What’s worth checking out in South Korea’s Gwangmyeong Cave?
Makes you say “Huh?” Caving in Korea? “What’s in there?” The more that you don’t know, the more that you would want to go. But hey, this Gwangmyeong cave that I actually had the chance to visit is one of the newest tourist destinations in Gyeonggi-do, the most populous province in South Korea.
Gwangmyeong Cave welcome kit
Transformed into a living museum, Gwangmyeong Cave was once the heart of the evolution that jumpstarted South Korea’s modern industry. It serves as a place to commemorate the memories of coal mining workers. A historical site dating back to the Japanese colonial era, the mine-turned-tourist-spot takes pride in itself as being the only cave located within a metropolitan city (Gwangmyeong).
Our Gwangmyeong Cave Tour Guide
Before we went to see the cave, we had an early morning breakfast at Value Hotel Worldwide High End in Suwon. Just to orient you, Suwon is Gyeonggi-do’s capital, and Seoul, the country’s national capital, is surrounded of Gyeonggi-do. Gwangmyeong, a city located just southwest of Seoul, is home to large shopping centers like Costco, IKEA, and Lotte Premium Outlets.
Cave entrance full of colorful led lights
From Suwon, we traveled more than an hour to reach Gwangmyeong Cave. If you’re coming directly from Incheon International Airport, you can take a 1.5-hour bus ride or a 35-minute subway ride from Seoul Station to Gwangmyeong Station.
Cave or Freezer? Errr Both!
Upon arriving at the parking lot, we hiked for 15 minutes to reach the entrance of the cave. The management of Gwangmyeong Cave gathered us outside their office to welcome us. They also gave us a USB press kit, a map, and a gold-colored coin where we can write our wishes and hang it near the exit of the cave.
Fish Tanks inside the cave
Seoulites frequent the cave to enjoy trips, either short-term or extended, just to a chilly escape from the midsummer warmth. The cave is said to be the largest mine in the Seoul metropolitan area from 1912 to 1972, with copper, gold, silver, and zinc as its products for war supplies. The company owning it went bankrupt at the end of the Korean War. The mine was closed until 2011 when it was made safer and transformed into a museum and historical site.
Replica of Gold Coins
Golden pok jumoni with handwritten wish from cave visitors
Interesting features that are found inside include the golden waterfall, the golden path, and the golden palace, an aquarium as well as a music and art hall.
Cave of Gold
One of the more flocked artifacts in the cave is the golden statue of Aisha in which, as the legend says, touching the golden coins sitting in her hand will grant you prosperity and happiness in the future. This is the reason why a lot of tourists line up to see if it would work.
Wooden stairs leading to the lower level
Apart from its historical importance, visitors have another reason for touring around Gwangmyeong cave – wine tasting. You will be given a chance to taste 78 different varieties of good wine from eight different Korean vineyards. After tasting, you can also buy the wine you liked as a souvenir!
Wine Cave photo by tour.gm.go.kr
And if you love walking, then roaming around the cave is no big deal for you! It’s all walk, walk, walk, and walk! But even if you walk all the time, you really won’t perspire due to its cold environment.
The cave, which spans 7.9 km in length and 275 m in depth, shot to fame when it became the setting for an episode of the TV show Running Man.
How to get there
- Gwangmyeong Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 8.
- Get on bus 17 in front of the station and get off at Gwangmyeong cave.
- Walk along the path 290m (15 min).
Shuttle Bus (23-seaters Eco-friendly electronic bus)
Operating hours: 09:00~16:30
(runs every 30 min / 12 times a day / 12:00-13:00 no bus service)
Operating Fee: Adults 2,000 won/ Teenagers & Children 1,000 won
* During the winter season, or in the event of rain, there will be no bus service.
AirAsia’s Manila-Incheon (Seoul) flights occur twice daily. It’s the shortest trip, but AirAsia also offers flights from Cebu to Seoul once a day, and two-way charteredflights to/from Kalibo (Boracay), Incheon (Seoul), and Busan. For flight booking andreservations, visit http://www.airasia.com/. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
Address: 142 Gahak-ro 85(palsibo)beon-gil, Gwangmyeong-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Phone: +82 70-4277-8902
Special thanks to Korea Tourism Organization and AirAsia for making this trip possible.