The Korea Herald

ssg
피터빈트

[One with Nature] Samcheok’s Hwanseongul offers cool summer getaway with epic cave tour

By Lee Si-jin

Published : June 17, 2023 - 16:01

    • Link copied

Hwanseongul (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) Hwanseongul (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

SAMCHEOK, Gangwon Province -- When temperatures across the country start to soar, people start taking summer refuge along nearby river banks or in department stores, where powerful air conditioning offers cool respite for heat exhaustion.

Some people may joke that they wish they could sit inside their refrigerators at home.

Samcheok, Gangwon Province, might just grant such a wish and offer a much bigger space than a mere refrigerator.

Though often overshadowed by the region's famous mountains such as Seoraksan and Taebaeksan, Gangwon Province’s astonishing caves are considered a unique summer getaway.

Hwanseongul, South Korea’s largest limestone cave some 280 kilometers east of Seoul, is one of the country's most popular cave tour destinations.

Lying deep in the folds of the mountain Deokhangsan, Hwanseongul expels cool air from its entrance, exciting visitors exhausted from earlier-than-expected summer heat.

Visitors stand at the entrance of Hwanseongul in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) Visitors stand at the entrance of Hwanseongul in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

The slippery, ascending and descending slopes stretch throughout the cave.

Visitors can tour Hwanseongul’s set 1.6-kilometer course, while the cave's total length is more than 8 kilometers.

The walking path, which is covered with wide iron bridges and steps, is a one-way route, allowing visitors to enjoy even the smallest parts of the cave without being concerned about bumping into other visitors.

Take a look around the chamber, which is 20 to 30 meters tall.

You can easily spot fascinating stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones in the form of curtains in Hwanseongul.

White and brown flowstone in Hwanseongul (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) White and brown flowstone in Hwanseongul (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)
Hwanseongul's iconic limestone formation called Hwanseongul's iconic limestone formation called "Pedestal of Royal Throne" (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

The bright artificial lighting inside the cave ensures that visitors can explore the cave without headlamps. Make sure to watch every step you take, because the ground is very slippery.

With walls featuring unique patterns and formations, visitors will be immersed in Hwanseongul’s geological wonders while enjoying the pleasant cool atmosphere inside the cave.

As you tour through Hwanseongul alongside the massive volumes of water that have formed the interior of the cave over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, the sounds of footsteps on the iron stairs, along with the seemingly unending cliffs, might make you feel like Indiana Jones or one of the members of the fellowship of the ring in “The Lord of the Rings.”

According to a Hwanseongul official, it takes about an hour and a half to tour this epic cave.

Visitors can either walk some 50 minutes on an outdoor trail or take a 10-minute monorail ride to reach the cave entrance.

A couple tours Hwanseongul in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald) A couple tours Hwanseongul in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, on Monday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

Hwanseongul is closed on every 18th of the month.

Meanwhile, Samcheok beckons with yet another cave named Daegeumgul, which is next to Hwanseongul.

Daegeumgul is currently closed for facility maintenance, but it will reopen on July 1.

This article is the 11th in a series introducing destinations for eco-friendly travel experiences in South Korea. --Ed.