South Korea is a magnificent place to go on your next cycle touring trip. In less than a week a moderately fit cyclist with a minimal amount of equipment and planning can complete the route between South Korea’s two largest cities, riding southeast from Seoul to Busan, or northwest from Busan to Seoul. After checking the dominant wind direction I and my friend chose to cycle the Seoul to Busan route, which we completed in just six days. If you decide to do the entire Seoul to Busan route the distance will be approximately 610-630 kilometers.
(Verified/Updated – April 2023) Purchase and download ZIP file containing the most up-to-date GPS tracks for all of the cycling paths along the popular 4 Rivers Seoul to Busan route – These routes will keep you on the main path, cycling past certification booths, motels, restaurants, and camping options. Tracks are in GPX format (works with all Garmin and other brand GPS devices) and KML/KMZ format (works with all smartphones and tablets). You can view these routes on your smartphone, tablet, or GPS device with or without internet connection.
4 Rivers Seoul to Busan GPS Cycling Routes
South Korea, best known for Kimchi and K-Pop, caught my interest as a cycling destination at the beginning of 2015. I had visited the Northeast Asian country before but never for a cycling trip, so I was delightfully surprised when I learned that riders were traveling the length of the country along a newly completed route known as the four rivers path. From my previous trips I knew that South Korea’s Summer is HOT and the winter has SNOW so I did a bit of ‘best weather months’ research before settling to do my trip during the month of October.
Korea is two hours ahead of Thailand and our Bangkok to Seoul flight took about five hours. Finding an inexpensive flight was quite easy as several airlines service Incheon International Airport (Seoul) and Suvarnabhumi Aiport (Bangkok). Learn how to box your bicycle in preparation for taking it on an airplane.
On a previous trip to Japan I visited prominent bicycle shops in Tokyo and got an overall feel of the bicycle culture in Japanese daily life, to serve as a comparison model to the burgeoning cycling culture in Thailand. For my trip to South Korea I wanted to specifically see and experience the longest portion of the four rivers path for myself. What I discovered was an amazing cycle path, an impressive river revitalization program, and kilometer after kilometer of beautiful scenery.
I highly recommend cycling the four rivers path from Seoul to Busan and have compiled details from our trip in order to help others plan their own South Korean cycle touring adventure. The main four rivers route from Seoul to Busan consists of four connected cycle paths known as the Ara, Hangang, SaeJae, and Nakdonggang pathways.
If you are interested in riding some of the other cycling paths in South Korea I can highly recommend the Ocheon, Geumgang, and Buckhangang pathways. Read my other informative article with details and maps of the Ocheon, Geumgang, and Buckhangang pathways here.
Day 1. Seoul (Itaewon) —> Yeoju (96km)
Breakfast: At hotel in Seoul (Itaewon)
Lunch: Greenhouse Restaurant
Dinner: Korean Restaurant next to CU convenience store in Yeoju
Motel: 7 Motel (40,000 Won x 2 people)
~ Others have mentioned Hanam as a place between Seoul and Yeoju that would serve as a good overnight location for those planning on riding shorter days. ~
Since we had arranged accommodation in the Itaewon district of Seoul our journey to Busan did not include the first portion of the Ara Bike Path, which begins at the Ara West Sea Lock. Cyclists interested to start from Incheon Airport should take the airport railway to Chongna International City and cycle to the first certification center – Ara West certification center. This is the certification center where cyclists can purchase a passport book and receive their first stamp. Paper maps are available for purchase but we found the detail level on the maps to be insufficient (the map is not big enough to show turn by turn directions of course). Perhaps the maps could be useful if you want to look for town names and compare them to the Korean written on signs. Also, the Ara West certification center can process all four rivers path completion medal applications. How the passport and stamp booth system works – Get a passport, visit all of the certification centers along the cycle pathways where you collect stamps for your passport at each red booth, and then apply for completion medal and certificates. Me and my cycling friend decided to not do the passport/stamp thing and rather just enjoy the ride and our holiday. Most certification booths have bicycle parking racks, tire inflation pumps, and rest areas (as pictured in the photos below). And, of course, every certification booth has an ink pad and stamp so that cyclists can stamp their passport booklets.
A note about the passport stamp booths:
It has been suggested that cyclists carry their own ink pad just in case the stamp booth ink pad is too dry or, as in some instances, completely missing. I’ve been told by Korean cyclists that a photograph of yourself in front of the stamp booth is sufficient evidence of you being there for the purpose of obtaining completion stickers and medals, but I’d be hesitant to rely on this method since there is the real possibility that it may not be true and, more likely, that you may fail to get the required booth name in your photo (especially if you can’t read Korean). Others suggested using your own blood to effect the stamp in your passport booklet but that seems a bit macabre.
If you have questions, comments or concerns about the whole passport, stamp and medal/certificate process you can view more details here.
Taking a bicycle on the airport railway is allowed although it is advised to use the first and last cars of the train. You should not attempt to take bicycles on escalators, but rather you should use the elevators to reach the train platforms.
The rules for taking bicycles on trains and on the subway differ greatly. Subways allow bicycles on weekends only, and this rule seems to change from time to time.
We chose to take a limousine bus from the Incheon International Airport to our accommodation location in the Itaewon district of Seoul city. The limousine bus we took is the 6030, which has pickup stands right in front of the airport (exit 13). Bus ticket from Incheon International Airport to Itaewon was 15,000 Won per person and bicycles can be placed in the luggage compartment under the bus (easy if boxed or packaged neatly). We rode the bus for approximately 70 minutes and got off in the heart of Itaewon district at a bus stop directly across from the Hamilton Hotel.
