Suncheon, Korea: International Garden Expo + top 5 attractions

Suncheonman Bay National Garden as seen from above
Suncheonman Bay National Garden as seen from above

Suncheon, Korea: International Garden Expo + top 5 attractions

Korea Tourism Organization

September is the perfect month to get outdoors, standing on the threshold of autumn. If you want to enjoy the golden-hued mountains and fields, and the many fall flowers, then plan a visit to Suncheon in Jeollanam-do. Home to Korea’s first National Garden and a migratory habitat for birds, Suncheon is perfect for an eco-trip.

You can easily travel to Suncheon via train from Gwangmyeong Station, Seoul Station, or Yongsan Station. If you want to head directly to Suncheon from Incheon International Airport, take an airport bus to Gwangmyeong Station or Yongsan Station, or take the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) to Seoul Station. The KTX train takes around three hours one-way from Seoul Station to Suncheon Station.

Suncheonman International Garden Expo decorations

Suncheonman National Garden opened in 2013 to host the first Suncheonman International Garden Expo and has remained a top attraction ever since. This year marks the return of the Garden Expo for the first time in ten years, and will continue to run until October 31. The expo is run on a grand scale, lasting for seven months, with participation from over 30 countries, and an estimate of over 8 million visitors total. Join in the natural fun and visit Suncheonman International Garden Expo along with Suncheon’s top five attractions!

Suncheonman Bay National Garden

Suncheonman International Garden Expo

Suncheonman Bay National Garden is the main venue of the Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023. The many gardens are themed on different countries from around the world, like the English Garden designed like the Victorian era-style royal garden of King Charles III, or the French Garden using the Baroque period gardens of the Palace of Versailles as a model. In particular, the Korean Garden shows a faithful recreation of peaceful and calm gardens typically found throughout Korea in the past.

Scenery from the Korean Garden

In addition to the country-based gardens, there are 20 more themed gardens, as well as participatory gardens created by different countries, local governments, and businesses. The garden is very large, and while there is no set course you must follow, you can easily see all the main attractions by taking the following course: starting from the East Gate, pass through the Earth Alumni Square to the National Botanical Garden, Metasequoia Road, Bridge of Dreams, Suncheonman National Wetland Center, Children’s Zoo, and Korean Garden.

(Left) Ocheon Green Square & Green Island, (Right) Nightscape view

Ocheon Green Square, a floodwater reservoir, and Green Island, a reclaimed asphalt road, capture one’s eyes. With the standard park atmosphere suited to taking pets for walks or enjoying a picnic on the grass, Suncheonman Bay National Garden also operates Shilange, a garden stay accommodation, and Earthing Roads, 12 kilometers of barefoot walking paths. All these new additions are part of Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023’s vision for the future of Suncheon.

Tour points you can’t miss out on include the National Botanical Garden designed to represent the three peaks and two waterways of Suncheon, and the Secret Garden, decorated in three themes. When the sun sets, the garden becomes lit in a splendid scene to rival that of urban nightscapes. Hop aboard the all-electric Garden Dream boat and take in the beautiful garden and city view from the water.

Sky Cube, traveling between Suncheonman Bay National Garden & Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve

If you want to travel from Suncheonman National Garden to Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve, then hop aboard the eco-friendly Sky Cube! It takes just 15 minutes from Garden Station to Suncheonman Bay Station. More than just a means of transportation, the Sky Cube offers amazing views of the National Garden along the way. Sky Cube passengers can also transfer to the Reed Trolley at Suncheonman Bay Station to reach Mujingyo Bridge in comfort.

Suncheonman International Garden Expo 2023

  • Address: 47, Gukgajeongwon 1ho-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do (전라남도 순천시 국가정원1호길 47)
  • Inquiries: +82-61-749-8000
  • Operating hours
    - Suncheonman National Garden: 09:00-21:00
    - Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve: 09:00-19:00
    - Sky Cube: 09:00-18:00 (Garden Station first departure 09:30, last departure 18:15)
    - National Garden Trolley: 09:00-19:00
    - Suncheonman Bay Reed Trolley: 09:20-19:10
  • Fees
    - Admission: Adults 15,000 won / Teenagers 12,000 won / Children 8,000 won
    - Sky Cube (round-trip): Adults & Teenagers 8,000 won / Children 6,000 won
    - National Garden Trolley: All passengers ages 3 & older 4,000 won
    - Suncheonman Bay Reed Trolley: All passengers ages 3 & older 4,000 won (Free when using Sky Cube)
  • Website (English, Chinese, German, Malay, Spanish, Tamil, French)
  • Instagram

Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve

Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve, a great place for walks (Credit: Korea Tourism Organization – Park Sihyung)

(Left) Credit: Korea Tourism Organization Damin 7th gen. Kim Deok-sik, (Right) Korea Tourism Organization – IR Studio

Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve is comprised of a large mudflat and reed field. The reed field in particular is the largest reed field in Korea, and creates a beautiful sea of golden fronds waving in the wind every fall. Due to the beautiful scenery and ecological value, the wetland was inscribed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage in 2021. The area is famous for seafood like cockles and mudskippers, and is a habitat for many endangered birds such as hooded cranes, black-faced spoonbills, and Oriental storks.

At the Suncheonman Bay Natural Ecology Hall, you can learn about the history of the bay and the many lifeforms that call it home. You can also hop aboard the Ecological Experience Boat from here to explore the S-shaped waterway up to the literature hall at Suncheonman Station.

[Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve]

  • Address: 513-25, Suncheonman-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do (전라남도 순천시 순천만길 513-25)
  • Operating hours: 09:00-19:00 (Natural Ecology Hall 09:00-18:00)
  • Admission: Free (Ecological Experience Boat: Adults 3,000-7,000 won; varies by course)
  • Inquiries: +82-61-749-6052 / Natural Ecology Hall +82-61-749-4007
  • Website (Korean only)

Naganeupseong Walled Town

Old village scenery preserved at Naganeupseong Walled Town (Credit: Korea Tourism Organization - Jeong Cheoljae)

Credit: Korea Tourism Organization – Live Studio

Naganeupseong Walled Town is a well-maintained remnant of life from the Joseon era. Currently, the village is home to 230 people who do their best to show the living quarters and customs from Korea’s past. The view of the thatch-roofed houses clustered together within the town walls is very exotic, and has led to the village being used as a filming site for many historical dramas, including “Jewel in the Palace (2003),” “Love in the Moonlight (2016),” and “Mr. Sunshine (2018).”

Naganeupseong Walled Town offers 20 various experience programs all year round. The most popular programs are the natural dyeing experience, perfect for making a one-of-a-kind souvenir, and the traditional punishments at the prison, including wooden handcuffs and being hit with a paddle. The wish paper writing experience is free and open to all visitors. The wishes are collected throughout the year and burned together at the Jeongwol Daeboreum event in the hope of making the wishes come true.

Visitors can enjoy a range of different folk festivals throughout the year, starting with the Jeongwol Daeboreum event on the fifteenth day of the first month on the lunar calendar. During this event, a torch is carried around the walls of the town and used to light straw bundles on fire. The largest event, the Folk Culture Festival, takes place in October, and offers many traditional programs including tug-of-war, a recreation of the building of the walls, traditional wedding ceremonies, and more. A traditional food festival also takes place at the same time, using local foods from Suncheon.

[Naganeupseong Walled Town]

  • Address: 6-4, Pyeongchon-ri, Nagan-myeon, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do (전라남도 순천시 낙안면 평촌리 6-4)
  • Operating hours: February-April & October 09:00-18:00 / May-September 08:30-18:30 / November-January 09:00-17:30
    * Permanent experience programs: 10:00-17:00 (Closed Mondays)
  • Admission: Adults 4,000 won / Teenagers 2,500 won / Children 1,500
    * Natural dyeing experience: Handkerchief 9,000 won / Neckerchief 13,000 won
  • Inquiries: +82-61-749-8831
  • Website (English, Japanese, Chinese)

Songgwangsa Temple

(Left) Scenery of Songgwangsa Temple (Credit: Korea Tourism Organization – Shim Cheol), (Right) View of Samcheonggyo Bridge from entrance of Songgwangsa Temple

Songgwangsa Temple has a history of over 1,300 years, and has close ties with the start of Buddhism in Korea. In the past, many foreign monks would even come to Songgwangsa Temple to study Buddhism. The temple’s most beautiful spot is said to be Samcheonggyo Bridge, with many people coming here solely to take a picture of the bridge.

Songgwangsa Temple also opens its doors to over-night guests through their templestay program. Participants can experience activities such as temple dining and prayer while relaxing in nature. Guests can stay for up to 10 days at a time, and just need to bring their toiletries, a towel, and a water bottle. While the program isn’t catered to foreigners, the language barrier isn’t big enough to prevent you from enjoying a full day at the temple.

