The Garden of the Morning Calm in Two Seasons

The past two weekends, I went outside my town to check out autumn scenery at Seoraksan and Maisan. However, my town of Gapyeong is actually very beautiful and colorful in fall, and makes a great autumn destination in itself. It’s a rural county about an hour and a half from Seoul with a few attractions making it a popular day or overnight trip for Seoul residents.

Gapyeong’s most popular tourist attraction is The Garden of the Morning Calm, a large garden founded in 1996 by a garden professor at Sahmyook University. The purpose of creating the garden was to increase worldwide recognition of Korean gardens and attract visitors to the beauty of Korea.

The plan was largely successful, as the garden is quite popular with international visitors and its proximity to Seoul makes it a common day trip. I first visited the garden the first time in March, while the winter lighting festival was still going on.

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I had planned to visit again in May, but ended up forgetting to go, so decided to wait until autumn to see the fall colors.

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They didn’t disappoint, though I forgot my camera this time around and had to use my cell phone, which tends to not photograph well in light, but I did my best.

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There are many different types of gardens to check out — a Korean garden, a Bonsai garden, a sunken garden, and many others, as well as flower rooms and greenhouses. It took me about two hours (including getting lunch) to walk around and explore it all. The big centerpiece of the garden is the large juniper tree.

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The garden has two restaurants and a cafe to eat at. I’ve only eaten at the Korean restaurant, and I noticed it has a few vegetarian options. Although I am not a vegetarian myself I know that it can be hard to find such meals in Korea so I was a bit surprised.

I wish I had remembered to check out the garden again during the flowers of May, but still, the lighting in winter is certainly magical and would be especially so when it snows a bit. The colorful mountains and blue skies of autumn added on to the beauty of the place in fall. The garden is open every day throughout the year, and costs 8,000 won admission during the week and 9,000 on the weekend.

The best way to get there from Seoul would probably be best to take the ITX (50 minutes from Yongsan) or the Gyeongchun line (about 1.25 hours from Sangbong) to Cheongpyeong station. From there, walk 15 minutes to Cheonpyeong bus terminal (the KTO page on the garden has directions). Then take bus 31-7 or 31-17. There’s also the Gapyeong shuttle tour bus that runs to the tourist spots in the area (Petite France, Namiseom, Jaraseom, and a rail bike). This costs 6,000 won, but it’s a bit more expensive if not going anywhere else in Gapyeong. Nami island, at least, shouldn’t be done on the same day as the Morning Calm garden in my opinion, it would be way too tiring. Both can easily be done in an overnight trip if staying in town. There’s a couple of hostels in Gapyeong-eup, the main town and plenty of pensions and motels near the bus terminals and tourist attractions in the county.

If I didn’t live in Gapyeong and had to choose one season to visit, between winter and autumn I would personally choose winter just because the lighting festival is truly spectacular and it would be most worth the trip from outside town.

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