Whether you’re a horticulturist or a casual nature-lover, the trees of Damyang, South Korea are as famous as they are beautiful. Damyang is a small town located northeast of Gwangju Metropolitan City and is a perfect escape from the big city to something more natural. Damyang is known for two very different types of trees: bamboos and metasequoias. These living goliaths surround you with their towering beauty as you stroll along the forest paths, offering a wonderful place to reflect. Each of these trees and their park’s atmosphere are entirely different.
Easily one of the most famous forests in South Korea, Juknokwon (죽녹원, or literally “Bamboo Garden”) is a large park with… a large bamboo garden. With paths winding through this forest, we see this grove of bamboo trees as a legitimate rival to world-famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto. Spectacularly beautiful and quite large, Juknokwon was originally a garden meant for contemplation and rest for the Confucian school located on the far side of the garden. A leisurely walk through this forest is spectacularly calming. For fans of Korean dramas, there are also several filming locations within the park where you can take photos. Surrounded by bamboos on all sides, visitors are immersed into a different world once through the gate, and for a meager 2,000 won you have access to both the forest and the school in the rear. Beautifully situated on the side of a hill and next to a wonderfully lively river, Juknokwon is a must-see attraction in Damyang.
Hyanggyo Confucian School
Located behind Juknokwon, this former Confucian school is a gorgeous spot to relax after hiking through the bamboo forest. With stunning architecture and water elements that form a current of peaceful serenity, Hyanggyo is a lovely place to spend an afternoon and allow for the crowds to subside. Colorful flowers, lounge chairs, a hanok café, and ponds are all available to visitors. The landscaping of this garden is stunning and well worth spending time in after enjoying the bamboo forest.
While not generally associated with Asian flora, these hard redwoods create an impressive landscape around their walking-path park. Reaching high into the sky, these fast-growing hardwoods establish a landscape that is breathtaking. We had originally expected to be underwhelmed, but we were terrifically wrong and had a really great time. With ice cream in hand, we wandered the Metasequoia Road for several hours, stopping periodically to sit on benches and watch people enjoying the park in their own ways. Although heavy with foot traffic, we found the park’s population less obtrusive than in many others, and we attributed this to the immense stature of the trees. Engulfed in the blissful calm of natural beauty, the intermittent crowds seemed to disappear for long stretches, and we all found ourselves enjoying the same breathtaking view.
After enjoying the towering trees of the Metasequoia Road, be sure to rest your legs at the Meta-Provincial Town across the street. This whimsical “town” is an eclectic concoction of world culture, shopping, art, and food. Hosting a multitude of surprising and sometimes confusing genres mixed together, this town can be enjoyed by visitors both young and old. The Metasequoia Road and Meta-Provincial Town make for a wonderful outing for anyone’s taste and are both playfully opposite the street from each other and opposites in conception.
Many cities in South Korea claim to be the best and most famous for varying reasons, but we have no reservations in proclaiming Damyang as the best city for trees. While this might not seem like the biggest draw to some, the beauty, romance, variety, and culture found in Damyang is sure to please even the most discerning visitor.