Top 40 Things to do OUTSIDE of Seoul, Korea (2017 Edition)

40 Outside Seoul

So you’ve visited Seoul and love it with all of its palaces, shopping districts, and nightlife, but now… you’re looking for something new. You grow weary of this Seoul-centric Korea and want to see what else is out there. Well, I’m here to tell you that the rest of the country does not disappoint. Here is your countdown to the 40 best things to do OUTSIDE of Seoul (2017 Edition).

Note – A couple of places overlap with  the list of Top 80 Things to do in Seoul. This was done on purpose for two reasons. First, many of these lie in the greater Seoul metro network, making a separation impractical for a guide. Secondly, it is a good benchmark for you to compare how these places stack up to places in Seoul!

    Note 2 – This map is as accurate as humanly possible, so use it wisely!]

    Note 3 – Due to the size of this post, it was necessary to break it up into 2 pages. To check out numbers 1-20, you can navigate on the bottom of this list, before the comments section.

    #40-21

    40) Gangneung / 강능

    Photo Credit: parhessiastes
    Photo Credit: parhessiastes

    This coastal town is getting a lot of buzz lately as the closest city to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. However, it is an excellent summer location too for its nice beaches along the eastern coast.

    Pro Tip – Gangneung has one of 3 ports that head out to Ulleungdo, which is good to combine with a trip out here.

     

    39) Haeundae Beach Area / 해운대

    Photo Credit - Credit parhessiastes
    Photo Credit – Credit parhessiastes

    As many of you know, I am not the biggest fan of Busan, so this entry might come as a surprise. While Haeundae Beach is not the best, the area has a good atmosphere to just chill in the sand or hit up one of the local bars on a warm summer night. Okay, who am I kidding, I guess I’m warming up to Busan.

     

    38) Yi Sun Shin Square, Yeosu / 이순신 광장, 여수

    Admiral Yi Sun Shin

    Yi Sun Shin is not only one of Korea’s two most important heroes, but one of the most brilliant military commanders in human history. His masterful repelling of the Japanese invasion of the 1590s was planned in his command center here in Yeosu. The square serves as a mini outdoor museum with his command center a couple meters away north of his statue.

    Pro Tip – Like with all Yi Sun Shin related travel, it really adds to the experience to read up in Yi Sun Shin before visiting.

     

    37) Black Sand Beach / 삼양검은모래

    Black Sand Beach Jeju

    If you’re in Korea and want a beach, absolutely nothing comes close to the ones in Jeju. The Black Sand Beach on the northern coast gets its colors from the broken down volcanic rock. Some say it is good for the skin, so you might see more than one person rubbing it on their body.

    Pro Tip – This is one of Jeju City’s more popular islands, so for some good pictures, come around sunset when the crowds start to wane.

     

    36) Gapyeong / 가평

    Korean Food - Dak Galbi

    Gapyeong is a town on the very outskirts of the greater Seoul area and a popular destination for Koreans. While I am not very fond of Gapyeong’s famous Nami Island, the food is divine and its ‘Dalk Galbi’ rivals that of even Chuncheon (further down on the list), where the dish was invented. In addition to Namiseom, there is also a bungee jump and two zip lines for the adrenaline junkies out there.

    Pro Tip – Gapyeong also has quite a few ATV courses and information as well as rentals can be found directly to your right side upon exiting the Gapyeong Train Station. There may not be information in English, but either the tourism hotline (02-1330) or the information booths near the station can hook you up. Totally worth it.

    Note – This is also featured on the list: Top Things to do in Seoul 

     

    35) Sokcho / 속초시

    Credit - Hike Camp and Travel
    Credit – Hike Camp and Travel

    This city on the east coast has nice beaches which get even nicer the farther you go from the crowds. Sea food is whats for dinner here, but barbecue by the beach is also popular. Unfortunately, there are designated days when the beaches officially “open” but no one will yell at you if you decide to take a dip in defiance!

    Pro Tip – Sokcho is a popular place to stay for anyone who plans to hike in Seoraksan National Park. During busy weekends, you have to reserve your bus tickets early.

