10 Dec A Complete Guide on Nami Island Day Tour from Seoul
I had a bit of time in Seoul. I stayed there for 10 days and I was looking for a few day trips from Seoul. There are a few that I found online, but the one on Nami Island is the most popular. Usually, the locals prefer to visit the island on their own, maybe spend a day or two around it. But for tourists, there are plenty of options available where you can sightsee multiple places around it in a day.
While I will tell you why is Nami Island so popular with tourists, I think it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Korea. Even if you end up spending a lot of time in Seoul, it is an opportunity to see the Korean countryside. Nami Island is beautiful in all seasons too (maybe except in the middle of summer) so there is no excuse to miss it.
I booked a super-convenient group tour to visit the Nami Islands and a few tourist attractions along with it. The experience was great and I will recommend it. Here are all the details about my experience of a day tour to Nami Island from Seoul.
What is Nami Island famous for
First of all, Nami Island is not an island off the Korean coast. It is a river island that sits on the upper Han River east of Seoul. It also means that it shares the same climate as mainland interiors in South Korea. The best part is that the place celebrates the beauty of all four vibrant seasons of the country.
The name of the island ‘Nami’ originates from a general who died at 28 after being falsely accused of treason by a Joseon King. The popularity of the island started rising when the local tourism authority started developing it as a resort holiday destination. It became especially popular with Japanese tourists after the K-drama series Winter Sonata was shot here.
Nami island is also home to Naminara Republic which is a self-declared micronation. So you will also have to go through immigration of sorts. As for me, the island is an expression of art with many art sculptures, both traditional and modern with a beautiful blend of nature.
Where is Nami Island
Nami island is around 2.5 hours from Seoul on the north-east side. It is located in Gangwon Province in the northeastern part of South Korea.
Since Nami is an island, you cannot drive directly to it. You will need to reach the pier on the Han River and then take a ferry for the last leg.
The closest train station is Gapyeong. Buses also run on this route frequently. However, a lot of locals prefer to just take a car and enjoy the ride from Seoul to Nami.
How to reach Nami Island
Most locals prefer to drive or take private transportation for convenience. You can also control the amount of time you want to spend on the island, maybe make a weekend trip out with a few surrounding attractions. But if you are a tourist, you may want to opt for public transport or as I am going to elaborate in this article – a group tour.
By Public Transport
To reach Nami Island, you can take a train from Seoul City to Gapyeon Station. You can do this by taking the ITX train from Yeongsan station which has a travel time of approximately 1 hour. It is simple to buy a ticket at the station. You can also board this train at Oksu or Cheongnyangni station depending on your location.
Once at Gapyeong, you can buy a ticket to the Gapyeong City Bus Tour that you will find right outside the Gapyeong station. This city tour bus will take you to Gapyeong Wharf, where you can take a ferry to Nami Island. The city tour bus is fantastic since it also takes tourists around additional attractions like the Garden of Morning Calm and Petit France.
Another way is to take a bus from Seoul to Gapyeong. A shuttle runs every day to and fro from Seoul and you can book the bus ticket online beforehand. This works great if you just want to visit Nami Island for the day.
Once at the wharf, you can take a short ferry to Nami Island. The ride takes around 10 minutes. For more adventurous people, you can also zipline to the island on the Han River from an ungodly height that gives a lovely aerial view of the island.
While doing this trip on your own gives you much more flexibility, if you are a tourist looking at a day trip who also wants to squeeze in a few more attractions I suggest trying a group tour by bus from Seoul. It just saves you a lot of hassle of changing transportation and buying separate tickets. It may turn out cheaper as well.
If you are looking for more information on public transport, refer to this article.
By Group tour
This is a popular day trip from Seoul. Therefore there are quite an insane number of options available online, each with different permutation and combination with the nearby attractions.
These tours start at a couple of points inside Seoul like Myeongdong or Hongdae. Then they head over to places like The Garden of Morning Calm followed by Nami Island, Rail Bike experience and Petite France. It is upto you how many places you want to squeeze in your day.
I will suggest taking a group tour if you are a tourist, travelling alone or as a couple. Apart from having a guide who can encourage you to see and try some unique experiences, you also get to meet other tourists and make some friends. Although I don’t think there are many locals in there.
