10 Most Insta-worthy Spots in Gangwon Province During Winter

10 Most Insta-worthy Spots in Gangwon Province During Winter

A tourist in Daegwallyeong, Gangwon takes photos from a unique vantage point.

Picture this, a scene straight out of your favourite Korean drama: The protagonist (you, of course!), garbed in plush winter wear, stepping into a row of trees whose trunks and bare branches are covered in a soft dusting of snow. A familiar voice beckons and you turn, cheeks lightly flushed from the cold, snowflakes falling to the ground as if in slow motion. *Click*  — the camera’s shutter snaps and the photo freezes a moment in time…one you’ll look back on ever so fondly.

But it’s back to reality, and you’re reading this from a gadget’s screen at home or in the office. Dreaming of a wintertime getaway in South Korea just like that? Well then, the one place you need to visit is South Korea’s most accessible (it’s just a few hours away from Seoul!) winter wonderland — Gangwon Province.

All year round, Gangwon Province attracts plenty of travellers thanks to its myriad of very photogenic spots. Yet, as soon as the first chilly winter winds blow, the place transforms into something even more spectacular: a wintry escape known for hosting the esteemed Winter Olympics as well as its appearances in various K-drama and Kpop productions. Rare is the destination that brings warmth to any traveller’s soul even during winter, and Gangwon’s most Instagrammable spots do exactly that; from its stunning mountain ranges and ski resorts to its farms and iconic filming locations.

There’s no need to scour the Internet for sights to bucket-list; we’ve got you covered with these top spots in Gangwon Province. It’s time to turn your Instagram feed into a magical grid of wintertime wonders!

1. Chuncheon | Nami Island

Image credit: Gangwon Province

The current Hallyu wave has the entire world pumped with excitement every time a new K-drama series or Kpop album is released. But OGs will definitely remember the 2002 series Winter Sonata, which started it all. One of the most iconic scenes of the classic drama takes place in winter on the super popular Nami Island. And trust us, it is every bit as magical in real life! 

Who could ever forget the chemistry between dashing introvert Kang Joon-sang (whose identity was later changed to Lee Min-hyung, both played by Bae Yong-joon) and fresh-faced Jeong Yu-jin (played by Choi Ji-woo)? Their love story blossoms throughout the seasons and culminates during wintertime on Nami Island, where the romantic, snow-covered backdrop provided one of the most swoon-worthy scenes in K-drama history!

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Nami Island during snowfall is mystically picturesque from every angle; just remember to bring a good camera if you want to capture those tiny snowflakes flurrying about! Plus, there is plenty to see and do. For one, fans can try to find the statues of the Winter Sonata couple by the Metasequoia Lane and recreate their loved-up pose. In fact, take your time exploring the area to take more Insta-worthy spots with your special someone.

When it gets too chilly, make a beeline for the many food stalls selling warm red bean buns and eomuk (Korean fish cake) served piping hot! If you’re adventurous, you can zip line into the island (yes, even when temperatures drop!) and include that in your vlog.

There are other features to enjoy: Instagrammable cafés, souvenir shops, public art installations, lanes of trees here and there. Our Muslim friends need not worry about dining options, either, as there are plenty of Halal restaurants on the island. Here are a few: Dongmoon (Asian cuisine) and Kko Kko Chuncheon Dakgalbi (Korean cuisine) near the Nami Island Ferry Dock.

2. Hwacheon | Paroho Lake 

Image credit: Hwacheon County

They say the colder it is, the more beautiful this next entry becomes. Although Paroho Lake is a manmade body of water, it is no less stunning than its natural counterparts. Surrounded by the mountains that make up the lofty ranges that span Wolmyeong Dong Peak and Mt Il, Paroho Lake offers scenery that can keep you taking photos all day. What’s more, with the Dam of Peace just upstream, the water here is sparkling clean — making it an ideal habitat for healthy populations of freshwater fish such as catfish, carp, and Mandarin fish. Without a doubt, it is one of Hwacheon Country’s best fishing spots!

