Food & trees & observatories, oh my!
The cycling course explores North Jeolla (전라북도; map) and South Jeolla (전라남도; map) Provinces, known around the nation for their culinary creations. Other highlights include bamboo groves, Metasequoia tree walks, an inland port, and an observatory with magnificent views.
Bike Path Overview
Yeongsan River (영산강; map) is fed by multiple streams. At a length of 138.75 kilometers, it begins at Damyang Lake, then flows through Gwangju Metropolitan City, and North Jeolla and South Jeolla Province. In Mokpo, the river dumps into the Yellow Sea.
The river is one of Korea’s four great rivers. In ancient Korea, the river provided a route from Jeolla Provinces’ fertile rice fields to the Yellow Sea, and on to Japan and China.
The Yeongsangang Bike Path passes one metropolitan city, one province, two cities, and two counties. Skim these brief profiles of each.
- South Jeolla Province (전라남도; map) sits on the southwest tip of Korea. Gwangju Metropolitan City, known for rebelling against the nation’s strongmen policies, once was its capital. Like North Jeolla, South Jeolla keeps the other portion of the fertile Honam Plains and cooks up some of the country’s most delectable dishes. The province’s coast produces seaweed and oysters, and wrangles thousands of mostly uninhabited islands in its borders.
- Damyang County (담양군; map) holds the source of the Yeongsan River. It was also the setting for Korean popular dramas. Shoot locations included Metasequoia Road and Juknokwon, a bamboo forest. The county also cultivates bamboo for construction, crafts, and more. Adding to the Joella Provinces’ culinary reputation, Damyang’s culinary delicacies include tteokgalbi and grilled ribs.
- Naju City (나주시; map), half the namesake of Jeolla, was an important stronghold for the region, producing key resistance leaders. Fertile plains account for 70% of the district’s land, a rarity in Korea. Farms grow rice and nationally known pears. In the past, its Yeongsan River port sailed agriculture bounties into the Yellow Sea and beyond from Naju. Foodies know the city for their gomtang (beef soup) and fermented skate (stinky stingray).
- Muan County (무안군; map) became the capital of South Jeolla Province after Gwangju became a metropolitan city in 2005. The county holds a gaggle of shiny new structures on its border with Mokpo City. Stuck between the Yeongsan River and Yellow Sea, Muan’s coast contains vast protected mudflats. When the tide retreats, farmers wade out into the sticky earth and dig for sea critters, including famed small octopus delicacies. The county’s other famous crops include onions and lotus, for which they hold a festival come August.
- Mokpo City (목포시; map) is a port city at the end of the Yeongsan River. During the Imjin Wars, Korea’s most lauded admiral stationed his turtle boats in the city’s ports, fending off attacks from the Japanese. When Japan occupied Korea, they used the port and city to export cotton and rice from the upstream Honam Plains. Today, because development shifted east to the Gyeongsan Region, Mokpo shrunk. However, it still makes a living brewing sojo, beer, and catching maritime delicacies.
- Gwangju Metropolitan City (광주광역시; map), Korea’s sixth largest, sits on the southwest end of the peninsula along the Yeongsan River. Once the capital of South Jeolla Province, this left leaning city, ideologically opposed to the neighboring, conservative Gyeongsang Provinces, birthed two modern popular uprisings. One against Japanese Occupation. And another against an oppressive South Korean government. Though poorer than other metro cities, Gwangju holds a reputation for food, markets, and arts.
How To Get There
Yeongsangang Bike path runs down the southwest end of the peninsula. Nearby intercity bus terminals, rail lines, and Gwangju’s subway system give riders three transportation options to get them and their bike to and from the route:
Yeongsangang Bike Path’s start and end points offer nearby intercity bus terminals, each with an excellent selection of outbound and inbound routes.