The Ara Waterway Path begins (or ends) with the Cross-Country Bike Route. It’s the shortest and flattest of all bike paths in Korea.
City-to-City Path Breakdown
Ara Bicycle Path
The Ara Bicycle Path follows the Ara Waterway, a man-made canal upstream to the Han River on the edge of Seoul.
Begin near the Ara West Sea Lock, the point where the waterway spills into the Yellow Sea. Both the north and south side of the canal hold bridges, parks, and recreational areas.
The main bike path sails along the southern side of the canal. But interesting landmarks inhabit the north side, as well.
There are fourteen bridges that cross the canal. Bicycle rental stations, restrooms, art installations, and more park facilities rest under many of the bridges.
The bike route touches three cities. The longest stretch, eastward from the Yellow Sea, crawls along the northern edge of Incheon (인천). Near the end, the path touches the bottom bit of Gimpo (김포) before unfurling into the westernmost edge of Seoul (서울).
Highlights & Eight Scenic Views
You will spot these sights as you ride the Ara Bicycle Path. We’ll explore each in depth below.
For a detailed Korean language map of the Ara Waterway, click here.
Path Types & Difficulty
The Ara Bicycle Path is the easiest in all of Korea. You can conquer the twenty kilometer (20 km) in two hours.
Only a few kilometers near the beginning and end of the route detours onto protected sidewalks in industrial areas. The majority of the course follows bicycle-only paths.
Both sides of the Ara Waterway canal hold bike paths. The south bike path climbs a ten meter embankment to hop onto a bridge: your only hill.
If you’re already in Seoul or Incheon, subways provide the quickest accessed to the Ara Bicycle Path.
The Airport Express (AREX) is a commuter train that travels from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station. The train runs right along two thirds of the Ara Waterway. Like most subways in Korea, the AREX allows passengers to board with any type of bike on weekends and holidays.
Three AREX stations will drop you off on or near the bicycle path.
Geomam Station (검암) station sits a couple hundred meters from the bike path, but eight kilometers from the Ara West Sea Lock. If you want to complete the full course, you must ride a third of the bike path twice. (It’s a pleasant view both ways.)
Geomam station connects with Incheon Subway Line 2. However, Incheon Subway Line 2 does not accept bikes any day of the week.
Like Geomam, Gyeyang (계양) station perches just on the bicycle path. However, if you exit the station, you’ll find yourself eight kilometers from the Ara Hangang Lock, the end of the Ara Bicycle Path in Seoul.
However, Gyeyang Station connects the AREX and Incheon Subway Line 1. Line 1 allows cyclists to bring their machines on board on weekends and holidays.
If you arrive in Incheon via intercity bus on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, hop on Line 1 from the Incheon Bus Terminal Station (인천터미널). Transfer to the AREX at Gyeyang Station (계양). Head towards Incheon International Airport and get off at Cheongna International City Station (청라국제도시).
The Gyeongin Ara Waterway
The name “Gyeong” (경) is an old name for Seoul. “In” refers to the city of Incheon. The name borrows “Ara” from Arirang, an ancient Korean folk song.
The Ara Waterway is Korea’s first man-made canal. 18 kilometers long. 80 meters wide. 6 meters deep. The canal flows from the Han River in Seoul towards the Yellow Sea.
King Gojong of Goryeo first explored its construction in the 13th century. However, limited technology scrapped the project. The canal’s construction didn’t break ground until 2009, with its completion coming in 2012.
Purpose of the Ara Waterway
The Ara Waterway serves three purposes. It prevents flooding, provides recreational parks, and allows passage for some cargo and cruise chips.
Large portions of Incheon, Gimpo, and Bucheon sit in a Gulpo basin, where the Gulpo Stream flows. The basin rests four meters above sea level.
That’s good, right? Well, the Gulpo Stream rests about six meters above sea level. And the Han River flows ten meters above. That meant, when rain poured down, river waters breached their embankments and flooded the Gulpo basin and all its inhabitants.
The Ara Waterway drains excess water from the local rivers and dumps it into the Yellow Sea.
When constructing the canal, civil engineers installed waterside parks. While riding the Ara Waterway, you’ll see art installations, conveniently spaced bathrooms, and observation decks for park goers to enjoy.
Cargo and Cruise Ships
The Ara Waterway provides passage for cargo and cruise ships. The Ara West and Hangang Sea Locks raise and lower boats to the heights of the Ara canal, Yellow Sea, and Han River.
However, the economy of cargo ships hasn’t fully set sail. Much of the maritime traffic comes from small cruising vessels and leisure boats.
Several points of entry along the waterway allow passengers to board vessels and cruise the canal.
Cities on the Ara Waterway
Behind Seoul and Busan, the city of Incheon (인천) is the third most populous city in Korea, holding over three million residents. The city sits on the northwestern corner of South Korea, with the Yellow Sea to its west and Seoul to its east.
Incheon is a part of the Seoul Capital Area (수도권), which includes Gyeonggi Province (경기도). Many of Incheon’s residents commute to Seoul via the Airport Express (AREX) or Subway Line 1, which extended across both cities.