Damyang (Damyang-gun) is a county in South Korea´s Jeollanam-do province. It is south of Jeonju, and just north of Gwangju, respectively. Damyang is known for its stunning natural beauty and challenging hiking trails.
Tourism is a major industry for the locals in Damyang, Korea. However, mention the region to anyone internationally and chances are, they have never heard of it!
Creating artisanal products and handicrafts from bamboo is a centuries-old tradition in Damyang. This art used to be big business. However sadly, it is a dying trade.
There are a few remnants of this industry in the region today. A few tradesmen still remain and it is possible to visit their workshops and observe their traditional methods of creating bamboo items. Similarly, there is a museum dedicated to the art of bamboo. Most interesting of all is the gorgeous Damyang bamboo forest.
Things to do in Damyang, South Korea
There are plenty of things to do in Damyang, aside from discovering the famous Damyang bamboo trade! This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Korean cities and get back to nature. Damyang is a worthy addition to any Korea itinerary, if your schedule permits.
Visit Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (죽녹원)
Damyang´s Juknokwon Bamboo Forest is the largest of its kind in South Korea. It covers a distance of 2.4km and is a pleasant place to walk and explore.
This is the main draw of visiting Damyang, South Korea for many people. Many Koreans venture here for a day on account of how photogenic and ¨Instagrammable¨ the forest is.
Historically, local craftsmen sourced their raw materials here. That still happens to an extent, but Damyang bamboo forest is mostly a tourist attraction today.
There is a small museum situated within the forest that tells the story of the trade. They also sell an array of drinks and snacks. Most notably, you can try bamboo ice cream here!
The foot paths that twist and turn through the forests all follow different, fun themes. For instance, there is the philosopher´s path, where you can walk and thoughtfully reflect on your life.
Alternatively, tread along the Scholar’s Road. Supposedly if a student preparing for their exams wanders along this path, they will experience academic success!
Stop by Changpyeong Samjinae Village (담양 창평 삼지내마을)
The Changpyeong Samjinae village was the first place in Asia to embrace the slow city, or ¨cittaslow” movement. The movement, founded in Italy in 1999, focuses on improving quality of life by slowing down and moving at a calmer pace.
To call Changpyeong a city isn’t really correct. This is an old-fashioned Korean village that seemingly transports you back in time. Expect dusty roads, quaint hanok-style stone houses, and cute tea rooms.
You can participate in many Korean traditional experiences here. For instance, tea ceremonies, cooking classes and artisanal workshops.
Participate in a Temple Stay
The Korean temple stay program is a wonderful cultural initiative that aims to teach foreigners about South Korean Buddhist culture. You don’t have to be religious in order to participate.
A number of temples in the Damyang region participate in the program. There are different itineraries available. You can either opt to participate in a program whereby you shadow resident monks for a day or two, or choose a relaxation retreat.
Hike through Gwanbangjerim Forest (관방제림)
Gwanbangjerim Forest sits adjacent to the Damyang bamboo forest. Sure, it isn’t a forest of bamboo so it isn’t quite as unique. But it is a stunning collection of zelkova trees, nettle trees, muku trees, and cherry trees that are 200-300 years old.
The forest is man made. It was built to prevent flooding over the Damyangcheon Stream.
Today, Gwanbangjerim Forest is considered as being one of the most beautiful forests/woodland areas in all of Korea! The forest entrance is filled with food stalls where you can tuck into beloved Korean street food delicacies such as jeon and tteokbokki.
Gwanbangjerim sits adjacent to Damyang Cheon stream and so, there are areas here where you can rent paddle boats and sail into the water. This is a popular activity among young Korean couples who visit the area for a romantic weekend break.
You can also rent bicycles here. If you prefer not to explore on foot, you can cycle through the forest paths, or to the nearby Metasequoia path or even Meta province.
Entrance to Gwanbangjerim. You can explore all of its paths in less than an hour.
Stroll down Metasequoia path
Metasequoia path is an extension of Gwanbangjerim. It is simply a path that is lined with sprawling, leafy Metasequoias. The trees were planted in the 1970s.
This boulevard (담양 메타세쿼이아길) stretches over 8.5km. The Korea Forest Service identified the road as being one of the most beautiful in Korea.
Visit the Geumjeongsanseong Fortress (담양 금성산성)
The Geumjeongsanseong Fortress is a little awkward to get to without your own transport. However if you are exploring Damyang, South Korea by car, it is a worthy stopping point.
The fortress can be found on the slopes of Geumjeongsan Mountain. Nobody is entirely sure of the exact year that the fortress was built. However, it is believed to date back to around 57 BC – 676 AD.
You can trek along the fortresses’ exterior walls as they weave through the mountainous landscapes of Damyang. Although the ruins themselves are interesting, the main draw here is the landscape and panoramic views across central Korea.
Stop by Meta Province
Meta Province is a somewhat peculiar abandoned resort town close to Damyang, South Korea. If you have spent much time in Korea, you will have become accustomed to seeing these types of themed artificial/resort villages.
Meta Province could be compared to Little France in Gapyeong. The only difference being, this area has been abandoned.
In some ways, that makes Meta province more interesting. It is something of a Korean resort Chernobyl if you like!
Damyang, South Korea Restaurants
There are several excellent restaurants in Damyang, South Korea. Korean food is flavourful and filling.
Try Damyang specialty noodles at 진우네집국수
Each region of Korea has its own specialty dish. In Damyang, it’s noodles! Virtually every other building in Damyang centre is a noodle shop.
However not all noodles are created equal and there are certainly those places that are most beloved by locals. For the best noodles in town, head to Jinu Ne House Noodles 진우네집국수.
Jinu Ne can be found at 211-34 Gaeksa-ri, Damyang-eup, Damyang-gun. There are a diverse range of noodle dishes available on their menu. Particular local favourites are spicy noodles, or noodles cooked in anchovy soup.
Eat Mouthwatering Tteok Galbi
Tteok Galbi is a mouthwatering dish that was first created specifically for Korean royals and nobles. Today, it is one of the nation’s favourite dishes.
Tteok galbi is said to have originated in Damyang. It is a specialty of the South Jeolla and Gyeonggi provinces.
To create tteok galbi, beef is minced and pounded on the bone. Then, it is marinated in a sweet, salty, and savory sauce, and grilled or barbecued over charcoal. A particularly good place to sample tteok galbi in Damyang is Seungil Ribs 승일식당.
Getting to Damyang
It is easy to get to Damyang on a day trip from Seoul. You have a couple of options available to do so. You can take a direct bus from Seoul to Damyang, or alternatively travel via Gwangju.
Seoul to Damyang Direct Bus
Buses depart from Seoul to Damyang four times a day. They depart Seoul Express Bus terminal at 8.10 am, 11.10 am, 2.10 pm, and 7.10 pm. The journey takes almost four hours and tickets cost between 20,000 and 30,000 won.
Seoul to Gwangju
An alternative way to reach Damyang is to first take the bus or train to Gwangju. From Gwangju, numerous intercity buses (301, 303, 311, and 312) run every ten minutes.
A ticket from Gwangju to Damyang costs 3700 KRW. The journey takes around 30 minutes.