Gamcheon Culture Village – Santorini of Korea

Gamcheon Culture Village

Gamcheon Culture VillageThis past week was Chuseok (the Korean version of Thanksgiving, but 3 glorious days + the weekend) and my plans were to explore different areas of Busan and to practice using my DSLR (and when I say “practice”, I mean “learn-how-to-use-after-2.5-years”). Four days into the holiday and I had yet to leave my beach bubble or even snap a single photo. The weather was an amazing 80 degrees and sunny and the beach was beckoning us during one of the last summer weekends.

On the last day of our brief vacation, we finally were sober slash non-hungover enough to do something productive. So we headed to the Gamcheon Culture Village about an hour away from Haeundae. I had been meaning to make this trek for about a year now and was drawn to it for its artsy, urban, very non-Korean vibe.

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

A Brief History

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, KoreaSome people refer to it as the “Santorini of Korea” because of the small, hillside houses overlooking the ocean. The village was first the headquarters of Taegeukdo members, an early religion whose philosophy believed in the “yin and yang” (as seen on the Korean flag), which symbolizes the balance of good and evil in the world. “By building the houses in tiers so that no house blocks any house behind it, the architectural layout of the village adheres to the Taegeukdo teaching of allowing others to prosper” (CNN). Gamcheon was also refuge to many people fleeing to Busan during the Korean War. In recent years, Gamcheon has gained a lot of attention (and tourists) for its art and the city has been redeveloping the village to add more art exhibits to help the community flourish.

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

We cabbed to the top and spent the day wandering through the steep, narrow alleyways. The weather was a bit hazy (as per usual in Korea), but it didn’t suppress the vibrant colors of the tiny shacks. We got lost meandering through the maze of blue-roofed monopoly houses and seafoam-green lego-block homes. We stumbled across murals of libraries and solar systems, trouser-planter boxes, Salvador Dali-esque paintings and countless vans and cars that I continuously cursed at for ruining my pictures.

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

It was a wonderful and refreshing escape from the stodgy, monotonous high-rises that crowd most of Korea. The further we walked into the alleyways, the better the views got and the weirder the art became.

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

We came across a little shack named the “Happy House”, which sold little love locks to attach to the railings on the rooftop view. While a slightly tackier version with the plastic heart attachment, we decided to spend the 8,000 won and do it anyway. Although the combo-lock is a bit of a contradiction to the whole “throwing the key away to symbolize everlasting love”. Since, you know, you could just unlock it again. And it was also a bit suspect that all of the locks only dated back as far as a month. Maybe this place is a month old, or maybe someone does a monthly cleaning.

내트 (Nate) + 케스튼 (Kirsten)
내트 (Nate) <3 케스튼 (Kirsten) 9.1o.14

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

Directions to Gamcheon Culture Village:

Take the metro Line 1 and get off at Toseong Station (4 stations away from Busan Station). Most other blogs I read said to take the bus (2 or 2-2) but it’s only a 3,000 won cab. Tell your cab driver “감천문화마을” or “gahm cheon moon hwa mah eul” ( – thanks Headstand Travels!) Either of these should get you to the top of the hill. You can also walk from Toesong Station (it was visible as soon as we exited), but it’s a bit of a hike up so the 3,000 won is worth it. There’s no good way to navigate through the village, as it’s basically a maze, but getting lost is the best part :)

Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, KoreaGamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea Gamcheon Culture Village - Busan, Korea

 


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  1. I cannot believe I did not visit this beautiful place (or even know about it) during the two years that I lived in Korea – I will definitely have to visit it when I return for a visit!

  2. Sharon says: Reply

    So beautiful!!! I definitely need to put this on my bucket list! And I love how the buildings are painted, great post :)

  3. Looks awesome! I do have to say it looks more like Guanajuato, Mexico than Santorini.

  4. Loved all of the vibrant colors!! We still haven’t made it here yet, but would really like to. It’s usually clear more often this time of year so it may be a good time to go!

    I didn’t know anything about its’ history so thanks for including those tidbits! Very interesting.

  5. I have really been wanting to visit Gamcheon for a long time. We went a few months ago, but it was too hazy and we both agreed that we would prefer to go back on a day that was clearer. Hopefully we will get there soon!

  6. Incredible photos! Busan used to be my favorite city till I went to Gyeongju. It is still one of my top five favorite cities in Korea though.

  7. Nathan says: Reply

    Ah! How did I never visit this place?! It looks amazing, great pictures! Looks like that SLR practice is paying off. Haha.

  8. The culture village was definitely one of my favorite stops in Busan! Your photos are so vibrant! Taking a cab was a good call, it took me a while to figure out which bus to catch. It’s not very well sign posted from the bottom!

  9. Of all the places I failed to visit during my one year in Korea, this is probably at the top of the list. The colors are just amazing and I would have loved to see it in person. Cheers for sharing (and giving directions–many people don’t do this)!

  10. I visited Gamcheon sometime back in May and feel like you really captured the beauty of the place. It is definitely one of the highlights of Korea. The fact that I love Busan also makes Gamcheon that much more awesome.

    Great first photo by the way.

  11. Ceri says: Reply

    I’m going to have to keep this in mind. I’m heading near your way in March/April when my parents come to visit and would love to visit this.

  12. Sha says: Reply

    Great post! I’ve been wanting to visit here because of a korean drama which did their filming here, will be sure to follow the directions if I ever visit Busan again…:)

  13. Gorgeous photos! I’ve been wanting to visit Gamcheon for so long! Must make it there soon. Lol.. Santorini of Korea is funny though. It does not look much like Santorini. More like a cross between Jodhpur, the Blue City in India, and Positano or the Cinque Terra in Italy, I think… but I guess that’s not as catchy as the “Santorini of Korea”…. 😉

  14. Wow! Such amazing colors and beautiful pictures. This place is now a “Must Visit” on my list. Thank you for sharing this gem.

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