Korea

Saryangdo: Korea’s Secret Island of Adventure

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

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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

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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!

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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

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Honestly, the places to rest along Saryangdo are almost as good as the hiking!

And of course, you can Hike Along a Jagged Ridge

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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

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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…

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So many. Completely mental. Stairs.

And The Journey There is an Adventure in Itself

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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.

 

Tops Tips

  • 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?

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Dan
    17th June 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I’m not sure why but I never really think about Nature and Adventure when I think of Korea. I think I will have a stopover here in a few months, so hopefully it will be long enough to see those awesome views!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      17th June 2016 at 7:32 pm

      Yeah, it’s definitely not what I expected when I first came here, but it’s a welcome surprise! I’m guessing that you’re stopping over in Seoul- there are actually a few really great “adventurey” places to check out in the city itself- Bukhangang National Park has great hiking and great mountain views of the city and the Han River is nice for cycling on. Also, the Gangwon Province, which is one of the most beautiful parts of Korea is really easy to reach from Seoul. Hope you have an amazing trip! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jenn
    19th June 2016 at 8:00 am

    Whew! You definitely don’t have a fear of heights, hey? Your pictures were making ME nervous! Looks amazing, and I love the tips. I’ll definitely be checking this page out again if I make a trip to Korea in the near future. I LOVE hiking!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:22 am

      Haha! I don’t but my boyfriend does lol- he was also a bit nervous.

      Aw amazing, hope you get the chance to visit one day. Feel free to get in touch for tips if you do 🙂

  • Reply
    Brianna
    20th June 2016 at 12:47 am

    That hike looks like so much fun! I love when there are several different elements within a hike. It helps to keep me from getting bored. How long did it take you to do the hike?

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:22 am

      Me too, I get so bored if it’s all repetitive. It took about 7 hours because we stopped to take so many pictures, but I’ve heard of people doing it in 3!

  • Reply
    Carly Moore
    20th June 2016 at 3:20 am

    I love the picture of you hanging your feet off the bridge, but damn girl, all those heights lol.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:16 am

      Haha thanks! My boyfriend used to have vertigo and I think it started to come back a bit while I was trying to do one legged yoga balances along the ridge lol x

  • Reply
    christine leger
    20th June 2016 at 5:22 am

    OMG your photos made me weak in the knees. Great job and great courage.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:18 am

      Haha thanks Christine!

  • Reply
    Karla Strand
    20th June 2016 at 6:54 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your special place! Looks amazing. Korea seems very different than what I expected.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:17 am

      Hey, thanks for your comment! Yeah, there are so many little pockets of nature like this- not all neon and high rises!

  • Reply
    Carmen's Luxury Travel
    20th June 2016 at 11:47 am

    What a beautiful part of the world! Your photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂
    Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…Feeling Safe About Your House While Luxury TravelingMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kerri
    20th June 2016 at 6:18 pm

    So great to see an article about this. Very interesting.
    Kerri recently posted…The Farm Byron Bay : What’s all the hype about?My Profile

  • Reply
    Rea
    20th June 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Looks like a really nice hike worth giving it a try. I like the part of going down the cliff with a rope, it gives the hike the adventurous touch.

  • Reply
    How to Travel in Korea and Still Save Money - Wee Gypsy Girl
    21st June 2016 at 2:32 pm

    […] Outdoor junkies will be pleased to find that most cities have easily accessible hiking trails with amazing views from the top. Two big ones to check out are Bukhansan National Park in Seoul and Jangsan Mountain in Busan (confession- I’ve still not been to either!) which offer climbers some amazing city views and are completely free. Last weekend I did an amazing hike on an island called Saryangdo. Since I arranged all my own transport it hardly cost a penny. You can read all about it here. […]

  • Reply
    Lauren Bishop
    22nd June 2016 at 2:32 am

    What an awesome experience. You are much much braver than I am. I’d have been with the older Korean ladies screaming and begging you to stop jumping. 🙂
    Lauren Bishop recently posted…Learning to Value Every Grain of RiceMy Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      22nd June 2016 at 11:37 am

      Hey, thanks!
      It was so much fun, I’d definitely reccommend it if you get the chance! 🙂

  • Reply
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    22nd June 2016 at 4:29 pm

    […] Saryangdo Island Hiking […]

  • Reply
    Samantha
    25th June 2016 at 12:45 am

    I don’t think I’ve heard of this place! I need to go!!! I wonder how close it is to Busan and how to get there by transit…

    Dangling the feet off the cliff and the bridge look a little bit scary/thrilling… but I need to conquer my fears!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      26th June 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Hey, it’s really close to Busan! You just need to take a bus to Tongyeong- probs about 2 hours away 🙂 I thoroughly recommend it!

  • Reply
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    29th July 2016 at 4:13 pm

    […] Saryangdo: Korea’s Secret Island of Adventures […]

  • Reply
    Elaina
    17th August 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I totally agree with you on the “same y” aspect of hiking here – so glad you wrote this post! I’m going to definitely go here on my next free weekend! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      23rd August 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks so much Elaina! If you’re ever looking for a hiking buddy, hit me up!! 🙂

  • Reply
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    27th October 2016 at 4:04 pm

    […] Another of Tongyeong’s gorgeous islands! This one is a little separated from the rest (you’ll go to as separate ferry area to go). Check out for some camping tips here and hiking tips here. […]

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    7th December 2016 at 12:38 pm

    […] Korea and I have to say that this one was definitely my favourite. Yup, I liked it even more than hiking the other Jirisan on Saryangdo!! Although there are several hiking trails along Hallasan, only 2 will take you to the top- Gwaneumsa […]

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