You may not be familiar with PyeongChang, the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but it has been a popular holiday destination for South Korean tourists seeking clean air and green pastures for years—even before it gained worldwide attention. With rugged mountains, ornate temples, and delectable local cuisine, this South Korean city has much to offer.
PyeongChang, the 2018 Winter Olympic Games Host City
Though every Olympic Games season is a worthwhile affair, the 2018 Winter Olympics promise to be truly historic. This is the first time South Korea has hosted the Olympics in 30 years (the 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul), and it will be the first time that an Asian country other than Japan will host the winter games.
Once the Olympics season is over, South Korea will be the eighth country in the world to have hosted both the Winter and Summer Olympics. To make matters even more interesting, this Winter Olympics season will introduce four new disciplines: mixed doubles curling, mixed team alpine skiing, big air snowboarding, and mass start speed skating.
What to Do in PyeongChang County
The Olympic games have also triggered an infrastructure boom centered around the PyeongChang and its surrounding area. A new high-speed train route is available from Seoul to PyeongChang and the other two Olympic Stadiums, meaning visitors can now get there in under an hour and a half. Buying train tickets is a breeze at the English Korail website.
Hiking in PyeongChang
Mountains make up around 84 percent of PyeongChang county, offering some of the best hiking available in South Korea. Odaesan National Park is where most hikers head to in PyeongChang. If you’re not a diehard hiker, don’t be discouraged—there are trails available for all levels.
South Korea is brimming with intricately ornate temples, and PyeongChang has its share of them. The most popular temple in the area is Woljeongsa temple, which allows visitors to spend the night.
PyeongChang Festivals During the Winter Olympics
If ice fishing and grilling your catch is your kind of thing, head to the PyeongChang Trout Fishing Festival, which will be held this year until February 25. The city will also host the PyeongChang Winter Music Festival between January 30 and February 16.
Gangwon Province, home to PyeongChang, boasts unique and flavorful cuisines. There are several dishes made from buckwheat, the regional specialty, including the absolutely delicious makguksu. Meat lovers will rejoice in finding some of the highest quality Korean beef here thanks to the mountainous region’s ideal conditions for cattle raising. Try Korean beef BBQ paired up with soju, the country’s liquor of choice.
If you want to do more than just eat, go to the Korean Traditional Food Culture Experience Center, where you can learn to make traditional dishes yourself.
PyeongChang Winter Sports
If you’re coming all the way to Korea to enjoy watching winter sports, you might as well enjoy doing winter sports, too. PyeongChang offers several state-of-the-art resorts with all-inclusive facilities. Gear and suit rentals, as well as lift tickets, are inexpensive relative to other countries.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 2018 Olympics Travel: Is South Korea Safe to Visit for the Games?
- 9 Travel Kits That Will Make a Long Flight Bearable
- 8 Reasons to Celebrate a Layover at South Korea’s Incheon Airport
Don't Miss: Top Tours in Pyeongchang
Mariana Zapata travels mostly for the food. She has lived and worked around the world and is currently based in Seoul, where she can enjoy mountains and the magic of singing rooms. Follow her on Instagram @mlzapatah.