Things to do in Korea Countdown: #40-21
40) Oeam Folk Village / 외암민속마을 [TWHS]
Oeam Village is located an hour outside of Seoul. It’s proximity to Asan station on line 1 would make you believe it would be crowded, but nothing could be further from the truth. This beautiful folk village is largely desolate with a couple of visitors here and there. Go on a weekday to truly have it to yourself. The houses are beautiful and the villagers are rather friendly.
39) Namhansanseong Fortress / 남한산성 [WHS]
Namhansanseong is a mountain fortress and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has been famous since the 7th century as the birthplace of King Onjo, the first monarch of the Baekje Kingdom. The wall we see today was built in the 17th century. It was the place of a heroic battle against the invading Manchus of present-day China. 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. Take a hike around the wall to get the full experience.
38) Taean Marine National Park’s Beaches: Mallipo, Sinduri, and Hakampo / 태안해안국립공원: 만리포, 신두리, 학암포
When it comes to beaches on the mainland, people flock to Busan or the East Sea if they “know better.” Yang Yang, Sokcho, Gangneung, Donghae (Chuam), and even Samcheok along the east coast all have great beaches as you’ve already seen on this list. However, nothing on the mainland compares to the beaches of Taean. These three are very different and highlight the beauty of this region
a) Mallipo – The most popular of the three beaches is Mallipo. This getaway is well known with locals and foreign expats who live in the area. During peak season, it is jam packed on the main strip of sand. Go early and head just north or south of the center and you will quickly find yourself a spot to call your own. One of the benefits of such a popular beach is a swath of restaurants, cafes, and amenities of all kinds. The sand and water are cleaner than you’d expect from the West Sea.
b) Sinduri – If the thought of a crowded beach isn’t your cup of tea, Sinduri is for you! This beach, only 30 minutes from Mallipo, is far more low key. On the north end of the beach you will reach the Sinduri Sand Dunes (신두리해안사구), the only sand dunes in Korea. Because they are protected land, there is no development allowed adjacent to the sand dunes. As a result, most people stay clear of this portion of the beach. That, my friends, is how you get 2 kilometers of beautiful sandy beach to yourself.
c) Hakampo – Hakampo is the happy middle with not too much development but not too little either. This beach is actually cut into two sides by a road. On one side, you have sands that while beautiful, are temporary and largely disappear during high tide. Check the tides and make sure to come during low tide. If you miss it, head on to the other side and consider staying the night, Korean glamping style.
Note – Check out the map, here!
37) Andong Jjim Dalk Market / 안동구시장
Is it worth traveling all the way to the small, out of the way town of Andong for some food? If it is jjim dalk this good, you bet it is! Jjim dalk is a braised chicken meal served with noodles, rice cakes, carrots, and rice. It can be found just about anywhere in the country. However, if you’re a food aficionado, you need to go to the source! This market has no less than 10 fantastic jjim dalk restaurants. Having tried about 6, I can confidently say that the ratings on Kakao maps are spot on. They were all very good!
36) Donggureung / 동구릉 [WHS]
Donggureung is one of the 18 sites forming the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. It is 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 family. The trick worked, and today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains intact.
35) Seoraksan National Park / 설악산국립공원 [TWHS]
Seoraksan is one of Korea’s most famous national parks. The rocky sections near the top of the cable cart are a favorite with rock climbers and hikers. 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.
Pro Tip – This is an extremely popular thing to do and camp spots along the way fill up quick. Book in advance.
34) Jirisan National Park / 지라산국립공원
Jirisan is Korea’s largest terrestrial national park. It also holds the second tallest mountain in the country. With quite a few trails of all difficulties, it is sure to please any level hiker. Surprisingly, even on the very busy weekend the trails were still not crowded at all. Jirisan is also known for being one of the habitats of the Asiatic moon bear. This once endangered bear is making a roaring comeback in recent years.
33) Old Jeju Mural Town / 제주시 벽화
Old Jeju City is, in many ways, a mirror of Old Seogwipo City. It also has a big, daily market and even an Olle Trail that runs across it. What makes it unique is the plethora of murals scattered all around town. From the west end of the Sarabong Oreum to the center of Dongmun Market, hundreds of paintings show everything from ancient Jeju practices to modern events. You could spend a whole day just walking along the town and exploring the nooks and crannies of its many alleys.
