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Jeongseon, South Korea

Hwaam Cave

Asia's largest limestone cave is home to a world of plastic goblins and gold mining history. 

Located in the isolated county of Jeongseon, hours outside of Seoul, Hyaam Cave is a one of a kind mining museum and caving experience that isn’t afraid to install a bunch of cartoonish goblins to keep things interesting.

Formerly known as the Cheon Po gold mine, Hwaan Cave is the largest limestone cave in Asia, and was once the fifth most productive gold mine in Korea. The mines and connected cave system are now open to the public as a mining museum and tourist attraction. Visitors enter at the top of the mine via a monorail trip (or rather laborious hike), and then descend down through the caves, passing through a number of distinctly presented sections of history and spectacle. 

During the first section of the tour, guests get a sober tour through the history of the mine’s techniques. Mining mannequins are staged in working positions and there are pneumatic drills that have been set up to let people “get a piece of cave.” This section also has actual gold veins that were left in the rock walls which can be viewed through magnifying glasses. 

Continuing down a seemingly endless, dizzying stairway that is lit with bright colored lights, things get surreal fairly quickly as one enters the “Golden Fantasy.” This section of the mine has been set up with a number of tableaus where cartoony goblin figures toil away and the history and importance of gold is told by the whimsical creatures.

After leaving the fantasy creatures behind, guests are ushered into a land of pure gold (paint that is). displays and educational videos show golden bounties that look like something out of a fairy tale. Gold bars, coins, and other artifacts are presented in a spectacle of opulence.   

Before leaving the underworld phantasmagoria, the final attraction is the massive final cave which features some of the most spectacular stalactites and stalagmites in the country. The cave is presented as a natural cathedral with statues of the Virgin Mary, Buddha, and other religious iconography.

Considering how out of the way Hyaam Cave is, it is no wonder that they feel the need to embellish their already interesting mining history with bright lights, animated characters, religion, and anything else that might draw visitors across the great distance.