Where I’m from, it doesn’t snow very much (at all). A winter holiday is my favourite because it lets me sample the fun parts about winter without committing to an entire season of snow and cold.
A short flight away, South Korea has some stunning winters. To travel to South Korea in winter, especially as someone not used to cold and snow, I made sure my itinerary was practical. I can’t exactly be walking around for half a day like I do on summer vacations. It was a short holiday as well, which meant that convenience was key. I decided to fly to and from seoul, as it had the most flights. I planned my winter activities in and around seoul, for a taste of city life in winter as well as some visits to the country-side.
With that, here’s my Korea winter itinerary for a 5-day trip.
Day 1: Arrive in Seoul
I took an early morning (6 a.m.) flight and arrived in seoul at about noon. As seoul is one hour ahead of Singapore, this meant I arrived at about 1 p.m. Korean time. By the time I got to my hotel and checked-in, it was mid-afternoon. I stayed at the L7 Gangnam by Lotte – it’s walking distance from Seolleong station (4 minutes) and Samseong station (13 minutes), which makes getting around quite convenient.
I decided to head to Everland, one of Korea’s premiere theme parks for its Winter Wonderland. Everland is on the outskirts of seoul and can be quite a distance to travel. Instead of taking the subway, I recommend taking a shuttle bus or local bus instead. Shuttle buses only operate in the morning and evenings, so I took the local bus instead. It took me roughly an hour to get there and cost me the basic fare (about ₩2,400). I had time for about two attractions before the park closed at 8 p.m. (it closes at 7p.m. on some nights so make sure to check beforehand).
Everland Monkey Valley / Source: Jinho Jung
First things first, I love a good thrill ride. Plus points if it’s winter-themed. They had a sledge right down a snow-covered hill (The Snow Buster ride), and I got on pretty quickly. I may have sat it twice. And because the sun sets so early in the winter, Everland puts on amazing light displays. These were dazzling and beautiful. My favourite was probably the Golden Umbrella Alley, an alleyway with over a hundred illuminated umbrellas opened up above, and the Starlight Zoo, where animal-shaped light features were displayed. I was also lucky enough to catch the Moonlight Parade before leaving!
Thrill Rides in Winter / Source: Jinho Jung
Day 2: Hwacheon Ice Fishing
I arranged to meet with a local friend who suggested we go ice fishing, a popular winter activity with locals. We left seoul at about 10am after a quick breakfast around my hotel, and caught a return shuttle bus to Hwacheon, which is a few hours outside seoul. Hwacheon is famous for its Snow Festival, which brings in over a million tourists each year.
Undoubtedly, ice fishing is the most popular attraction. Over a hundred people stood over tiny holes cut out in the thick ice to fish for trout. I am by no means a fisherman and struggled with it. Meanwhile, my friend snagged 3 by the time I caught my first. If the trout is too small, you’ll be asked to return it to the water to ensure that they survive long enough to reproduce.
Hwacheon Ice Festival / Source: Christopher John SSF
We had our catch cooked for us. All that effort catching my own meal really did pay off – it tasted so much better than I thought it would.
Suckers for thrill rides, we went for ice sledging before visiting the famous snow park and visited gorgeous (and very large) snow castle. We took the shuttle back to seoul and arrived at about 8 p.m in time for dinner and drinks.
Day 3: Daemyung Vivaldi Ski Resort
For my third (and fourth day), I decided to spend a night away from seoul at a ski resort. I chose the Daemyung Vivaldi Ski Resort for its proximity to seoul (about 2 hours away) and its famous slopes. Now as I said before, athleticism is not my strongest suit, but I was looking forward to some beginner-level classes in snowboarding or skiing. If not, then some cocoa by a fireplace would be just as welcome.
Snowboarding pro / Source: pxfuel
Snowboarding slope / Source: sellyourseoul
If like me, you’re clueless about what to do and where to go, I recommend getting a guided tour to bring you around for a day. Most of these tours include some time on the slopes, and even provide rental equipment for those not travelling with their own. Thankfully, I made it out alive in time for dinner. There are tons of restaurants and eateries within the resort itself, so you’ll have no problem foodwise. Rest up! Tomorrow’s another day on the slopes.
Day 4: Daemyun Vivaldi Ski Resort
After breakfast, I decided to try my hand at snowboarding again. Having figured out the basics in my guided tour the day prior, I decided to take some time on the slopes.
It got dark pretty quickly after a late lunch, which was perfect for my visit to the resort’s mini-theme park called Snowyland. Snow Light Street is a candlelit street in the snow and was a great photo spot.
Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) / Source: Jens Ohlig
After a little photo op, I caught a shuttle back to seoul. Thankfully, the night market near me (Dongdaemun) stays open until the early morning. There’s nothing quite like having piping-hot (and spicy) street food like tteokbokki (rice cakes in spicy sauce),
(deep fried fish cakes), and odeng (pressed fish cake in broth).
Odeng (pressed fish cake in broth) / Source: travel oriented
Day 5: Seoul
As I had an afternoon flight, there wasn’t a ton I could do on my last day. I decided to go ice skating at seoul Plaza after checking out of my hotel. I left my luggage with the hotel and collected it before heading to the airport.
Deciding that I still had some time to spare, I decided to go ice skating at seoul Plaza. For those without their own skates, you can easily rent a pair by the rink. If you can, channel your inner Yuna Kim, but try to avoid attempting her iconic triple-lutz triple toe loop on oncoming skaters.
Ice Skating at seoul Plaza / Source: Republic of Korea
And to the airport we go. Goodbye snow!