Image credit: Gangwon Province

You may be surprised to know this, but Paroho Lake is a popular fishing spot even during the winter. About 13 minutes away by car is the actual venue of the much-awaited Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival! Newbies must experience ice fishing here, of course. When you’re done braving the icy waters to catch sancheoneo (a certain variety of Korean salmon), you can try cooking it yourself.

The fun doesn’t end there; there’s ice sledding, snow sledding, and even night fishing for those extending their stay in Hwacheon. When in Paroho Lake, take a full tour to truly breathe in the place’s beauty. We recommend walking along the Oxygen (O2) Path, a scenic bridge that takes you deep into nearby forests. If the weather permits, you can ride a bike! But during winter, when slippery paths may make cycling a tad more challenging, a leisurely walk is just as fulfilling. Plus, this allows you to take more photos for Instagram!

Also read: Top 8 Ski Resorts in South Korea’s Gangwon Province

3. Hongcheon Alpaca World

It only takes four words to make animals lovers swoon over this next entry: Alpacas. In. The Snow. That’s what travel bucket lists are made of, really! In case you didn’t know — and just when you thought these furry critters can’t get any more adorable — alpacas LOVE wintertime. They’re built to enjoy freezing temperatures and frolicking across ice-covered terrain. Alpacas have pretty eyes with the longest lashes you’ve ever seen, too. Can you picture them catching snowflakes? Too cute.

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Hongcheon Alpaca World is home to many creatures (click here for a sneak peek!), but its name will tell you their main draw. Here, you may interact with alpacas during winter. Get the chance to feed them and take lots of Insta-worthy photos while they’re enjoying their snack. Alpacas here are so friendly, they’ll even let you pet them even without the promise of a few tasty morsels. You can even go on a scenic walk with them as your plus one! 

Apart from the adorable alpacas, you’ll also be able to take in some spectacular alpine views when you visit the area. Regardless of whichever direction you point your camera at, chances are any shot would deserve a place on your Instagram feed!

4. Inje | Wondaeri Birch Forest and Baekdamsa Temple

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Wondaeri Birch Forest is one of mother nature’s true works of art! Luckily for you, Gangwon Province brims with these naturally gorgeous gems. This is one of the reasons why the area is a favourite of outdoor enthusiasts in search of nature escapes near Seoul.

This birch forest is beautiful when it’s lush and green, but can you imagine when it is blanketed in fluffy white snow? That’s a sight to behold — and one that absolutely deserves a spot on your Instagram feed. With over 700,000 birch trees adorning a sprawling 138-hectare property, Wondaeri Birch Forest has become one of those quintessential Gangwon experiences that encapsulates the pristine, minimalist beauty that wintertime brings.

But Wondaeri Birch Forest isn’t the only must-experience highlight in Inje. Here, you can also sign up for a spiritually refreshing templestay program at Baekdamsa Temple. Found in Inner Seorak, Baekdamsa Temple is situated deep in the heart of Seoraksan National Park. Its location essentially makes Baekdamsa Temple a nature retreat in one of Korea’s best winter destinations.

Plenty of activities await during your templestay at Baekdamsa depending on the season of your visit. But there will always be an emphasis on Nimui Chimmuk (Silence of the Honorable), a poem composed by Han Yong-un — a Korean Buddhist reformer, poet, and activist who also stayed in the Baekdamsa Temple. Nimui Chimmuk will consistently show you the ideologies that Baekdamsa was built upon, such as respect for all living beings and harnessing this respect to radiate positive energy.

5. Sokcho | Mt. Seoraksan

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Seoraksan National Park is named after Mt. Seorak, one of the highest peaks in all of Korea! In fact, Seoraksan is the highest point of the Taebaek mountains, a range of peaks that cut across North and South Korea. Home to diverse flora and fauna, Seoraksan National Park is on the UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites.

