I’ve lived in Korea for almost 12 years. I want to gives tips and experiences about traveling to different places in Korea by bus, train, or car. Some places will be easier than others and my opinion on whether it is worth the time, money and effort visiting.
Hoengseong is a small town in Gangwon Province. It is famous for Hanwoo Beef. However it isn’t really known for many other places which is unfortunate. Hoengseong should be on every nature lovers tourist map. This was our second time to Hoengseong this year. The second time was to visit Cheongtaesan Natural Recreation Forest. Baengunsan in Wonju, was good but wasn’t amazing, so Cheongtaesan didn’t have high expectations. However that soon changed.
Cheongtaesan is the model that all Recreation areas in Korea try to follow as it tries to incorporate man-made things made from nature so people can respect and learn more about the natural surroundings. Cheongtaesan is about 1 hour +- drive from Wonju. The entrance the workers take the temperature of visitors to try to ensure that no one will spread coronavirus.
The facilities and buildings were modern, organized, and clean. They blended into the park naturally and did not take away from the natural beauty. Staff was knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. We took a guided nature hike, and we learned much from our guide about trees in the forest and the geology.
The biggest attraction at Cheongtaesan was the Deck Road. It is a wooden platform that goes through the forest to prevent erosion of the mostly trodden path. It goes through an amazing pine tree section of the forest where the pines are towering and letting in the perfect amount of sunlight.
The deck road is probably about 1km up so it took about 15-20 minutes at leisurely pace. There are places to sit and rest for young kids and older family members. It is not steep nor was it slippery. This section was family friendly. There is also arts and crafts for young kids as well parents to enjoy. I was able to make a wooden whistle.
This park was family friendly and I can highly recommend making a trip out here to enjoy the amazing nature. I would love to experience all 4 seasons here, so I will definitely be back as it is convenient and hopefully the coronavirus situation will be more under control.
It is higher in elevation, so make sure you pack warm clothes!
I’ve lived in Wonju for about 11 years and I haven’t really explored the Baekunsan area, and I wish I did earlier. Wonju is probably most famous for Chiak Mountain National Park (Chiaksan), but Baekunsan is also a National Recreational area which I can highly recommend after my visit, especially if you like hiking.
It is definitely easiest to reach here by car, as I didn’t see any buses or taxis going here. Wonju residents can enter free, and other people have to pay 1,000 won, which is reasonable. We parked at the bottom of the mountain and opted to walk up the road to the entrance of the forest trails. However it is possible to drive all the way up if you want to hike on the trails to conserve your energy.
We didn’t see many people going up or down, but when we did we put on our masks. Since there weren’t many people, this was a great place for peace and quiet. Going up there were a few places to see the river and a beautiful waterfall.
I hiked part of the trail going up the mountain and it wasn’t easy and I didn’t have the proper shoes, so I didn’t make it all the way up to the top. Hyewon didn’t have proper shoes either, but she was able to walk the road comfortably. However I do recommend wearing the proper attire and bringing an extra shirt if you sweat a lot. Also bring enough water as there weren’t any places to refill water bottles or buy going up.
Most pensions were closed because of Covid-19, but there were quite a few cafes that were still open before the entrance of Baekunsan, so there were a number to pick from if you wanted to go to one before or after.
I also tried some vlogging, so I am going to add a video, so please comment and let me know what you like, suggestions, or what I should add for next time.
After Suncheon I went to Jirisan the final national park on my list of national parks to visit in Korea. The talNlest peak is located in Jirisan, but I was unable to visit because I didn’t have enough time.
First I went to Suncheon bus terminal to go to Gurye bus terminal. At the bus terminal I would have to take another bus to Nogodan. The bus ticket is more expensive than a regular city bus, but the ticket price to the Jirisan is included in the price.
The hike from Nogodan is pretty easy and if you are fit, it’ll take about 1 hour to the top.
More than halfway there is an office where you can get hot water for any ramen you packed and there is a place to get tickets. Apparently there is reservation system to go to the top, but it was broken that day, so I was able to go up without it.
Even though I didn’t get to the highest peak, the views from this peak were amazing. I was able to see the tallest peaks from afar.
The views reminded me of the blue ridge mountains from Virginia.
After taking in the spectacular views, I made my way down to the entrance to hopefully catch the next bus down the mountain.
I found out the next bus be about 2-3 hours later. I was famished so I got some overpriced food and coffee at the local restaurant. I now had a choice to make. Should I wait for the bus or try to hitchhike down. I ended up hitchhiking. A nice couple gave me a ride down to the bottom and then I would have to walk to the bus terminal.
