Namwon City settles on the North Jeolla Province in South Korea. It is also the base where hikers reach flamboyant Jirisan Mountain.
Although you can notice the signs of modernity, you can still breathe in the fresh air and tranquil atmosphere of a bucolic environment. The locals are calm and friendly.
The "City of Love" is the name given to Namwon due to the famous love story of Chunhyang. BUT, I say that it is more than that (see my thoughts further below).
From Seoul to Namwon: Take an express bus or train from Seoul
Travel time & Fare: approx. 4-5 hours; 20 USD
Best Attractions: Namwon tourism complex, Chunhyang theme park, Gwangjallu Pavilion & Gardens, etc.
Famous for: Chueottang (fish soup), Jirisan Mountain Hiking, Chunhyang love story
Visiting Namwon City was not my primary purpose of travel. Hiking the famous Jirisan (Mountain) was my original plan.
Although I hiked some parts of it, I got a bit disappointed that I couldn't climb its highest peak (Cheonwangbong Peak--1,915 meters highe) due to time constraints.
That's why rushing to decide on something has both pros and cons. However, still, Namwon City has introduced me to its main attractions. And I am very grateful that I did come here in the first place.
As promised above, I should explain myself more explicitly why Namwon City is described as the "city of love."
I insist that it is not only due to the love story of Chunhyang but also to some reasons based on my personal impressions.
Based on my experience and impressions, in general, the locals are very accommodating and kind.
I had my first meal in a restaurant located across Namwon City's express bus terminal. After my vegetarian lunch (10 vegetable side dishes and a hot pot of tofu soup), I asked the serving lady (presumably the owner) where to find Gwanghallu.
After thinking for a few seconds, she pointed out the direction and explained how to get there. Although she was busy, she took time and seriously explained things.
Second, upon reaching the bus stop that the restaurant lady had indicated, I checked the directions. To make sure, I asked the older women if I was in the right direction.
The three of them were discussing and sharing thoughts on how best they can help me. Finally, anyway, I decided to take a bus than to walk as the other woman had suggested (because it was not really far, they said).
I took the bus, and so did the woman who offered to help me get off at the right bus stop. While inside the crowded bus, a young boy (late teens maybe) offered me his seat (wow!). Am I really that old? Anyway, I told him it's okay, and I found another empty seat.
After more than ten minutes, the older woman signaled that we should get off at the next stop. I thanked her... but she offered to help out and pointed out the direction of Gwanghallu and wished me to enjoy my exploration of the area.
With those impressions and experiences, although not much from which I could draw better conclusions, I should say its name is not just about 'romantic' love...
Probably, the story (or legend) of Chunhyang is simply a depiction of how the locals truly behave or do things for other people. I have no problem believing the story. But what I really want to accept is that human beings should show love and care for each other.
I also believe that a name can bring out or affect one's behavior and vision. I mean, due to its name, maybe the people of Namwon tend to think and behave based on the name attached to its city. What do you think?
On another note, they say that Namwon's local and traditional culture and natural environment are mostly preserved or intact compared to other places in the country.
While on my way to reach my day's destination (Eunbong Village), I happened to miss one signpost. The middle-aged (something) woman from the window of her house yelled saying I was in the wrong direction.
How did she know I was wrong? So, I did explain and mention the places I should be heading towards using the map I took with my phone. She answered that I should trace back my steps to reach my correct destination.
I'm sure many hikers missed that sign and that she had guided many of them like this poor (me) hiker! I did go back and found another signpost (a wooden pole) pointing to what the lady at the window has mentioned.
That's the Namwon spirit!
Namwon City is not as prominent compared to Seoul, Busan, Gwangju, and other large cities in the country. So, you cannot expect that you can find many attractions here.
Of course, there are a few but really exciting and worth seeing. Aside from the attractions, what impressed me most was the tidy and clean streets. No foul smells!
Alright, here are some places I have visited...
It is a historical structure and sight. You need to buy a ticket (3,000 KRW for adults and less for a child and a senior citizen). Good things are not really for free!
The Gwanghallu Garden is a traditional style Korean garden. It has many symbolisms, including the philosophy of the universe. Also, the garden is commonly attributed to the love story of Chunhyang.
Namwon River Area
This river is a developed facility for recreation among locals and visitors. By the riversides, you can see hiking and biking road.
Namwon Tourist Complex
It is where most tourists that come in groups to see right away about Namwon. In here, you can enjoy traditional food, see cultural items in a museum, experience rides (e.g., Viking, Ferries Wheel, etc.), among many.
I have seen some of the places included below but have not explored yet (more next time!).
Since the Guryong Falls is outside the city, I did not categorize or include it to the places I've visited in Namwon City. But I have been there and enjoyed its natural and majestic beauty.
Chunhyang Theme Park
Yaecheon Art Street
Jirisan National Park
Guryong Falls ('Nine Dragons Waterfall')
Honbul Literary House
Korean traditional music holy grand
Silsangsa Temple (Site No.309)
Hwangsan Battle Monument (Site No.104)
Manin Cemetery of Righteous Warriors (Site No.272)
Manbok Temple Site (built in 1046)
Yes, these are the most prominent sites for exploration, but others could be waiting to be discovered or be promoted.
You can take either an express bus or a fast train to get to Namwon City from Seoul. Of course, buses and trains are also accessible in many places in the country.
Head to Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and find the express bus ticketing window or machine.
It will take around 4 hours for approximately 20 US dollars a one-way ticket. You can also purchase it in advance if you want to make sure you got a seat when returning to Seoul, especially on weekends.
From Incheon International Airport
Yes, you can go straight to Namwon by express bus from Incheon Airport. The bus is available at the bus and taxi waiting area on the ground floor (1st floor).
Bus tickets are available on the same floor at the ticketing kiosk. If you are not sure, you can ask the airport information guide desk.
From Incheon Integrated Bus Terminal
This is terminal is conveniently located on its same name, Incheon subway station. The terminal serves both intercity and outside city trips. (I usually take a bus here as it is close to my house!).
From this terminal, it took me more than four hours. Not because Namwon is far but because of a minor highway traffic congestion.
Usually, the express bus is that serves this route is a special one. It is called 'Udong.' It is very comfortable, and so you can doze off. Midway, there is a 15-minute stopover at a 'hyugaeso,' which literally means 'a place for rest.'
Please, remember your bus number (and destination sign) because the number of similar-looking buses can be confusing!
I hope this is helpful for your travel search. Please, let me know should you need some assistance, either through email or below.
Safe travels always!