Moving often comes with a long list of pros and cons. One side of the list might be longer depending on who you talk to or if it’s PCS season, etc. For me, it’s the pros. I don’t mind moving. Moving poses a new adventure, possibilities, places and people I get to discover. When we discover where we will be living next, I always pull out YouTube and Pinterest to get good visuals. Gamcheon was one of the places I first saw on Pinterest and I knew immediately it was a place I wanted to go.
When driving to the village, pass the entrance, drive to the top of the hill on the right. It’ll curve to the right and you’ll take your first right (that's a lot of rights) after that into a nice open gravel parking area. There are parking garages, but they fill up early, so this was another parking area within good walking distance from the entrance to the village.
Once through the entrance there is a visitors center to the right where you can get a map of all the key points highlighted and the whole village from a birds-eye view. Due to COVID-19 measures, they will take your temperature before you’re allowed to enter. Also, be mindful of your behavior and noise level. This village is still home to a large number of people.
I’ve heard it called the “Santorini or Machu Picchu of Korea." I can’t say I agree or disagree because I’ve never been to either of those places, but it was beautiful in its own way. The colors create a bright and beautiful backdrop against the mountain. With its maze-like streets, small cafes, and the sparkling view of the ocean it seems magical somehow.
Gamcheon is a good place to go if you like to wander. Wear good walking shoes because there are A LOT of stairs and hills (after all, it’s on the side of a mountain). If it’s sunny, remember sunscreen. If you have children, I’d recommend leaving the stroller behind. I wore A in the carrier and let her walk some of the time. G was tired, but we've gotten him used to hiking and long walks, so he did great on his own feet.
There are many points around the village to stop and see the colorful buildings, mountains and sea below. Getting there earlier in the morning and/or on a weekday will help to avoid the crowds. It gets very crowded on weekends and around mid day. We got there later than we wanted, but we still enjoyed our time. Gamcheon opens at 9am and closes at 6pm from March-October and 5pm November through February.
The views are breathtaking. The history makes it more so. There is such a beautiful thing to witness some sort of success and change after such a long history of struggle. The lower class population was relocated to this area in the 1920-30s. It was the “slums” of Busan. They were close enough to labor at the port, but far enough to be kept out of the way. In the 2000s it was renovated as an art and cultural hub, bringing tourism to the area and filling empty houses as museums, cafes and shops. There were a number of professional and amateur artists and residents brought in to help renovate the village and make it what it is today.
This place is a labyrinth of winding streets and staircases with colorful buildings, beautiful foliage and the breeze of the sea coming in through the alleyways. There are colorful wooden fish along the walls of the village and walkways. If you follow them, they will lead you on different paths through the village so you don’t get lost in the maze. This was the way we did it and we were able to see a good portion of the village and some main attractions in only a few hours.
We had a hard time finding a spot to get lunch. Picky children make this rather difficult. So we wandered until we found something suitable for our needs. I would suggest finding a place to eat beforehand (if needed) so you can see where the establishment might be located in the village. Otherwise you might be backtracking up and down the mountainside. With small children this was not ideal, but it worked out in the end.
We stumbled upon the Green House across the small road from a small garden area with a pavilion and trees. It was a quieter part of the village with shade and laundry hanging on the line. We were hot, hungry and tired and in need of a little peace. The kids loved climbing around the pavilion, playing with the statues and watching people go about their daily lives.
The owner of the Green House was kind, the food was delicious, the place was clean and air conditioned (hallelujah). The beautiful artwork around the café is produced by her husband and her eyes warmed when I asked her about it. While we waited for the food to cook, we filled out postcards to be hung on the walls. It was refreshing to have something for the kids to do.
The village only took us a handful of hours to go through until we decided we were ready to go. If we had been there without the kids we might have spent more time exploring so. There we’re a few places that we’re closed due to COVID-19 and would have been fun to explore. Before heading to the car, we circled up and browsed the souvenir shops for some family vacation memorabilia.
Overall, we were satisfied with our trip to Busan and the last day spent in Gamcheon. It is a beautiful, lively and cultural place with so much history. We left feeling blessed to have come, our horizons broadened and wanderlust satisfied. For now.