From the bus terminal I took another bus to the train station. I would catch the train to Nonsan and then quickly go to Nonsan bus terminal to catch the bus to Gongju.
This day I accomplished what most people don’t. After this day I can now say that I have visited every national park in Korea. I saved the first national park of Korea for last.
Korea has some islands where it is possible to walk to or even drive without a bridge or tunnel. It depends on the tides. Probably the most famous is Jindo which is in the south and difficult to reach.
A closer but smaller island is called Jebudo. Jebudo made the top 100 places of Korea in 2019-2020. I definitely agree it has a spot as long as it doesn’t become to touristy.
There is a paved road that goes from mainland Korea to Jebu island. Jebudo is located in the West Sea off of Gyeonggi province. It is possible to take public transportation, but if you have your own transportation, I would recommend driving as public transportation is far and between.
I drove from Gongju to Jebudo and it is a pretty drive. I drove over a 10km bridge with a lot of speed bumps to discourage speeding.
Before going it is important to check the tide times to make sure you aren’t stuck at the wrong time.
https://www.badatime.com/s-150-2.html This site is in Korean, but it tells all the times when it is possible to cross. The crossing or low tide times are in the column to the right of the green line.
It is possible to drive to around Jebudo within 15 minutes. I would recommend sticking to the right side to have the sea on your right. There will be more parking places on the right side after crossing, which will be easy to stop and get out. The western side of the island has the most restaurants and best sties.
There is a short boardwalk that leads to a lighthouse that has amazing views of the sea.
After exploring, it was time for dinner. There weren’t many options for a solo traveler. I got a mussel noodle soup 칼국수. I believe it was 7,000won and it was big.
After I eating, I went to the other end of the beach which had rock formations which I could walk to if the tide was low. However the tide was getting higher.
I had to hurry before I lost the chance, so I jogged across the beach until I got to the rocky part.
I made back in time, to start watching the sunset.
The sunset was absolutely beautiful. After I watched in awe, I had to set up my tent as the tide was high. I ended up setting my tent up on the beach. There are signs in Korean that say beach camping is not allowed, but there were already a couple of tents on the beach, so I went on ahead. There was a small place in the woods where it is possible to camp, but I didn’t do that.
I slept well except for the occasion airplane that flying low to land at Incheon. The next day I woke up early feeling refreshed and to make sure I didn’t miss my opportunity to cross at low tide. I was able to see the sun rise clearly the next day as well.
After crossing the road to get to mainland I parked my car and explored on the other side.
The other side more photo opportunities especially of the road.
Before gong to the island there is a outlook station to see what the sea bed looks like when it is super low tide.
On my way back I stopped in Dangjin and stopped at Sapgyoho Park which would be a good date place in the evening.
I would definitely recommend Jebudo to anyone who is staying in Korea for more than year especially on a summer trip.
Mungyeong is located in Gyeongseongbuk Province. It is convenient to get there because there are many highways that pass through Mungyeong. I have been there twice. Once in March 2019 and the second time July 2020. Both times were incredible, but I would like to go again.
Mungyeong Saejae Provincial Park was in the top 100 places in 2015. It is not in the top 100, but I think it should be. It is easy to access, it is a great place for solo travel as well as group travel, and it is free to enter. There is a type of road train which I would recommend to travel through the park. It cost 1,000won for per person for one way. There are several hiking spots and short easy treks through the complex.
There are several restaurants and cafes nearby, so you don’t have to worry about packing a lunch. I drove both times but public transportation is doable, though it may take longer.
The first time I went, I didn’t have much time as the sun was setting and the weather turned from rain to snow quickly.
March 2019 the ground was brown, the sky was gloomy, and the river was low. I stayed for about 45 minutes and left to go back home as it was a stop on the way home from work. When I was driving back, it started snowing heavily and my car was covered in snow.
The second time I visited was July 15, 2020 and it was really nice weather. There was some reconstruction going on, so the main gate was not as visible as before. However it was still awesome because of the weather.
There are many attractions to walk to and anyone could easily spend an entire day here walking around. However I decided to visit a waterfall and it didn’t disappoint.
This was a path/trail on the right after passing through the first gate. The waterfall was so tall and the mist sprayed me as I got closer. There were actually two smaller waterfalls before the tallest one, so I was glad I walked a little further.
After spending a short time I walked back down to see some nearby sites around the complex.
There are some movie sets where you can pay a small entrance fee inside if you like Korean dramas. I did not visit these as I was not particularly interested. However the outside looked nice.
Near the front gate there is a small museum and a huge lawn which would be nice for families with kids that have energy to run or couples who just want to have a picnic.
