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Road trip in picturesque Korea

Drive along Jeju Island's picturesque Rapeseed Flowers. PHOTO: KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION
Drive along Jeju Island's picturesque Rapeseed Flowers. PHOTO: KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

One of the best ways to experience the best of Korean destinations is on four wheels

A road trip is one of life's pleasures because it is the chance to explore a country at your own pace. When you are not bound by an itinerary or scheduled flight times, you can make stops — planned and unexpected — whenever and wherever you want.

If you have an adventurous spirit, you can even venture off the beaten track to areas that are inaccessible by public transport, and discover little-known gems.

You may think you know all about what your travel destination can offer, but that could well be far from the truth.

Korea is well known for its cosmopolitan capital Seoul that leaves one spoilt for choice when it comes to food, shopping and entertainment.

But as you drive out of the city, the urban landscape seemingly melts away and you are soon in touch with unspoiled nature and breathtaking views.  

A fly-drive holiday in Korea is a wonderfully relaxing way to see the top sights in the country at your own pace.

Here’s a snapshot of must-see gorgeous places for a memorable vacation in Korea: 

 

Winter sojourn

In January, take a 2 hours drive from Seoul to Hwacheon county, Gangwon-do province and try your hand at ice fishing in the popular Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival — just like the locals.

The festival, which was featured on CNN as one of the "Seven Wonders of Winter”, attracts over one million visitors each year. When Gangwon-do freezes in winter and the Hwacheon stream is covered with a thick layer of ice, locals and tourists flock to it to fish for sancheoneo (Masou salmon). It is huge fun — and you may actually catch something!

Still have energy for more activities? You can go ice sledding or bobsledding, and even play soccer in the snow.

The Gangwon-do region receives the most annual snowfall, which makes it one of the best places to ski or snowboard. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert; the resorts in the area have slopes to cater for all skill levels.

Most resorts are large and offer luxurious accommodation in beautiful natural surroundings, and facilities that stay open all year round. Take your kids out for sledding activities, cruise on gondolas and go on walking trails to enjoy the winter scenery. Prefer to relax indoors instead? Then pick a spa to chill out in before you get on the road again. 


Skiing at Alpensia Ski Resort. PHOTO: KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

A coastal drive is a must to fully experience the scenic white views. Check out Heonhwaro, about 180km from Seoul, where a winding 2.5km-long road runs between sheer cliffs and the East Sea, linking the Geumjin Beach and Simgok Port.

If you would like a glimpse of ancient Korea that recalls scenes from the country's popular period dramas, visit Gyeongju Yangdong Village, which is the country’s largest traditional village and cultural heritage site. The village is about 60km from popular base Daegu.

Nestled within the valley are some 160 houses and thatched-roof cottages dating from the Joseon Dynasty. Fifty-four of them are over 200 years old and have been preserved in their original state, thus offering visitors the rare opportunity to explore unique Korean traditional houses.

The natural surroundings also make this visit special. During winter, the scenic view of Mount Seolchangsan and its four spines can be seen beyond the village.

 

Blooming lovely

Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in Korea between late March and early April. A self-drive during Spring is a great way to see the beautiful flowers in various regions.

One of the must-visit viewing spots is Incheon Grand Park, where the Incheon Grand Park Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted.

Along the way, take a 20-minute drive across the Incheon Bridge that connects Yeongjong Island and Incheon. It is the longest bridge in Korea at 21.38km long, and the seventh longest bridge in the world.


Sunset over the Incheondaegyo Bridge. PHOTO: KOREA TOURISM ORGANIZATION

If you are on the way to Incheon International Airport, take this bridge to cut travel time by 20 minutes as it grants easy access to Gyeongin Expressway No. 2 and 3, and the Seohaean Expressway.

In the south, Busan — a good starting base for a self-drive holiday — is a wonderland of colour in spring. There are plenty of Insta-worthy spots such as the famous Haeundae Dalmaji Road, Samnark Park and Namcheon-dong Cherry Blossom Road.

If you are making a pit stop in Busan, consider a 50-minute drive along the diamond-shaped, four-lane Geoga Bridge. It connects Gadeokdo Island in Gangseo-gu, Busan and Jangmok-myeon in Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnamdo.

The drive will take you across a 4.5km sea-level cable-stayed bridge, a 3.7km undersea tunnel and a 1km ground tunnel.

The undersea tunnel portion, which runs 48m below sea level, is the first in the world to be constructed at such a distance from the mainland.

Do plan a drive along the spectacular 8.5km-long Metasequoia Road in Damyang. Located along National Road No. 24, the boulevard — one of Korea’s most beautiful roads — takes its name from the majestic deciduous conifers that line its sides and which grow to heights of between 10m and 20m.

Commonly known as dawn redwoods, these stately trees give the place an Alice-in-Wonderland vibe and are probably the reason why this is one of the most popular driving routes in Korea.

It’s about the journey, not the destination

If you are concerned about driving in a foreign land, or prefer to share the driving experience, opt for a self-drive convoy.

What’s AUTOVENTURE?

Organised by Automobile Association of Singapore in partnership with the Korea Tourism Organization, AUTOVENTURE (AV) is a driving holiday where you will be part of a group of 10 to 15 cars, with the benefit of an experienced guide.

Such a self-drive convoy enables you to enjoy a road trip without the fear of getting lost. Moreover, you are assured of both the privacy of a road trip with your loved ones, as well as the opportunity to make new friends. On selected itineraries, you get to drive at your own pace and meet at pre-set destinations along the way.

Walkie-talkies are provided to drivers to keep every group member updated on road conditions and driving directions so everyone will always know what to expect.