~ There are truck-style taxis and vans available at the airport (from several kiosks at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2) that are able to accommodate a bicycle box. Standard fare from airport into middle of Seoul is approximately 70,000-80,000 KRW. ~
~ There is also the option of unboxing your bicycle and riding it to a ferry location in order to reach the mainland. It has been noted by many that the ferry option could take up to an entire day to navigate. ~
~ There is ABSOLUTELY NO option to ride a bicycle across either of the large bridges that connect the airport to the mainland. ~
How to follow the 4 Rivers Path
Follow the 4 Rivers Cycle Path signs. All signs have the 4 Rivers Cycle Path logo in either 4 colors or white as indicated on the below photos. You will also see the 4 Rivers Cycle Path logo painted on the road at times. Elsewhere you will see the bicycle path painted with a blue line along its edge.
After getting a good night’s rest and a great breakfast the next morning we headed out to begin our 6-day adventure. We left early enough to avoid heavy traffic so it was only slightly frustrating navigating the small one-way streets of Itaewon before we found our way onto the riverside cycle path. As soon as we did finally find the path on the north bank of the river it was very easy to locate and cross the Banpo bridge to the south bank of the river and begin our cross-country journey.
Banpo Bridge location GPS – N 37.5156907, E 126.993881
The ride out of Seoul was surreal to say the least. Crisp, clean October morning air filled my lungs and chapped my lips as we enjoyed our first day on the cycle path. The entire day was a breeze of a ride, punctuated by beautiful riverside scenery, mountains, tunnels, and converted railroad tracks. The feeling that the cycle path tunnels, bridges, and wooden ramps were purpose built just for bicycles is enough to make any avid cyclist a bit giddy.
Along the Seoul city portion of the path were plenty of convenience stores (in Korea you will find CU stores, GS25 stores and, to a lesser extent, 7-11 stores), bathrooms, rest areas with roofs and benches, bicycle parking racks, and nice little Korean ladies selling coffee and drinks at tables under bridges. A bottle of water will be about 1,000 Won while a hot coffee or sports drink will be about 2,000 Won.
During today’s ride we saw at least a half dozen bicycle shops alongside the path, some of them selling cycling clothing and offering repair services. Even 7-11 stores along the path have a small selection of bicycle tools, clothes, and accessories.
We had lunch at approximately our 70km mark at a Korean restaurant (still open in April 2023) inside a greenhouse on a hill climb (gradient of 10%). A couple of friendly Korean bikers helped us order potato pancakes. The potato pancakes are a recommended menu item from a little note hung on the restaurant’s wall. The potato pancake (GAMJA JEON: 감자전) is like a big hash brown filled with onions and seasonings and is served with a delicious dipping sauce and kimchi. Two large potato pancakes was 16,000 Won along with 2 drinks. There are personal notes all over the walls from thankful cyclists who have visited the greenhouse restaurant.
Top 10 Korean foods that you have to try.
The number of riders on the path thinned out significantly at about the 80km mark and we seemed to have the pathway all to ourselves for the first time.
4 Rivers Path Gradient Signs – Before climbing sections there is usually a helpful little sign telling you the gradient and length of the upcoming hill. These signs are a welcome bit of information.
When we arrived in Yeoju we decided to stay at 7 motel (80,000 Won for 2 persons). Nice lady at front desk allowed us to store our bicycles inside our rooms. Rooms come standard with WiFi, Air Con, bathtub/shower, big screen television, and a large selection of toiletries.
*The Sun Valley Hotel in Yeoju is a great option for those looking to spend a bit more and have dinner/breakfast options at their hotel.
Weather – Slight chill in the morning, a bit windy in the afternoon, blue skies, wonderful temperature. Noticed Korean riders wearing long-sleeved jerseys, long pants, and masks to keep the chill off of their faces. We wore shorts and short-sleeved jerseys with light shell jacket (that came off after the morning chill lifted).
Traffic – No vehicle traffic, even on the few short sections of path where bicycles and cars share the road. Aside from the beautiful scenery of South Korea I would have to say that the near total absence of motor vehicles is the highlight of the cycle path.
Day 2. Yeoju —> Suanbo (93.5km)
Breakfast: Bananas, sweet bread, and coffee (21km)
Lunch: Food cafeteria after Chungju Tangeu certification center
Dinner: Packaged noodles from local convenience store next to Story Motel
Motel: Story Motel (30,000 Won x 2 people). Story Motel is in the small town of Gaeson, located about 10 kilometers past Suanbo.
~ Chungju is a place between Yeoju and Suanbo that would serve as a good overnight location for those planning on riding shorter days. ~
On today’s ride we experienced the first two small sections of packed gravel and dirt roads. At one point we came across a 300 meter section of cycling path that was under construction but still rideable. It looked as though they were widening and resurfacing the path and the temporary signs let us know that the route ahead was still open.
There were no tunnels on today’s ride but we did cross several bridges, so many in fact that I lost count. It is a truly great feeling to be riding across a massive bridge on a purpose built cycle pathway taking in the beautiful surroundings without having to worry about motor vehicle traffic. The bridges in South Korea all have a unique design or color scheme, each one is distinct. I found myself anticipating what the next bridge would look like.
We encountered several road cycling groups of eight to twelve riders, including men and women, out on the path today. It’s important to remember to remain in your cycle path lane, especially around blind corners and while riding uphill.
At the 21km mark of today’s ride we decided to venture into a small town alongside the path to find something for breakfast. We were joined by two chain-smoking Korean men who were also interested to find something to drink at one of the small town’s convenience stores. We loaded up on bananas, sweet bread and coffee and bid farewell to the two Korean men after we politely declined their offer of cigarettes. Yes, you will notice Korean men at rest areas along the path stopping to have an obligatory smoke.
