South Korea’s Hidden Gem: Ulleungdo

Uncover the secrets of this mysterious island.

Situated approximately 120 km east of the Korean Peninsula lies Ulleungdo, an island born out of a catastrophic volcanic explosion some 10,000 years ago in the East Sea. Ulleungdo barely has any flat land and is home to stunning geological wonders such as mountain ridges, cliffs, caves and rocky shorelines. This island is South Korea’s hidden gem, and this is where you’ll get an opportunity to take a peek into the Korean island life while at the same time escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Things to Do:

Seonginbong Peak

The Ulleungdo we speak of is, in fact, the top portion of a large stratovolcano which rises from the seafloor, reaching a maximum elevation of 984m at Seonginbong Peak. The peak is located in the centre of Ulleungdo and promises astonishing views of the entire island as well as the Nari Basin. If you’re keen on hiking to the top, there are several suggested routes that one can choose based on their own comfort level. For most, it is suggested that you begin your hike at the KBS Relay Station.

 

Nari Basin

Since Ulleungdo is one large volcanic relic, Nari Basin is the only flat area on the island. As a caldera basin, its land is well drained and is made up of fertile volcanic ash soil. You can make your way down to Nari Basin after hiking up Seonginbong Peak and you’ll find that you’ve crossed Ulleungdo on foot. Keep your eyes peeled for the traditional houses (tumakjip) located within the basin. These 

 

Haengnam Coastal Walking Path

The coastal walking path brings you along the periphery of Ulleungdo, featuring steep rugged cliffs alongside pebble beaches. During the walk, you’ll be able to witness first hand the mighty rock formations, lush forests and also the marine ecosystem and flora of Ulleungdo. Finally, have the Haengnam Lighthouse greet you at the end of the walking path and take in the beautiful scenery from the nearby observatory.

 

ulleungdo

Dokdo Island Observatory Cable Car

Head over to Dodong Yaksu Park where the Dokdo Island Observatory Cable Car is located. As you travel up to Manghyanbong Peak, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Ulleungdo. Plus if you’re there when the sky is clear, you’ll be treated to views of Dokdo Island that is situated 92 km away from Ulleungdo. 

Tip: Go for an early morning ride to catch the sunrise as it illuminates the island!

 

Bongnae Waterfall

Bongnae Waterfall is a 25 metre, three-tiered waterfall which doubles as the main source of drinking water for the residents of the surrounding area. Take a sip of water from the falls to cool yourselves down after trekking to the falls. While you’re there, visit the nearby Punghyeol (also known as “natural air-conditioner). During the summer, cool, subterranean air blows from these rock openings.

Tip: Due to unexpected incidents of landfall, there may be limited access to this area. Visitors should visit the official website for updates when planning for their travels. 

 

Dokdo

Located 87.4km from Ulleungdo lies Dokdo Island — an isolated group of volcanic islands and rocks on the east coast of South Korea. Dokdo is a protected natural reserve that is home to a couple of rare and endangered bird species. Due to the geographical location and small size of Dokdo, weather can be harsh and ferries can only dock on the island once every forty days on average. If the weather is favourable, consider taking a half-day trip to visit this beautiful island! The only way to get to Dokdo is via Ulleungdo and ferries depart from Ulleungdo twice a day.

 

Things to Eat:

There are several food items unique to Ulleungdo and you should give them a go: Honghap Bap (seasoned rice with mussels), Sanchae Bibimbap (rice mixed with local sprouts and roots), Yakso Bulgogi (Barbecued beef), Squid and Hobak Yeott (squash candy).

 

Getting There & Around:

Ulleungdo is only accessible by ferry and there are three terminals on the South Korean mainland which provide ferry services — Gangneung, Mukho and Pohang (they are all easily accessible from Seoul). However, do keep in mind that ferries will not run during bad weather and you should always keep a lookout for the forecast and have a backup plan. You can dial the 1330 travel hotline before your departure to check on updates.

On Ulleungdo, public buses link the two main towns of Dodong and Jeodong while making stops at popular attractions such as the Bongnae Waterfall, Nari Basin and Gwaneum-do Island. Buses are known to be pretty accurate and you can pick up updated bus schedules from the tourist information booths in both Dodong and Jeodong. Alternatively, you can get around the island by hiring a taxi (approximately SGD$110 per day). 

 

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