22 stunningly photogenic destinations in Korea
Korea Tourism Organization's new English-language travel guide "Korea" -- launched in March -- is a whopper.
Authored by Robert Koehler, the editor in chief of monthly travel magazine SEOUL, the book clocks in at 752 pages and looks and weighs more like a brick.
While the book doesn't necessarily make for the most exciting read (we would have loved some quirky/crazy personal stories featuring these destinations as settings), the 1,000-plus photographs are amazing, and the book is crammed with historical and practical information.
The costs and times of transportation are particularly useful, as are the accommodation recommendations by region.
Here's a selection of our favorite photos and destinations from the guide.
1. Ulleungdo (울룽도)
Ulleungdo -- an extinct volcanic cone -- is home to about 10,000 people, about half of whom are in the fishing industry.
"A weekend here is well worth the time and the effort, but prepare to stay a day or two longer than planned if weather turns bad and transport to the mainland is suspended," warns Koehler.
Of course, common sense dictates if you're going to be stranded on a rock in the ocean, it might as well be with a bunch of seasoned fishermen.
Getting there: take the ferry from Mukho Ferry Terminal at 11:20 a.m.; Mangsang-dong, Donghae-si, Gangwon Province (묵호항 강원도 동해시 망상동); +82 33 533 8676; reservations can be made via phone. Ferry times can be found at www.daea.com
2. Dosolam Hermitage (도솔암)
Koehler recommends this Buddhist hermitage to intrepid hikers for its "awe-inspiring view of the surrounding peaks" of Dalmasan (486 meters).
Exercise caution, however. While it's a recommended climb, it doesn't mean it's easy.
Samin-ri, Asan-myeon, Gochang-gun, North Jeolla Province (전라북도 고창군 아산면 삼인리 도솔천 내원궁); +82 63 564 0075; www.dosolam.kr
3. Chungjuho Lake (충주호)
Chungju, described as "a rather typical small town" is a relaxed agricultural area with a beautiful lake set amidst mountains and cliffs.
It's also a great place to start exploring Woraksan National Park.
Jongmin-dong, Chungju-si, North Chungcheong Province (충청북도 충주시 종민동)
4. Chaeseokkang River (채석강)
Chaeseokkgang is a rocky cliff overlooking the sea, and is famous for its sunrise.
Film crews often seek it out for its gorgeous backdrop.
Gyeokpo-ri, Byeonsan-myeon, Buan-gun, North Jeolla Province (전라북도 부안군 변산면 격포리)
5. Boseong Green Tea Farm (보성 녹차밭)
"Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation bills itself as a 'watercolor-like tea field' and this is no exaggeration," writes Koehler.
The best time to visit is the spring, when the fields release the strong scent of tea.
Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation,1288-1 Bongsan-ri, Boseong-eup, Boseong-gun, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 보성군 보성읍 봉산리 1288-1); +82 61 852 4540
6. Taebaeksan (태백산)
Taebaeksan -- one of Korea's tallest peaks at 1,567 meters -- is particularly beautiful to hike in the winter.
"The snow crusts the windswept trees and bushes: 'these snow flowers' produce a fantastic, almost otherworldly landscape," says Koehler.
Sodo-dong, Taebaek-si, Gangwon Province (강원도 태백시 소도동)
7. Ulsanbawi (울산바위)
This four-kilometer-long granite spine on 1,708-meter-high Seoraksan's Ulsanbawi is no lazy Sunday-afternoon stroll in the woods.
The final section of the hike "ascends a steel staircase screwed into the sheer granite cliffs."
So a no-no for those with vertigo.
Seorak-dong, Sokcho-si, Gangwon Province (강원 속초시 설악동)
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8. Saemangeum (새만금)
Saemangeum is one of the largest land-reclamation projects in history, with a 33-kilometer seawall which is the longest in the world.
Take that, Netherland's Zuiderze Works.
Saemangum Museum, San 28-4 Daehang-ri, Byunsan-myeon, Buan-gun, North Jeolla Province (전라북도 부안군 변산면 대항리 산28-4); +82 63 584 6822
9. Hongdo (홍도)
Hongdo ("Red Island") is a spectacular nature preserve, home to 270 varieties of evergreens and 170 animal species.
Unfortunately, however, the island was designated as a natural monument, so most of it is now off-limits to tourists.
Koehler suggests an observatory, which is a short walk above the Hongdo port, as a nice alternative.
Getting there: All ferries to Hongdo depart from the Mokpo Passenger Ferry Terminal (6-10 Hangdong, Mokpo-si, South Jeolla Province; +82 61 240 6060). There are two clippers a day, which depart at 7:50 a.m. and 1 p.m. and take 2 hours and 30 minutes; tickets cost ₩42,000 per person. Dongyang Gosok (+82 61 243 2111) and Namhae Gosok (+82 61 244 9915)
10. Uponeup (우포늪)
"There is enough outdoor life to make any nature lover dizzy," says Koehler about Upo Wetland.
Although there are a variety of hiking trails, the best way to explore is by bike.
And of course, be prepared to get a little wet.
232 Sejin-ri, Yueo-myeon, Changyung-gun, South Gyeongsang Province (경상남도 창녕군 유어면 세진리 232); +82 55 530 1553; eng.upo.or.kr
11. Gongju Gongsanseong Fortress (공주 공산성)
Gongju was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Baekjae (18BC-660AD) and showcases fortresses, royal tombs and other relics of the town's royal past.
A walk around the entire fortress takes around two and a half hours.
Or you can just take your time -- it's not like the fortress is under attack.
