Ganghwa Island Day Trip from Seoul
Ganghwa Island is an easy day-trip from Seoul, just west of Gimpo and north of Inchon. Escape the sidewalks, lights, and crowd for a bit of sea-air freshness and calming beauty. Island hop via ferry to walk on the paths of ancients, experience megalithic culture, and explore the scenes of long-ago battles against invading Mongols, French, and Americans in this UNESCO world heritage area. This itinerary takes you to a satellite island of Ganghwa, called Seokmodo, to visit Bomunsa Temple. Click here for more information, driving and bus directions.
The drive from Seoul central to the ferry at Ganghwa-Do's Waepori port takes about one and a half hours. Buy your tickets and then board a car ferry at Waepori on the west side of Ganghwa-Do. Gangs of curious seagulls will escort you across a narrow bay to Soekmodo Islet (석모도 or "Song-mo-do") by a gang of curious seagulls.
Along the busy waterways, there are many boats ferrying passengers and local traders to other islets and heading out or returning with a full day's catch. Although busy and close to the city, Ganghwa Do is still rural, dominated by small farms, rice fields, and fisheries.
A narrow, winding country road leads to a small village at Sambo (삼보), the location of Bomunsa Temple (보문사). This unique temple site features a refreshingly-cool grotto and a stadium ensemble of monk statues, each with unique features.
High above the temple, if you're willing to make the climb (it's worth it!!), a life-size relief of the Buddha is carved into the mountainside. Along the way, you'll be rewarded with spectacular vistas and a couple of wild dragon sculptures.
Ganghwa-Do History Museum
After eating lunch at one of the restaurants in Sambo village, head back to Ganghwa-Do and stop by the Ganghwa-Do History Museum (강화역사박물관) to a view a varied collection of history, art and science exhibits. This museum is very well curated and educational, with signs in both Korean and English. Outside, surrounded by mountains, you can stroll across a broad field to see ancient dolmens, which are UNESCO World Heritage cultural artifacts from the neolithic, bronze-age era.
There are numerous festivals in Ganghwa-Do, such as the salted shrimp festival in October. At this time, the entire island is festive and colorful, with miles of yellow fields ablaze with rapeseed blossoms (유채와 or "you-chae-wa" in Korean). Unforgettable!
Shopping tip: When you visit Ganghwa-Do, be sure to pick up a souvenir made of rush at the Hwamunsok cultural center. Hwamunsok (화문석 or "hwamunsok") is a specialty craft of Ganghwa-Do that involves months of diligence to cultivate the rush, cut, season, and then dye it before weaving into beautiful baskets and carpets. I have two rush mats in my home that were purchased in Ganghwa-Do. I get so many compliments! They are extremely durable, practical, and beautiful. Click here to see the beauty of 화문석 through Google images.