South Korea’s all-purple Banwol Island

(CNN) – A South Korean farming community has reinvented itself by turning itself into an attraction perfect for the Instagram era.

Banwol Island, off the west coast of South Korea, became known as the “Purple Island” after the roofs of around 400 buildings were painted a beautiful lilac color. There are also fields of lavender, amethyst-colored telephone boxes, and a large purple bridge.

And with the country’s borders essentially closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel-hungry people are flocking to the region. More than 100,000 visitors came to Banwol Island between June and August 2020, an increase of 20% over the previous year.

More than 490,000 guests have visited the islands since 2018.

Created in 2015 as part of the South Jeolla Province branding initiative to “create attractive island destinations,” the project was inspired by the purple bluebells (also known as campanula) native to the area.

The tiny Banwol and Bakji Islands have fewer than 150 inhabitants in total. Since the purple project began, farmers have started growing kohlrabi and beets, both of which are on the brand. The local government planted 30,000 New England asters and 21,500 square feet of lavender fields.

Visitors can walk across another purple bridge between the two islands – you may have seen this by now.

The purple bridge was repaired and repainted in early 2020.

Courtesy of the Shinan County Office

To cater to the new waves of tourists, the island has a few more amenities, including a coffee shop, two full-service restaurants (one each in Bakji and Banwol), bike rental, and a small hotel. It takes about six hours to get there from Seoul by bus or private car.

Banwol’s risky but beautiful move seems to be paying off. South Koreans leaving and returning will be quarantined for two weeks upon their return. Hence, most of the locals choose to do domestic tourism.

Colorful cities have long been popular with travelers, even before they were specifically designed for social media. The bright yellow “Pueblo Magico” of Izamal in the Mexican state of Yucatan was painted in its golden hue either in honor of a visit by Pope John Paul II or to ward off a plague, depending on who you ask. Chefchaouen, Morocco, was painted all blue by a Jewish community who settled there and thought the color was good luck. Although the church has long since moved, the bright colors remain a source of joy.

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