Last third of the day’s distance was on shared roads with a minimal amount of motor vehicle traffic.
Camping – We have noticed a lot of camp sites along the cycling path today. They seem to be open and available for use by anyone although we did see signs indicating that cooking stoves and camp fires are prohibited.
We reached the city of Suanbo with a minimal amount of climbing. There is a great sign at the certification center in Suanbo that shows the location and names of many of the city’s motels and hostels. Suanbo is a popular destination for Korean tourists who visit the area to soak in natural hot springs. You’ll know the motels and hotels that offer hot springs if they display the sign that looks like a steaming bowl of food (shown on left). We mistook this sign several times for a place that would sell us noodles.
The first of two big climbs starts immediately after leaving the city of Suanbo. Depending on your riding ability you may want to overnight in Suanbo and set off the next morning to tackle the two biggest climbs of the entire route. Another option is to tackle the smaller of the two climbs and then overnight in a little town called Goesan.
Day 3. Suanbo (Goesan***) —> Nakdong-ri (100km)
Breakfast: Snacks (doughnuts) and coffee at 7-11 after coming down the BIG hill
Lunch: No lunch stop today – We did 2 drink stops and ate some snacks from 7-11
Dinner: Ate at 2 different Korean Bar-B-Q places right next to Phoenix Motel (36,000 Won for 2 persons)
Motel: Phoenix Motel (30,000 Won x 2 people)
~ Mungyeong-eup and Sangju are other good options after Suanbo as places that would serve as a good overnight locations for those planning on riding shorter days. ~
***There is a very small town which is called Goesan that lies between the two big climbs. There are two motels in Goesan and they offer an alternate option to staying in the town of Suanbo at the end of Day 2. An overnight stay in Goesan would allow a rider to get the smaller of the two big hills out of way on Day 2 and save the more difficult of the two big hills (5km hill climb) for the morning of Day 3. Suanbo has far more motel and restaurant options than Goesan but can be crowded on Korean holidays and weekends as it is a Hot Springs tourist destination. Goesan has very limited options for restaurants, and because of this we ended up buying noodles and drinks from the only mom & pop convenience store in town and eating in our motel’s lobby area. Goesan consists of two motels, one bus stop, a flower tea research center, a Hanji museum, and one local convenience store (Not a CU or GS25).
The big hill (5km) starts immediately after the Haengchon Crossing certification center on today’s route. At the top of the big climb is the Ihwaryeong certification center. We saw only two cars on the road while cycling up to the top of the big climb and only one car on the way down – Yeeeeha!!! There is a bike friendly motel just at the bottom of the big climb. The motel sign has an image of a bicycle on it and when I saw it I felt like this motel would probably make a great overnight stay location for riders heading in the opposite direction (Busan to Seoul) who may want to stop for the night and attack the two big climbs between them and the town of Suanbo first thing in the morning.
We decided to have our breakfast at a 7-11 convenience store after coming down the big hill from the Ihwaryeong certification center. At the 7-11 store there are many motel and restaurant choices. We also noticed that several motels in the area have bike lockers outside of them, so they must have a lot of cyclists stay in this Mungyeong-eup area.
There are little short and steep hills on the last 30km of today’s route.
Roller Coaster Park 1 & 2 – We rode past two separate roller coaster type parks that appeared to have pedal-powered open air seats attached to rail lines that went around a scenic mountain area. The parks were closed when we passed (maybe too early in the morning or perhaps the wrong season) and we were later told that these attractions are very popular in the spring and summer months but people didn’t like to visit them during winter.
STEEP HILL!! – The only section of the entire cycle pathway where I had to get off of my bike and push it uphill. The steepness of this hill might be tackled by someone on a very low geared mountain bike, but certainly not by us with our bikes and loaded panniers.
More lovely scenery today with one short tunnel passage and a few bridge crossings. The scenery is kilometer after kilometer of farmlands with majestic mountains in the distance and the always present river.
We visited the Sangju Bicycle Museum – Wonderful museum with a large outside riding area that was full of parents teaching their kids to ride bikes (we were there on a weekend). You can spend as little as 20 minutes seeing everything in the museum but it is still certainly worth a stop. Since the cycle pathway passes directly in front of the museum you can stop in and have a look around and be right back out onto the path quickly. A short distance after where the Sangju Bicycle Museum is located on the pathway is a small island where the four rivers path will direct you to go, but unless you fancy a short loop ride around the island you can simply pass this island by and continue on the pathway without crossing over the small wooden bridge.
Sangju Bicycle Museum location GPS – N 36.45366, E 128.25557
At the Sangjusangpoon certification center we saw signs for a 31km MTB trail and noticed spray painted MTB signs on the four rivers pathway with arrows that led away from the paved portion. We also saw several cars in the Sangjusangpoon certification center parking lot that seemed to indicate it could be the meeting/start point for mountain bikers accessing the off-road trail. Very interested to investigate this MTB trail at some later date.
We did not stop for lunch today, but instead waited until we reached our destination of Nakdong-ri before settling in to one of the many Korean Bar-B-Q restaurants along the river for what we considered our late lunch/early first dinner.
At the end of today’s ride we stayed at Phoenix Motel (written in Korean-as many of the motel names are). It was our first opportunity to make use of bicycle lockers on our ride. The attendant, who we later learned was the owner of the motel, assisted us with placing our bicycles inside the lockers and then showed us how to open and close the electronic locks. The bike lockers are a really cool system that keeps your bike safe and secure and eliminates the need to lug your bike up four flights of stairs to your room.
