Let me preface this entire South Korean trip by saying that Nami Island was first and foremost my reason why I wanted to visit. The cold crisp wind and the changing of tree colors, autumn is one of the 3 seasons that I don’t get to experience where I’m from. So to choose the place where to finally experience it, well, Nami Island seemed to be the perfect one.
Nami Island, or Namiseom, or Naminara Republic is a half-moon shaped island promoted as a country complete with an invented flag, currency, passport and KRW 8000 visa to enter. It first gained traction when Winter Sonata, a famous South Korean television series back in 2002, filmed in said island. They even put up statues and marks around the island to commemorate the series. However, that’s not the sole reason why tourists have been flocking since. The island is filled with various color-changing trees, from the yellow Ginkgo to red Maple. It really is overwhelmingly beautiful during autumn.
How To Get There
Waiting for the train to Gapyeong.
From the city center we made our way to Gapyeong station where we waited for the Gapyeong Tourist Resort Bus which became our main transportation to transfer from one tourist spot to another. A fare of KRW 6000 will be collected which is good for the entire day of transfers. The bus route includes Nami Wharf, Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm among others.
As they said, last week of October to first week of November is the peak of autumn and perfect time to visit. Of course, this also means high volume of tourists coming in. In fact, we kept on monitoring the number of people going to Nami Island a week before we went. We first decided to come in after lunch but seeing how many there are already in the morning, we quickly changed that. Before 9am, at 0 degrees celsius, we were at Gapyeong station to board the first trip of the tourist bus. Keep in mind that there are also private cars and group tours going directly to Nami wharf. So, expect a lot of people despite coming in from the first scheduled trip of the tourist bus.
Gapyeong Station, taken from the bus stop where you’ll wait for the tourist bus.
The temperature unexpectedly dropped the day before we went to Nami Island, here’s a selfie of me internally screaming at zero degrees celsius.
Gapyeong Tourist Bus, there are many of them but there’s also many tourists. Expect lines after each tourist spot for transfers.
The ferry leaving Nami Island. Spot the South Korean flag and the Naminara Republic flag up front.
The Republic of Naminara
The KRW 8000 fee (discounted rates for foreigners, regularly KRW 10000) for the entry visa already includes the 10-minute ferry trip to and from the island. Aside from the ferry, you may also zipline to the island. But with all the camera and phones, I don’t think I’d prefer that.
A testimony that it is well visited, here’s how Nami welcomes people from across the world. Spot your country!
After arriving, walk a few meters to the right and you’ll be at the field with gorgeous red Maple trees. You will also find the lined up pine trees with the light bulbs resembling balloons.
Further ahead there would be a number of restaurants and cafés plus a bike rental shop. Biking around would definitely let you circle the entirety of the island faster. Although, every spot is picturesque, so you might find yourself stopping frequently. There are also sky rides, if you fancy a bird’s view of the island. Though, those sky rides aren’t so high, just enough to be in line with the trees.
Korean food is one of the best cuisine in the world, in my opinion, so it wasn’t difficult for us to find a place to eat in Nami. There are a lot of grilled meat restaurants, and food stops with hotdogs, corn, and ice cream (whilst shivering, i know!). Coffee and tea are also aplenty. I, also, saw some of the locals bringing their own food and having picnics in the field.
Bask in the sun with your picnic basket in this field, surrounded by autumnal colors.
After the restaurants, the famous and crowded Ginkgo tree line stands in all its yellow beauty. But one thing that has never or rarely get mentioned is how awful it smells. The fallen Ginkgo fruits will smell like rancid butter or vomit. It’s not offensive, thanks to the wind and you kind of get over it quick, but you’ll know when ginkgo trees are around. It quickly became our instinct to ask “Is there a ginkgo tree nearby?” when we chance upon a smell, especially that ginkgo trees are scattered around Seoul.
It really was the peak of autumn when we went. All, if not most, of the trees have changed colors. Some, due to the strong winds, were even leafless, already. Apparently, if it starts raining, those leaves will most likely fall and we would’ve been left with nothing but branches. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous, and the sun was up, giving me warmth and making the colors even more saturated.
And while the ginkgo tree line is where you can get that perfect picture of being surrounded by nothing but yellow. I encourage you to wander more around the island. We managed to find rogue ginkgo trees, though not as dense as the one in the tree line, but still as breathtaking (literally, because, yanno, smell, haha). You’ll surely get a pic or two with just you and Ginkgo.
Since it was a tiny island, we reached the edges easily. The winds are stronger but the view is one of a kind. Along the edges, there are also a variety of flora to watch out for.
A perfect autumn, indeed
We could’ve stayed in the island for a full day and I wouldn’t have gotten bored or get sick of the nature’s beauty. But since we wanted to get through the other tourist spots in the vicinity, we left at around 2 in the afternoon. 4-5 hours is enough to circle or cover most of the island.
That day was the perfect autumn I imagined, indeed. It’s hard not to want to come back again!