Ulleungdo besides Dokdo is the most eastern island of Korea. It is bigger and is inhabited than Dokdo. Dokdo on the other hand only has a military police presence. Ulleungdo was on my Korea Bucket List for years and this was the first island that I visited in Korea and even by ferry! I could have drove to the port, but since I was travelling by myself I opted for public transportation, which meant by train.
The only way to get to Ulleungdo is by ferry. Gangneung has a port, Pohang has a port, and Donghae has a port which is called Mukho. There is one more port, but I forgot what it is. I went to Mukho, which was the smallest of the three. I took the train from Wonju Station to Mukho Station. Currently there is no train to Mukho, but only Donghae station. It left Wonju at 00:31 and arrived around 4:00, which will meant I had time to kill.
This is the slow train or the Mugunghwa train. The lights are usually kept on all the time, but it is cheap. You could travel from Seoul which would depart from Cheongreonri. The trains have toilets but not always the cleanest, and some of the trains have a resting area with no seats, but are more comfortable because you can stretch out your legs and charge any electronic devices with available outlets. The ferry was going to depart around 8:30, so I had four hours to kill, after taking a short rest at the train station I walked in the direction to the port. Near the port there is a lighthouse on top of a hill, which has some murals painted on the walls. It is a wonderful hike.
After I headed back to the ferry terminal. I got a coffee and ate a very light breakfast, as I didn’t want to eat a lot before going on the ship, which turned out to be a great idea. I made a reservation online which is important during the summer months. The ferry takes between 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Most of the ship got seasick. I even felt queasy. A little girl sat next to me, and was a trooper, but couldn’t hold her stomach either.
Besides the vomiting, there wasn’t much too see, until we got closer to Ulleungdo.
When the ferry docked at Ulleungdo, I walked to the airbnb that I reserved. There are two docks on Ulleungdo, so check which one you will be arriving at. The airbnb was very good https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6350317?location=Ulleung-gun%2C%20South%20Korea&adults=1&check_in=2020-08-06&check_out=2020-08-07&source_impression_id=p3_1593095589_TAbPGIPWyfOLC%2FUW&guests=1 I met with the host, who was very helpful. She showed me the bus timetable and suggested what I should do first. The next bus would arrive in an hour, so I had time for lunch. Many of the nearby hotels only offered dishes for two people, but there was a buffet restaurant with Korean food near the ferry terminal.
There are only 2 main buses on the island that go around the entire island. They are pretty punctual and quite comfortable. One ride cost 1,000 won. Usually they accept your T-money cards, but there is the off chance it doesn’t work, so bring some cash as a backup. If you transfer, you will still have to pay 1,000won one more time, so there is no free transfer.
I got on the right bus and headed towards Gwaneumdo Island which is connect to Ulleungdo by a walking bridge. It is a small island but it was probably one of my favorite places of Ulleungdo. The sea was so blue and wind was so cool.
After exploring this wonderful island I decided to make my way to the famous waterfall of Ulleungdo which is the source of the entire island’s water supply. I had to get on a main bus then get off in the fisherman part of town and wait for a secondary bus. The next bus never came, and a couple of Korean guys who were also waiting offered to share a taxi with them. They paid for the taxi, but I offered to give them some money, but I was declined. The walk up to the waterfall was easy, but it can be challenging as it is going up a mountain. The trees started to change as the elevation changed, and it started to remind me of a scene from Jurassic Park.
Instead of waiting for the next bus to go down, I opted to walk down which was far, but faster than waiting. There was supposed to be a coastal walkway to the main town, but most of it was being reconstructed for safety reasons so I unfortunately could not go that way. The cliffs in the area were amazing however.
Since I could not walk around, I decided to take a bus to the main town and grab some food. The main town is where the main port is, and most visitors will arrive here, but I arrived at the other port. I walked through town looking at prices and different restaurants. Many are expensive and require at least two people. I found a cheap hot dog stand and ordered two hot dogs, which I would not be eating. A Korean man had found me and invited me to eat with his family at a a Chinese restaurant. I found out he was police officer on the island and his wife and children took the ferry with me. The wife and son were sitting behind me and their daughter sat next to me on the ferry. They felt sorry she vomited, but I said it was okay. After dinner they offered to drive me to the guesthouse that I was staying and I said goodbye and we traded phone numbers.
I arrived at the guesthouse, called my wife and passed out to get ready for the next day.
August 13, I woke up early to eat breakfast and to get ready to leave, as I was planning on going to the other side of the island and I was going back to the main land in the evening. I went to the bus stop and waited for the first bus. The area where I was going had different geography than the other side of the island. It felt higher in elevation, but also hotter. There was a cable car that went to the top, but I walked the coastal path to the top.
Part of this scenic walkway was under construction at the time, but I was the only one so I walked over the construction tape and went up the mountain to a lighthouse.
I had to find a different way down, so I took a the trail that followed the monorail tracks down. At the bottom, there was a girl school group that was promoting Dokdo and wanted a photo of me waving the Korean flag for the Instagram account. So, I accepted. The bus driver/tour guide asked where I was heading, and offered to drop me off and I accepted, so I wouldn’t have to wait for the public bus.
Along the bus ride the drive would slow down and say some things, and one of my favorites was when he showed a rock that looked like an elephant and behind it was its poop.
The next place I would visit was called Nari Basin. Ulleungdo is a volcanic island, so there were many farms in this area. It is also possible to reach the tallest peak from here, too. However I didn’t have enough time or energy to hike in the humidity.
I hiked up a short way to a mountain spring that had fresh water.
At the top I tried some water. There was also a place to put my feet in the water.
After taking a short rest, I headed down to catch the next bus. I would end of getting a ice coffee while waiting. The scenery going down was very beautiful.
In the town on the bottom, I would have to wait for one more bus. I would eat lunch, go to an aquarium that is actually a structure going down 6 meters in the sea and see real fish in the ocean. Nearby was a pool that had sea water pumped into it. There was also a place in the sea to go swimming as well.
After everything, I took a bus back to the guesthouse to get my bags.
I gathered my bags and walked to the port to get my ticket for the return trip.
When I reached mainland it was nighttime. There were no more buses or trains running, so I went to a jimjjilbang to sleep and catch the first train back in the morning.
Ulleungdo was a magical place and it will be in competition with Jeju once it finishes its planned airport. It is small enough to see all the sites in a rushed day. Two days was perfect for me, but if you plan to go to Dokdo then three days is perfect. Ulleungdo is in the top 15 for sure, but when it becomes a little more convenient then it will probably be in the top 10.