Every four years, sports enthusiasts and globetrotters head north to witness world-class athletes compete in the spectacular Winter games. In February 2018, the historic games will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a small province nestled in the heart of the Taebaek Mountains. The region’s snowy slopes and pristine scenery are not only the perfect spot for international athletes to test their skill, but a haven of Korean culture and history. If you’re traveling to Pyeongchang for this year’s winter games, here are four cultural experiences to enjoy.
Woljeongsa Temple: Just a 30 minute ride from the Jinbu Intercity Bus Terminal, the Woljeongsa Temple is a cultural wonder for those wishing to delve into Buddhist history. Built in 643 AD by Buddhist monk Jajang-yulsa, this temple houses nine treasures of national heritage, including remains of Gautama Buddha, and a Bodhisattva statue reportedly discovered in the Diamond Pond not far from the temple walls. Visitors may enjoy a traditional tea service, admire the colorful murals and paintings in the museum, or take a walk through the lush forests surrounding the site.
Hyo-seok Culture Village: Named the first national culture village in 1990, Hyo-seok is the birthplace of beloved author Lee Hyo-Seok as well as the setting of his short story “When the Buckwheat Blossoms.” The picturesque village lets visitors experience the tranquility and natural beauty that inspired one of South Korea’s most renowned writers. Enjoy local specialties such as memil buchim (buckwheat pancakes), or makguksu (buckwheat noodles).
Odaesan National Park: Wander the trails of Odaesan Park to discover secluded temples, diverse wildlife, and incredible views from one of the five mountain peaks in this pristine national preserve. The perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts, visitors can take a wintry hike or enjoy a picnic on the banks of the Sogeumgang river. While the park is open year-round, be sure to check weather advisories and local conditions before visiting.
Daegwanryeong Samyang Ranch: For families traveling with children, take a detour to the Samyang Ranch, accessible by bus or taxi. Home to Asia’s largest highland farm and the cinematic backdrop for several Korean films such as Autumn in my Heart, Taegukgi, and Lover’s Concerto, the idyllic scenery offers a peaceful getaway from the city hustle. Wander the rolling green meadows, visit the petting zoos, or take the ranch’s shuttle bus to the observatory for a beautiful glimpse of the East Sea.
Whether you conquer the peaks of Odaesan Park, or discover the Buddhist culture at Woljeongsa Temple, Pyeongchang offers numerous natural and cultural wonders to make your journey one to remember. Keep an open mind, a spirit of adventure, and a sense of curiosity as you journey through one of Korea’s most beautiful regions!
Sharon Schweitzer and Amanda Alden co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards
Amanda Alden is an intercultural research assistant with Access to Culture. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University with a major in Global Studies and a minor in French, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Intercultural Mediations at l’Université de Lille III. Feel free to connect with Amanda at on LinkedIn.