After storing the bikes and cleaning ourselves up we headed to yet another Korean Bar-B-Q restaurant next to our motel in order have second dinner. The Nakdong-ri area would be a good option for cyclists who had a bit more confidence ordering and eating at Korean restaurants.
Korean culture side note – Older Korean guys like to squeeze my leg and/or slap my thigh to confirm/affirm that my legs are strong and therefore capable of accomplishing the journey all of the way from Seoul to Busan. Get used to it, it will probably happen to you at least once during your journey.
Day 4. Nakdong-ri —> Hyeonpung-Myeon (107km)
Breakfast: CS25 convenience store in Nakdong-ri
Lunch: Snacks at certification center
Dinner: Chinese noodle shop (late lunch) and pizza (dinner)
Motel: Elegance Motel (40,000 Won)
Before heading out of Nakdong-ri we rode down into the small town behind Phoenix Motel and had our breakfast at the CS25 convenience store. It’s always a good idea to use these stops as an opportunity to throw an extra package of cookies or whatnot into your pannier for later in the day.
Dragonflies are abundant all along the pathway of today’s route. I’m not sure if they are an all year round kind of phenomena along the pathway or just more active in the Fall. Either way, they add a nice feel to the beauty of the ride and never got to the point where they were an annoyance to us while riding. However, the face full of gnats I experienced while rounding a corner on Day 1 of our ride was quite unwelcome and I have been assured by many Koreans that if I had chosen to ride during the spring or summer months I would have many more gnats and also mosquitoes to contend with. Once again, I’m reassured that I chose the correct time of year (October) to ride the four rivers pathway.
Today’s ride had the most amount of kilometers of pathway next to a big highway that we have ridden on so far. The pathway is separate from the highway by more than 10 meters but the view to the left is just highway traffic so I found myself staring to my right for most of this stretch.
Today, we rode through the city of GUMI. If you were in need of big city items you could overnight in Gumi. Gumi Century Hotel would be a good choice for those looking for a hotel near the bicycle path. Also, there are many bicycle shops in Gumi. Gumi is a good choice for cyclists looking for hotels, bike shops, and ATMs.
After passing through Gumi we reached the Gangjeonggorye certification center. The little city just before this certification center would be a good option for a lunch stop location but as we were making good time and not really yet hungry we decided to press on towards Daegu.
At two different points on today’s route I feel like we might have missed a sign and mistakenly ridden up to a bridge from the wrong direction. This isn’t a huge problem as most of the bridges along the path can be accessed from either side because they have to accommodate Seoul to Busan direction riders as well as Busan to Seoul riders. Going up to a bridge from the pathway using the incorrect ramp simply means that you’ll have to ride across a lane of motor vehicle traffic to be able to cross a bridge going in the same direction as traffic. Since there is so little motor vehicle traffic crossing most of these bridges it usually doesn’t make a huge difference from which side you access them.
In Hyeonpung-Myeon we settled into the Elegance Motel for a price of 40,000 Won for each room and after storing the bikes inside the rooms and catching quick showers we headed out for a late lunch/first dinner at a Chinese style noodle soup restaurant. The ubiquitous metal chopsticks Koreans use can make eating meals a bit difficult (or a new learning experience) for people who are not used to them.
After late lunch/first dinner we took a walk around the city and discovered the last remnants of a day market that seemed to be closing up just at dusk. I bought a sugared doughnut treat from a vendor who seemed overly vexed that I wasn’t willing to relieve her of 1 kilogram of her remaining stock. I don’t know anyone who buys doughnuts by the kilo so I reluctantly obliged myself to purchase two doughnuts from her for 1,000 Won. The vendor seemed rather fussed by the minuscule transaction.
After wandering the half dozen streets that the day market occupied we started back to our motel and, to our delight, discovered a pizza restaurant. We invaded a table at 59 Pizza and promptly ordered up one pepperoni pizza (a safe bet) and one potato pizza (the risky bet) to ensure we didn’t leave disappointed or hungry. The pepperoni was as expected but the real surprise was the potato pizza – a definite winner in our book. We’ll be looking for this flavor again and are hoping that it’s available at other pizza shops in Korea.
59 Pizza GPS – N 35.69821, E 128.44234
Day 5. Hyeonpung-Myeon —> Susan (103km)
Breakfast: 7-11 store in Hyeonpung-Myeon
Lunch: Small Korean Restaurant
Dinner: Pizza Bingo
Motel: 2nd Floor Motel (25,000 Won)
Getting back on to the cycling path was a little bit confusing when leaving Hyeonpung-Myeon. There is an inner city bicycle path that appears to be the 4 rivers path but, in fact, it is not. After riding down what eventually ended up being a sidewalk cycle path for a short distance we stopped in at a 7-11 convenience store to wrestle up some breakfast items. After finishing up breakfast and stuffing a few extra doughnuts and bottles of water in our panniers we headed back towards the Elegance Motel in order to pick up the 4 rivers path again. At one of the intersections at the edge of the city we saw a Korean cyclist standing on the opposite side of the road from us staring at a paper map. We pedaled across the intersection to chat with him and without any ability to communicate in Korean we quickly surmised that he had also fallen victim to the same inner city cycle path signs that we had.
