Best winter countryside destinations
Nestled in the Korean countryside are villages that exude the kind of warmth and generosity that can only be felt in close-knit rural communities.
The list includes: Sumi Village (수미마을) in Yangpyeong, Gyeonggi-do Province; Chorokmiso Village (초록미소마을) in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do Province; Durumi Village (두루미자는버들골마을) in Cheolwon, Gangwon-do Province; Singaeul Village (신개울마을) in Boeun, Chungcheongbuk-do Province; Galducheon Village (갈두천마을) in Taean, Chungcheongnam-do Province; Duoek Village (두억행복드림마을) in Wanju, Jeollabuk-do Province; Gimcheon Village (김천옛날솜씨마을) in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province; Dahorigobun Village (다호리고분마을) in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do Province; and, finally, Yusuamni Village (유수암리마을) in Jeju City, Jeju Island.
Each destination centers around a village as the focal point, exploring major tourist attractions, cultural activities and dining options nearby. Depending on the region, you will have the chance to visit ecological parks, take walks along forest trails, try your hand at making traditional dishes and find some peace and quiet at ancient Buddhist temples, all in the same day.
Hundreds of cranes flock to Durumi Village (두루미자는버들골마을) in Cheolwon, Gangwon-do Province each year, offering visitors a chance to observe wild birds in their natural habitat.
The village is located along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the province’s northernmost region, with vast plains of farmlands and reservoirs formed by the Hantangang River. Incidentally, these natural features provide a perfect nesting ground for the cranes. During the winter, it’s possible to participate in two bird watching excursions. The first is a bird feeding program, where a small supervised group of visitors gets to quietly observe the birds as they feed on grain. The other program involves hopping on a minibus and traveling to the bird observatory near the wild habitats and observing the birds with binoculars.
Before going on the trip, it’s important to remember that as the village is along the DMZ, visitors need to notify the village office of their travel plans. You will need some form of identification to enter the village, too.
If you’d like to spend a night or two in the countryside and have a go at making some traditional Korean food, you might enjoy a visit to Gimcheon Village in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province.
In this quaint village of 75 family homes, you can experience what it feels like to be a part of a rural community while making some home-made tofu and gochujang red pepper paste. As you grind up the beans to mold into neat tofu squares, you will get to chat with the village elders in the courtyard and join in the town feast, or janchi, when the food is ready to eat. When night falls, you can stay in one of the village’s guest houses and appreciate the quiet still of the countryside.
While you are in Gimcheon, it’s a good idea to pay a visit to the Cheongamsa Temple (청암사) and the Sudoam Hermitage (수도암). Cheongamsa is a Silla temple founded by the Buddhist monk Doseonguksa (도선국사) in 858 A.D., during the second year of the reign of King Heonan (헌안왕). The Daeungjeon (대웅전), the main temple building, as well as the multistoried stone pagoda, are designated as official cultural heritage properties. The Sudoam, the hermitage that accompanies Cheongamsa Temple, was built in 859 by the same monk, and boasts centuries-old stone Buddha statues, pagodas and other figures.
If you have a few days to spare, Yusuamni Village (유수암리마을), located in the foothills of Hallasan Mountain on Jeju Island, is the place to go. The village is famous for its water, which flows freely from the Yusuamcheon springs (유수암천) all year round. In the summertime, the springs run cold, and in the winter the water runs warm. These days, around half of the village residents are involved in tangerine farming. When you visit the village between November and February, you can lend a hand in picking the harvest and bring some home to share with your family.
When you’re done picking tangerines, you can take a stroll along the many paths that eventually lead up to the peak of Hallansan Mountain. The tall trees that fill the forests with their age-old boughs were planted by village residents over a period of 50 years, over an area of 100,000 pyeong, or over 330,500 square meters.
Not too far away from the village is the Iho Tewoo Beach (이호테우해변), where you can take pictures of a horse-shaped lighthouse and enjoy the many restaurants and cafes lining the boardwalk.
By Lee Hana
Korea.net Staff Writer
Photos: Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs