South Korea’s most popular alpine town, Pyeongchang, will be opening its ski slopes to international athletes – drawing even competitors from North Korea – arriving for the Winter Olympics from Feb 9 to 25. Located in the mountainous province of Gangwon in the north-east, Pyeongchang – not to be confused with North Korean capital Pyongyang – is known among locals for its meandering peaks and pristine ski slopes. Most well-known among its ski locations is Yongpyong, South Korea’s oldest ski resort, made famous by hit South Korean dramas Winter Sonata (2002) and Goblin (2016 to 2017).
The laidback county, with a population of about 43,000 people, is also home to one of the country’s largest sheep farms, buckwheat flower fields and premium hanwoo (Korean beef). Gangwon representatives hope the Pyeongchang Olympics will boost tourism. About 83,000 foreign tourists and 75,000 athletes, officials and media are expected to visit the province for the Olympics alone. The Sunday Times recommends seven must-do activities in this picturesque destination.
#1: Enjoy The Korean Alps
With mountains accounting for more than 80 per cent of the province’s land area, it is no wonder Pyeongchang is coined the “Alps of Korea”. The county is an ideal getaway for city folks yearning for a breather, given its average altitude of about 700m above sea level, bountiful snowfall in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer.
During a visit last December, where we stayed at Yongpyong ski resort, we were greeted by a temperature of minus 2 deg C and blankets of powdery white that turned my mum into an excited teenager squealing: “It’s real snow… real snow!” My eight-year-old daughter, meanwhile, was determined to make the best of the slopes, zooming down in a snow sled over and over again. To get to the resort, we took a three-hour bus ride from Seoul. The beauty of the alps can be enjoyed by hiking enthusiasts year-round. Blooming pink and yellow flowers blanket the mountains in spring, while autumn brings beautiful golden hues.