Photo: Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park
The city of Suncheon, well known as the ecological capital of Korea, offers dozens of attractions where people can really immerse themselves in “eco tourism,” learning about a natural ecosystem that has remained almost completely untouched for years.
Start off your eco tour with Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park, which has continuously earned global recognition for ecological values, and teaches about and inspires people to protect the wetlands and reed fields. On the other hand, the thousand-year-old heritage of Seonamsa Temple and Songgwangsa Temple will make people stop their hurried traveling to take in the wonderful natural sceneries filling their backdrop.
Checking out one of Suncheon’s popular city tour itineraries listed below will make your trip and time much more worthwhile as it is not just a regular city tour; it is an ecotourism experience!
The popular Korean dramas “Love and Ambition” and “East of Eden”, as well as the Korean movie “Sunny,” were filmed in Suncheon. The filming location spans an area approximately 39,600㎡ and includes over 200 buildings and streets built to recreate Korean life in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Take a trip back in time with a stroll down the 60s-themed 'downtown Suncheon' or a walk around 'Seoul' as it was in the 1980s.
A historic temple built over a thousand year ago, Seonamsa is treasured for its beautiful forest trail and rainbow-shaped Seungseongyo Bridge. In order to minimize impact on the environment and to blend in better with the trees, the temple was built in three separate sections of the forest instead of being integrated into one large area.
The wooded path that weaves throughout the temple grounds is truly breathtaking, with rare pine trees planted over 200 year ago growing almost horizontally. Located just around the corner from the temple is a wild green tea field along with a tea center housed in a traditional hanok where visitors can learn proper green tea drinking etiquette.
Songgwangsa is one of the three most important temples in Korea. The temple contains all the facilities needed to train monks in the ways of Buddha and has produced 16 guksas (the highest rank in Buddhism, a title reserved only for the most highly esteemed monks).
The sheer width of Daeungjeon (main building) gives one the impression of grandeur, a feeling further enhanced by the many paintings illustrating the teachings of Buddha and highlighting his achievements. Uhwagak Pavilion at the entrance is considered particularly beautiful for the striking harmony between its arched bridge, columns, and the surrounding environment.
Dating from the Joseon Era (1392-1910), Naganeupseong Village boasts a fortress, a dongheon (central building in which local authorities conducted public affairs), a gaeksa (guesthouse for local and foreign public officials) and thatched-roof houses preserved in their original state.
Today, about 280 people still live in about a hundred households and visitors are invited into several residences to experience hands-on programs exploring pansori singing and wooden craft making. Naganeupseong is the last remaining walled-city in Korea. The entire 1,410-meter-long fortress wall remains intact, giving visitors the unique opportunity to take a walk along the top and get a spectacular view of the village down below.
Ranking among the world's top five wetlands, Suncheonman Bay stretches along a 40-kilometer coastline. In 2006, it became the first wetland in Korea to be included on the Ramsar* List for worldwide recognition and ecological preservation. Its vast reed fields are unique in their beauty and mystique.
Its ecology park has a Natural Ecology Center where guests can learn about the formation of the wetland and the rare birds that inhabit it, and walk along a path to view the reed fields up close. An hour's walk to the Yongsan Observatory will reveal the bay's beautiful waterways and the splendid golden fields of reeds.
* What is the Ramsar Convention?
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands and their resources. The full name of the convention is the "Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat." The convention was signed by 18 countries in the city of Ramsar in Iran in 1971. Today, 162 countries adhere to the convention.
Suncheon Bay National Garden was the venue of the International Garden Exposition Suncheon Bay Korea 2013, an eco-friendly exhibition displaying various garden culture technologies. The national garden comprises an arboretum, a wetland center, themed gardens, and a world garden zone displaying the gardening cultures of 11 different countries including England, Italy and the Netherlands. The forest trail in the garden is the place to enjoy the changing seasons with strolls amongst royal azaleas in spring or autumn foliage in fall.
* This column was last updated in November 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on November 20, 2015>