Later in the day, when we stopped at the CU convenience store at Hapcheongchang certification center we met up with the same Korean guy we had seen earlier in the morning at the intersection while leaving Hyeonpung-Myeon. I nicknamed him Silent Bob as he does not talk much but gets by communicating with hand gestures, smiles and the occasional thumbs up. Evidently he had also found his way back onto the 4 rivers path. Perhaps we had all missed the same sign? At the CU convenience store we also met Jong, a Korean executive working at LG who was cycling from Seoul to Busan as well. His English was quite good and he helped us to decide, using Silent Bob’s paper map, to overnight in the small town of Susan rather than in the city of Namji-eup as we had planned. Staying in Susan would make our last day of riding short and pleasurable and put us into the city of Busan much earlier than if we had to cycle there from Namji-eup.
Thinking that all of the BIG hills were well behind us, the significant 13% gradient hill as well as two other ‘bumps in the road’ that we experienced today are definitely worth a mention. The first climb is long and tough and at 13% gradient it was no surprise to come upon other riders pushing their bikes the last 200 meters to the top. Also, on today’s ride there is a short but steep climb going up to what I assumed was a buddhist temple (I learned later that it is a Confucian learning center). While approaching this STEEP climb we heard monks chanting over loudspeakers and took them on as our own personal cheerleading squad, willing us to not give up, orating us to overcome and achieve nirvana, which I assumed would be at the top of the climb.
Even after attaining Nirvana the route still has a few short but steep climbs (at least 2) to throw at you before your arrival into Namji-eup. We met two young Australians (John and Angus) at the top of one of the last short steep climbs just before Namji-eup and invited them to have lunch in the town.
We stopped for lunch at a small Korean restaurant (just after the bridge out of Namji-eup) to meet and eat with John and Angus. They turned out to be a rather friendly and fun-loving pair and we were happy to meet them. The owner of the Korean restaurant is a nice lady who was kind enough to show us how to eat the meal she prepared for us. We attempted to order Bibimbap but what appeared was certainly some kind of variant of the popular dish. What she brought us was cooked rice in a bowl that she instructed us to spoon out and then fill the bowl with HOT (HOT HOT) water from a teapot. I believe this variety of Bibimbap is called Dolsot Bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥). She then showed us how to eat the many other dishes on the table while intermittently ducking back into the bowl for a spoonful of slightly crunchy (burnt from sides of bowl) rice and HOT water. Before leaving the restaurant the owner gifted a book of Korean poems, which she authored, to John and showed us photographs of her with the local cycling club while proudly proclaiming that she had ridden to Busan many times herself.
Small Korean Restaurant in Namji-eup location GPS – N 35.37846, E 128.47362 – Marked as Temporarily Closed when I rode past it again in April 2023.
After lunch, we cycled together with John and Angus to the small town of Susan where we all decided to overnight. John’s fluent Korean (the ability to say ‘one’ ‘here’ and ‘mosquito’) came in handy as he negotiated three rooms in a 2nd floor motel for 25,000 Won each. The town of Susan has at least two motels, a convenience store, and two or three fried chicken and beer restaurants. Also, Pizza Bingo and Bread & Bake shop are located just across the street from the town’s CU convenience store.
We enjoyed Pizza Bingo for late lunch and early dinner (6,000-9,000 Won each pizza pie) while making a scene of ourselves outside the town’s CU convenience store. Every convenience store in South Korea seems to have tables and chairs that are available for use by anyone, even if you have arrived with your own pizza and beer purchased elsewhere. While we munched our pizza pies and gulped our cold brews the local populace of Susan did frequent drive and walk-bys in order to catch a glimpse of the newly arrived foursome of foreign cyclists.
Bread & Bake shop opens at 7am and is a good place to pick up a few treats for breakfast.
Motel options in Susan:
Grey Motel (40,000 Won rooms)
2nd Floor Motel (25,000 Won rooms)
Day 6. Susan —> Busan (67km to end point / Nakdong river certification center + 13.5km to Busan train station)
Breakfast: at CU convenience store across from Bread & Bake shop
Lunch: Papa John Pizza in Busan (18,000 Won) – Bought a pie and ate it at a nearby park
Dinner: At the KTX train station in Busan. Many other restaurant options near the train station
Lots of fog this morning. Set off at about 7:30am and the fog remained thick for more than an hour of our ride. On our last day of riding we saw a small Korean deer standing on the cycle path. As we approached he quickly jumped back into the tall grass and disappeared. We did not even know to expect deer in the area. Seeing him there, standing in the morning fog was a cool and unexpected experience.
The last day’s ride into Busan was mostly flat and we seemed to be taking it at a leisurely pace, no one was in a rush for the journey to be over. At a drink stop under a bridge, before entering Busan, Angus treated us all to a bottle of Makgeolli (막걸리), a Korean rice drink shared on a daily basis by friends and drank from metal or wooden bowls. It is tradition for younger drinkers to fill the bowls of older drinkers.
We experienced a lot of pedestrian foot traffic using the cycle path as we entered the city of Busan. Inside the city the cycle path becomes a bit skinnier and the number of walkers, joggers and cyclists increases sharply. A bicycle bell to warn people of your approach is very helpful.
Riders interested to go all of the way to the start/finish mark at the Nakdong river certification center (‘Nakdonggang’ on cycle path signs – Gang means river, so Nakdonggang is Nakdong River) will see many motel and hotel options off to their left in Busan city. The final certification center is just after a bridge crossing that leads over to Eulsukdo Island. Upon arrival at the finish point we found Silent Bob and Jong sitting at a table outside 7-11. We took our triumphant finish photo and sat down with our newly made cycling friends to enjoy yet more Makgeolli before saying our final goodbyes and departing in separate directions. John and Angus were off to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Busan for a couple of days while Silent Bob and Jong had to return to Seoul for work the next day. Me and my cycling friend had plans to cycle through Busan (13.5km route), have lunch, and arrange our return trip to Seoul by way of Korea’s High-Speed Train (KTX).
