Let it snow: How to make the most of a winter holiday in South Korea

Pic: CJ Nattanai/Shutterstock

WINTER is coming. Or at least in South Korea, it is.

Amidst this country’s snow-capped spots at this time of year, a winter holiday will prove to be quite a picturesque and memorable one thanks to the many things you can do, see and experience.

Here are a few ideas.

Ski (but of course)

Pic: Suchart Boonyavech/Shutterstock

It’s ski season every time it snows in South Korea, hence it’s not surprising to see tourists flocking to this part of the world when December comes. South Korea actually has some of the best ski resorts in Asia and most of them are concentrated in the Gangwon-do region which receives the most snowfall annually.

Nestled in the heart of the forest atop the mountainous landscapes in the northeast of South Korea, Gangwon-do features a variety of slopes ranging from bunny to black diamond, which means everyone from the beginner to the pro skier would be able to enjoy them.

There are also many luxurious accommodations and facilities to choose from – but you’d have to book early before the peak ski season from mid-December to the end of February, as hotels get filled up very quickly.

Some popular resorts in Gangwon-do include the Elysian Gangchon Resort, Daemyung Vivaldi Park, and Alpensia Resort, just to name a few. Come 2018, winter sport fans are also in for a treat as the Winter Olympics 2018 will be hosted in the Pyeongchang county in Gangwon-do.

Play for love

Seoul is famed for its many romantic venues. Pic: Pommy/Shutterstock

As snow shrouds the scenic landscapes of Seoul, an air of romance envelops the city. Famed for its many romantic venues, this city is one of the best destinations for honeymooners or couples.

Some places to visit include the N Seoul Tower which not only offers beautiful views of the city but because it is frequented by couples, it has also become an iconic “dating spot” for locals and tourists alike.

Here, lovers can write their names or love messages on a padlock, lock it to the metal fence surrounding the tower, and throw the key away to signify eternal love. Casual strolls along waterfronts like the Cheonggyecheon Stream or in parks like the Banpo Hangang Park are a wonderfully serene experience as well.

At the Banpo Hangang Park, it’s recommended that you stay on until evening to catch the dazzling light and music show at the Banpodaegyo Bridge nearby. In winter, these places get even dreamier with snow in the background.

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Attend a winter festival

Christmas is not the only festival that gets everyone excited in South Korea as there are numerous large-scale winter events during this time.

For those of you celebrating the New Year in South Korea, don’t miss the popular Seongsan Sunrise Festival in Jeju-do as everyone gathers to welcome the first sunrise of the year.

There are also elaborate parades and fireworks scheduled on this day. If fishing is your thing, you’ll enjoy the many ice fishing events in different cities like Gangwon-do and Gyeonggi-do.

The Taebaeksan Snow Festival is also an exquisite experience held in Taebaeksan National Park, Jungang-ro Street of Taebaek-si, and Hwangji Pond (Taebaek-si, Gangwon-do) featuring performances, snow sculptures and snow-sledding activities.

Partake in communal bathing

In winter, the temperature may dip below 0°C, but that doesn’t stop the Koreans from enjoying a pampering soak at a jimjilbang, a round-the-clock traditional bathhouse that offers hot and cold pools, massage areas, saunas and even communal sleeping rooms.

If you happen to be there during winter, it’s worthwhile to give it a shot as the contrast between the cool climate outside and the warm steamy temperatures inside is quite the experience.

Do note that you’re required to remove all clothing when you using the soaking pools so be prepared for some skinny dipping. However, rest assured the bathhouses for men and women are separated.

If bathhouses are not for you, go for Korean spas as they offer quite a unique set of traditional therapies.

For example, in the Jinan Red Ginseng Spa, their unusual health programs include the systematic and scientific use of red ginseng, Oriental medicinal herbs, all while abiding by the principles of yin and yang and the five natural elements for a holistic healing experience.