Korea northern most province is Gangwon Province. I have lived in Gangwon for my entire time I have been in Korea, but I haven’t visited every place in the province. Gangwon has something for everyone. I had just finished teaching my first full semester at the university and I was ready to enjoy some vacation time.
Inje and Goseong are both small counties and towns. Inje gets a bad rep for being cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. However if you go to the mountains it is a little cooler. This was another solo trip that I decided to embark so I packed my car with camping supplies. I wasn’t planning to camp, but even though Korea is small, it can take a long time to travel distances when driving on the backroads.
The drive from Wonju to Inje is fairly short, which is about an hour or more. I started in the morning It was a beautiful drive through the lush mountains and over wide rivers. The destination was Inje Birch Forest. I had low expectations, but that soon went away.
There was a parking lot on the mountain to the entrance of a hiking trail. There was no parking fee or entrance fee. The route up was about 2 miles. or 3.2km. As I was hiking up, the trees startedout as pine trees, but gradually turned into a full-fledged birch forest. It was really amazing.
The beginning of the hike was a little steep, but it eventually got easier, and the way down was super easy. However it was about lunch time when I had returned to my car and I was famished. There was a resort area about 5km down the road which has a cafeteria. It was fairly cheap for buffet style Korean food. I will guess and say about 7,000won. I don’t remember the exact price, but it was filling and delicious.
AFter eating, my primary goal was to go to the coast and see the beautiful sea. I’ve been to many coastal towns of Gangwon, except for Goseong. Goseong has the most-northern point of South Korea which means it borders North Korea. One of the tourist DMZ lines is located here. I had to get a car validation from a tourist information center. After I could drive to the DMZ. There was at least 1 checkpoint where South Korean soldiers asked me to open the trunk, check my ID, and check my validation ticket. It was a painless procedure and the soldiers were polite and professional.
I was on my way to the DMZ. I had previously been on a tour to the DMZ but this was by myself, so it was more exciting. This part of the DMZ is adjacent to the East Sea. There were many tourists and we could see North Korea in the distance. It was a surreal experience.
After I had visited I had to start heading south as north of course was not an option. I followed the coast for about 45 minutes. It was beautiful and I tried not to go too fast. When I made it to a tourist beach, I decided to park my car and do some beach camping. There was no parking fee as I had arrived late in the evening, but if I had arrived earlier then I should have paid.
After falling asleep to the sound of waves, I awoke early enough to see the sunrise. I was able to rent a surfboard and tried to do some surfing, but I wasn’t successful. Goseong with its scenery and location next to the sea and next to North Korea became one of my favorite places in terms of its pristine beauty.
In the afternoon I drove back to Wonju which took about three hours, and I was able to see an awesome manmade waterfall in Inje.