When the weather is warmer, Seoraksan National Park is a great place for hiking and outdoor exploration. But a visit during winter affords you leisurely walks minus summer’s sweltering heat. Plus, with Gangwon being the wintertime capital, the place transforms into an impressive ‘snowscape’ every year.

Fun fact: Locals have a nickname of sorts for Mt. Seorak: Seolbongsan, which roughly translates to “Snow Peak Mountain”. The name is fitting for this popular nature park that attracts even more tourists during the winter months. Historically though, Seoraksan got its name due to the heaps of snow that pile up on its peaks, turning the rocks on its summit completely white. Despite experiencing snowfall as early as Chuseok (September), the snow on Seoraksan doesn’t melt until the summer solstice! 

Image credit: Gangwon Province

If it gets too nippy, tourists can opt to ride a cable car that offers scenic views of the entire park. Or, you can also brave a direct trail that will take you to its main peak, Daecheongbong. At the starting point, you’ll spot hot spring spas like Osaek Hot Springs. Seasoned climbers can treat it as a cosy pit stop to revitalise tired limbs for the rest of the trek. Those who just want to chill, though, can just make a beeline for one of the hot springs and turn their winter trip into a wellness retreat.

In general, it’s best to take extra care when taking on Seoraksan National Park during winter, when ice may make the paths a little slippery. Rest assured, trails here are prepared for wintertime hikers. Just a tip: Wear insulated clothing and boots with a bit more grip so you can easily navigate through snow!

6. Gangneung·Donghae | Jumunjin Breakwater – BTS Bus Stop – Jeongdongjin Sunrise and Sea Train

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Yet another Gong Yoo reference, but hey, we can’t help it! Who here can attest to how their heart shattered into a million pieces while watching the 2016 K-drama hit, Guardian: The Lonely and the Great God, or more commonly referred to as Goblin? We have great news for you. Remember that pier where the Goblin and endearing Ji Eun-tak first met (and keep on meeting)? It’s called Jumunjin Breakwater and it’s right here in Gangwon Province!

Like the IG-worthy lane of trees in Nami Island from Winter Sonata, this breakwater has been drawing crowds for that cinematic capture of the sea from the walkway. Here’s another opportunity to recreate the viral scenes between Gong Yoo and K-drama darling, Kim Go-eun!

Image credit: Gangwon Province

This is also the exact location of the famous BTS Bus Station, which rose to fame thanks to the idol group’s official music video for their well-loved track, Spring Day. Both Instagram-worthy spots are easily found on digital maps and even via geotags on Instagram, which means you’ll find them without trouble!

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Jeongdongjin Beach is a true seaside gem that’s best shared with good company. For the perfect winter experience that brings you as much serenity as it does joy, feast your eyes upon the stunning Jeongdongjin Beach sunrise, which gifts viewers and passersby with the most breathtaking, golden light at the crack of dawn! Many tourists head to Jeongdongjin just to catch daybreak; and if you still don’t get the appeal, we guess you’ll have to see it to believe it.

Sunrises here are beautiful all year round, but a special affair happens during winter when people gather to watch the new year’s very first sunrise. The Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival begins on 31 Dec every year and continues until the new year’s first morning. This is another way of celebrating the new year, and one that highlights mother nature’s light show instead of the usual fireworks.

Another Insta-worthy spot that adds to the allure of this seaside destination is the Hourglass Park, which boasts the world’s biggest hourglass! Even locals flock to Jeongdongjin to get a peek of this structure, while witnessing the country’s best sunrise. Take the locals’ word for it; this sun-centric spectacle is something you shouldn’t miss while you’re in the area! The best part? Hourglass Park is near Jeongdongjin Station, which connects tourists to yet another must-experience feature in the area: the Jeongdongjin Sea Train.