I can highly recommend this place as one of the top 100 places in Korea.
October 9 in Korea is a holiday. The holiday is Hangul Day which is the Korean writing alphabet. That year October 9 was a Wednesday, so I made the choice to go to Suncheon by train after my classes finished on October 8. I first went from to Nonsan by bus. Then I walked to the train station and boarded a train to Suncheon. The train was delayed because of strikes that were happening throughout the week.
While on the train, I booked a room in a hostel called Suncheon Station Hostel. I did not take any photos, but the interior was new and clean. There is breakfast that you can prepare for yourself. The dormitory rooms are separated by gender and the room I stay in had only 4 beds with the bathroom in the dormitory room. So if it were full then 4 people would have to share a bathroom. There was only one person in the room with me.
The hostel is literally across the station situated in a nearby alley about a 5 minute walk at most.
I woke up early to get a head start, and prepared fried eggs, toast with jam, and instant coffee. I then went out to the bus stop to wait for the bus to go to Suncheon Bay Nature Reserve/Reed Field. The bus ride took about 30 minutes. I arrived around 6:30 to see the sun starting to rise.
After I departed the bus, I realized the Bay wasn’t even open yet. You are supposed to pay for an entrance ticket, but an older local man said it was okay for me to go through without paying since it was so early. I then went ahead and viewed the sites at the entrance.
The entrance was beautiful, but the bay area is huge, and must be explored thoroughly as it is huge.
My first impression was how similar it looked like Ninh Binh in Vietnam. Both have rivers running through the reeds and rice paddies in the both locations. Both also have mountains in the backdrop.
There were so many places to walk, but instead of walking on the boardwalk, I stayed on land which would take me closer to the actually bay.
There quite a few pathways, but my goal was to see the rising sun over the bay, which I accomplished.
There are farms near the bay with small country roads, so it is easy to get lost and turned around. I enjoyed the views and started to make my way back to the bus stop to go to Suncheon National Garden.
I arrived at the gardens, and again you have to pay, but I was early, and was allowed to go in without paying. I don’t know if that is real case or not. Suncheon National Gardens was beautiful and well planned out. I was able to get some good shots of the entire gardens and part of the Suncheon city in the background.
There were still flowers that were in bloom and there is tunnel full of local students’ artwork.
On the other side of the tunnel there are some mounds located in the water, which were oddly the icon of the gardens, but they meshed well with the gardens.
Suncheon is located all the way south of the Korean peninsula. It is very beautiful and a worthwhile trip if other cities are included in the trip. I stayed in Suncheon for the early part of the morning and I would end up going to Gurye to visit a section of Jirisan that same day, which will be in a different post.
Suncheon is definitely in the top 100 places in Korea, but it wasn’t as special to me since I had already visited Ninh Binh.
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.
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.
This series will be a trilogy rolled into one. Danyang is part of Chungcheong North Province. Chungju, Jecheon, and Danyang are the northern parts of this lovely province. All three of these cities are near Wonju. Chungju and Jecheon border Wonju. In Korea each town and city tries to designate the top 8 must visit places to visit for tourists. Danyang is no different.
I recommended one of my close Canadian friends who was visiting that we visit Danyang on a day trip. We would visit most of the sites, but not all. The top eight places in Danyang are most natural instead of man-made. The first two are the most popular with tourists because of the ease to get there.
I drove us there from Wonju in my car. There were cafes and loud music and lots of tourists enjoying the nice warm weather. I drove us in my red car. The other sites were remarkable as well, but the drive was worth more than anything.
This is a definitely a great day trip, and it would be in the top 100, but in the 90s.
In 2019, Hyewon and I went back to Danyang, but this time to Guinsa.
Since it was cooler, Hyewon recommended that we go to a cafe called Cafe Sann. I was still driving my red sports car. We put it into the GPS on our phones and we got to the road leading to Cafe Sann. Sann means mountain and this cafe was literally on top of a mountain. The road was straight up with a long line of cars. This was going to be no fun in a manual car, so we decided to turn around.
We decided to go to Guinsa which is a huge temple that looked like we were in Nepal or India. We reached a parking lot and had to walk up a road going straight up a mountain, but it was worth it. As the views were amazing.
This year 2020 has been crazy with the Coronavirus. We have been social distancing and wearing masks almost everyday since March. However on May 23 we decided to try to give Cafe Sann one m ore shot. This was our first real trip of 2020, so I wore special clothes that were gifted to me by KORE company which you can see in the photos.