     

    34) Gyeongju Historical Areas / 경주역사유전지

    Observatory in Gyeongju

    This UNESCO Site in Gyeongju was the heart of Shilla, the first Korean kingdom arguably credited with unifying the peninsula. The city is a local favorite with Koreans from all over the country coming by the millions. Unfortunately, most of its grandeur lives in tales as its most spectacular buildings (including an enormous wooden pagoda) were destroyed long ago. What does remain, however, are the royal tombs, an ice storage, and this ancient observatory (Cheomseongdae), noted as being the oldest one in Asia, dating back to the 7th century.

    Pro Tip – While it is not expensive, paying to “enter” the Cheomseongdae is a waste of a buck in my opinion. You are literally paying to get 10 meters closer and you get close enough from outside.

     

    33) Bukhansan National Park / 북한산 국립공원

    Seoul - Bukhansan

    Bukhansan is one of Korea’s 21 National Parks and by far the closest to Seoul. It is the perfect place to indulge in one of the biggest Korean pastimes: HIKING! You can enter from either the west or the east of the park, but I recommend the former as it is a more picturesque walk. There is also a cool hike that leads to a fortress gate that was part of a fortification during the Joseon era.

    Pro Tip – Unless you like your hikes with 10 billion people rubbing shoulders, under no circumstances should you go during a national holiday. Also, if you plan to do some of the more rugged trails, bring bug spray.

    Note – This is also featured in the list: Top Things to do in Seoul

     

    32) Ganghwa Dolmen Sites / 강화 고인돌

    Ganghwa Dolmen

    The Dolmen sites in Korea are separated into three different regions: Ganghwa, Hwasun, and Gochang (further on the list). Ganghwa’s dolmens are very spread apart and a bit hard to reach without a vehicle as public transportation is almost scarce (but not impossible). However, the payout is Korea’s largest table style dolmen, pictured above. This monolithic tomb is one of the oldest of its kind and evidence of organized humanity in the peninsula thousands of years ago.

     

    31) Everland /에버랜드

    Everland is Korea’s best amusement park bar none. With a mixture of fantasy land reminiscent of Disneyland and more ‘adult level’ rides as well, it kind of has something for everyone.

    Pro Tip – There are often employees outside of the gates who come off as scammers at first glance. If they have an official looking uniform, they could just be telling you about discounts.

     

    30) Taebaeksan National Park / 태백산국립공원

    There is also a sledding spot nearby.
    There is also a sledding spot nearby.

    Mt. Taebaek is Korea’s 15th tallest peak and the nearby town is the highest city in the country. Neither of those facts are particularly interesting, like…at all, but what is cool is Taebaeksan in the winter. This area of Korea gets the most snowfall and a common challenge among climbers is reaching the summit in the snow. Personally though, I absolutely love the pristine snow near the base as you can have an epic snow fight. That alone was worth the trip. Nearby are also O2 and High 1, two of Korea’s best ski resorts.

    Pro Tip – There is a nearby coal museum. Don’t go there, it is as boring as it sounds.

    Pro Tip 2 – In virtually every “highlights” book you see of Korea, there will be pictures of Taebaek in the winter. If you’re a photographer, this place is for you.

     

    29) Wolchulsan National Park / 월출산국립공원

    Wolchulsan National Park

    One of Korea’s smallest national park’s is tucked way down low in Jeolla Province. What it lacks in area it makes up in very interesting hikes that will give your knees a work out. You heard right, some of the steps are so steep, I was crying 20 minutes in, but trust me, the scenery and isolation is worth the hard work. The suspension bridge near the top is pretty cool too.

     

    28) Kongju Gongsanseong Fortress / 공주 공산성

    Konju Gongsanseong

    This fortress wall once defended the old capital palace of the Baejke Kingdom. Centuries of neglect left it in ruins but it has been recently refurbished into what you see before you. Gongsanseong is not the most popular place in the world, so you can have a quiet walk by yourself and take in all the history. For a really great view, check it out at night from the other side of the river as it lights up the riverbank.