Here are some tours from Seoul that you may like:
A Guided Tour to Nami Island and more
I bought my group tour via Klook.com. Once I paid for it online, I got a confirmation email with a voucher and a QR code. Some of the common pickup points are Hongik University (near Hongdae), Myeongdong Station and Dongdaemun Station. So no matter where you are staying, aim to reach the meeting point at least 15 minutes before departure in the morning. You won’t get any refund if you miss the bus.
I got another email for confirmation from the tour company asking for my meeting point and adding some details to the itinerary. You can confirm the pick-up locations and other details over email.
On the day of the activity, reach the meeting point at least 15 minutes before the meetup time. People are usually on time and they will not wait too long if you are late. Once you are at the meeting point, identify the tour guide with a flag or just ask someone around. Present your voucher QR code on your phone to the tour guide.
Once all tourists have assembled, you will be able to start your journey on the bus. If you have company or are with someone, you can choose your seats together. The single ones will probably need to find other solo travellers for the company (which is great as well).
The tour guide will give you a summary of the itinerary as they start. Sometimes the order of events is moved around due to bad weather or unforeseen situations.
Garden of the Morning Calm
The first stop for us was The Garden of the Morning Calm which was around an hour from Seoul. The garden’s name is inspired by South Korea’s nickname ‘The Land of Morning Calm’. This is considered one of the most beautiful gardens in South Korea and you will agree when you see it. Even if you are travelling by yourself, do make a stop here.
The garden was envisioned by a professor who wanted to bring together Korean horticulture and foliage to create landscapes with both artistic and natural beauty. There are different sections on the gardens showcasing small waterfall areas, a pond garden, a rose garden, a dainty cottage garden etc. It can take upto 2 hours for someone to explore the complete area. Be ready to walk.
The most amazing fact about this place is the garden is built to mesmerise in all seasons. Plants and flowers are planted in a way that you will find cherry blossoms during spring, blooming flowers in summer and orange maple leaves with yellow ginkgo trees in autumn. However, the most beautiful might be in winter when the garden is converted into a mini-theme park with gorgeous lighting and shows after dark. It gets super cold, so keep warm if you are planning to visit then.
The entrance fee is ₩10,000 per adult but it is usually included in the tour cost. It is outdoors, so weather will be a factor. The only way to go around is to walk and maybe climb a few stairs. So make sure you have your walking shoes on. Don’t forget to take a great camera to capture the most beautiful pictures of all time. I found some food and coffee right outside the garden to fill in with some breakfast.
The next stop is Nami Island which takes another 30-40 minutes. You will reach the area near the Gapyeong Wharf from where you will need to take a boat to the island. Another way to reach Nami Island is to zipline to the island. The zipline starts from the same point from an 80m high tower and runs around 940m over the Han River to Nami Island. I think it is an adventure of a lifetime. It costs ₩49,900 per person.
But before that, it was time to eat. And our dear tour guide wanted us to try something, a local delicacy called Dakgalbi. Dakgalbi is a regional barbeque dish that is served on shared barbeque platters. You can order from chicken or pork variety and then wrap them into perilla leaves with some kimchi and pickled radishes with a side of rice. We paid individually for the food that we shared with fellow travellers.
Then we headed over to board the ferry. You need to buy a ticket to enter Nami Island or Naminara Republic for ₩16,000. This includes the boat ride to and back. Once you are on the island, you are usually on your own and free to roam around as you please. It can take 2-3 hours to explore the island on foot. You can also rent a bike on the island (you will need an ID card for that which is not your passport).
The island is an open space and you can simply follow the trail on the east side. The main attractions are located on the south side of the island. During the autumn months, you would not want to miss Maple Tree Lane, the Metasequoia Tree Lane and the Ginko Tree Lane for some great photos.
Other than that, you will find some beautiful sculptures, large statues, water gardens, folk houses and buildings and a few more surprising installations. You will also find a few restaurants and cafes if you want to grab something to eat. Take your time to enjoy the place and head back.
Gangchon Rail Bike
The last stop for the day was Gangchon Rail Bike or Rail Park as its signage screamed out loud. This is an interesting ride where an old rail line is reused to add these small carts that go through interesting routes consisting of bridges, tunnels and rice fields in the Korean countryside.
