DAMYANG, South Jeolla Province -- Recognizing the importance of the natural world to health, many in Korea visit forests and mountain trails to enjoy "forest bathing" as an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout.
Such ecological sites offer a tranquil atmosphere for visitors to fully immerse themselves in nature, taking in the sounds of the forest, fresh air and sunlight shining through the leaves and trees -- and to clear their minds.
Damyang’s Juknokwon -- “bamboo forest” in Korean -- is considered perhaps the best park for its spectacular forest bathing year-round.
The forest is cool in the spring, offering fresh air. Visitors can soak up the warm sunlight pouring through green leaves during the day amid a canvas of bamboo stalks.
In the heat and humidity of summer, Juknokwon's shade offers a cool escape.
In the winter, the bamboo grove presents a stunning snowy landscape with 310,000 square meters of forest covered in a white blanket.
Known to produce more phytoncide -- a natural substance that trees produce to keep pests and microbes away -- than pine trees, Mongolian oak or yellow poplar, the lush forest of Juknokwon’s bamboo trees offers a pleasant walk throughout the year.
After passing through the entrance gate, visitors can enjoy the forest park by strolling around eight different trails, each with a different theme, including the scholar’s road, meditation road and more, leading to different tourist attractions like hanok cafes, a “2 Days & 1 Night” filming location, playgrounds, traditional pavilions and an observatory.
Most of the trails are covered with dirt, but the dirt paths are soft enough for a family to push a stroller or wheelchair along without difficulty. The walking paths with gentle slopes are comfortable for children and the elderly as well.
Visitors can catch up with friends and family at benches nearby, when the light stroll becomes a little tough.
Sitting cross-legged on floors seem to be disappearing, but visitors can experience the Korean way of sitting on the floor at the hanok-style pavilions at Chuwoldang -- a cafe near Juknokwon’s back door -- and enjoy the sounds of the leaves blowing in the gentle breeze.
The traditional bamboo craft technique known as “chaesang” -- a weaving technique that involves the use of carefully dyed strips of bamboo -- is still passed down from masters and semi-experts.
Visitors can tour around the Chaesangjang facility, feasting their eyes on the vivid colors and mesmerizing patterns of Damyang’s bamboo products.
While Juknokwon is the city’s most iconic tourist destination, Damyang has still more to offer.
Gwanbangjerim Forest, which consists of a variety of broad-leaved trees, is known among many Damyang residents as an ideal place for an easy, quiet walk. The 8.5-kilometer Metasequoia Road, where more than 1,300 metasequoia trees line the street, is another beloved site for couples looking to take memorable photos with a stunning backdrop.
If you want to experience a Korean-style garden, visit Soswaewon, a hermitage garden created by Yang San-bo (1503-1557), a civil minister of the Joseon era who wished to live a secluded life in nature after being frustrated with the death of his respected teacher.
The garden captivates visitors with its low stone walls, flowing waterfalls and a pavilion surrounded by a lush forest.
This is the 10th article in a series introducing destinations for eco-friendly travel experiences in South Korea. -- Ed.