     

    27) Samcheok Caves – Hwanseongul / 환선굴

    Hwanseongul Cave

    Located in the beach city of Samcheok, Hwanseongul is a nice escape from otherwise built up Korea. This 6.5km limestone cave is Korea’s largest, complete with waterfalls and lakes. While I don’t approve of the Disneyland approach of installing neon lights inside to ‘make nature prettier,’ the natural significance cannot be denied. You can either take a monorail or hike to the entrance and explore one of Korea’s natural wonders.

     

    26) Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls / 천제연폭포

    Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

    There are three waterfalls of note in Jeju Island, but none as spectacular as Cheongjeyeon. The bright blue pools formed at the top make it very temping to take a dip, but unfortunately, it is ‘strictly’ prohibited. For the more adventurous, go for a hike downstream till the water forms another waterfall. The views are amazing but don’t be shocked if the locals start pointing at you as if you’re about to jump.

     

    25) Namhansanseong Fortress / 남한산성

    Namhansanseong

    Namhansanseong is a mountain fortress and a recently added UNESCO World Heritage Site located south-east of Seoul. The site has been famous since the 7th century as the birthplace of King Onjo, first monarch of the Baekje Kingdom. The wall we see today was built in the 17th century and was the place of a heroic battle against the invading Manchus. While it is becoming more and more popular, most people stick to the small village located within the fortress with has some awesome Korean delights.

    Pro Tip – The west side of the wall heading uphill is the least traveled and most people don’t bother to scale the actual wall at all.

    Note – This is also featured in the list: Top Things to do in Seoul

     

    24) Sunrise Peak (Ilchulbong) / 성산 일출봉

    Sunrise Peak

    Jeju Island is full of surprises which would make even the harshest critic bow in acknowledgement that at least this time, the hype is deserved. Mt. Halla is not the only natural highlight as the views from atop  “Sunrise Peak” are beautiful in their own right. Get there early or prepare to wait in line on this short but rewarding 45 min hike.

     

    23) Donggureung / 동구릉

    Donggureung

    Donggureung is one of the 18 sites forming the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, but by far the most impressive. The complete set of 40 tombs has been preserved despite the Japanese colonization. The story goes that during Japan’s attempt at culturally liquidating Korea, the entrusted grave-keepers lied and insisted they were tombs of their direct family. The trick worked, and today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains intact.

    Note – This is also featured in the list: Top Things to do in Seoul

     

    22) Seoraksan National Park / 설악산국립공원

    Seoraksan National Park

    The flat and rocky sections of the park near the top of the cable cart (on the east side) is a favorite with rock climbers and amateur hikers like myself. The highlight, however, are the longer hikes which could take more than a day depending on how far you choose to go. Access can be from the east in Sokcho, or from the west depending on your desired activities. I like to visit the huge Buddha situated near the eastern entrance and if you like a little culture with your nature, you’ll enjoy it too.

    Pro Tip – These days, more foreigners come looking to do multi day hikes here only to be disappointed when all camp grounds are full. This is an extremely popular thing to do and camp spots along the way fill up quick.

     

    21) Jirisan National Park / 지라산국립공원 

    Jirisan Trail

    Jirisan is Korea’s largest terrestrial national park and has the second highest mountain. With quite a few trails of all difficulties, it is sure to please any level hiker. Surprisingly, even on the very busy weekend (gold week, May) I decided to visit, the trails were still not crowded at all. There are supposedly wild moon bears still roaming around, so if you’re super lucky you might spot one.

    Continue on to #20-1

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    Julio Moreno

    Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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    14 thoughts on “Top 40 Things to do OUTSIDE of Seoul, Korea (2017 Edition)

    • March 1, 2015 at 8:24 am
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      Excellent List! I’ve been to all of them except Sado Island, the Maze Park, and Baekje Land. You always surprise me though, only 1 national park? Other sites that are certainly worth mentioning are Udo Island, Beopjusa Temple, Tongdosa Temple, Songisan National Park, Jirisan National Park, Seoraksan National Park, Taebaeksan Provincial Park, among others.