The ride takes about 30 minutes and you can get into 4-seater carts or 2-seater carts (by paying a little extra). You need to paddle the carts manually and can control their speed, although the slow pace makes it much more enjoyable. The tunnel is especially interesting with the theme of psychedelic visuals. But the views of the Korean countryside left me surprised and quite enchanted.
We ended the ride at the last stop where a train came to pick us up to take us back to the starting point.
Other places as part of Nami Island Day Trip
I opted for the above three activities and I think it was just right to spend optimum amount of time at each place. But if you want to remove or add something to this itinerary, there are a few alternatives that are available in these standard itineraries. Petite France and Italian Village are especially popular for someone who enjoys european architecture. However, if you have visited a real one already, then perhaps give it a pass.
Petite France is a small village located in the hills of Gapyeong. It is around 20 minutes drive from Nami Island. The place is famous for its cluster of pastel-coloured buildings in traditional french countryside. If you are a fan of K-drama, you will find visiting this place worthwhile since series like “Beethoven Virus,” “Personal Taste,” “Secret Garden” and “My Love from the Stars” were shot here.
As you wander in the village, you will also find small galleries and museums showcasing interiors and some unique french artefacts. Sometimes, some performances also takes place like where performers play hand-carved marionettes and the traditional orgel (music box) demonstration.
Just like Petite France, the Italian Village is also a small settlement right next to Petite France dedicated to Italy. The Italian Village is dedicated to the life of Da Vinci and the traditional story of Pinocchio. You will find murals and exhibitions with snippets of Italy. And you can, of course, find some souvenirs and food from Italy as well.
Alpaca world is another popular attraction where you can find a large farm full of alpacas happy to be fed by tourists. The place is especially popular with kids since the alpacas are quite friendly. In fact, you will also find a lot more animals like camels, deer, owls, ostrich and a variety of birds. Try to catch this early since there is an alpaca show in the morning at 10.10am.
What is the best month to visit Nami Island
I think Nami island is lovely to visit all year round. Each season brings about its own uniqueness and energy. However, both spring and autumn may be the best times to visit. You will find the place blooming with flowers and cherry blossom trees during some part of spring. Whereas, the maple and the ginkgo trees especially take the spotlight adding to the autumn palette of the park. Not to forget, the weather is comfortable and lovely to go around in. It maybe best to avoid visiting during the monsoons since all activities are outdoors.
Can you stay on Nami Island?
You actually can! However you will need to plan it a little ahead in time. There is only one hotel on the island on its southern side. The place is called Hotel Jeonggwanru that makes for a fairly comfortable stay for tourists of all numbers. However, currently you can only make the booking over a phone call, so you may need someone inside S.Korea to assist you with this. Check out more details about the rooms, tariffs and booking details on their website.
What is Included in the tour
1. All tickets are included in the tour. So you don’t need to pay at any point in time.
2. All transportation i.e. the arranged bus is included along with the tour guide. If you miss the bus or if you wish to take private transportation, you will need to pay for that yourself.
3. No food is included, so you will need to pay for any meals yourself during the trip, shared or personal.
4. If you wish to take the zipline to Nami Island or rent a bike on the island, you will need to pay for it yourself.
5. If you wish to add any experience or upgrade seats like from a standard 4-seater to 2-seater on the rail bike, you will need to pay the remaining upgrade amount yourself.
What to carry
It will depend upon the season you are visiting. But other than that, here are some things that are best to carry with you.
1. Water or water bottle since there is no complimentary water bottle on board
2. Snacks since you may leave early in the day and the planned meals can get late.
3. Umbrella if the weather forecasts any chances of rainfall. Since the full tour is outdoors, it can get you soaking wet at times
4. Comfortable walking shoes as you will be walking the whole day. Avoid heels or new shoes that need breaking into.
5. Passport and ID – You may need this around Nami Island or to rent a bike if you wish to.
6. If its early spring, autumn or winter, pack yourself some warm clothes. Nothing can save you from the chill in the outdoors. Winters are especially cold with temperatures dropping to sub-zero degrees. So make sure you have a jacket, scarves, gloves and warm shoes on you.
Is Nami Island worth visiting
Definitely! Nami island makes a great day from Seoul and you can add a lot of experiences to it. The island itself is beautiful and unique, especially enjoyable for people who wish to experience the Korean countryside. It is great for people of all ages and abilities (including elderly and pregnant women) and guided tours make it very comfortable. If you have the time, do not miss visiting Nami island.