popularity of Nami Island has made it one of, if not the most popular travel destination outside of Seoul. It was opened back in 1965 but gained the most of its’ popularity after an iconic Korean drama “Sinter Sonata” (2002), therefore the growth of its popularity on social media did not start to just a few years ago. With the help of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, Nami island has become a hot place for tourists, as opposed to it being a quiet date location in the past.
I remember, when I first came to South Korea in 2013, Nami Island was nowhere on the “places to go” lists, yet now it is being visited by nearly every single person, that plans their visit to South Korea. I first visited Nami island in 2016 and even though it was comparatively crowded on a weekend, there were no crowds like they were this year. Despite that, I still enjoyed my visit to the fullest this year as well.
Nami island, also known as Naminara Republic is an in-land island, located in west Chuncheon, reachable from Gapyeong county. This half-moon shaped island was formed as a result of the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam. Since the island is privately owned, there are no bridges connecting it to the land and the only way to go on & off the island is a ferry. Alternatively, in you are an adrenaline junkie, you could go down to the island with a zipline and go back with a ferry, though this option would cost you more. Entrance fees, including round-trip ferry ride are 13,000 won for adults (discounts are applied to elderly, children & big groups) and zip wire ride to the island would cost you 44,000 won per person.
Nami island is open from 7:30 AM to 9:45 PM, but it is usually the most crowded from lunchtime till sunset. If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take some fairytale-like pictures for your Instagram, I would recommend going there as early as possible. Once all the tourist buses arrive, you will not only need to wait in the line for your tickets but also squeeze between the people trying to find a less crowded place for a photo.
This year we were on our ferry at around 9 AM and even though there was already a fair amount of people, it was totally bearable. In addition to that, we were able to see beautiful fog, surrounding the island in the morning and it is something you would not be able to see if you were to visit in the afternoon.
Nami island is beautiful in every season, but I prefer going there in fall. Straight lines of gold-plated ginko trees, lovely squirrels stocking up on their winter snacks (pine cones) and sweater weather, allowing you to cozy up in checker blanket with your loved one and drink some warm hot chocolate you can find in one of the cafes on the island itself. We have made it an annual tradition, where we could go and take some couple photos every fall and for us, it has a deeper meaning than just a drama filming location.
Personally, I love taking long walks, so my feet are the main mean of transportation for getting around the island, but if you have limited time and prefer seeing as much as possible in a short time span, I would recommend, renting a bicycle and going on an active adventure around the island. In addition to that, make sure not to miss an ostrich farm during your visit. They are easy to miss, but super cute when you see them!
There are few different ways to get to Nami Island from Seoul and you can choose according to your schedule and planned budget. The first and cheapest way is definitely a Subway. Coming from Sangbong Station (Alternatively Hoegi station) you can take the Gyeongchun Subway Line and go to Gapyeong Station. From there, you could either take a taxi or local shuttle bus, which would bring you straight to the ticket booth. A more comfortable method is taking the ITX Train, which would cost you double the price, but would bring you there much faster. In addition to that, the subway is usually very crowded and you would need to stand, but in the case of taking the ITX train, you would have a guaranteed seat.
The easiest, yet most expensive way to is a Naminara private tour shuttle bus (they depart from Insadong, Namdaemun, and Myeongdong), which would bring you straight to the ferry boarding place – no transfers, no hassle. I would recommend this way of traveling to those, who are visiting Korea for the first time and have a hard time navigating on their own. If you live in Korea long term, I feel like taking a train or even driving the island on your own would be the best way. This year we rented a car and visited Nami island independently and it was the best decision I have ever made.
You must visit Nami Island at least once! Even though due to the increased flow of tourism, people begin calling it a tourist trap, I still think that it is a great one-day getaway from Seoul and you should definitely check it out!