The Slow City that is Cheongsan Island

by Michelle Li

When we think of islands in Korea, what immediately comes to mind is Jeju Island (feel free to take a tour around with this TMI article here). But I feel like most of us wouldn’t know the other islands that co-exist. One of them is Cheongsando (청산도), the main island of Cheongsan-myeon, a town in Wando County. Cheongsando literally translates to “green mountain island” for remaining green throughout the entirety of the four seasons 💚 If you are going to this island, this is one where you should be going around during Korea’s springtime to see and experience the most of its beauty.

During April, Cheongsando hosts the yearly Cheongsando Slow Walking Festival as the flowers are now in full bloom. This island soon became known as the “slow city” because of this very festival. This trail was originally created purely for the ease of walking for the residents. But with the breathless scenic views on this trail, the residents would naturally slow down to take it all in. Thus “Slow Walking” came about and was turned into a festival 😌 The trail tour is created with 11 courses that stretches almost 43km with each course designed for the walkers to of course, see the scenery. But you can get to hear the historical stories related to the different trail courses while capturing a glimpse of the residents living in Cheongsando too.

Beombawi is a viewpoint that you have to visit where you can overlook the entire Cheongsando Island. On a clear day you can see Korea’s other islands as far as Jeju Island 😮 Beombawi, which means tiger-shaped rock gets its name from it resembling a tiger even at different viewpoints. There’s been many legends but one of the most interesting ones I’ve come across was how there once was a tiger who lost his friend. Due to the sorrow caused by this the tiger passed away. It is said that the howling of the winds you hear over the rocks are from the distress cries of the tiger. The high viewpoints from Beombawi’s makes it the perfect place for travellers and residents to see the beautiful sunrise or sunset.

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When in Wando County and it comes to food, abalone and seaweed is a must! The islands are surrounded by seaweed farms and most of the seawand can only be farmed in very clean water. This gives you an idea of how crystal clear the water is surrounding Cheongsando, right? A restaurant closeby to the Cheongsando Port is Chungwoon Fisheries Restaurant. Their menu is simple with only three items - Seaweed Bibimbap, Seaweed Abalone Bibimbap and Abalone Seaweed Soybean Stew. But that to me means they do these three dishes extremely well! You know it’s delicious, when it’s been featured on Korean celebrity chef’s Baek Jong-won’s TV Show, Top 3 Chef Kings. All three menu items are ones you can’t go wrong with. They’re warm hearty meals to fill up your tummy with the freshest seafood 😋

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We all love to visit at least one aesthetic cafe when in Korea and even islands like Cheongsando have it. Cafe Mar which has also just turned into a pension gives me Little Europe vibes. The interior feels very cosy and homey, perfect to relax in. Enjoy freshly baked goods with a warm cup of coffee as you look at the amazing landscape that Cheonsando has to offer. 

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But when you ask many Koreans where the must-go location is in Cheongsando, they will say the Dangni Village. Especially the villages’ hill where one of the filming locations of Seopyeonje was. This 1993 film is very significant in K-culture as it became the first Korean movie to reach over 1 million views just in Seoul. Upon the hill, there is a traditional thatch-roof house where you can sit down to enjoy the island’s view even more. For a even better time, you can have jeon (전), Korean pancake and of course, it’s must have accompaniment drink, makgeolli (막걸리), fermented rice wine made by the villagers themselves. As you're uphill, it gives you more of an opportunity to breathe in the fresh air as you take in the picturesque landscape of Cheongsando’s yellow canola flowers.

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This small island can be circled in as little as 40 minutes by car but if you want to take it all in, it can take two days to walk it. I reckon this is the perfect way to truly experience the “slow city” that is Cheongsando!

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