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. After moving away from Seoul to the southern province of Jeollanam-do, Damyang was one of the first cities we visited and it was like a breath of fresh air. While living in major cities can be endlessly exciting and full of opportunity, we found ourselves longing for natural beauty that is often far away from heavily populated areas. So, as an indicator of “things to come,” Damyang was as accurate of our year to come as it was the perfectly beautiful setting of our return to nature.
Damyang is known for two very different types of trees: bamboo and sequoias. These massive living goliaths surround you with their towering beauty as you stroll along the forest pasts, and offer a wonderful place to reflect. Both of these trees are very different and their parks reflect are entirely different.
Easily the 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 Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto. Spectacularly beautiful and larger than its more-famous brother forest in Japan, 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. Surrounded by bamboo on all sides, visitors are immersed into a different world once you’re past the gate. For a meager 2,000KRW ($2), you have access to both the forest and the school in the rear which we will discuss later. Beautifully situated on the side of a hill and next to a wonderfully lively river, Juknokwon is a must-see attraction in Damyang.