Saturday, August 24, 2013

South Korea's mysterious island- Ulleungdo

Ulleungdo is a small island off the east coast of South Korea. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. It is known as an island full of  mysterious beauty with a subtropical climate surrounded by clear, emerald waters of the East Sea. It is most famous for it's hiking, fishing and it's seafood (mainly it's abundancy in squid) and also for it's special dish Honghapbap 홍합밥  (mussels on rice).

As the island has no airport the only way to get there is by ferry. Unless you live in the provinces near the two main ports (Mukho or Pohang) you usually would need more than just a weekend  due to travel times. This is to give you a rough idea on what you could possibly do or see in 3 or 4 days.

Ferry from either Mukho or Pohang. Ferry tickets range average roughly 120,000 won and travel time is roughly 3 hours or a little more depending on which port you depart from.

I took the 0820 ferry from Mukho, and departed the island on the 1300 ferry time.

As a foreigner, bring your passport as they may request to see this along with your ferry ticket.

From what I saw, you can take a car on the ferry (from Pohang only). However, as the island is very, very hilly I would only recommend taking your car if you know it can handle these kind of drives. There is a car rental office on the island but their English is very limited so this is best if you can either speak Korean yourself or have someone with you who can.

There are taxi's available at most larger cities but again, English is very limited. There are regular buses that go around the island. The main port on the island is Dodong. While there is a bus that goes pretty much around the whole island (from Dodong to the main areas) it only goes in one direction, towards Taeha. If you want to go to the city towards Cheonbu (the opposite direction of Taeha) you will need to ride the bus around the island to get here. Total bus times are around an hour to hour and half and costs between 1,000 won to 1,500 won depending on where you are going.

Dodong Port
This the the main hub of Ulleungdo. The main ferry terminal is here and where most of the accommodation and restaurants are located. As it is easy to get around the island I would recommend just spending your nights here. Night life is pretty much non-existent but there are noraebangs (karaoke rooms) available and you can check out the live fish markets at night.

There are many Korean style restaurants available on the island, all which are relatively the same price and quality. However, my favourite Korean restaurant was located nearly next door to Bada Seom Motel on the bottom level. Good Honghapbap and delicious side dishes.

There is a coffee shop a few shops down walking back towards the port, called Namu. Coffee is pretty good and I think this is the only coffee shop in the area.

Mamma Parks Pizza
One of only western style restaurants I saw in this area. It is located right next to Ulleung Hotel and serves a variety of delicious donkatsu (crumbed pork), pizza, steak and drinks.

Fried Chicken
One of the best spicy sauce fried chicken I've had here! There are other options of chicken available here too. The interior isn't the most pleasing however the food makes up for it.

This is just a couple shops away to the left of the chicken shop. It has one of the best jjajangmyeon I've had (seafood or original) plus other Korean dishes at cheap prices.

If you want to try some raw seafood, walk towards the Haengnam Lighthouse on the shore walkway and you will come across a seaside restaurant. A tray for 2 starts from 40,000 total and it's a beautiful location for a moonlit dinner.

There are some hotels available on the island.  However for something cheaper you can opt to stay in one of their motels or pensions. Unfortunately, there are no hostels. I had trouble finding any online websites for these places and if I did, none was in English. To book accommodation, I would recommend getting a Korean friend to call on your behalf.

I stayed at Bada Seom Motel, about a 5 minute walk from the ferry terminal in Dodong. Rooms are very clean and airconditioned. You can choose between a western-style room (with a bed) or Korean ondol-style room (mattress on the floor). For a room with a bed it costed us about 70,000 won a night split between two people. Of course, this was peak season prices so it could different at different times of the year.

The owner of the place did not speak a word of English however, she still managed to find us an English map and gave us very good ideas on which places were the best to visit.

The bus stop is also located right next door, too.

Day 1:
Take a bus to Bongnae Waterfall. Entrance fee is 1,200 won. From the entrance it's about a 20 minute hike to the waterfall.

Take a bus down to Jeodong Port. From here, beside the fishing port is the entrance to Chotdaem seaside walk and Chotdaem Shore staircase.

From here you can also visit the Haengnam Lighthouse before joining onto the Haengname Shore Walkway which takes you back to Dodong port.

Day 2:
Hike up to the highest peak of the island, Seonginbong. Walk the main road and follow the trail to the entrance of the park. The peak is 987m from sealevel and recommended hiking time is about 3 hours 15 minutes. There is one very small restaurant stop along the way otherwise I would recommend you bring some kimbap or snacks for the road, and lots of water. The first part of the hike from this entrance is a lot of uphill warned!

Once you get to the peak you can go back down via Nari Basin. The walk down takes roughly 2 hours and there are a lot of stairs!

Form Nari Basin, take a bus down to Cheonbu and then transfer to another bus to get back to Dodong.

Day 3:
Up the hill from the port you can find Dokdo museum, which has a lot of maps proving how Dokdo is Korea's island, not Japans. From here you can take a cable car (7,500 won) up to another peak which has a viewing platform giving you a beautiful aerial view of Dodong and the surrounding peaks. On a very clear day you will also be able to see the outline of Dokdo in the distance.

Right next door is Yaksu Spring, which is natural mineral water from the mountains of Ulleungdo. This water  is supposed to have health benefits (as do most of Korean things!). The water tastes carbonated and bitter so I wasn't much of a fan.

Day 4:
Ulleungdo does not have any sandy beaches, however, the most famous one on the island is called Jukam (or Jugam) Mongdol Beach, a little past Cheonbu. Take a bus to Cheonbu and you can either walk a further 20 minutes or wait for a connecting bus.

Here supposedly has the clearest waters and there are no bigger rocks by the shore which allows you to be able to swim out quite far.

There is a very small town nearby however no restaurants. There are a couple seafood restaurants in Cheonbu otherwise I would bring snacks for the trip.


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  2. i love your posting as well as i am thankful for your introducing thr beautiful island in korea to many people around the world. :)

    1. Thank you for your comment. This was one of my favorite places in South Korea.