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Day Trip to Nami Island | The Story
The bus stopped at the small ferry terminal and I disembarked behind a family. A handful of restaurants and shops lined the perimeter of a massive parking lot with conspicuously few cars. I noticed that most of the buildings kept a low profile, except one towering billboard playing videos of the popular K-POP group BLACKPINK skydiving in the local area. I was less than 2 hours from Seoul, but felt like I was in another land.
“Welcome to Naminara Republic.”
The entrance sign offered a simple explanation. I was about to take a brief ferry to Nami Island, a “culturally independent” area from the Republic of Korea. There was even an informal immigration building.
Nami Island (also known as Namisara or Namiseom) is a crescent-shaped, manmade island created in the mid-20th century. The quaint island showcases artists and craftsmen from around the world. Naminara Republic sits in the middle of Han River and can be explored as an easy day trip from Seoul.
With small wooden bridges, floating lanterns, and larger-than-life statues, Nami Island looks like a page torn from a children’s storybook.
Day Trip to Nami Island | The Details
Nami Island can be reached either via car or public transportation.
Whether driving or taking public transportation, keep in mind that GoogleMaps is not widely used in South Korea. Instead, Naver or KakaoMap are more robust alternatives.
It takes roughly 1.5 hours to drive to Nami Island from Seoul.
Public transportation takes approximately 2 hours from Seoul through a combination of subway and bus. Ride the subway from Seoul to Cheongpyeong Station. Take Exit 2 out of the station to the bus stop for Gapyeong Circle Bus. Ride the bus for about 15-20 minutes to Nami Island.
You will leave either your car or the bus at a small ferry terminal across Han River from Nami Island. Take a 5 minute ferry ride to Nami Island.
A logistically easier alternative may be to book an organized tour through Klook. Through the tour, you can visit several destinations in the area, including Nami Island.
Nami Island’s central shopping area has a few cafes. Most of the cafes serve Korean food, but a few provide Western options.
During my own visit, I ate lunch at Seomhyanggi (📍1 Namiseom-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea). This spacious restaurant offers a variety of Korean dishes, including bulgogi, barbecue, and noodle soup.
Nami Island is best explored without a set itinerary. The island is small enough to discover entirely on foot, although bicycle rentals are also available.
Wander and stumble upon the art installations and statues throughout the island. In addition, the island features various art exhibitions, studios, and performances throughout the year. A particular highlight is the NAMI CONCOURS exhibition, a collection of illustrations from their children’s book artists’ contest.
Fans of K-Dramas may recognize a few filming locations, including the popular Winter Sonata Statue.
Gentle woods surround the artwork and buildings on Nami Island. Central Korean Pine Tree Lane, the main walkway leading to the island’s central area, is lined with trees and lights and is a popular spot for photographs.
If you’d like to enjoy the island’s nature, stroll along the riverside along the perimeter of the island. The trails are wide and have seating areas with lovely views of Han River and surrounding mountains.
Responsible Travel Tips
As always, it’s important to leave a positive impact when traveling to new places. Although Nami Island is specifically geared toward tourism, there are few tips you can keep in mind:
- Large art installations and statues are spread throughout the island. Enjoy them from a distance – don’t touch or climb on them.
- Hopefully this goes without saying, but do not deface the artwork.
- Dispose of trash in designated areas or bring it back with you.
- If you choose to purchase souvenirs, support handcrafted studios. Nami Island Handicraft Studio is an option in the island’s central shopping area.