Summer in Korea is a time of mixed emotions for me. On the one hand I’m glad that I’m not freezing cold anymore. But on the other hand I’m missing the delicate pink hues that Spring brings with it. And then when the monsoon rains come in, which is usually at the weekend, I’m cursing mother nature for not letting the heavens fall while I was stuck at work through the week! And that is exactly what happened over the weekend.
The original plan for the weekend was to (finally) hike Jirisan, the tallest mountain on the mainland of South Korea. But with downpours in that part of the country, we needed to scower the internet for a Plan B. And so we ended up at Saryangdo, a tiny island on the South Coast of the country. And coincidentally, ended up hiking another mountain called Jirisan!
The main attraction of Saryangdo is the mountain range that runs across it. And it was definitely my reason for going! Vee had already been before and had shown me pictures of him hiking across floating bridges connecting jagged peaks together. I knew that I had to go, and vowed that I would make my way there before I left Korea.
Saryangdo definitely lived up to the hype.. And more. It blew every other hike I’ve done in Korea right out the water. I have one pet peeve about hiking in Korea, and that’s that sometimes it all just gets a bit “same-y”- similar scenery, similar looking temples along the way, similar levels of difficulty and similar views from the peak. Saryangdo had absolutely no “same-y” syndrome. Not even a tiny bit. None at all.
If you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Korea, stretch your legs and go on a bit of an adventure, I urge you to pay a visit to Saryangdo if you have a chance. I promise that you won’t regret making the long journey. Here’s why…
Beautiful Ocean Views
The South Coast of Korea is a beautiful, but relatively unexplored part of the country. With sandy beaches, little fishing communities and sprinklings of tiny islands out in sea, it’s a stark contrast to the (extremely fun but) overcrowded cities. When you’re hiking along the ridge of Saryangdo you are treated to a rare birds eye view of all that beauty. I remember hiking to the top of Seoraksan and being really disappointed to be greeted with views of a motorway. I had no disappointments at Saryangdo.
You can Dangle your Feet off the Edge of a Cliff
Ok, all you people with Vertigo. Look away. Saryangdo is probably not the hike for you. For those of you who love a thrill, isn’t this the best place to rest your tired toes?
And Hear an Ajjuma Scream 안돼!
I’ve spent the past 2 years here thinking that ajjumas (older Korean women) were fearless badasses, and avoided them at absolutely every cost that I could. But at the weekend I found their fear- heights and wobbly suspension bridges. Felt pretty good to be the one doing the scaring for once!
Then Dangle your Feet a Little Bit More
Honestly, the places to rest along Saryangdo are almost as good as the hiking!
And of course, you can Hike Along a Jagged Ridge
This was definitely the highlight of the day for me, and what attracted me most to this hike. Hiking along the narrow jagged ridge with your hands firmly clapsed onto the bar, knowing that if you don’t fight the impulse to let go you’ll be a goner, was one of the most exihilirating things that I’ve ever done.
Then Shimmy Yourself down a Cliff
It might not look like much from this angle, but inside I was crying like a baby.
But don’t Worry, There are Stairs There too…
So many. Completely mental. Stairs.
And The Journey There is an Adventure in Itself
Sorry Seoul pals, but you can’t get here on the Metro. Saryangdo is just off the coast from Tongyeong- one of the most Southern cities in the country, which will mean a considerable amount of bus time for most people. However, don’t worry- when you get off that bus, you can head straight for the ferry and sail past tiny islands with a cup of makgeolli in your hand. Plus, play your cards right, and you could be treated to a sunset like this one on the way back.
How to Get to Saryangdo
I’m sure I’ve convinced you that you need to go? Ok, here’s how to get to this secret adventure playground..
First, you’ll need to take a bus to Tongyeong.(통영) Buses leave from most major cities around the country including Seoul, Daejeon, Yeosu, Gwangju Daegu, Busan, Jinju and Masan/Changwon.
From Tongyeong Bus Terminal (통영 버스 터미널) you should take local bus 670 to Gaochi Terminal (가오치 사량도행 여객터미널.) Fare: 1,250 one way.
From Gaochi Terminal (가오치 사량도행 여객터미널) you can take a ferry straight to Saryangdo(사량도.) Ferrys leave on the hour between 6am and 3pm. Fare: 6,500 one way.
*The last ferry from the island back to Tongyeong is at 6pm.
- Get there as early as you can- the hike itself is quite a long one, and you don’t want to feel rushed. The place is so beautiful that you’re going to want to take a lot of pictures and just enjoy the scenery so give yourself plenty of time.
- Start on the west end of the island- find a taxi driver to take you there or if you’re lucky, like I was, then maybe a tour bus driver will be extremely generous and let you get a lift with them!
- By starting at the west end of the hike you’ll reach all the best bits at the end, so you’ll feel like you’ve really worked hard for them. And you will end your hike close to the ferry terminal which is obviously convenient.
- Bring plenty of water. There are no taps on the trail, and just one guy selling things up there.
- Don’t try to do it toms/converse etc. You need a good shoe with some grip of it due to the rocky nature of the trail. I was fine in my running shoes, but the extra support of a hiking boot would have been better.
- There are pensions, minbaks and even a youth hostel on the island if you do decide you want to spend more than one day there. There’s also a small beach and lots of seafood restaurants, so you could definitely make a weekend of it.
- Be careful, take loads of pictures and make amazing memories! I wish you could bring me with you!
Let me know! What’s the best hike you’ve ever been on?