In terms of size and numbers, GANGNEUNG (강릉) is a big player in Gangwon terms – it’s the biggest city on the northeastern coast and, like its provincial buddies Sokcho and Donghae, is spread thinly over a large area. Despite its relaxed atmosphere, staying overnight in Gangneung is not really recommended; nearby Jeongdongjin is a far better option. That said, Gangneung makes a good base for hikers or temple-hunters heading to charming Odaesan National Park, and has a couple of sights of its own, including excellent beaches. If you’re here in winter, you’ll be able to make use of the superb facilities at Yongpyeong Ski Resort. However, if you can, try to time your visit around the fifth day of the fifth lunar moon – usually in May – when the riverside Dano festival is held. Events take place all over the country on this auspicious date, but the biggest is in Gangneung, a five-day event which has commemorated the “Double Fifth” with dancing and shamanist rituals for over four hundred years. The festival provides your best opportunity to see ssireum, a Korean version of wrestling often compared to sumo, but far more similar to the Mongolian practice.

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