After cycling from the Nakdong river certification center, through Busan city, and arriving at the Busan train station we bought KTX 1st class train tickets for 83,700 Won each and departed Busan at 8:30pm to arrive at Seoul station at 11:15pm. KTX train tickets start at 48,000 Won and go up to 84,000 Won. The train station does have rental lockers so you can put your bags in a locker while you go out to explore Busan if you have a few hours to waste before your train departs.
Bikes are surely allowed on the KTX. Note: Others have mentioned that the ITX trains (slower and makes more stops than the KTX) may be a better choice for those traveling with bicycles. You just need to disassemble the bike (by removing both wheels) and make it compact enough to fit in the luggage spot towards the back of each train car. A bag or cover to ensure the ‘dirty’ parts of the bicycle do not damage other luggage is recommended. Make sure to secure the bicycle so that it doesn’t fall and hit other luggage or passengers. This is what we were told by the train staff. We think it also helped tremendously that we were riding the KTX train on a weekday and at night. There were very few passengers on the train when it departed Busan but more passengers boarded at the six or seven stops it made on the way to Seoul.
After arriving in Seoul it was an easy, uneventful ride along quiet city streets to our accommodation in Itaewon district.
Getting from Itaewon district (in Seoul) back to Incheon International Airport was as easy as catching the 6030 limousine bus across the street from the Hamilton Hotel. Bus ticket to Incheon International Airport is 15,000 Won per person and bicycles can be placed in the luggage compartment under the bus (easy if boxed or packaged neatly).
Town options for you to consider when planning your own trip:
- Seoul to Hanam – (Many Hotel and Motel options available)
- Hanam to Yeoju – Hotel options (7 Motel, Sun Valley Hotel)
- Yeoju to Chungju – Hotel options (Tanggeumdae Hostel)
- Chungju to Suanbo – Hotel options (Suanbo Saipan Hot Spring Hotel)
- Suanbo or Goesan – Hotel options (Story Motel)
- Suanbo or Goesan to Mungyeong – Hotel options (King Hotel)
- Mungyeong to Nakdong – Hotel options (Phoenix Motel)
- Nakdong to Gumi – Hotel options (Gumi City Hotel)
- Gumi to Daegu – (Many Hotel and Motel options available)
- Daegu to Hyeonpung – Hotel options (Elegance Motel)
- Hyeonpung to Namji – Hotel options (Geumsil Motel and Heitz Hotel)
- Namji to Gyeongsangnam or Miryang
- Gyeongsangnam or Miryang to Busan
Weird things we saw along the cycle path – Almost every day of our trip we saw couches, chairs, and office furniture along the pathway. The furniture was usually next to a farm road or under a bridge. Most of it looked to be in good condition so our only conclusion was that maybe people actually put the chairs and couches there to use as a resting area or maybe to have a place to sit under a bridge if it were raining.
Food advice – Picky eaters will have limited choices in the smaller towns. Expect to eat Korean food in towns along the pathway. Western food choices are available in Seoul and Busan. Expect to have to use metal chopsticks at restaurants. It would be helpful to have four or five common Korean food dishes that you enjoy written in Korean (Hangul) on a piece of paper that you can carry with you to lunch and dinner spots.
Motels – Motels will allow two people to occupy each room. Three or more in a room as a money saving practice will be frowned upon and you’ll likely be refused a room. There does not seem to ever be a room option where two twin sized beds are in one room. So, plan to budget for separate rooms if you have a traveling companion that you do not want to share a bed with. All motels we used were happy to show us the room before we paid and we never had a problem with storing our bicycles in our rooms where necessary.
The 12 Types of Korean Hotels Explained.
Good advice we received about motels – Keep in mind that it’s often easier to find accommodation in small towns rather than bigger cities like Daegu, Gumi, and Chungju. When you arrive close to a big city, it’s just farmland or suburbs, not accommodation you can see from the cycle path.
Good transportation and motel options advice we didn’t use but would have if we had stayed in Busan for a night –
- Much easier in Busan to stay in Sasang near trail end and get an Express Bus back to Seoul from big bus terminal there. No problem to put bikes in bus cargo hold. Many love motels around the area. We found Max Motel very bike friendly, great rooms and they even washed our bikes.
- From Busan to Seoul take the express bus from the express bus terminal at Nopo station on the No.1 line, also known as the Orange line to Seoul (Goseok bus terminal).
- Another option that may be easier is Busan Sobu bus terminal. After you have reached the last certification center (Nakdong River) turn around and go back along the bike path. It is about 20 minutes by bike. It will save you the hassle of having to take the subway line. The terminal is next to Sasang subway station. The bus will take you to Seoul Nambu bus terminal. If you arrive late and you don’t want to bus back that same day, there are lots of love motels just east of the final certification center (Nakdong River).
- Take the Mungunghwa train around 11.15am slot which cost 28,600 Won (5.30 hour journey). No advanced booking required. Carriage No.5 on this train is known as the train cafe where fully assembled bikes are allowed to be stored. The Mugunghwa trains take longer than the Saemaeul or KTX trains because they go further afield on lesser-traveled lines making stops at smaller stations.
Every motel we stayed at included:
Hot shower (most had bathtubs as well)
Western style toilets (NOT squat toilets)
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Kettle (for boiling water)
Bottled drinking water
Air conditioner (Some rooms had Air con and a fan – The fan is great for drying cycling kit)
3-in-1 coffee packets
Approximate Daily costs:
10,000 Won on lunch (each person)
20,000-25,000 Won on dinner (each)
30,000-45,000 Won on motel room (each)
10,000-15,000 Won on daily snacks (each)
Things we brought but did not need to:
Good camping supply stores that we found in Seoul are:
Go Camp – Go Camp definitely has the most amount of camping stuff: stoves, gas canisters, hammocks, sleeping bags, tents, clothing etc.
