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Namdo Getaway : Experiencing the Beauty of Haenam and Jindo

If you’re looking to get away, it’s hard to get much further than Haenam and Jindo Island. Located on the far southwest corner of the Korean Peninsula, Haenam and Jindo form the heart of what is often referred to as Namdo — the area of southwestern Korea famous for its fine seaside scenery, rich traditional culture and, above all else, excellent food. Not so long ago, getting to this remote area of the country was an adventure in and of itself, but thanks to the opening of the KTX line to Mokpo, it is now possible to enjoy this wonderful region as a weekend trip from Seoul.

● Day 1: Haenam

Haenam is a rural community that is known mostly for its location — it is here that the mainland of the Korean Peninsula reaches its southwestern point. The downtown area — Haenam-eup — is a typical countryside town with little to hold your interest other than a few hotels, a bus terminal and a vibrant country market. South of the town, however, are the spectacular Buddhist temples of Daeheungsa and Mihwangsa (the latter being one of this writer’s favorite travel destinations), a Joseon-era village now home to a museum for legendary Korean poet and scholar “Gosan” Yun Seon-do, and the popular tourist destination of TtangkkeutMaeul, literally “Land’s End Village”.

Gosan Historical Relics

Not far from the downtown area, in the small village of Yeondong-ni, is a complex dedicated to perhaps Haenam’s most famous historical resident,
“Gosan” Yun Seon-do. Gosan was a famed 17th century poet and scholar who spent much of his life in exile in this remote part of the country — it is here that he composed his epic poem “The Fisherman’s Calendar”, now required reading for Korean students. The complex contains a museum where you can find examples of works by Gosan and his descendants (including the famed 18th century painter Yun Do-seo), a number of shrines, and the ancestral home of the Haenam Yun clan, which is still owned and occupied by members of the family. The site is surrounded by wooded hillsides and makes for a lovely visit. In front of the Yun clan house is a 500-year-old ginkgo tree that makes for spectacular viewing, particular in autumn.

Daeheungsa Temple

Hidden deep within the ancient forests of Mt. Duryunsan is the important Buddhist monastery of Daeheungsa Temple. Depending on which legend you believe, the temple was founded either in the fifth or sixth century, and has been rebuilt numerous times since then. During the Imjin War (1592—1598), legendary warrior monk Seosan used the temple as the headquarters of his monk army fighting against the Japanese invaders. The temple has produced more than its fair share of great monks (as attested to by its large garden of stone monuments), including the Zen master Choui, who played a leading role in the revival of Korean tea culture in the late Joseon era.
The monastery complex itself is quite large and approached by a very nice walk (or shuttle bus ride) through some of Korea’s oldest forests. There are a number of architecturally important structures, including the Main Hall with its amazingly crooked wooden pillars. The main courtyard is off to the left, separated from the rest of the complex by a beautiful stream. To the rear of the monastery is a Confucian shrine dedicated to Seonsan.
Mt. Duryunsan, at 703 meters, makes for an especially pleasant hike, especially when the primitive forest turns color. If you don’t want to hike it,
there’s a cable car (formerly Korea’s longest) which takes you to one of the lower peaks. On a clear day, the peak offers views of the sea.

Mihwangsa Temple

About 30 minutes south of Daeheungsa on the road to Ttangkkeut Maeul is another Buddhist temple, Mihwangsa. While smaller than Daeheungsa, Mihwangsa makes up for its smaller size with an absolutely breathtaking backdrop, set against the craggy peaks of Mt. Dalmasan, named for Bodhidharma, the Indian monk and transmitter of the Zen tradition.
Mihwangsa sits atop a series of terraces — from the rear terraces, you can gaze upon the sea. The Main Hall has been designated a Treasure, and is noted for its intricate interior artwork. A short walk from the temple is a garden of stone monuments to notable monks —many of the monuments are intricately carved.
Mt. Dalmasan is a recommended climb, but its series of rock cliffs adds greatly to its difficulty. One of the highlights is the Buddhist hermitage of Dosolam, perched on cliff with an awe-inspiring view of the surrounding peaks.

