Danyang (단양군) is a nature-lover’s delight! Because of its incredible, steep mountains, Danyang has become well-known to adrenaline junkies as “the” spot to go paragliding in Korea. But beyond paragliding, Danyang is a treat, especially for the city dwellers of Seoul! Danyang is only a 2.5 hour bus ride from Seoul, which makes it easily accessible for a paragliding day trip. However, if you have the time, I encourage you to spend a night (or two) to really take in all the mountainside city has to offer.
Things to Do:
Danyang has a plethora of activities to do and things to see! You can hit all of the sights or go at a slower pace and surrender yourself to its calming beauty. Either way, you are bound to have an incredible time.
Guinsa Temple (구인사)
I always seek out the temples whenever I go to a new place in Korea. I really enjoy the spirituality and unique character each temple has. A lot of my friends have the mentality, “Once you’ve seen one [Korean Temple], you’ve seen them all.” While I disagree with this statement, I can understand why they may think this, initially. That said, even if temples are not your first priority, Guinsa should not be missed!
Guinsa is the largest temple in South East Asia and once you visit, you can quickly see why. It is located on a mountain so be prepared to walk up lots of stairs to get to the top. Take your time and really soak up the culture of the place as you do. You can see that it is a fully functioning and self-sustaining temple. On the walk up, we saw monks cleaning, cooking, and going about their daily meditation and rituals. Guinsa feels like its own village!
If COVID was not happening, I would LOVE to do a temple stay at Guinsa. It would be an incredible experience to see how Guinsa functions and experience a tiny taste of what it might be like to live there. While climbing the stairs, I kept thinking how in-shape all of the monks must be! Phew!
Note Guinsa is a 40-50 minute drive outside of the main sites of Danyang, but it is definitely worth the trip.
Dodamsambong Peaks (도담삼봉)
Dodamsambong Peaks are Danyang’s three stone peaks that jut out from the water. They are incredibly photogenic and it is worth stopping by to bask in their beauty and tranquility.
According to a folk tale, the three rocks represent a husband (Janggunbong), his concubine (Cheopbong), and the wife (Cheobong). The poor wife is the lonesome rock (far left) that is said to be facing away from the husband and his concubine. The concubine, Cheopbong, was chosen because of the husband’s hope for a male heir.
Seongmun Stone Gate (석문)
If you hike up a short distance at the far end of Dodamsambon Peaks (opposite from the entrance), you will come to an excellent “secret” view. They call it Seongmun Stone Gate, but I like to refer to it as a peep hole! This area is super peaceful and I encourage climbing the stairs (beware, it is steep!) to check it out.
Eating Beside the Peaks
There is a restaurant beside the peaks that serves a delicious mushroom, bulgogi, and tofu hot pot. All of their tofu is homemade and the food quality is excellent! When facing the businesses across the street from the peaks, it is the restaurant on the far right. If hunger strikes while you are at the peaks, make sure to give it a try.
Sain-Am Rock (단양 사인암)
When I first looked this spot up online, I was pretty unimpressed. I’ve seen a lot of rocks in my time in Korea. But once I arrived at Sain-Am, I was swept away by its beauty and the character of the small neighborhood nearby. Visiting in the fall was a treat in itself. The vibrantly colored leaves along the river paired perfectly with Sain-Am and the small temple beside. Along the river, artists were painting the spectacular fall scene. While fall has a particular magic, I imagine Sain-Am would retain its spectacular beauty and character during any season.
I wish we had more time to spend in the area, as there were several coffee shops where I could spend hours reading and soaking in the ambience.
Sain-Am is a little farther out from the main touristy spots in Danyang, but if you have a car or time to spend, I would suggest making the trip!
Suyanggae Light Tunnel (수양개빛터널)
When night sets in over Danyang, this is a perfect after-dinner activity before heading back to your accommodation (if spending the night in Danyang.) The light tunnel is fairly short but loads of fun. I had a personal dance party all the way through! Outside continues the spectacle with an assortment of outdoor lights, from squirrels to dancing ballerinas and everything in between. It costs W9,000 a person and truly is a lot of fun! Who doesn’t love night lights?!
On the way to the light tunnel, you will drive through the insta-famous “Moss Tunnel.” It is not much of a tunnel, but the leaning trees overhead make the road feel enclosed. I am not sure why it has that much hype, but it does make for a cool photo if you head back during the daylight.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Sono Moon Danyang Resort. The rooms were comfortable and clean, albeit HOT! The rooms do not have individual thermostats so if you plan to stay, bring cool pajamas. Rates were good and the place is perfectly located between all the popular spots in Danyang. I would definitely stay again for the convenience alone! We were offered a river view room for an extra W20,000, but opted to pass. The view on the opposite side (facing mountains and the resort’s parking lot) was not too shabby and we didn’t plan to spend much time in the room anyway.
GO TO DANYANG! Beauty awaits you at every turn. Unfortunately, we visited during a period of horrible smog. Despite the disappointment of smoggy mountain views, we were still able to sense the magic and beauty of the incredible city.
While it is doable to take public transportation around Danyang, I would suggest renting a car if you want to get off the beaten path to easily see Guinsa Temple and Sain-Am.