Go Camp – GPS coordinates = N37.4827778, E126.9708333
My Gear – My Gear is located on a small road that has no less than a half dozen camping clothing stores on it. My Gear and the other stores on this same street do have camping related items but are definitely more focused on camping and hiking clothing.
My Gear – GPS coordinates = N37.570504, E127.004256
Useful websites and information:
- Visit the main government website for the four rivers cycling paths
- Link to a Riverside Bike Trails in Korea PDF made by the South Korean tourist office in 2012
- Informative FaceBook groups that discuss Cycling in Korea and Cycling Seoul to Busan
- View more photos of our trip on Flickr here
- View and download 17 map images of Seoul to Busan cycling route here
- Naver is to Korea what Google is to America – Naver Get Lost Again: A Guide to Bike Paths and Bike Travel in Korea
- Very useful map books are available online in E-Book format. You can find the map books for Hangang Bike Path, Nakdonggang Bike Path, and the Geumgang Yeongsangang Bike Path
Recommended bicycle shops in Seoul:
- BIKELY [Doug is the owner of the shop and he speaks good English. The mechanic at Bikely is named Her and speaks Korean.] BIKELY is a touring-specific shop with a wide selection of ORTLIEB products and many services (unboxing/boxing of bikes, bike transport to/from airports and other Korean cities). BIKELY GPS coordinates = N37.5237087, E126.9683345
- Bike Nara (Hapjeong) [Goo is the best guy to speak with since his English is quite good. Bike Nara is directly adjacent to the Hapjeong subway station, [Exit #5]. Bike Nara has good quality rental bikes that you can rent in Seoul and return in Busan, after completing the Seoul-to-Busan route. Bike Nara (Hapjeong) GPS coordinates = N37.549518, E126.914437
Names of the bike paths along our route:
- Ara Bike Path
- Hangang Bike Path
- SaeJae Bike Path
- Nakdonggang Bike Path
I just would like to thank you so much for this very helpful and very detailed review of the four rivers path! I’m about to do it in two weeks and was worried a but since I cannot read the Korean letters.
However with the help of your page I’m confident I will enjoy my trip.
HIHI, thanks for the detailed write up about your trip, im planning to do this next year
just wondering how you manage to sort out the bike boxes/bags, did you dump them and get new ones in seoul or were you able to store it somewhere in seoul when you come back from Busan?
Adrian Zissos says
Hi John, Absolutely Fabulous! Thanks for being so generous to share all of this information and experience. It helped me and my wife have a great cycle Seoul to Busan. We used pretty much all of your advice – the maps helped keep us on course, the tips on accommodation & food were vital, and the specific details of your trip most useful.
Here’s one bit of advice you didn’t mention though ;-)
John Graham says
Ha Ha! Yes, I think it best to avoid the tourist shooting field ;-) I’m glad to hear that the GPS map kept you on course and my tips and recommendations helped you on your cycling journey.
John Graham says
We kept our bike boxes at the hotel in Seoul, they stored them for us in the luggage room. There are bike shops in Seoul and Busan that can put your bike in a box and I have heard from some people that they were able to have their bikes boxed or wrapped in bubble wrap at the airport.
This is without a doubt the best online information resource for this trip.
Johns maps and details are spot on!
I personally run the largest cycling club in Korea and have been over these paths several times.
The info you get here is all you really need!!
This is not a trip to fear, but a trip to enjoy, share and Cheerish.
Thanks for providing this amazing write up John!!
Han River Riders
Cycling Seoul to Busan and Beyond
Thank you so much for the info. I did this ride at the end of August myself, following your advice. I must mention rightaway that I only had a 20 liters bag on my back, with the bare minimum, seing as Korean motels basically provide everything you need
I definitely agree on ending day 2 in Goesan, as the 2nd motel (both are provides cheap and wholesome dinner in an annex nearby.
Also, on Day 3, at Phoenix motel, you can get free laundry.
I’d say that Hyeonpung Myeon (end of day 4) is a good idea for a one day break, if you feel tired and have time. It’s a nice town with some sightseeing within walking distance (and loads of pizza restaurants!).
The motel you mention in Susan is great. There were no vacancies for the cheapest room, but for 50K won, I got a huge room with a bubble bath for my sore muscles, highly recommended!
I definitely agree with getting a motel near Sasang station in Busan if you get back to Seoul by bus. I got a 24k won bus ticket back and enjoyed the comfy reclining seat and landscape back to Seoul. As I had a day left to visit Busan though, I rode all the way down the coast and then east. Nice nice and nice.
About Seoul’s motel: I went to Haha Guesthouse. Great for many reasons: cheap family-owned guesthouse with a Korean breakfast and plenty of local restaurants nearby; the guesthouse has an annex where to put your bike/packing; it’s close to Bikely bike shop (very friendly, used them to pack my bike for the trip back); also, it’s a 5 minutes walking distance from bus 6001 which takes you to Incheon airport (for very early departures).
One last thing about motels. Be patient with hot water, it may take ages before the water turns warm; no idea why!
Thank you so much for the information. It was incredibly helpful for planning our trip! Thank you!
Ulysses N. Owen says
Great Video. Thanks for sharing ;-)
Thanks for sharing this!? I really want to do this^^ Are there dedicated biking paths all the way from Seoul to Busan?