Image credit: Gangwon Province

A unique way to enjoy the eastern coast of Korea, the Jeongdongjin Sea Train cuts through Jeongdongjin, Donghae, and Samcheok. The coastal train boasts of close proximity to the ocean, which means it will also give you access to the most awe-inspiring vantage points along the East Sea. Fun fact: Jeongdongjin Station is the closest station to the sea!

Tip: The sea train only has three cars or compartments, so be sure to plan your day prior to your trip so you can secure your slots. All the seats are situated near big windows that allow you to enjoy the scenery all throughout the ride. Don’t put down your cameras; you never know when an Instagrammable scene may just catch your eye!

7. Taebaek | Mt. Taebaeksan 

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Historically speaking, Mt. Taebaeksan is considered a holy mountain to locals, and its origins are shrouded in mystery to this day. On the way to the peak of Mt. Taebaeksan, you’ll find three altars made of stone. These pieces of Korean history date back to the time of the Three Kingdoms, when locals were said to worship the mountain with harvest offerings and rituals.

Now a national park, Mt. Taebaeksan boasts of both historical and natural significance. Locals troop to these parts of Gangwon Province to get a glimpse of the altars, as well as the biodiversity that surrounds them. Since the park covers a wide range of land that cuts across the provinces of Gangwon and Gyeongsangbuk, it is not surprising that Taebaeksan is also considered South Korea’s biggest wildflower haven.

Image credit: Korea Tourism Organization

As with most natural parks in the province, Mt. Taebaeksan’s terrain is one of the most Insta-worthy spots in Gangwon during winter. Heavy snowfall doesn’t only turn the landscape into a dreamy white wonderland; it also signals the start of the Taebaeksan Snow Festival, which tourists — both local and foreign — flock to for its larger-than-life snow structures and ice sculptures. This is where you can try refreshments at an igloo café, too!

Also read: All the Exciting Things to Expect in Gangwon Province — South Korea’s Winter Wonderland!

8. Jeongseon | Mt. Hambaeksan

Image credit: Gangwon Province

On the eastern part of Gangwon Province is Jeongseon Country — famous for the Korean arirang, a folk song with many variations. Its (literal) crowning glory, though, is its highest peak called Mt. Hambaeksan. Being Jeongseon’s highest point, the summit is a popular viewing deck for appreciating a myriad of vistas: the sunrise peeking over the East Sea and a sweeping view of the entire region’s mountain ranges, among others. Mt. Hambaeksan also houses the vibrant Jeongamsa Temple, an Insta-worthy structure any time of the year.

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Come wintertime, Jeongseon’s snow-capped peaks mesmerise travellers without fail. Imagine a forest blanketed with snow from its towering treetops to the grounds you will roam. But even more magical among its outdoors experiences is seeing the milky way from the lush hills of Manhangjae, found in between Hambaeksan and Taebaeksan mountains.

During spring and summer, Manhangjae’s fields brim with wildflowers in full bloom. Wintertime calls for snow and the clearest skies perfect for viewing every breathtaking detail of the milky way. It’s quite a beautiful thought; at Mt. Hambaeksan, as the flower fields sleep through winter, the skies come alive with an unending expanse of stars dotting the night sky like the same dew-kissed flowers of spring.

Fun fact: When the Goryeo Dynasty was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty, loyalists of the former refused to work for the Joseon Dynasty and migrated to the Hambaeksan area instead. Yearning for their hometown, these people trekked to Manhangjae to carry out a ceremony that symbolised their longing for Gaegyeong, the capital of Goryeo. Keep the tradition alive by whispering a heartfelt wish when you see the milky way at Manhangjae.

9. Pyeongchang | Uiyaji Wind Village and Samyang Ranch 

Image credit: Gangwon Province

In search of the epitome of a perfect winter village? Look no further than the Uiyaji Wind Village in Pyeongchang. In English, Uiyaji means “the village where good people live”; and you’ll be pleased to know how true this is during your visit!