[Related Article]
An Overnight Temple Stay at Mihwangsa Temple in Haenam
Ttangkkeut Maeul
Once a small backwater fishing village, Ttangkkeut Maeul (Land’s End Village) has in recent years become a major tourist destination owing to its location, which marks the southwestern most point of the Korean Peninsula.
Here, you’ll find a number of motels, seafood restaurants, shops selling the village’s famous seaweed, and the ferry to Bogildo, a noted off-shore island.
The best views can be had from the observation platform atop a hill overlooking the harbor — there’s a monorail that goes to the top. Be sure to arrive in time for the sunset.
● Day 2: Jindo Island
Just across the narrow and notoriously turbulent Myeongryang Strait is the island community of Jindo. Korea’s second largest island (after Jejudo), Jindo is noted for its beautiful maritime scenery, local firewater and rich traditional culture.
[Related Article]
Experience the Parting of the Sea in Jindo
Jindo Bridge Area
One of Jindo’s most spectacular scenes is the impressive Jindo Bridge, linking Haenam and Jindo. The twin spans, completed in 1984 and 2005, cut an impressive figure against the aquamarine waters and the surrounding verdant hills.
When gripped by frequent fog, it’s not unlike San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. There is an observation point atop a hill on the Jindo side. The bridge spans the Myeongryang Strait, known for its fierce currents. The strait was the scene of the 1597 Battle of Myeongryang, one of the greatest victories of Korean hero Admiral Yi Sun-sin (see article on Battle of Myeongryang Festival).
Yongjang Mountain Fortress
Not far from the bridge are the remains of Yongjang Mountain Fortress, which served as a headquarters of the anti-Mongolian resistance during the Mongol invasion of Korea of the 13th century. Some of the walls remain, and there’s a museum detailing the history of the fortress and the Mongol invasion.
Parting of the Sea
The biggest event of the year in Jindo is the Jindo Moses Miracle, when low tide exposes a narrow, 2.8 km land bridge linking Jindo with nearby Modo island. This happens just a few times a year, but when it does, it’s festival time — thousands upon thousands of tourists descend upon the site to witness the miracle. Nearby are a number of popular beaches that are packed in summer.

[Related Article]
Jindo – Long Remembered ‘Miracle’ Draws Thousands Every Year
[Travel information]
The “Moses’ Miracle” of Jindo

In the interior of the island is the former studio of the famous 19th century painter Sochi.
The surrounding mountains and forests make a perfect backdrop, and the pond in front of the studio has been used in film shoots. You can easily see how such scenery might inspire artistic genius.
Island Visions
The southern portion of Jindo looks out over Dadohae Haesang National Park, a sprawling waterway that includes the countless islands that dot the seas of southwestern Korea. Along Jindo’s southern coastal road, there are a number of observation platforms that offer outstanding views of the islands — it’s a sight to behold, especially when fog hangs over the sea.
Traditional Performing Arts
Jindo is one of the bastions of Korean traditional performing arts, with a number of noted folk songs (including the Jindo Arirang) and shaman rituals.
The music of Jindo tends to reflect the humble and difficult existence of island living.
To sample Jindo’s traditional culture, stop by the impressive National Center for Korean Namdo Performing Arts (061-540-4031), one of Korea’s most important centers of traditional music and dance. The complex sits at the base of the mountain and overlooks the sea—a fine performing arts venue.
Jindo Dog
One of Jindo’s most famous contributions to Korean culture is the famed Jindo dog, a hunting dog known for its loyalty, bravery and intelligence. The dog has been a protected national treasure since 1938, and has been attracting increasing attention from canine associations overseas. To learn more about the dog, contact the Jindo Dog Research and Testing Center at (061) 540-3388.

Things to Eat
The Korean southwest is famous for, above all else, its food. Namdo cooking comes fresh, plentiful and comparatively cheap. Eating well will not be a concern. For the adventurous, one of the regional specialties is fermented skate, or hongeohoe. This is not for the fainthearted — the flesh of the fermented skate is high in ammonia, with a scent that’s guaranteed to clean out your sinuses. If you visit Daeheungsa Temple, a good choice for lunch is the Jeonju Sikdang (061-532-7696), which is famous for its mushroom dishes and sanchae jeongsik (“mountain vegetable banquet”), which is a bit pricey at 60,000 won for four, but absolutely delicious and will leave you so stuffed you may not have to eat for the rest of the day.
Places to Stay
You’ll find standard Korean motel accommodation in Haenam, Jindo and the Haenam tourist spot of Usuyeong, near the Jindo Bridge. You’ll also find accommodation at Ttangkkeut Village and Jindo’s beach areas.
One place of accommodation worth recommending is the Yuseonjang Yeogwan (061-534-2959), located right below Daeheungsa Temple. Formerly a guesthouse used by the temple, the Korean traditional inn has a lovely garden and overlooks a running mountain stream. The site was used for the shooting of the famous Korean film “Sopyonje”. Staying here will run you about 30,000—40,000 won, depending on the room.

[Find out more on Haenam and Jindo!]
TV Drama- Taewangsasingi (Legend)

The article courtesy of Seoul magazine
Written and photographed by Robert Koehler

Date   11/05/2008

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