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.
There are various types of trips offered on the official site. Trips are categorized based on its nature (ecological, cultural, and “healing”). The most comprehensive ones that give you a mix of everything is their city tours. Links are provided at my verdict comment below.
So here’s my honest review about the Suncheon City Tour hosted by the city government of Suncheon and hopefully, this write-up could come handy for your itinerary planning.
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Some basic information about Suncheon:
It 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 restricted as an ecological zone to protect the natural ecosystem.
Departing from Suncheon Station → Suncheon Open Film Set → Seonam Temple → Naganeupseong Village → Suncheon Bay Garden → Suncheonman Bay → Back to Suncheon Station
** Please note that the itineraries are subject to changes depending on local circumstances (eg. Changes of seasons, Festivals, Expo etc.)
Reservation & Price:
The one-day city tour costs KRW 16,000 per adult, KRW 12,300 for Students, KRW 7900 for Kids below 12 yo and above 6yo, KRW 2000 for infants. It includes all entrance fee and transportation only.
Prior reservation is unnecessary for foreigners. You may visit the tourist information desk to your right of Suncheon Station and sign up immediately. Please make sure you’re there at the info desk at 8:30am, as the trip starts at 9am and you’ll need fill up forms and payment etc. As the package is targeting the locals, the trip will be conducted entirely in Korean. The tour guide will be able to speak basic Korean, though. It is the most convenient and economical way of touring around Suncheon. Definitely recommend this tour to everyone. But the trip could be subject to availability, as the bus is limited to 40 passengers per day.
If you are taking KTX to Suncheon: After alighting your KTX train, follow the crowd and the exit signboard, it will lead you to the hall where the train tickets are sold. Get out of the building from the main entrance, you’ll see the tour bus right at the end of the square, by the roadside. (Direction of yellow arrow).
Transportation around Suncheon:
If you are joining their official tour, all you need to do is to reach Suncheon Station before the tour bus depart at 930am. The tour bus will be right outside the main exit of Suncheon Station. You’ll be travelling via the tour bus provided throughout the day.
If you plan to do a free and easy in Suncheon, I am afraid you have to spend more effort on your planning because public transportation is quite a problem for non-Korean speakers. However, I figured their taxi drivers are kind and friendly. If you are not keen on having everything planned and studied before embarking your trip, taxi service is a good choice. However, do note that some places like temples are far away from the town and it could take you longer to finally hail one.
Transportation Back to 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 be punctual.
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. It left me a very strong impression as I thought these destinations are just a few steps away from where we alight, more so if you’re joining a package tour. This place totally wow-ed me. We have to walk for about 1 km from the entrance to the temple, and then walk another 1km back to the car park. and we are given 1.5 hours ++ to complete the 2 km journey (that includes time to get our tummy filled for lunch!). Quite a mad rush for a slow traveller like me and my mom, but we eventually made it.
I have blogged about the temple in another post earlier. Check out more pictures of Seonam-sa here.
Lunch at Seonam-Sa (Self-paid)
Lunch is not included in the one-day city tour. However, they do help to arrange your lunch upon request. All you need to do is to alert the driver before you went into the temple and he’ll make an arrangement for you, but you’ll eat what they arrange. We did not request this service simply because we felt like looking at the menu and choose what we like ourselves. We dined in at the restaurant the bus driver recommended, which is located near the car-park of Seonggwangsa Temple. Lunch of the day was Sanche-jeongsik 산채 정식, literally translated as “wild vegetables full course meal”, a type of meal commonly available in the mountains and near a temple. 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.)
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 artifacts 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 wrote 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 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 last station 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.
Firstly the tour itinerary: The itinerary includes all the major-must-see-sites such as Seongguang-sa Temple/ Seonam-sa Temple, Drama Set and ultimately the Naganeupseong, Suncheon Garden and Suncheonman Bay. But all these must-sees are covered within 8 hours, including travel time. That means you’ll have to burn a whole lot of energy if you want to explore each site to the fullest. Like what I mentioned earlier, completing a 4KM trekking up and down the hill within an hour, is simply too ambitious for an exhausted body. However, If you are short of time and want to get a quick understanding of Suncheon, this could be one of the options. You get a full day transportation around Suncheon in just KRW 16,000. The bus driver and the tour guide are very friendly, but they speak limited English. It is crucial for you to understand at least intermediate Korean if you want to really learn something from the tour.
Secondly problems with booking: Here comes the major problem for non-Korean speakers. Although their official site does come with English/Chinese/Japanese translated pages, the site to book the city tour package only comes in Korean. There are English/Chinese/Japanese tabs on the top right corner of the page, but none of the tabs seem to work. However, if you can understand simple Korean, you may still be able to book the trip by clicking 관광 → 시티투어 →예약하기.
It seems to me that this day trip service is targeting the locals. (What a pity!) But if you have no problem with the language, or if you want to save up all the troubles of figuring out the transportation from point to point, you may consider this service. Also, please equip yourself with a good pair of walking shoes if you are joining the tour!
Overall, I think Suncheon is an ideal place to visit in winter. It is exceptionally beautiful when it snows. I have came 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 we didn’t get a snow day. 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 think your Suncheon trip will turn out a memorable one. ; )
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