Ganghwa Islands

(FYI: I’m writing this in a rush. I will come back to edit it sometime in the next few days)

Early this month Ryan and I headed a little northwest of Seoul to Ganghwa-do, Korea’s third largest island, to do some riding. We did a loop around Ganghwa Island and also headed out to a couple smaller islands. The first has a name I couldn’t find and the second was Songmodo, which is famous for a temple called Bomunsa. It was an awesome day in the saddle and recommended ride for anyone keen to do something a bit different from the norm but still close to Seoul.

Ganghwa-do and the nearby islands are primarily agricultural and are covered with rice paddies. Our course combined many of the main roads on the island but also cut through some of the farm access roads, which were rough but tons of fun and offered some pretty cool scenery. The islands themselves aren’t the most scenic overall, but parts of the ride were quite pretty, especially the beaches on the south west part of the island. I wouldn’t recommend this course to those looking for beauty, but to those looking for what is simply an interesting ride.

The course we did is linked to here, but I have since altered the route here. The reason I changed the route is that the east coast of Ganghwado is ugly and busy and generally unpleasant. The course now cuts through the middle along roads I haven’t ridden, so I can’t speak to them, but I can’t imagine they are worse than the roads on the east coast of the island. Regarding the road conditions, the main roads are in generally good condition except on the east side of Songmodo where unfinished road work has left huge gashes in the road including one on a descent which caused a pinch flat and nearly threw me from my bike. Otherwise though there are no worries about road conditions.

Along the way we came across a military checkpoint with armed guards. The course doesn’t go north at the checkpoint but west, so you can just stick to the left lane and ride past. There were also some cool historical sites that are worth stopping at. Not far from the starting point of the course as it is currently made there are several dolmen sites that are quite interesting. And then there are several old military outposts all around Ganghwado. Many of them are well-preserved and clearly act as tourist sites, but a couple are in areas where not many visitors go. These ones were cooler in my opinion and we enjoyed checking them out.

This course can be done from Seoul. It becomes a monster ride though in the neighborhood of 200-240km. It’s a ride a did a few years ago starting and finishing along the Han River. One other thing to note is that this course would be hell on a weekend. Traffic on these islands is insane with weekenders from Seoul. This is more than a warning. This is a direct statement to not ride there on a weekend. But get out on a weekday and enjoy. It really was a great ride.

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