For the 50+ Traveler

The small and quiet island of Banwol off the southwest coast of South Korea has come up with a way of making itself unique. A photographer’s paradise, the island has painted itself purple. Between Banwol and its sibling island, Bakji, there are only around 150 residents, and many of them can be seen going about their day also wearing head-to-toe purple. There has been an increase in tourists traveling to this area since it went purple, but Banwol is still a peaceful place where you can bask in its purpleness without the crowds.

How To Get To Banwol Island

Getting to Banwol is also a traveler’s dream, and the journey is part of the appeal. Once you’ve arrived in Seoul, take the Korean Train eXpress to Mokpo Station. From there, you can take a bus to Anjwa Village, and another bus from the village will get you to the Purple Island Bridge. The bridge is the beginning of your lilac adventure! If you decide to drive to Banwol, it’s about 6 hours from Seoul, but be aware cars are not allowed on the island. Instead, a special parking lot is provided where you can leave your vehicle before entering Banwol. There is also a fee to enter the island, which you can only explore by foot or bicycle. Bicycles can be rented on the island if you’d like to explore on two wheels. The entry fee is waived if you turn up wearing purple, whether that’s a full lilac outfit or just a purple hat. From Banwol island, you can travel onto its sister island, Bakji, which is connected by another purple bridge.

Why Paint It Purple?

All of this is part of the 2015 government initiative to boost tourism and the economy of these remote islands. For Banwol, the initiative was all about keeping in step with the natural color of the island. You might not think painting every building purple is very natural, but this area was first famous for its pretty purple campanula flowers that roam freely across the land. With these beautiful flowers providing the inspiration, the government began by planting lavender fields and New England asters, which would continue the purple theme through nature. But then they had another idea, why not take this theme and really run with it? And so, they have now painted over 400 buildings, phone boxes, and, of course, the bridge that first brings you onto the island, in a subtle shade of purple. The initiative has been so successful Banwol is now known simply as “The Purple Island.” You can stay in a purple hotel and even eat in a purple restaurant that only serves purple food.

Other Painted Destinations

Banwol isn’t the first destination to have the idea of a color theme. In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited Izamal in Mexico. The story has long persisted that this visit prompted the islanders to paint their city yellow, but in fact, Izamal was already a bright sunny shade of yellow. No one knows when the buildings in Izamal were first painted this sunshine color, but it has been known as “The Yellow City” for a long time now.

Tracing the beautiful blue of Chefchaouen in Morocco is a little easier. The city was founded in 1474 by Portuguese invaders, and it soon became a safe haven for Jewish people fleeing Spain and Portugal. It was these Jewish people who made the connection between this pretty city and the sky, seeing the power of God above in the beauty of Chefchaouen, and then going on to bring the perfect blue sky down and onto every building.

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