SOUTH KOREA takes the spotlight this month when the Winter Olympics kick off February 9. Centered in Pyeongchang, this year’s games will serve as a showcase for the natural beauty, culture and food of the surrounding area, inspiring travelers to explore the region long after the torch is extinguished. Getting there is easy—Pyeongchang is just 90 minutes from Seoul or around two hours from Incheon Airport via high-speed train. Once there, visit Seoraksan National Park to see the majestic Taebaek mountain range. The Sorak cable car transports you to a lookout point and several trailheads; vendors supply proper South Korean trekking fuel like boxes of kimbap, or rice rolls, and soju. Nearby Woljeongsa Temple is home to a museum of Buddhist culture from the 10th through the 14th centuries, and offers overnight and weekend stays. In Jeongseon, cavernous coal-mine shafts have been turned into the contemporary art museum Samtan Art Mine, and, on the coast, Haslla Art World (haslla.kr), built by the Korean artist couple Park Shin-Jung and Choi Ok-Yeung, features rotating exhibits and a hotel.Korean barbecue can be had near
Pyeongchang, at places like Hanwoo Town, where you can grill tender Korean beef and a locally made cheese that’s reminiscent of burrata. In eastern Gangwon, seafood is king: go to the Daepohang Fish Market (64 Daepohang-gil; +82 33/639 2690) in Sokcho for ojingeo sundae, a local favorite consisting of boiled squid stuffed with vermicelli and vegetables, and hwe, raw seafood sliced thin and slathered with fiery chojang sauce. When in doubt about what to eat, a quality haemul jeongol—a brothbased hot pot filled with fresh abalone, mussels and clams as well as noodles, vegetables and tofu—is spicy, nuanced, and unlike anything you will ever taste.