|Eco-city Suncheon, Jeollanam-do’s coastal jewel|
Jeollanam-do, which is located in the southwest of the Korean Peninsula, is a region known for its fertile land and crystal clear waters. The region prides itself on its savory cuisine made with ingredients harvested from Jeollanam-do’s nutrient-rich soil, and on its time-honored pansori culture. More than anything else, the region is famous for its inspiring natural landscape such as the expansive green tea fields in Boseong, and the bamboo forest and the metasequoia-lined road in Damyang.
One particular gem in Jeollanam-do’s coastal landscape is Suncheon. A must-visit eco-city for nature lovers, Suncheon offers a perfect blend of scenic beauty and rich biodiversity. Among its top attractions are the vast field of reeds at Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park (Field of Reeds) and the two temples recognized by the Michelin Green Guide for their picturesque scenery—Songgwangsa Temple and Seonamsa Temple. The city further established its reputation as an eco-city by hosting the International Garden Exposition Suncheon Bay Korea 2013.
Other recommended attractions in Suncheon include the Suncheon Open Film Set, Naganeupseong Folk Village and Suncheon Municipal Ppurigipeunnamu (Deep Rooted Tree) Museum.
< Suncheon’s Major Tourist Sites >
Suncheon Open Film Set
The Suncheon Open Film Set boasts an impressive 200 buildings, which makes it the largest filming set in Korea. The site vividly depicts several decades of Korean history such as a rural villages and daldongne (the impoverished residential hillside areas of Seoul) from the late 1950s to 1970s, the booming downtown Seoul of the 80s, and more. The old stores, beauty shops, restaurants, movie theaters, and pharmacies have been elaborately recreated along the winding alleys of daldongne to show what life was like in the past.
The film set has served as a filming location for many Korean dramas including “East of Eden” (2008), “King of Baking, Kim Tak-goo” (2010), “Lights and Shadows” (2012), and the movie “A Werewolf Boy” (2012).
More info ☞ Suncheon Open Film Set
☞ Hours: 09:00 - 18:00
From Suncheon Central Bus Terminal, take Bus 77 (05:50–23:00, 6–10 min intervals / Travel time: 20min).
Naganeupseong Folk Village
Located in the southwestern part of Korea, Naganeupseong is an authentic village dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The village is populated by about 220 residents who engage in farming and running restaurants, guesthouses, and ceramic workshops. Though the village abounds with life, the buildings themselves have remained so well-preserved that they are almost entirely in the same state as they were when they were constructed hundreds of years ago.
In addition to residences, you’ll also see a variety of old administrative buildings, including Dongheon (the city hall in those days). In front of the Dongheon building there is a regular reenactment of trials from the Joseon Era. For a view of the whole village and the surrounding hills, take a walk along the fortress wall.
Seonamsa Temple was built by the state monk Doseon of the Silla Dynasty (BC 57–AD 935) in the ninth century (AD 875). The name of the temple means “a rock bestowed by a Taoist hermit." According to legend, Taoist hermits played Korean checkers on a flat rock in the western section of the temple.
The road from the parking lot to the entrance of the temple takes about 20 minutes to cover on foot. Towards the end of the wooden road, you’ll come across the crisp, clean-cut arch of the Seongseongyo Bridge (National Treasure No. 400). To cross this bridge means to enter the world of Taoist hermits.
Seonamsa is considered to possess a feminine sophistication due to its elaborate architecture and garden. Many of Seonamsa’s colors have faded, which stands as a testament to the structure’s long history and adds to its overall charm.
If you’d truly like to bask in the allure of the temple, try staying a night for a temple stay or enjoy a walk along the 8.5 kilometer-long wooden road between Seonamsa and Songgwangsa temples (about 6 hours).
☞ Website: http://www.seonamsa.net (Korean)
The term ‘Sambo’ generally refers to ‘The Three Jewels of Buddhism,’ namely Buddha, Dharma (the teaching of the Buddha), and Sangha (the community of those who follow Buddha's teaching). Having produced the most Buddhist dignitaries in Korean history, Songgwangsa Temple is known as the main Sangha temple. As the birthplace of Jogye-jong, which is Korea's largest Buddhist Order, the temple has been destroyed in times of war and rebuilt in times of peace over its 800-year tumultuous history.
