SEOUL, Sept 22 ― South Korea’s winter brings to mind different things for different people. It could be experiencing snow in 3°C to -6°C temperatures for the first time. It could also be the sight of colourful tents pitched on a frozen lake, each inhabited by bundled-up locals ice-fishing for trout.
Perhaps it’s a steaming bowl of fragrant abalone porridge that warms the body and heart after a hike through snow.
Winter in South Korea is unique, and will be made even more so when the Winter Olympics opens in the mountainous region of Pyeongchang in February 2018.
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: Pyeongchang’s first bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2010 was rejected because the International Olympic Committee mistook it for Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
That confusion has certainly been cleared as Pyeongchang — nicknamed the Alps of Korea for its snow-draped peaks in winter — has already geared up for the games. The Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium, located within the tourist attraction Alpensia Ski Resort, will hold the Olympics’ outdoor events like ski jumping.
South Korea enjoys distinct seasons that make its winter from December to February felt more keenly. Blessed with quality powder, a mountainous terrain, and top-notch ski resorts, Pyeongchang is a skiing and snowboarding haven.
Nothing beats the feeling of slaloming your way down the slopes and flying over powdery snow, while the brisk wind imparts a rosy flush to your cheeks. Can’t ski or snowboard? Sign up for courses and head to the beginners’ slope.
The delicious, fresh trout attracts droves of people to the Pyeongchang Trout Festival (Dec 23, 2016 to Jan 30, 2017) in winter. Snag these fresh-water fish with a lure through a hole cut in the ice of the frozen Odaecheon River. Then, get your trout filleted into fresh sashimi slices or grilled the traditional way over firewood.
In addition to ice fishing, the trout festival is packed with activities like Korean folk games, sledding and kite flying.
Pyeongchang isn’t the only place for a great winter holiday in South Korea. Head for Jeju Island’s Jeju Winter Festival (December 17, 2016 to January 22, 2017) and try out activities like sledding, skiiing, curling, and rice pounding with a mallet.
If you’re up for more action, hike up the 1,950m Hallasan Mountain, where snow and swirling clouds veil its slopes. The hike to the top will reward you with a view of surreal snowfields, ice flowers on withered trees and dramatic, wind-swept snow formations.
Don’t forget to warm yourself up with Jeju’s cuisine. A savoury, creamy bowl of jeonbokjuk, porridge made with abalone freshly caught by amazing auntie divers, will do the trick deliciously. And while you’re there, order the Jeju black pork BBQ. There’s nothing like the sight and smell of well-marbled cuts of pork cooking on the hot grill.
Experience the bucolic charms of 15th-century village life in Seongeup Folk Village, located at the foot of Hallasan Mountain on Jeju Island. Houses made of clay, black lava rocks and thatched roofs greet you as you enter.
Residents still live the way their ancestors did centuries ago, spinning ropes, harvesting vegetables, working the millstones and tending to the famous black pigs. As you stroll through the village of about 3,000 houses, spot grandfather statues called harubangs that you can touch for fertility and good fortune.
That is just the tip of the iceberg — there is so much more you can do on a South Korean winter holiday. Plan now to experience this unique winter wonderland.
Each traveller who books a South Korea travel package will receive a free neck warmer and a pair of gloves. While stocks last. Click here for travel packages. ― TODAY
* Produced by the TODAY Special Projects Team.