[Songgwangsa Temple]

  • Address: 100, Songgwangsaan-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do (전라남도 순천시 송광면 송광사안길 100)
  • Operating hours: Summer 06:00-19:00 / Winter 07:00-18:00
  • Admission: Free / Templestay program: Adults 80,000 won per night
  • Inquiries: +82-61-755-0107
  • Website (Korean only)

Waonhaebyeon Beach

Romantic landscape of Waonhaebyeon Beach at sunset (Credit: Korea Tourism Organization Blog - Lee Chulhyun)

Waonhaebyeon Beach has recently become popular among the younger generations in Korea as a great photo spot. The sunset is especially beautiful! You can easily get great photos thanks to the observation deck in place, and the fact that this is a lesser-known location, there are fewer visitors.

Enjoy the surrounding area by going for a drive or a walk beside the vast mudflat. There are lots of cute photo zones set up around the area to make lasting memories.

[Waonhaebyeon Beach]
Address: 133, Waon-gil, Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do (전라남도 순천시 해룡면 와온길 133)

TIP! See more with Suncheon City Tour Bus

Suncheon City Tour Bus departing from Suncheon Station (Credit: Korea Tourism Organization Travel Writer Lee Chulseung)

As the largest tourist city in Jeollanam-do, Suncheon offers a range of city tour bus courses, including a city tour, ecology tour, history tour, UNESCO world heritage tour, and night tour. All five courses start and end at Suncheon Station, making it easy to connect from the train. Taking one of the city tour buses is a great way to see the many attractions in Suncheon, which are spread out and are difficult to access by taking the regular city bus. The city tour course is operated in a circular shuttle bus style, with passengers able to freely get off and back on the bus at the many stops along the way. The ecology, history, and night tours are operated like a tour package, with a guide on-board to provide information about the stops along the way.

Reservations can be made in advance online or over the phone, although they aren’t required to board; you can usually get on the bus by simply waiting at Suncheon Station before the departure time. However, priority is given to those with reservations, so it’s possible you won’t be able to board the bus if there are many people. For phone reservations, you can also call the Suncheon Station Tourist Information Center or the 1330 Korea Travel Helpline for assistance.

[Suncheon City Tour Bus]

  • Fare: Adults 5,000 won / Teenagers 3,000 won / Children 2,000 won / Preschoolers free
  • Website (Korean, Engilsh, Japanese, Chinese)

See details for Suncheon City Tour Bus

City Course
Course: Suncheon Station – Ocheon Green Square & Suncheonman Bay National Garden (West Gate) – Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve – Suncheonman Bay National Garden (East Gate) – Drama Filming Site – 10.19 Peace Park – Utjang & Maesandeung Modern History Cultural Heritage – Culture Street & Suncheonbueopseong Walled Town – Bus Terminal – Suncheon Station
Departure schedule: Tuesday-Sunday 10:20 / 13:30 / 16:00

Ecology Course
Course: Suncheon Station – Songgwangsa Temple – Lunch – Suncheonman Bay Wetland Reserve – Suncheonman Bay National Garden – Suncheon Station
Departure schedule: Tuesdays & Saturdays 10:30 (Tour ends 18:00)

History Course
Course:Suncheon Station – Yeosu-Suncheon Incident History Hall & Peace Park – Picture Book Library – Utjang Gukbap Street (lunch) – Maesandeung Modern History Cultural Heritage – Honam Patriots Memorial Hall & Yeosu-Suncheon Incident Monument – Imjin War History Experience Site & Suncheon Japanese Fortress – Suncheon Station
Departure schedule: Wednesdays 10:30 (Tour ends 18:00)

UNESCO World Heritage Course
Course: Suncheon Station – Naganeupseong Walled Town – Lunch – Seonamsa Temple (Wild Tea Experience Hall) – Drama filming site – Suncheon Station
Departure schedule: Thursdays & Sundays 10:30 (Tour ends 18:00)

Night Course
Course: Suncheon Station – Ocheon Green Square & Suspension Bridge – Suncheonman Bay National Garden (Garden Dream boat ride option) – Suncheon Station
Departure schedule: Fridays 17:00 (Tour ends 22:00)

More info
1330 Korea Travel Helpline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Thai, Malay)

* This column was last updated in August 2023, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check for updates before visiting.



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