32) Boseong Tea Fields / 보성다원농원
Green tea is the second most important hot beverage in Korea, next to coffee. If you are looking for the best green tea around, the fields of Boseong deliver. Hundreds of tea bushes line an enormous hill making for one of the most picturesque landscapes on the entire peninsula. On top of being able to buy green tea, you can also try green tea ice cream and other quirky green tea foods. It is definitely ‘touristy’ and crowded, but still stunning.
31) Samcheok Caves – Hwanseongul and Daegeumgul / 환선굴, 대금굴
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. Unfortunately, someone thought that installing neon lights inside would ‘make nature prettier.’ If you want a more natural cave, head over to neighboring Daegeumgul. This cave limits how many people can enter per day so you may need to book ahead. I’ve been turned away twice in the past! The entrance sets the tone with an amazing waterfall. The rest of the cave is just as good and is easily the best one in the country.
30) Moseulpo Port / 모슬포 항
Moseulpo Port on the southwest of Jeju Island is an unexpected bustling area for a town so small. The cove is lined with a wide variety of food including Jeju pork, fresh seafood, and Gla Gla, a fantastic western restaurant selling burgers and fish & chips. For the best ambiance, go eat right as the sun is setting right behind the Moseulpo Shipyard. If you want to make a half day of it, time it to coincide when the Moseulpo 5-day market is running. The market runs on days ending in 1 or 6 and is adjacent to the port.
29) Hwasun Dolmen Sites / 화순 고인돌 [WHS]
Hwasun Dolmen Sites are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Dolmen sites of Ganghwa, Hwasun and Gochang. Much like the other two, this is in the middle of nowhere with Gwangju being the closest major city. At the eastern entrance, there is a museum with open dolmens in an “archaeological dig” setting to show you what they look like from the inside. It is pretty neat, and the caretaker is quite enthusiastic to tell you all about it (and he speaks English). The whole complex is one long stretch which you could hike in one direction if you so choose. The tiny village connected to it was hoping the UNESCO nod would put it on the map. About a dozen “minbaks” opened for business only to find out that there is, unfortunately, very little interest. All but one or two closed down.
Pro Tip – Bring a picnic, and a car. Tons of great places to sit down for lunch, but public transport is rather unreliable in this neck of the woods.
28) Gangjin Celadon Land [TWHS]
Picture this: A theme park based on the theme of Goryeo era celadon ceramic! Sounds stupid? That’s exactly what everyone else thought, too! Let me start at the beginning.
Back in 1994, before Korea had even 1 World Heritage Site, the government proposed the Kiln sites of Gangjin as their first bid. These are the remains of a number of furnaces (kilns) that, in the 1200s, created some of the most beautiful pottery in the world. Unfortunately, the bid failed. In 1995, Korea rebounded with 3 other WHSs and the Gangjin Kiln sites were largely forgotten. About a decade after that, the regional government had a brilliant idea. UNESCO may have snubbed Korean celadon, but surely Koreans would care enough to visit! A large project ensured and Gangjin Celadon Land was build. This area was complete with museums, camp sites, celadon shops, and even a celadon pool! One fully functional kiln was built at the entrance and an authentic one from the 13th century was even transported next to the main museum. The built it, but no one came.
After a few years after trying to gather interest, the developers largely gave up. Yes, much like the Boseong Dinosaur Sites mentioned earlier on this list, the charm of this entry is not an actually functional theme park. It is for abandoned site aficionados! If the idea of walking along a decaying theme park is your thing, this place delivers. For what its worth, the shops are still running and the museums do get a handful of visitors a day. But it if obvious from the cracked walkways to the neglected pool, to the celadon-roofed coffee shop that was surprised to be getting a paying customer that this place did not live up to expectations.
27) Tomb of King Muyeong / 무령왕릉
Anyone who is into archaeology may have heard of the amazing discoveries of the last century. Machu Picchu (1911), the Terracotta Army (1974), and the tomb of King Tut (1922) are some of the best. Most, however, might have never heard of the discovery of King Muryeong’s tomb in 1971.
