The Best Rural Destinations in South Korea
South Korea is more than just the famous Seoul. And while it’s true that the capital is a sight to marvel upon, beyond its city lights, skyscrapers, and metro life lies the beauty and calmness of rural destinations in South Korea.
If you are looking for a welcomed change in your itinerary, beyond the metro cities are South Korea’s countryside that offers cultural encounters and stunning natural landscapes that you’ll surely fall in love with.
The Best Rural Destinations in South Korea
Staying in the city for a majority of your travel can be repetitive so give yourself a twist by visiting wonderful rural destinations in South Korea.
If you are looking for the place where soju, wooden masks, and Confucianism began, you are looking at Andong, South Korea’s folk capital and the one place where a visit can take you back to the Joseon-era rural life.
Residing in the town is the Hahoe Folk Village, a 600-year-old attraction that is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is a popular tourist destination and nestles on the beautiful Nakdong River. Many people who populate in the Hahoe Folk Village managed to preserve and live in choga, a traditional thatched-roof home. The place is also littered with guesthouses, artisan workshops, and restaurants serving delicious, local food.
One of the most apparent traits of the countryside is fresh air, one that you couldn’t find in the city, and Damyang, located in Jeollanam-do Province, is the perfect destination if you are looking for a breath of nature. The area has wonderful attractions you can visit, including an ancient fortress and temples.
True to its countryside theme, Damyang’s famous attractions are nature-centric. One of them is the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest, an area of lush bamboo groves linked by eight trails that visitors can use for strolls.
Nearby, there is the Metasequoia Road, an 8.5-kilometer-long street that is surrounded by redwoods. The road is ideal for walking or cycling and immersing in the scenery of Damyang.
Located off the Gyeongsangnam-do’s southern coastline, Namhae is a wonderful destination filled with beaches and stunning landscapes. It is known as the “Treasure Island of Korea.”
On the island, you’ll be able to see the German Village, an enclave that was established to invite back and provide subsidies for Koreas who were sent to work in Germany back in the 1960s, a time where South Korea was in economic strife. The village has cobblestone streets, German-style architecture, German restaurants, and an annual Oktoberfest.
Namhae also has Daraengi Village which features stunning rice terraces that flow down a steep coastal cliff. It is one of the few places in the country where traditional farming methods are still being used.
Suncheon is South Korea’s ecological capital with its wide variety of plant and animal life. It is recognized for its ecological value as well as one of the most beautiful coastal destinations in the country.
The most-sought attraction in Suncheon is the Suncheon Bay Wetland Reserve, one of the largest tidal flats in the world. Residing in this wetland is Korea’s largest colony of reeds. It is also a vital area for migratory birds, including rare ones like the hooded crane.
Other stunning attractions in Suncheon are Seonamsa and Songgwangsa temples, Naganeupseong, a village filled with thatched-roof houses, and Suncheon Bay National Garden, a conservation area for art exhibits, performances, and is the home of more than 600 plant species.
Technically, Jeju Island is not part of the countryside, however, it is a wonderful place to relax if you want to take a break from the city. It is South Korea’s largest island and is located off the country’s southern coast. It is a popular holiday spot for both locals and tourists alike and is often featured in popular Korean dramas like Boys Over Flowers, Secret Garden, and The Legend of the Blue Sea.
One of the attractions that tourists would flock to is the dormant volcano Hallasan. The volcano is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and is the country’s highest mountain. It is perfect for hiking and if you are not a fan of that, there are also beaches, spas, and restaurants nearby for you to enjoy.
Jeju Island is also a highly-recommended place for honeymooning couples.
Jinhae is a district located in Changwon City in the Gyeongsangnam province. The front of the city is on an island-filled bay and it is surrounded by mountains of pine trees. However, the biggest draw in the Jinhae district is the fact that it is the centerpiece of South Korea’s largest and most famous cherry blossom festival.
Do note though that it is hard to predict when the cherry blossoms will make their week-long bloom but based on the previous years, they often appear in April. This unpredictability makes it hard to plan a trip to Jinhae.
But if by luck you managed to attend this famed festival, get ready for a jaw-dropping experience, complete with fireworks, parades, and a stroll in Jinhae’s picturesque scenery.
If you want to witness a natural phenomenon take place, plan a trip to the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, right to where Jindo Island is. The natural mystery that surrounds this island is when the sea parts, revealing a strip of land that leads to the nearby Modo Island. It’s 2.9km long and is similar to the story of Moses’ who parted the Red Sea from the Old Testament.
However, local folklore says otherwise and claims that this spectacle is from a prayer of an old woman after Jindo’s villagers fled from tiger attacks.
The parting phenomenon happens several times throughout the spring but a four-day Jindo Sea-Parting Festival is held once a year as a celebration and tribute to the Old Woman from the tale named Bbyong of Hoedongri. You can stay overnight and immerse yourself with locals, as well as their famous Jindo dogs, a loyal and gentle dog breed.
In addition, Jindo Island also serves as an entrance to Dadohaehaesang National Park, South Korea’s largest national park, and is one of the four marina and coastal national parks of the country. It is made up of 1,700 uninhabited islands and features stunning rock formations, beautiful islands, evergreen forests, and sandy beaches.
Cheongsando Island is also known as ‘green mountain island’ and it does live up to its name. Throughout the four seasons, the island remains rich in grass and other vegetation, which makes it a perfect getaway if you are aiming for impressive natural sceneries. There are walking trails all over the island so you can stroll through terraces and golden fields of canola blossoms.
Cheongsando Island is Asia’s first Slow City, wherein the people residing in the place embrace the concept of “finding happiness in the slow life.” The island has the annual Cheongsando Slow Walking Festival every April where visitors and residents are encouraged to walk along the island’s Slow Roads as slow as possible and immerse themselves in the stunning scenery.
The island has been gaining traction with locals, however, it is not well-known to foreigners yet.