Two South Korean destinations have been featured on the United Nation (UN)’s Best Tourism Villages list for 2021. The list, created by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), recognises villages for their cultural and natural resources, promotion of traditional culture and socioeconomic sustainability. Out of 174 villages submitted, the UNWTO selected 44 for the final list. Each nation within the UNWTO may submit 3 villages for consideration. The 2021 list sees two of Korea’s choices make the ranks: The Purple Island, Jeollanam-do and Ungok Village, Jeollabuk-do.
The theme of the UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages list was “Tourism as a driver of rural development and inclusion.” So, lets take a look at Korea’s winning entries and how they fit the bill.
The Purple Island
The Purple Island is part of the island chain off the coast of Mokpo-si, Jeollanam-do. The islands of Banwol and Bakji were painted purple in an effort to promote tourism in the area. Inspired by the natural purple flora of the island, like the lavender and campanula bellflowers, the local government ordered1000s of buildings to be painted purple, in 2018.
As well as purple rooftops, phone booths, public toilets and hotel interiors, another 40,000 lavender shrubs were planted. As the lavender fields inspired the purple theme, the island is a fine candidate for the Best Tourism Villages league. What’s more, where other tourism promotional efforts involve large scale building projects that exacerbate environmental issues, the Purple Island project used eco-friendly methods.
The alluring image of the Purple Island attracts 1000s of visitors each year, from all over Korea and beyond. Despite being off offshore, many travellers make the trip to this rural island gem, just like the city hotspots.
Entry is 3,000 KRW or free if you come wearing something purple!
Purple Island Entrance Address: 599-4 Sogok-ri, Anjwa-myeon, Sinan-gu, Jeollanam-do Website: purpleisland.kr Directions: From Mokpo Station take bus no. 2004 to Anjwa-Myeon intersection stop. Then, take the Anjwa Town shuttle bus to Doori Village Wharf stop (Purple Bridge.)
Ungok Village (Ungok Wetlands)
The Ungok Wetlands are undoubtedly one of North Jeolla’s most stunning natural beauties. Here, you will find thriving plant and animal life, a Korean epitome of the biodiversity of wetland ecosystems. As a tourist destination, Ungok Village makes for a pleasant visit, due to its flat terrain and mild temperatures. The wetlands are a haven for Korea’s endangered wildlife, such as otters, wild cats and 1000s of species of insects and birds.
The Ungok Wetlands offer dozens of tourism activities. Flower-arranging, firefly-watching and mulberry-picking experiences entertain visitors while teaching them the value of nature. Therefore, Ungok encapsulates the criteria set out by the UNWTO, using tourism as a driver for ecological awareness. Furthermore, the breathtaking natural beauty of the wetland landscape makes Ungok a fitting Best Tourism Village.
Ungok Wetlands Information Centre Address: 212 Yonggye-ri, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun, Jeollabuk-do Website: gochang.go.kr Directions: From Gochang Bus Terminal, take the village bus ending at Seonunsa, to Wonpyeong stop. Walk up towards the park for approx. 30 min until you reach the information centre. Alternatively, take a taxi.