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Though Gyeonggi and Gangwon sit side-by-side along the North Korean border, it's hard to imagine such a mismatched pair of provinces. Much cut up by the roads and rails that speed passengers to Seoul, doughnut-shaped Gyeonggi is largely made up of featureless commuter cities; in all, 24 million people squeeze into an area roughly the size of Jamaica. Gangwon to the east, however, is mainland Korea's most sparsely populated province, a land of mountains and rushing rivers where rafting, hiking and lazing on the beach are all popular pastimes. Seoraksan is the country's most stunning national park, Samcheok is home to Asia's largest cave, and ...

Though Gyeonggi and Gangwon sit side-by-side along the North Korean border, it's hard to imagine such a mismatched pair of provinces. Much cut up by the roads and rails that speed passengers to Seoul, doughnut-shaped Gyeonggi is largely made up of featureless commuter cities; in all, 24 million people squeeze into an area roughly the size of Jamaica. Gangwon to the east, however, is mainland Korea's most sparsely populated province, a land of mountains and rushing rivers where rafting, hiking and lazing on the beach are all popular pastimes. Seoraksan is the country's most stunning national park, Samcheok is home to Asia's largest cave, and near the coastal village of Jeongdongjin you'll be able to clamber around a North Korean sub that crashed ashore as recently as 1996. Such proximity to the most heavily fortified border on Earth means that much of Gangwon's coast is fenced off with barbed wire, and the feared DMZ itself can also be visited on a day-trip from Seoul — under the steely gaze of soldiers from both sides, here you'll be able to take a few steps into what is technically North Korean territory.

Norbert Paxton
About the Expert

Norbert Paxton is the author of the Rough Guide to Korea and contributor to the Rough Guides to China and Vietnam.

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Norbert Paxton for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Gangwon is hugely popular with holidaying Koreans — the beaches are packed in warmer months, as are the national parks from spring through fall. In general, it's best to travel on a weekday if at all possible.