There are many places to visit during winter in South Korea. If you are not a ski person, do not enjoy hiking in snow, and maybe find Nami Island too mainstream, perhaps planning a little trip out of Seoul to Jeollabuk-do could be a viable option for you. I visited Jeollado last winter and had 24 hours to cover Suncheon. I read about one-day city tours hosted by the local government and decided to give a try. Basically, these one-day-trips that come with complimentary entrance tickets and transport are organized by the Suncheon local government to promote eco-tourism at extremely affordable price.
The blog is originally created in 2015 to review the Suncheon City-Tour service by the local government. The tour is currently unavailable. However, I am still keeping this blog here to showcase what is available around Suncheon.
Suncheon is a southern coastal city at Jeolla-do province, also an up-and-rising popular travel destination for foreigners. The city is undergoing massive development since it is part of the Gwangyang Bay Free Economic Zone, yet at the same time, some part of the city is strictly protected as an ecological zone to preserve the natural ecosystem.
Departing from Suncheon Station → Suncheon Open Film Set → Seonam Temple → Naganeupseong Village → Suncheon Bay Garden → Suncheonman Bay → Back to Suncheon Station
Suncheon Drama City 순천 드라마 세트장
The first stop we visit was Suncheon Drama City, a drama set made according to Bongcheong-dong in Seoul back in the 60s. Various dramas were filmed here at the fairly huge set. (No wonder they call it a ‘city’). It is divided into various sections, including the more westernized town area of the 80s and the neighbourhood area of the 60/70s. We were given about 40 minutes here.
Seonam-Sa Temple 선암사
The 2nd stop was Seonam-sa, one of the prettiest temple in South Korea. We walked about 1 km from the entrance to the temple, and then walk another 1km back to the car park. Not recommended for old folks, but a scenic trek in the woods during winter day I must say. I have blogged in detail about this beautiful Seonam-sa temple in another post here.
Lunch at Seonam-Siktang
We dined in at the restaurant located near the car-park of Seonam Temple and it turned out to be a mat-jib! Lunch of the day was Sanche-jeongsik 산채 정식, literally translated as “wild vegetables full course meal”, a typical menu you’ll find in the mountains and near a temple in South Korea, but it is also one of the must-eat when you visit a temple in Suncheon.
It was a down-to-earth yet sumptuous lunch with 27 refillable side dishes. The meal comes with grilled mackerel, steamed eggs and bean paste soup like what you get from usual jeongsik. There are many pickled or marinated dishes of wild vegetables, Deodeok, roots of balloon flowers that I can’t name. They might sound / look weird but oh well, me and my mom enjoyed the lunch very much! Everything for two costed KRW24,000, which was pretty reasonable.
It was a pity we can’t enjoy the meal as much as we usually do as we have to follow the schedule : ( but it was a memorable meal nonetheless.)
Address: Seonam-Sikdang 선암식당
763 Jukhak-ri, Seungju-eup, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do.
선암식당 순천시 승주읍 죽학리 776 (540-802)
Tel. 061-754 5232
The Naganeupseong is considered one of the best-preserved town fortress in Korea. It witnessed the wax and wane of Goryo and Joseon Dynasty and remained untouched during the Japanese occupation. All artefacts are painstakingly preserved through the years, enabling its visitor to catch a glimpse of Korea some 600 years ago. Literary a living museum!
We were given about an hour and 20 minutes here at the town fortress. You will see some government office and private housing, also trying out traditional costumes, braiding a grass slipper if you like. The fortress looks different in every season. I have recently covered a blog post about spring at Naganeupseong here. Check it out if you are interested.
Suncheon Bay Garden 순천만 정원
A garden built for the Suncheon Garden Expo in 2013, this park provides different mini gardens from many countries including China, Japan, European, Southeast Asian and North American countries. Not a fan of mimicked gardens, I took a very brief tour by taking their tour train and went straight to the Lake Garden located at the center of Suncheon Bay Garden. It is designed by renowned landscape designer Charles Jencks based on the unique topography of Suncheon. Quite an interesting place to take some quirky pictures.
Suncheonman Bay 순천만
The final stop for the trip was Suncheonman Bay, where visitors get to see beautiful wetlands and reed fields from an observatory up on a hilltop, which is located 2 KM away from the entrance. We are given an hour + here at Suncheonman. I must say it was already an eventful day, we have been trekking in the mountains, climbing up the steep slope at drama city and the fortress town and etc. A trip to and fro the observatory means a total 4 KM by foot, and all these got to be completed within an hour. I would say it is a mission impossible for an exhausted body. So we decided to just take a stroll at the reef fields and rest at the cafe nearby.
Suncheon is an ideal place to visit in winter. It is exceptionally beautiful when it snows. I have come across some breathtaking pictures of snowy Suncheon taken by some Korean bloggers online. This will give you a brief idea of how a snowy Suncheon should look like.
Too bad it didn’t snow when we visited these places in Suncheon. It only snowed in the middle of the night! Oh well, you may try your luck next winter here at Suncheon. Food is good and people are friendly. If you did your research prior to arrival, I believe your Suncheon trip will turn out a memorable one. ; )
Transportation within/ around Suncheon:
While the Suncheon city tour is a convenient way to cover all the places mentioned above, it is no longer available as of the year 2020. If you’d like to do a free & easy tour in Suncheon, you’ll have to spend more time and effort in your planning because public transportation is quite a problem for non-Korean speakers, especially for places outside Seoul. However, I figured their taxi drivers are kind and friendly. If you are the go-with-the-flow kind of traveller and do not like to travel with a tour group, then a taxi is a good choice. However, do note that some secluded places like temples are far away from town and will take you hours to finally hail one.
Transportation from Seoul:
I visited Suncheon right after my Jeonju Trip, stayed over at Suncheon for a night, and travelled back to Seoul via Korail Mugunghwa Train. There are train services that connect Yongsan (Seoul) → Jeonju → Suncheon. However, trains provided every day from Suncheon to Yongsan are of limited frequency and usually ends in the noon so check the train schedule and be punctual.