Sandra Lee says
I plan on doing this in the beginning of October. Let me know if anybody wants to do it together partially. I am Korean American and know how to read, speak, write and listen Korean. I live and work in California now. Feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
This was a great guide, although we went a little further on each of the days. Nevertheless, the motels were plentiful, as was the enthusiasm of other people we met on the ride! Koreans certainly don’t skimp on any outdoor activities. Such a beautiful ride, the bit in the middle of the country and the two mountain passes were especially memorable.I’d highly recommend a night in Waegwan after Gumi…has a great market.
The bike infrastructure really is exceptional.
For reference,, we had arranged bike rental but it fell through. The day before we planned to leave we went to the Giant store next to Hapjeong station. Only 20,000w a day and decent bikes with proper Giant panniers. Highly recommend, quite a few of the shop assistants speak excellent English.
Ulysses N. Owen says
Daniel, Thanks for your kind reply and constructive feedback. I’ve just completed this same ride again (with a few changes) in September of this year (2018) and will be putting up another article with details that will hopefully help many other cyclists enjoy the beautiful cycling opportunities in South Korea.
Joan Hughes says
Amazing information regarding this cycle trip. We are a group of four 60 year old New Zealand women considering this ride from Seoul to Busan in April 2020. The dilemma is whether we organise by ourselves or a guided trip (which is hugely expensive). Do you think the trip would be OK to organise and complete on our own? We are reasonably well travelled. However we don’t speak or recognise Korean. Is Korea perfectly safe for a small group of women? Should we be able to find our way easily with GPS assistance? Is it easy enough to find & secure accommodation? Any reassurance (or otherwise) and information you can forward would be hugely appreciated. Thanks
Scott Valentine says
You can certainly arrange and ride the route by yourselves. I have lived in Korea for more than 25 years and have ridden the route 5-6 times. Korea is safe, and paths are safe, as mentioned in the article. To navigate, download the 4 river maps in pdf, and use your google maps app to supplement it. There are a few shortcuts on the route that will save some time. Enroute, the Koreans you meet will mostly be helpful, although they may not know the route well, they will try to help, sometimes in limited English. If you have any more questions, feel free to post here.
I am keen to do some of this route this October after a work trip. I am trying to find where my friend and I can rent good touring bikes from Seoul, any recommendations would be gratefully received!
Ulysses N. Owen says
One of best rental spots in Seoul is Bike Nara (Nara Bike).
They are located at Hapjeong Station Exit 5.
The rentals they have for Seoul to Busan are Giant Escape 2 hybrid bikes… these rides have been tested a few times down the path and do a great job!
They run around 120,000w for a basic Seoul to Busan rental package… and includes pannier and bags, lights , a spare tube, multi tool and 100% professional service.
The bikes rental fee is pretty awesome compared to others.
For rental.. contact Jack Park (Owner/Manager) at Nara Bike via Facebook.
*If riders wish to have the bike mailed back from Busan, they will need to pay 50,000w to cover the postage and packing fee from Nara Bikes affiliate in Busan.
Fantastic read! I’m planning on doing this trip this October on my Brompton & would like to leave my Brompton flight bag somewhere near the beginning on the trail (or in Seoul?) & collect on my return….any recommendations on guest houses / hostels I could leave my Brompton bag at? I would obviously be spending the first night there & depending on the flight time back (I live in Thailand) possibly 1 night on the way back as well.
Any advice on the above would be very much appreciated.
Ulysses N. Owen says
I would recommend that you leave your bag with Jack at Bike Nara in Seoul. Check my other responses to comments and you’ll find all of the information for Bike Nara. Bike Nara is closed on Tuesdays, so plan accordingly. Also, there is a airport bus stop within walking distance of Bike Nara (practically in front of it), which makes it a great shop to start or end your trip. The owner, Jack speaks great English as well.
I used to have a Google Map of the 4 Rivers Bile Trail with information of food and accommodation along the route. It is now not accessible. Anyone have an updated version to share? It will definitely help me planning for my trip next year.
Change of plans & now planning on doing the 4 rivers route from 20th March this year; how will the weather generally be then? Cold? Much rain? Too cold for camping?
Thanks in advance for any advice anyone can give on the above.
Ulysses N. Owen says
Mark, March will still be cold (5-10 degrees celsius are daytime highs for most of March), although many cyclists give it a go. Too cold for camping really depends on you and your equipment. I’d rather camp in Spring and Fall rather than Winter months, but that’s just me. I like to light tour (not carry much stuff). April through May and then Mid-August through October seem to be the ‘best weather’ months for cycling in Korea.
Something I’ve found confusing is that I can’t see the actual location for buying a Four Rivers Passport/Stampbook at Ara West Lock to begin a north-south traverse of Korea. Is there a vending machine in the phone box? Or is it in a nearby office? Google and Maps.me offering very few clues here… Any help much appreciated!
Seoul-Busan path is awesome!!!
Do anyone have information about Busan to DMZ Bike tour? Blue road..
Thank you for your helpful info’s
dany flax says
dear john thank you for all the information we are 4 cyclist age from 74 until 79 we wont to cycle about 60 km per day
is it easy to find accommodation between the places that you stayed ?
Ulysses N. Owen says
Enjoy the ride. Yes, plenty of accommodation options. Remain open to the idea of staying in ‘Love’ Hotels. There are plenty of them across the route and they’re easy to find.
Sunny Lee says
Wow, exceptional guide, very thorough. I wish this had popped up first when I was doing research for this trip, but it’s still incredibly helpful midway through! Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks for the amazing guide! It made my trip so much easier :)