As you step inside the temple you’ll be taken aback by the sheer width of the buildings as well as the brilliant colors. In contrast to Seonamsa Temple, the colors at Songgwangsa Temple are extremely vivid due to the cycle of destruction and restoration that it underwent. The many paintings outside portray the steps of Buddha’s life looking for truth.
The temple's Seongbo Museum houses the most Buddhist relics among Korean Buddhist museums. For a deeper understanding of Buddhism and a chance to better explore the temple, try out the weekly temple stay program (tea ceremony, meditation, temple-style meal), which runs from 4pm on Saturday to noon Sunday.
☞ Website: http://www.songgwangsa.org (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park
Suncheonman Bay is Korea’s first coastal wetland and it was officially registered with the Ramsar Convention on January 20, 2006. The vast colonies of reeds act as a natural defense against red tides and water impurity. It also serves as a prime habitat for local wildlife. The area is a true natural eco reserve. If you visit the bay, make sure to look downward to see if you can spot the many crabs and blue-spotted mud hoppers that populate the flats. Though the wetland is teeming with life practically all year round, it’s best to visit in autumn for the highest chance of seeing rare migratory birds.
Though it’s rather steep, don’t shy away from the trail up to the Yongsan Observatory. From there, a panoramic view of the bay will soon make you forget your arduous hike up the hill. The sight of the bay at sunset is especially inspiring. Since the natural ecology of the bay is so well-preserved, we ask that you take out any garbage you may bring in. For another unique look at the bay, take a ride on the Galdae Train (Reed Train) that travels along the dike between the reeds (fare: 1,000 won).
**The Ramsar Convention
The Ramsar Convention’s intergovernmental treaty was established through a multinational cooperation for the purpose of protecting the important wetlands that serve as a habitat for birds. Formally known as the “Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat,” the Convention takes its name from the city of Ramsar, Iran, where it was signed in December 1971 by the 18 contracting countries. As of April 2014, there are 168 contracting countries.
☞ Website: http://www.suncheonbay.go.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Suncheon Bay Garden
Suncheon Bay Garden, the venue of the 2013 Suncheon Bay Garden Expo, has a variety of themed gardens from eleven countries including England, Italy, the Netherlands and China. The garden’s attractions include an arboretum, a wetland center and a world garden zone. 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. It would take about one or two days to look around the entire garden because of its size. If you don’t have the luxury of time, decide on which gardens to visit and plan out a specific course to take. You can also take the garden’s shuttle in order to save time.
☞ Website: http://www.scgardens.or.kr/ (Korean)
It’s impossible to truly discuss Korean food without at least mentioning the Jeolla-do region, which is known all across Korea for its tasty dishes. The region’s most famous dish is han-jeongsik (Korean table d'hote), a table full of various delectable dishes cooked in the traditional Jeolla-do style.
Han-jeongsik in Jeolla-do has a number of distinct characteristics. First, it is prepared only with fresh, locally-produced meat, seafood, and vegetables. Secondly, all the dishes are set on the table before being served. Lastly, it is a dining custom unique to Suncheon to place a cup on top of one’s rice bowl and pour some cheongju (refined rice wine) to drink before the meal.
The gukbap (rice soup) served at Geonbong Gukbap, a restaurant located inside the traditional market in the Pungdeok-dong area, is a must try for Suncheon visitors. This well-known restaurant has been family-owned for two generations. The most popular menu item is gukbap, a soup made with pork intestines in a thick pork broth that is boiled in an iron pot. The restaurant draws a constant stream of customers thanks to its savory smells and generous servings.
Near Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park (Field of Reeds) are many restaurants serving prix-fixe meals with ark shell/cockle-based dishes. Seafood lovers should drop by one of these restaurants to try the variety of small saltwater shellfish dishes.
Getting to Suncheon
☞Suncheon City Tour Bus
Last updated in March 7, 2014