As a follow-up to a previous article I’ve written, “5 Amazing Northern Cities in Korea – Off the Beaten Path“. This list will highlight some of the most amazing cities in the southern part of the country you should go to. This article will only cover specifically cities within the Jeolla, Gyeongsang, and Jeju Provinces. 가자!
1. Mokpo (목포)
Mokpo is on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, a common transit point for the ferry to Jeju. The coastal beauty of this old city is evident from the hike up Mt. Yudal (유달산). Walk around Gatbawi Street (갓바위) for a taste of history through the many museums concentrated in this area. And if you’re brave enough to try a unique Jeolla-do dish called Hongeo (홍어) or fermented skate, head down to the Mokpo Specialty Seafood Market (목포 종합수산시장).
Directions (from Seoul): The best way to get to Mokpo is by Express Bus (4-5 hours) from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal (on Line 3, 7, and 9) and would cost about 25,000won one-way.
If you have extra time in Mokpo, check out Jin-do (about an hour away). Jin-do is known for its dog breed of the same name and the mysterious sea road.
2. Seogwipo (서귀포)
Seogwipo is the most southern city on this list and the second city on Jeju Island. It’s like any old seaside community in Korea, but with many more tourist attractions and natural landmarks to visit than most places.
Along the Seogwipo coastline are the Olle trails (#5 to #9), long-distance foot paths that cover a lot of the beautiful sights that Jeju has to offer. Along the southern Olle trails, you’ll see the Jusangjeolli Columns (대포 주상절리), Oedolgae (외돌개), Soesokkak (쇠소깍), and the three waterfalls: Cheonjiyeon (천지연 폭포), Cheonjeyeon (천제연 폭포), and Jeongbang (정방 폭포).
To check out the local Jeju delicacies, head down to the Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market (서귀포매일올레시장) or a Haenyeojip (해녀집) near the Jungmun area for some freshly caught seafood. Meet friendly Jeju islanders in Seogwipo! Some may offer you the local tangerines and oranges which the southern side is known for.
Directions (from Seoul): Take a plane (1 hour) from Incheon Airport to Jeju. This would cost about 60,000won roundtrip (plan ahead accordingly as flights book up quickly).
From Jeju International Airport, take Bus 100, 200, or 300 (10 minutes) to the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal for 1,000won one-way. From the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal, then take Bus 701, 702, 730, 781, or 782 which should all go to Seogwipo (1 hour, 30 minutes) for 3,500won.
Another unconventional way of getting to Jeju Island is by ferry via Mokpo. If you feel like you have a decent grasp of Korean and can handle the sea, take the ferry. Only 6% of travelers arrive via ferry, so it’ll be a unique experience to do the five hour journey. However, there are only two daily ferries and can cost anywhere upward of 50,000won one-way, but it’s definitely worth the trip.
3. Jeonju (전주)
Jeonju is the capital of the North Jeolla Province, also known as the “Best Taste City in Korea“. The city is a contrast to Seoul’s modernity and fast urban beat. Jeonju is very slow and traditional in comparison, all thanks to the preservation of its ancient Hanok Village.
Tread through the stone-cobbled streets of the Joseon Dynasty. Or peer into the past by wandering around the houses and courtyards of Yangban (aristocrats). Of course, no visit to Jeonju would be complete without tasting Jeonju Bibimbap with some Makgeolli. If you were craving for some street food, walk around the Jeondong Cathedral (전주 전동성당) and Gyeonggijeon Shrine (경기전).
Directions (from Seoul): Take an Express Bus (3 hours) from Nambu Bus Terminal (on Line 3) or the Express Bus Terminal (on Line 3, 7, or 9). This would cost anywhere between 13,000won to 19,000won one-way.
If you have the time and were planning to stay for a night, walk over to Pungnammun Gate (풍남문). There’s plenty more to see at the Nambu Traditional Night Market (전주 남부시장) and Cheongnyeon Mall. A trendy hill area called Ohmockdae (오목대) is great for spectacular night views of the city.
4. Andong (안동)
“The Capital City of Korean Spiritual Culture” in the North Gyeongsang Province, Andong is situated next to the Nakdong River with the breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Hahoe and Yangdong Folk Villages only an hour’s away (on Bus 46). 2,000 years of Korea’s traditional culture preserved within the folk villages have peaked even the interest of Queen Elizabeth II. When in Andong, eat some of its local cuisine like Heotjesabap, Jjimdak, Andong Soju, and grilled mackerel. Just don’t forget to pick up an iconic Andong mask in one of the handicraft stores in the villages.
Directions (from Seoul): Take the Mugunghwa/Saemaeul train on the eastern Jungang Line (3 hours, 30 minutes) from Cheongnyangni Station (on Line 1). This would cost anywhere from 13,000won to 16,000won one-way.
The best time to visit Andong is in October during the Andong International Mask Dance Festival which showcases traditional mask dances from all over, not only Korea. Some programs for tourists to do at the event include mask making and learning folk dances.
5. Gyeongju (경주)
A major tourist destination after Jeju, Seoul, and Busan. Gyeongju is rich with history, formerly known as Sorabeol, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Silla. You can visit some archaeological sites just a short walk away from the city center. Highly recommended sites to visit in Gyeongju are Anapji Lake, Cheomseongdae, Bulguksa, Seokguram Grotto, and the royal tombs. Local specialties to try include the red bean sweetness of Hwangnam Bread, Haejangguk (or hangover soup), and Beopju rice wine.
Directions (from Seoul): Take an Express Bus (4 hours) from the Dong-Seoul Bus Terminal (Gangbyeon Station, Line 2). This would cost about 23,000won one-way.
The nearby city of Pohang makes for a great side-trip if you’re in the area. You can take an inter-city bus at the Gyeongju Bus Terminal about a 30 minute ride for 3,000won. Once you’ve arrived, explore the POSCO area, visit Jukdo Market, or watch the morning sunrise at Homigot’s Hand of Harmony.
In conclusion, I hope your adventures through Korea might include a few of these stops. Until next time, 안녕!