Since it’s at the top of Daegwallyeong Pass, the place collects more impressive amounts of snow than most areas near Seoul. Uiyaji Wind Village will not fail you if your goal is to take lots of Instagram-worthy photos surrounded by icy precipitation. Just make sure to bundle up because it can get extremely cold!

Aside from the heavy snowfall, the mountain village also introduces visitors to local livelihoods such as ice cream- and cheese-making. You’ll get to eat your fair share of these delicacies, but you can’t miss the chance to make them yourself! Don’t forget to document the recipe for the ‘gram, and to take lots of snaps of your final masterpiece before digging in.

Image credit: Pyeongchang County

Here’s another insta-worthy spot in Gangwon Province that animal lovers should bucket list, especially during winter! Venture further into the countryside to check out the many sheep ranches in Daegwallyeong. These places are tasked to conserve forests and uphold animal welfare, so a trip here would equal your support for the same advocacies.

During winter, most of the livestock that call these parts of Gangwon home are brought inside to keep them toasty warm. Don’t let that discourage you; you have the option of interacting with these animals indoors. When snow fully covers the ground, it makes for a wonderful sight on its own.

Image credit: Weverse

One such property that Hallyu fanatics must visit is the Samyang Ranch, an eco-ranch and one of Asia’s largest pastures for a variety of livestock! The place is made even more photogenic thanks to wind turbines that dot the landscape. If you’re wondering why the scene looks familiar, then that only means you’re a certified member of the ARMY (a.k.a. the Kpop group’s band of fans marked by unwavering love and loyalty!).

Samyang Ranch was one of the locations of BTS’ 2021 Winter Package, so this is your chance to recreate that iconic scene by the Samyang Ranch windmills. Plus points if you try to dress in the same colour palette BTS did during their photoshoot! On the other hand, Samyang Ranch was also a filming location for Bride of the Water God (2017), Cinderella and Four Knights (2016), and music videos of K-pop groups Monsta X (Newton) and GOT7 (You Are).

Head over Samyang Ranch to have your own BTS-inspired photoshoot, or enjoy the various activities you can sign up for even during winter! Ride a tractor along the hill lined with Samyang Ranch’s iconic wind turbines; shop for Korean goodies at the ranch store; feed the friendly cows and sheep that may be found inside the barns when temperatures drop. Note that Samyang Ranch closes earlier during the winter months (around 4pm) so you may want to drop by earlier in the day.

10. Yeongwol | Seonam Village

Image credit: Gangwon Province

Some people would say that Seonam Village is one of the most photographed spots of Yeongwol. And why wouldn’t it be, when it is home to cliffs unbelievably shaped like the Korean peninsula? Wintertime only makes the view even more photogenic with its heavy snowfall and plunging temperatures that transform Seonam Village’s pristine waters into sheets of crystalline ice. It may look like you’ll have to put a ton of effort to see this place, but actually, it only takes about a 20-minute hike from the parking lot to the cliff that overlooks Insta-worthy scenery.

K-drama aficionados, here’s a little trivia you should know! A little ways away from the little town of Seonam, you’ll find Yeongwol Panun Bridge (also called Juncheon Seopdali Bridge), which was featured in the hit drama, Start-Up. If a trip to Yeongwol is on your itinerary, do drop by this famous filming location.

Image credit: Gangwon Province

If you need a little refresher, it’s the bridge where Nam Joo-hyuk carried an injured Bae Suzy across calm waters despite the emotional turmoil both characters were experiencing. On top of this, the same bridge was also featured in I Will See You When The Weather Is Nice (2020) and It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020).

So how about it? Don’t you think your next snowy getaway in South Korea has to look this perfect? Thanks for setting the bar high, Gangwon. We can’t wait to live our K-drama dreams and take all those picture-perfect captures in your most Insta-worthy spots during winter.

Brought to you by Gangwon Province.