Muryeong was the leader of the Baekje Kindgom, one of the three ancient Korean sovereign states. Despite being technologically advanced for its time, Baekje fell to a combined force of Shilla and the Chinese Tang Dynasty. This dawned a new era known as “Unified Shilla.” The discovery of this tomb gave us some insights into the Baekje Kingdom which in modern times, was mostly known from the point of view of their conquerors.
Currently, you can only view it from the outside, but an exact replica was built in a museum next to it (pictured). This was painstakingly duplicated to give you the most authentic experience possible, without harming the 1500 year old artifact.
26) Anapji Pond / 안압지 [WHS]
Anapji Pond is part of the Gyeongju Historical Area, but deserves separate attention. While it is not original, it was accurately reconstructed after much research into Shilla buildings. Step back a few centuries as you stand in the pavilion overlooking the pond. The daytime is a bit less crowded, but the night view is spectacular, so I guess you have some serious thinking to do.
Pro Tip – Just go both times, it’s worth it.
25) Yangdong Folk Village / 양동 민속 마을 [WHS]
This traditional folk village just north of Gyeongju is Korea’s largest of its kind. It is also one of the two that make up the UNESCO site – Traditional Villages of Korea. Here, you can not only learn, but see how Koreans have lived, and continue to live, for the last 600 years. The hanok and chogajib style houses are best appreciated from high ground. Give yourself plenty of time to venture around the many vantage points.
24) Hamdeok Beach / 함덕 바다
Everyone who has been to Jeju Island has their favorite beach. This is one of my favorites. This flat and low lying beach allows you to go out a long way before you’re even waist deep. Get some chicken delivered straight to the sand and make it a picnic!
Korean, there are fliers near the parking lot with fried chicken that can be delivered right to the sand, too!
23) Suwon Hwaseong / 수원 화성 [WHS]
The magnificent wall of Suwon made an appearance on my top things to do in Seoul, but it deserves recognition here as it is actually outside of Seoul. This miniature Great Wall is very well preserved and holds some cool surprises if you decide to go around the entire 5.74 kilometer circumference. Turret towers, fantastic gates, and even traditional Korean archery are just a few of the activities and fantastic photo ops to be found in this UNESCO site. The picture above is a mosaic located at the foot of the palace which is located within the wall boundaries. There is now a rising “hot air balloon” on the east end for some cool areal shots.
22) Yeongju to Andong-Si Road – The Loneliest Road – 영주 -> 안동시 길
If there is one thing Korea is known for other than K-pop, it is its cutting edge connectivity. From blazing fast internet speeds to full bars at the top of any mountain, you’d be hard pressed to find a place where you get no signal. That hard pressed place to find, is here. The road from Yeongju town to Andong city is not one taken by many people. There are faster routes on highways that run parallel to this road. However, if you’re the type of driver who would pass up the 5-lane highway to take the scenic route, this one is for you! Don’t hesitate to stop at the viewpoint for a breathtaking look at the valley below.
Caution: Kakao maps incorrectly gave me direction to turn into abandoned roads and former 2-way roads turned 1-way. Follow the posted signs and don’t blindly follow the navigation!
21) Jeju Oreum Hikes / 제주 오름 등산
The classic picture of a volcano is a large mountain with a single opening at the center and lava spewing from the top. The reality of how volcanoes actually work is much more complex than that. Large volcanoes often form many bumps along its sides where lava can also be released leading to volcanoes within volcanoes. Since Halla mountain last erupted about 1000 years ago, so did all of these parasitic volcanoes which the people of Jeju call “oreums.”
Hiking these much more manageable mountains is a local pastime. If you’re a casual, the easiest thing to do is to search “오름” on Kakao Maps and zooming in to see where the trailhead is located. If you are determined to hike the 99 oreums of Jeju, I recommend the book “오름오름 트레킹맵” (Oreum Oreum Tracking Map). Unfortunately, the book has never been translated into English, but it doesn’t matter. The detailed maps of every hikable oreum on the island are enough to get you started on your quest.
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