On a brisk November morning, I packed my bags and headed out for a new adventure in Korea. This time we were supported by K-Travel Bus, a leading tour company that offers private bus trips around the country. For our latest journey, we headed to Chungcheongbuk-do, a region in the heart of South Korea, and little did we know how much of a treat we were getting ourselves into.
I will be introducing the K-Travel Bus itinerary for Chungcheongbuk-do and offering my thoughts on each highlight. This was easily the best sponsored/guided trips I’ve been lucky enough to have in Korea. I’m forever grateful to K-travel Bus for asking us to collaborate! Now, let’s get into why it was so fantastic.
1. Dodamsambong Peaks & Seongmun Limestone Gate | 도담삼봉
Getting to Chungcheongbuk-do takes anywhere from 3 to 4 hours. When we finally arrived at our first destination, the clock struck a bit after 11am. The sun had finally made its way up, which was fortunate because the scene was all the better for it.
Our first stop was Dodamsanbong, a romantic scenic spot composed of a lush riverbank and countryside views. This river also holds three towering peaks, one embracing a small pagoda that echoes the days of Joseon. When looking at these natural formations, one can’t help but picture the old Joseon poetics and scrolls sitting by the waterside with their paper and ink to reflect on days gone by. Additionally, the pagoda reflects a more outgoing, party-like atmosphere, as you imagine tipsy scholars making their way there on boats.
The area is also famous for Seongmun, a limestone gate carved from natural erosion from its limestone walls. Chungcheongbuk-do is famous for its limestone, and this stunning piece of natural architecture is a great homage to local resources.
Our guide let us spend an hour exploring, which was enough time to snap some pictures and go for a hike to soak in the views. There are restaurants, convenience stores, cafes and a small museum included on the grounds.
Address: Chungcheongbuk-do, Danyang-gun, Maepo-eup, Hagoe-ri, 84-1 | 충청북도 단양군 매포읍 하거리 84-1
Opening Hours: 24/7
Entrance Fee: Free
Handicap Accessibility: Dodamsambong – Yes, Seongmun – No
2. Seongwon Garlic Restaurant | 성원마늘약선요리
After leaving the peaks, we decided to head closer towards our hotel and the heart of our host city, Danyang. We stayed at the Danyang Tourist Hotel, which is nothing more than a place to crash. That being said, its neighbor is completely worth visiting: the Seongwon Garlic (Medicinal) Restaurant.
As mentioned previously, the region is famous for its limestone hills, but it is also recognized for its garlic productions. Due to the cold climate and particular soil of the area, garlic here is particularly delicious and slightly sweet. It’s used in all sorts of ways including cooking as well as traditional remedies.
The restaurant is next to the tourist hotel and has plenty of tables for large or small groups. The main menu is limited to popular dishes such as bulgogi 붛고기 or dak galbi 닥갈비, so that the side dishes can take center stage. Korea is famous for its banchan, side dishes, and it’s here where the garlic really takes over.
This restaurant is great for all diets, as the side dishes have plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian options.
Address: 59 Sambong-ro, Danyang-eup, Danyang-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do | 충청북도 단양군 단양읍 삼봉로 59
Handicap Accessibility: Yes, small entrance
3. Mancheonha Skywalk | 만천하 스카이워크
Our next stop can be seen from all over the area, as it’s located on the top of a mountain! Mancheonha Skywalk offers incredible views over Chungcheongbuk-do, including mountain peaks, astronomical observatories, paragliding spots, and the winding Han River path. If you visit during winter, you’ll be greeted by patches of silver grass 갈대 that make their home at the mountain foot.
Mancheonha Skywalk is literally its name – a scenic walk that edges towards the sky. The entire walk takes about 15 minutes from the bus drop-off point and offers breath-taking views all the way through. Guests can reach the top of the peak via gondola* and bus. Upon arriving at the top, a wooden walkway is there to guide your way up to the peak. For those afraid of heights, please note that the upper floor viewing deck is open and with glass floors.
Want something a bit more thrilling? For 30,000 won, you can pay to zipline down to the neighboring mountain*. You’ll have to do this when you leave, as there’s no way to return via zipline.
At the bottom of the walk is a lovely cafe, 11000HA, that offers more views in a cozy interior. The cafe has a regular list of coffee items, as well as a small bakery with freshly baked goods. There aren’t many other cafes in the area; I suspect this is the best. If you need your coffee fix make sure that you don’t miss out!
K-Travel Bus gave us over an hour to explore, which was plenty of time to do all of the aforementioned. Our guide was even happy to wait if any of us wanted to zip-line OR take the giant slide down the mountain (yes, they have that too for 30,000 won).
*The gondola is currently under repair and guests will have to take the bus.
*Zipline and slide are both available to those weighing under 90kg.
Address: 4 Aegok-ri, Jeokseong-myeon, Danyang-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do | 충청북도 단양군 적성면 해곡리 4
Entrance: 1,000 won
Opening Hours: 9AM – 5PM
Phone: 043-421-0014 ext. 5
Handicap Accessibility: Yes
4. Danyang Traditional Market | 단양 전통 시장
For our dinner, where better to visit than Danyang Traditional Market? Home to local flavors from local farmers and cooks, you can’t find anywhere as authentic for Chungcheongbuk-do food than here. Located in the heart of the city, our guide let us walk around and choose a restaurant to our liking rather than planning it all out beforehand.