      Reply
      • March 1, 2015 at 10:15 pm
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        I actually thought about amending the list for a while when I realized I left out Seoraksan and Wolchulsan. The task took me hours and I had to change a whole bunch of other stuff, so I decided to leave the inclusion for when I upgrade this and the top Seoul list (maybe in a few months).
        I havent been to Udo, Beopjusa, Tongdosa, Jirisan, or Songisan. That was another reason I was hesitant to promote one NP over another. However, I’ll return to Korea soon and Jirisan and Beopjusa are at the top of my list. Hopefully, version 2.0 will be more rounded but rest assured, I am aware of the omissions.
        Just as a note though, I will not recommend places I havent personally visited, but in the future, I will have an ‘honorable mentions’ list to make people at least aware of them.
        Thanks for your comments!

        Reply
    • September 5, 2016 at 1:29 am
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      Fantastic list, in addition to your Seoul ranking list. This was exceedingly helpful and far more comprehensive than most other websites online. I’d happily send you a small donation if you’ve got a link for that.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2016 at 1:31 am
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        I actually have not set up a system for that. I would really appreciate it if you shared the list with your friends but knowing I helped you in your travels is thanks enough. Thanks for commenting.

        Reply
    • October 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm
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      Hello, Julio Moreno, this is such a great list! We are planning to visit Korea next year, my friends said that Nami Island is a must-see during autumn season! Is that True?

      Reply
      • October 29, 2016 at 2:35 pm
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        Search Nami island on my blog and you’ll see I have a post called “Nami is the worst.” I’ve been three times and regretted it every time. It touts itself as this natural paradise which it might have been fifty years ago. However crowds like you cannot imagine, a general ignorance on how you shouldn’t bother wildlife, and an often abused ostrich on the island takes away those fluffy feelings. I go in depth in that post but seeing what there is to do outside, that’s the last place I’d recommend.

        Reply
      • January 1, 2017 at 11:48 am
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        I have lived in Korea for over 4 years now and have traveled to many places listed on this blog. Nami island is popular with the locals because it is a place to see some phallic statues, some tall trees and basically get out of the house. Young couples enjoy it as well as it has filming connections with the ever so popular K-dramas. However if you are looking to see nature, especially during the Fall (November) or Spring (April-May), then you are most definitely better off visiting any of the dozens of mountains in the country! You can make the trip to a mountain and easy hike or as long as you like.

        Reply
        • January 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm
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          I’ve been to Nami three times now and every time I go hoping it will be better and trying to give it a chance, but it blows. I’m not really into K-dramas, so I get that part, but I’ve seen the scenes taken in Nami and it looks nothing like that. I don’t recall the phallic statues but its been a while since my last visit.
          Definitely, the mountains are better and did note a couple, including Wolchulsan. Maybe more will make this year’s list.
          Julio Moreno recently posted…Map of the Town of Gunung Mulu National Park: Accommodation and RestaurantsMy Profile

          Reply
    • June 14, 2017 at 12:26 am
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      Awesome. 🙂 I’m planning to take my family to Ulleungdo.

      Have you been to Hyangilam in Yeosu? That’s on our list too.
      Helena recently posted…Painting La PéricholeMy Profile

      Reply
      • June 14, 2017 at 12:27 am
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        Doesn’t ring a bell. Been to yeosu a few times but is that an island?

        Reply
        • June 14, 2017 at 5:47 am
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          It’s a hermitage up on a cliff. Known for its sunrise and sunset views. Part of it caught fire a few years back and burned completely down because it took them a while to get the firefighting equipment up there.
          Helena recently posted…Painting La PéricholeMy Profile

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    • November 23, 2017 at 3:20 am
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      Hi is there cherry blossoms during the period of march 27 to april 1 in either seoul, daejeon, or busan? And if there is which place would be best for the viewing?

      Reply
      • November 23, 2017 at 11:15 am
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        It varies per year so around early March or late February, you need to start following forecasts. The best thing to do is book a flight in mid/late March and then adjust accordingly as the time approaches.
        In daejeon, there is a National Park out west. There are buses from daejeon that go there. They have a yearly festival. Personally I just like the daejeon stream as it is lined with blossoms.
        In seoul yeouido is popular but not my cup of tea. It is just super crowded. For a more intimate experience, my local seongbuk-cheon is fantastic (hansung station and walk from there). The palaces, especially changdeokgung has some blossoms too which are nice with the palace background.

        Reply

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