Seongju is a lesser known, rural town in the Gyeongsang province of South Korea. Situated just west of Deagu, it’s a lusciously scenic farm town full of stunning mountains, valleys, and gardens that paint the most picturesque portrait of South Korea, and its traditions. Known for the local melon fruit called “chamoe” that was apparently invented here, there are endless farms stretched beyond your sight, with farmers and gardeners working outside in the serene, silent country side. It’s a perfect break away from city life. Summer is the most ideal time to visit its beautiful sites, as the beaming sun only accentuates the beauty of the natural landscapes, and what’s on offer for locals and tourists alike.
The lake is by far the most majestic feature of Seongju – and it’s there waiting for you to dive into. Whether you are looking for a historic feel of Seonju that holds a long history to its name, get active and take advantage of the natural landscapes, or even get your hands dirty in the farms and crop fields nestled far and wide, you’ll find it in Seongju. What you won’t find is Starbucks or MacDonalds spoiling its atmosphere and majestic environment. What’s great about this town is that it’s pretty undiscovered, underrated and therefore there for the taking. You get to enjoy the sublime tranquility of its nature without tourists, or even many locals around.
What comes with that is the lack of information available to tourists. If you have Korean you’re flying it! If not, make sure to be prepared to be looking at a lot of significant rocks without any context to go with it. They have recently injected energy into encouraging tourists to come and visit the attractions, so let’s hope that they also introduce additional English information for the future. For the adventure travellers, this place is ideal. You can hike the famous Gaya mountains that have been designated a national park, cycle through the area and beyond the country side for a better feel, or dive into the water sports available. Language is irrelevant when you’re enjoying the exhilarating outdoors, until you get lost on your bike and need directions (too many a time).
Located in Bongdu, Seongju Lake is top of the list for the outdoor enthusiasts, families and couples that want to spend the day afloat, gliding on top of the water or swimming through it. The mountainous scenery surrounding the lake itself creates the perfect setting and the landscapes alone make it worth the visit.
With a variety of water sports available on the 7km long lake through the water theme park Ara World, you could spend the day on a banana boat, canoeing, or get some wake boarding lessons. Dive into the beautiful nature of Seongju lake and enjoy the thrill of it, I certainly did!
Side note: If you get your flipper feet on and want to stay by the luscious lake and it’s curious mountains, there are even cabins available to get the most out of the summer and spend it outside with nothing but nature around you.
Placenta Chambers for the Great King Sejong’s Sons and Grandsons.
You read that right, I said placenta chambers. Established during the reign of King Sejong (1438-1442) of the Joseon Dynasty, it is the only site in Korea where the royal placenta chambers of Princes are still intact. The King’s 18 sons, both legitimate and illegitimate as well as his grandson (King Danjong) have their placenta chambers honoured and buried at Taebong Peak.
The 19 chamber cases sit in a stunning setting, the mountain range is full of luscious flowers and the soothing steams of water that creates an inviting atmosphere. You could spend hours walking though the area or sitting by a bench getting some rays if you don’t mind the fact that you’re surrounding by royal placentas.
Although only in Korean, there is a museum at the foot of the mountain that tells the story of the King and how the chambers got to where they are today, 14 of them still in their original appearance. Further up the gardens there is the colourful temple Seonseok Sa, with intricate artwork and design laid out through the temple itself, as well as the garden around it. All things considered, it’s a place that shouldn’t be missed out on if visiting Seongju, and you can finally tick “go see ancient royal placenta chambers” off your bucket list!
Note: although there are English translations to the chambers, because of the long history and interesting story behind the chambers themselves I think more information is needed to give a better picture of the place. They could give the placenta sites a lot more justice considering their significance, that I think tourists could carry with them once they leave.
This gathering of placentas holds much importance not only because it is the only one still intact, but because it demonstrates the transition from Goryeo to the Joseon Dynasty in the way the structures were built.
This traditional Korean village dedicated as a historic community of the Seongsan Yi Clan is about 600 years old, with over 60 cottages and houses that are still intact, many in their original form today.
Yi served as magistrate during the reign of King Sejong in the 15th century. Said to be one of the most auspicious lodgings in Korea, the humble village of Hangae shows a variety of traditions throughout Korean history focusing on the Joseon Dynasty and the aristocrats of the time.
Its name “Hangae” translates to “Great Ford” in Korean, which originated hundreds of years ago. You will find the structure of the houses in order of importance. At the bottom of the mountain is where the common folk and servants lived, and so you will only find thatched cottages here. The further north you go, the wealthier the people were, and those of more importance lived here.
You’ll notice the design and structure changes from giwa -the traditional tiled roof is used in this area, and you won’t find any thatched cottages beyond the bottom area. It’s intriguing architecture that demonstrates their way of life. Both styles hold a lot of character, and personally I can’t pick one over the other!
Many distinguished figures throughout Korean history lived in this charming village that sits in front of yet another mountain that creates a stunning backdrop to the folk village itself.
Thatched roofed cottages, whispers of birds through the trees, cobbles and stone walls dividing the village depict an enchanting Korean representation, and as you wander through the silent alleyways you may bump into a local on her way to gather crops.
You will notice many locals working around the village. Farming, gardening and renovating the ancient cottages. It is clear that they’re making a conscious effort to put life back into the village, and attract people to it’s gates. I enjoyed walking around and witnessing it’s charm in the stillness, and the fact that it wasn’t over run with tourists and the sound of cameras rather than the chirping of birds made the magic of the authentic village much more alluring.
It has seen and housed many people from all walks of Korean life through the years, and you can still witness its remains that are preserved well such as clothes, equipment, objects and artwork. Again, this intriguing site in Seongju is a captivating visit that ticks all the boxes – history, culture, beautiful landscapes and dogs!
Overall, Seongju is full of things to do, to learn and discover. It’s amazing that it hasn’t yet been hit by the swarms of tourists, and intriguing that it hasn’t yet developed into the typical fast paced lifestyle we have created for ourselves, Korea itself being a prime example. It just goes to show how diverse the country is, from the soaring energy and eclectic styles of Seoul, to the secretive serenity and traditional countryside of Seongju. Whatever you’re looking for as a traveller, you won’t be stuck for choice in South Korea.