South Korea has become a go-to destination for many Filipinos, especially with the Hallyu wave taking over our playlists and TV screens. For most of us, setting foot even just in Seoul is a dream—but beyond the big city are other destinations that will captivate you with colorful scenery, rich history and culture, and great food.
Case in point: Yeongwol. Located in Gangwon province, Yeongwol is a three-hour bus ride away from Seoul where you can observe the stars and more.
The ride down Yeongwol is a swift and comfortable one. From Seoul, you may catch a bus bound directly to Yeongwol in Dong Seoul Bus Terminal. Once you get off, you’ll be greeted by the calm and quiet atmosphere of the town, surrounded by mountainscapes that show off the best hues of the season. It was especially spectacular as I went there during the peak of autumn when the yellows, reds, oranges, and greens were most vibrant.
Where to stay
Accommodations on English booking platforms mostly offer pension houses, but as a solo traveler, getting a whole cottage to myself is too much. Good thing that hotels pepper the town for weary travelers seeking rest—it’s easy to find a room to stay for a night or two as I did.
Meanwhile, transportation can be quite difficult, as buses in provincial areas operate on a schedule and there may be long wait times between arrivals. But as Yeongwol continues to boost its tourism activities, tourist cabs are made available so you can conveniently go around and hop from one place to another.
Or if you're not a planner, there are ready-made tours that run for a minimum of three hours, and you can also customize your trip however you want!
What to do
One of the most popular activities in Yeongwol is stargazing at Byeolmaro Astronomical Observatory. While it will require a bit of a hike to get to the viewing platform as it’s located on top of the mountain, the rewarding city nightscape and, of course, the blanket of stars from the observatory’s fourth-floor platform is worth the climb.
You’ll also find the astrology projection room that projects more than 3,000 stars no matter the weather.
For the K-drama fanatic, this is actually where the paragliding scene of Yoon Se-ri in Crash Landing On You was filmed! And if you’re wondering: yes, this place is open for tourists who would want to experience paragliding a la Son Ye-jin!
Other must-visits in this town are the Korean Peninsula-shaped Cliffs in Hanbando and Gossigul, a natural limestone cave with several levels and underground water flowing at its bottom.
For art lovers, Youngwol Y Park will greet you with stunning art installations surrounded by lush greens. Activities such as Cocoa Chocolate Making Class and Music Box Painting are also offered for a more immersive experience.
Like in many areas of South Korea, Yeongwol is a walkable destination. I recommend taking the walking courses if you love traveling by foot! I did this on my second day, and it allowed me to see places that you won’t discover when you’re riding on four wheels.
To cover important landmarks and impressive terrains, I began my walk at Yeongwol Riverside Reservoir—which I had all to myself for the most part that I was there—then headed to Cheongnyeongpo Cape, the place of exile of King Danjong, the sixth king of the Joseon dynasty.
Nearby is Y-Square, where you can grab travel guides as well as find restaurants to dine in and take a bit of rest. After my brief lunch, I turned a great curve to find the Zelkova tree located at the Reservoir, where the South Korean variety show 2 Days 1 Night was filmed.
For a bit of history, head to Jangneung Royal Tomb, where the tomb of King Dajeong rests. A few minutes away is the Noru Sculpture Park, featuring a lake that beautifully reflects the mountainscape—a sight to behold. Statues of roe deers—thus its name, Noru—stand around the park waiting for visitors to come and snap a picture of and with them.
Grab something to eat at Seobu Market to reward yourself for a whole day of walking. You may opt to dine in or, as I did, have it to go and head to Donggang River, where you can sit down and take in the view of the riverside and the mountain while the sun sets.
Yeongwol will surprise you in more ways than one. Its beauty, as well as the peace and calm that the town exudes, allows for a more healing sojourn—perfect if you need a breather from all the hustle and bustle. After all, we all need some quiet time, and Yeongwol might be your next favorite destination for getting exactly that.