65-3 Geumsung-dong, Gongju-si, South Chungcheong Province (충청남도 공주시 금성동 65-3); +82 41 856 0332
12. Eocheongdo (어청도)
The lighthouse on Eocheongdo -- a "pleasant little harbor" -- was erected in 1912.
Migratory birds en route from China are the other great attraction.
There is just one boat to the island, so plan on an overnight trip at one of the small inns in town. Most cost less than US$40 a night.
Getting there: take the ferry from Gunsan Ferry Terminal; 1668 Soryong-dong, Gunsan-si, North Jeolla Province (전라북도 군산시 소룡동 1668); +82 63 472 2712; a ferry timetable can be found online at shinhanhewoon.com(link in Korean)
13. Onsan Industrial Complex (온산 공업단지)
"Take Detroit during its heydey, put it together with Newcastle during its heyday, and you've got Ulsan," writes Koehler.
Home to the world's largest auto plant, its largest shipyard and one of its largest oil refineries, Ulsan is symbolic of the Korean economic miracle.
Sanam-ri, Onsan-eup, Ulju-gun, Ulsan (울산광역시 울주군 온산읍 산암리)
14. Haenam Ttangkkeut Village (해남 땅끝마을)
"Ttangkkeut" means "land's end" in English.
In this peaceful community on the tip of the land, life is slow and playing in the mud counts as a cultural experience.
Songho-ri, Sonji-myeon, Haenam-gun, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 해남군 송지면 송호리)
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15. Andong Hahoe Village (안동 하회마을)
"To see the 'real Korea,' one must head to Andong," writes Koehler.
Ancient Joseon-era traditions live on in 500-year-old village.
"Make no mistake -- Andong is no tourist trap; it's a living, breathing village and home to a people fiercely proud of their heritage and way of life."
Hahoe-ri, Pungcheon-myeon, Andong-si, North Gyeongsang Province (경상북도 안동시 풍천면 하회리); +82 54 852 3588; www.hahoe.or.kr
16. Deogyusan (덕유산)
If you just can't make it out to Taebaeksan but still want to enjoy snowy mountain scenery, head to Deogyusan.
It's not a particularly difficult climb and the lack of tree cover in the higher altitudes makes way for beautiful views.
411-8 Samgong-ri, Seolcheon-myeon, Muju-gun, North Jeolla Province (전라북도 무주군 설천면 삼공리 411-8); +82 63 322 3174
17. Wonju Pandae Artificial Ice Park (원주 판대빙장)
Wonju Pandae Artificial Ice Park is a natural cliff covered by a 100-meter wall of artificial ice overlooking a frozen river.
The 90-degree climbing tends to scare away beginners. In fact, it's so advanced they don't even have gear rentals. There are no novelty classes for beginners here -- you'd better love ice-climbing and you'd better be good at it.
Pandae-ri, Jijeong-myeon, Wonju-si, Gangwon Province (강원도 원주시 지정면 판대리); +82 33 761 4177
18. Heuksando (흑산도)
Islands are usually known for the same few criteria -- sun, sand, and sea. Here's an exception.
Heuksando ("Black Mountain Island") is best known for its coastal road, with the drive being a time-consuming but popular tourist activity in itself.
Getting there: take the ferry from Mokpo Ferry Terminal; 6-10 Hang-dong, Mokpo-si, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 목포시 항동 6-10); +82 61 240 6060; ferry times can be found online at www.ihongdo.co.kr (link in Korean)
19. Songgwangsa Temple (송광사)
"Songgwangsa is not your usual temple," writes Koehler, and here's his explanation why.
The "Spreading Pine Temple" is situated on Korea's most spiritually revered mountain, Jogyesan, and is home to a large community of Buddhist monks. Young monks from all over Korea, and even foreign monks, come to the temple to train.
Koehler recommends evenings as "the best time to be on hand," in order to experience the monks' evening chants.
12 Shinpyeong-ri, Songwang-myeon, Suncheon-si, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 순천시 송광면 신평리 12); +82 61 755 0107
20. Maehwa Village (매화마을)
The best time to visit Maehwa ("Apricot") Village is in the spring, when white flower blossoms transform the village transforms into a "dream-like landscape."
141 Dosa-ri, Daap-myeon, Gwangyang-si, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 광양시 다압면 도사리 141)
21. Hwanseongul Cave (환선굴)
Hwanseongul Cave in Samcheok is, for the most part, your "standard" cave with rock formations, stalagmites, stalactites, pools, waterfalls and streams.
But more interesting are the myths: "A heart-shaped hole in the ceiling -- if you're with your significant other and pledge your love to him/her underneath it, the love will last forever, it is said."
"At another point," writes Koehler, "You cross the Jiokgyo ("Bridge of Hell") into the Jiokgyegok ("Valley of Hell") -- abandon hope all ye who enter here. Cross the "Bridge of Confessions," though, and all your sins disappear."
The book also mentions a more practical perk, writing, "the temperature inside stays at 10-14 C, making it a nice summer reprieve."
189 Daei-ri, Shingi-myeon, Samcheok-si, Gangwon Province (강원도 삼척시 신기면 대이리 189); +82 33 541 9266
22. Seomjingang River in Hadong (섬진강)
"Easy to reach it's not, but if you're looking to get away from it all and relax in a scenic environment that nourishes body and spirit, Hadong is the place," write Koehler.
The nature walks are recommended.
Daap-myeon, Gwanyang-si, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 광양시 다압면)
"Korea" costs ₩37,000 (US$32) at bookstores in Korea and US$45 at bookstores overseas; www.seoulselection.com
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