This time we would drive our new automatic car. I still have my red car. There was still a long line to the top, but that was okay. At the top there were too many people to enjoy Cafe Sann. The views however were breath-taking. The coffee and pastries were over priced, so if you stay for a long time please pack a picnic.
The drive here was worth while for the views and it was nice to breath fresh air.
Earlier this year of 2020 I visited the most western island in Korea. Last year I visited one of the western most islands in the southern part of South Korea. The island name is Hongdo. Hongdo is in Dadohaehaesang National Park. This is one of the marine national parks. Hongdo is about 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours away from Mokpo. It is about 80,000 won round trip to go to Hongdo, but with the 바다로티켓 it is much cheaper. Instead of spending 80,000 won, I spent 40,000won.
Hongdo was in the top 100 places in Korea from 2017-2018, but it is not included in the list which is a shame. I could easily put it in the top 50 places. Hongdo is doable as a day trip, which I would highly recommend, but you could spend the night on the island, too.
There are numerous ways to go to Hongdo, but the city of departure is called Mokpo. Mokpo is connected by bus and train from most of the major cities. I took a bus to Gwangju, then I went Yeongam and visited Wolchulsan, and then took a bus to Mokpo, and a bus to the port area. I would recommend taking a train instead. You can take the KTX which will cost more, but get you there faster, or you can take the slow train. I love the slow train because I can enjoy the views and it is cheaper, so I would recommend taking the slow train at least one way if not both.
Mokpo is a port city with a lot to offer, so you could take an extra day to do some sightseeing. I spent the night in Mokpo before I would go to Hongdo, which is again highly recommended. You can wake up early to go to the ferry terminal and get on the first ferry and the last ferry back. There are only two ferries a day.
The ferry ride was smooth and uneventful. The ferry does stop along the way at other islands, but Hongdo is last. I also met a young American traveler who was studying political science in Hong Kong. These destinations aren’t well known to foreigners, so it was a chance for me to share my Korean knowledge.
Hongdo is a small walkable island. Anyone could walk from one end to the other in a day, but we had about six hours, so I recommended that we go to the top of the island. We had to walk through the small town and past an elementary school that only had three students.
Hongdo has wooden stairs that eventually turn into a path going to the island peak. It is well maintained and the best path to go. The flora of Hongdo is special. It is the most unique and feels different from other parts of Korea.
The views going up were spectacular.
The morning was foggy. It took about 1 hour to go to the top. It was difficult to see anything from the top.
After going up, it was time to go down and get lunch. Hongdo does have brown outs, so bring cash just in case for the restaurants. We ate raw fish for lunch, but when I went to pay, I couldn’t because the card machine needed electricity. Thankfully the electricity did come back on.
After lunch, we explored the other half of the island.
After exploring, we went to the lone rocky beach.
Lastly we went back to the port and waited for our ferry to arrive.
After making it on the ferry, we arrived in Mokpo just as the sun was setting. We said our farewells and I departed for Gwangju to meet my Canadian friend.
Seonyudo is an island located off of Gunsan in Jeolla Northern Province of Korea. For this trip, I took public transportation which was a combination of bus and train. I enjoy traveling by trains, because I am able to stand up and stretch my legs and walk around. Also trains go through scenic ways.
There is a train station in Gongju, but it isn’t near the city center and it is only for KTX, so actually the easiest train station to go to is in Nonsan. Nonsan has all trains and I prefer the slow trains so I an enjoy the views. Jeollabukdo and Jeollanamdo both have some of the most beautiful places in Korea, but it can be time consuming. However the train ride makes up for everything.
After arriving at Gunsan train station, a bus was needed for the next step of the journey, so have your prepaid T-money card for Korea ready. You have to go to Bieunghang (port) to get on the next bus. The second bus is a double decker bus which was new at the time. If you have your card, then it will be a free transfer.
The road to the island was new at the time. It used to be only a ferry going to the islands, but a road was built, which is now a more efficient and cheaper way to the Sseonyudo Island.
I was able to stay a short time at Seonyudo, as I would have to go back to work in the morning and public transportation didn’t start early enough, so I checked out the return times. I had about 1 hour to stay here, which would be more than enough time.
I was able to go for a swim, which is a must in the hot summer of Korea. The sunset was incredible.
It would be possible to beach camp, as there weren’t many people here. However, there weren’t many convenient stores so you should bring everything with you. This was an amazing trip that was easy to do with little planning.
Coming back, you have to be patient. I had to make sure I got on the right bus. I slept in a jjimjilbang that night, which was the easiest thing to do. Seonyudo was a beautiful place that I can highly recommend. It is not in the top 100 places in Korea, but I think it will be in the near future.