PAJU, Gyeonggi Province-- With the temperature hovering below the freezing point, people tend to avoid outdoor activities and stay indoors.
Yet Paju, a county northwest of Seoul, offers visitors a variety of tourist attractions that they can enjoy even in winter, including a famous alpine suspension bridge, a mountain popular among local hikers, a French-style community and an arboretum.
A trip to those popular attractions is sure to help tourists stay in good shape and also feel a year-end atmosphere in the Paju Provence Village, where annual light festivals are under way.
Among them, the mountain suspension bridge has emerged as one of the new landmarks near the South Korean capital of Seoul, luring more than 1 million visitors since its opening over a year ago.
Located in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, the 150-meter-long, 1.5-meter-wide Ungye Suspension Bridge on Mount Gamak was opened in September last year as the longest of its kind in the country.
Mount Gamak has been an important transport hub linking the southern and northern parts of the Korean Peninsula, as well as a strategic location.
The Paju municipality has also named the mountain bridge as the Bridge of Gloucester Heroes in honor of the heroic role of soldiers from Great Britain who fought in a battle during the 1950-53 Korean War against invading Chinese troops on the mountain.
The number of visitors to the new landmark, which is built over a waterfall, surpassed the 1-million mark in mid-November, making it one of the most popular tourist spots in Gyeonggi Province.
In South Korea, it is usually hard to scale a mountain with "ak," which means steep, in its name, but hikers find it relatively easy to climb this mountain.
One of the five most famous mountains in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, the 675-meter-high peak stretches above Paju and two other regions -- including Yeoncheon County and Yangju City.
There are several trails leading to the summit. The most popular is the trail that starts from the suspension bridge and leads to the top past Beomryun Buddhist Temple.
Mount Gamak also boasts five fantastic walking trails around its foot, with three being located in Paju. Yeoncheon and Yangju have one each. Visitors can also enjoy a bowl of bibimbap for only 4,000 won (US$3.7) at Beomryun Temple.
Paju Provence, which started to take shape more than 30 years ago, is a tourist attraction themed with a southern French-style lifestyle and a 30-minute drive from Mount Gamak.
The origin of the community was a French restaurant that opened in 1996. Now the street has more than 100 retail and art shops that have a European flavor and promote downshifting, a lifestyle where people take things slow, providing less money but more satisfaction. Visitors can also enjoy foods from various countries.
The community has been attracting an increasing number of not only domestic visitors but also foreign tourists thanks to the growing popularity of South Korean pop culture in China, Japan and Southeast Asian nations. The 2014 popular TV series "My Love from the Star" was shot there, and Paju Provence has also been used as the filming site for several domestic and foreign dramas, as well as TV commercials.
The nation's largest light festival kicked off on the street this week, featuring a 180-meter-long tunnel of LED lamps, a heart park adorned with LED lamps and a sea of love made of 2 million blue LED lamps.
Established in 1965, the Byeokchoji Botanical Garden in Gwangtanmyeon is a place where nature brings great joy to people's lives. Home to diverse plant species from home and abroad, it is a perfect natural getaway for visitors.
The arboretum usually boasts a beautiful lake and a well-manicured, European-style garden, but a light festival has started there, providing tourists with an opportunity to watch tulips and other beautiful flowers amid a sea of lights and colors.
The European-style garden is lined with tall thuja trees, with a stroll through a forest of birches refreshing visitors and giving them a sense of happiness.
Under the theme of "Romance and Illumination," the light festival is scheduled to run till March next year.
Source: Yonhap News Agency