We ended up in a mom-and-pop shop offering dak galbi and plenty more side dishes. For me, the vegetarian, the chef happily whipped up bibimbap 비빔밥 that was not included on the menu. Our guide even allowed us to have a bottle of makgoli 막걸리, a milky Korean rice wine that we were all big fans of. The food was, of course, incredible and we left with our spirits high and our stomachs full.
Address: Chungcheongbuk-do, Danyang-gun, Danyang-eup, Dojeon-ri | 충청북도 단양군 단양읍 도전리
Opening Hours: 824-3422-9090
Handicap Accessibility: Yes
5. Suyanggae Light Tunnel | 수양개빛터널
For our final stop of the first day, we ventured out into the dark only to find the light again. Suyanggae Light Tunnel is a magical world only seen in the darkest hours of the night that is part of a prehistory museum. And while the sprawling gardens also host a collection of neolithic statues, at Christmastime it becomes a rainbow Winter Wonderland.
The first part of the park is a long and winding tunnel with various rooms of lightbulbs, EDM rave lights (and music), romantic bridges, and of course colorful lights wherever you turn. This is a great area for photo opportunities, especially if you’re an active Instagrammer.
Upon entering the outside, guests will find themselves in a literal fairytale. Large bulbs guide you towards the exit and feel somewhat like towering lollipops. It reminded me a lot of my childhood and the game Candy Land, where I could always imagine myself creeping through the towering candy canes and suckers.
The final part of the park is a large, open garden with small huts for relaxing and enjoying a coffee, as well as adorable decorations such as reindeer, igloos, and Santa Claus himself. Don’t be alarmed by the caveman statues – this is a museum first and foremost.
A small coffee shop is located inside the museum for those wanting to keep their hands warm during their stroll.
Address: 390, Suyanggaeyujeok-ro, Jeokseong-myeon, Danyang-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do | 충청북도 단양군 저성면 수양개유적도 390
Phone: 82 43-423-8502
Opening Hours: 5PM – 10PM
Accessibility: Yes, a few hills
6. Cheongpungho Lake Cable Car |청풍호반케이블카 물태리역
Make way, make way! Here is the BEST part of our trip, most likely one of the most incredible views in Chungcheongbuk-do if not Korea. This is Cheongpungho Lake and all of the incredible peaks that spring up around it. The cable car station at the bottom has plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops to visit before or after you make your journey.
The cable car takes roughly 10 minutes and offers slow, lingering views of the breathtaking landscape as you go up. The floor is not crystal, so those afraid of heights won’t have to worry about looking down below. Two small windows open inside for those in need of fresh air or suffering from claustrophobia. The carriage seats about 10 people.
Once reaching the top, there are many sights to see other than the natural landscape. There are cafes and restaurants, including a foot spa cafe, but most are currently not open for seatin due to COVID. However, you are able to explore the grounds, which offer plenty of photo-ops and wooden walkways down the mountain. A small trek is located just below the cable car deck. In the middle of the small plankway are large bean-bagirs and a couple of swinging chairs. It’s big and hidden, so make sure you take the time to wander. If you’re having trouble finding it, follow the arrows towards the crystal bag hike.
Undoubtedly, you have to make your way to the top platform. The viewing area offers 360-degree views of the dotted islands and mountain summits. We had plenty of time here to engage with the local landscape, nearly two hours, but I could have easily sat there for double.
Address: Chungcheongbuk-do, Jecheon-si, Cheongpung-myeon, Munhwajae-gil, 166 | 충청북도 제천시 청풍면 문화재길 166
Opening Hours: 10AM – 4:30 PM
Entrance Fee: 14,000
Handicap Accessibility: Yes
7. Gochujang Making Experience, Sanyacho Village | 산야초 마을
For our final stop, we visited Sanyacho Village for an opportunity to make gochujang red pepper paste 고추장 ourselves and enjoy a final feast before we went. The restaurant here is really more of a house, run by a single auntie well into her later ages. The food was phenomenal and paired with a huge collection of spicy garlic side dishes.
After getting ourselves into a food coma, we made our way across the small compound to a single-story building over a bridge. The whole landscape is quaint and delicate, much like the people who run it. Another auntie was there to greet us, the only guests due to recent COVID troubles. She prepared a PPT about local herbs, which we added to our pepper paste. Most paste purchased from supermarkets is full of sugar and unnatural ingredients. The ones we would be making were entirely organic and sugar-free.
Making the gochujang was rather simple, with only a few key ingredients. The hardest part was churning it, as the mixture becomes rather thick. However, we gave ourselves a workout and happily went home with our delicious and authentic paste. Like many other fermented Korean food, the paste needs to be chilled for two months before eating.
Address: Oksunbong-ro 6-gil, Susan-myeon, Jecheon-si, Chungcheongbuk-do | 충청북도 제천시 수산면 옥순봉로 6길
Opening Hours: Closed on Mondays
Entrance Fee: 15,000 won
Handicap Accessibility: Yes
Our experience with K-Travel Bus gave us great memories that will be difficult to challenge. With our excellent guide, delicious meals, comfortable accommodation, and fantastic travel destinations, Chungcheongbuk-do quickly rose from one of the lesser-known travel destinations to one of the best. K-Travel Bus is incredibly accomodating to all dietary and travel needs. When we asked for a bit more time, we got it. When we asked for a particular menu, no fuss came. K-Travel bus is an excellent option for those looking to make their way comfortably around the country, or for those looking for a more unique vacation destination.
Looking for more walking tours? Check out our most recent post on The King’s Road in the heart of Seoul.