A coastal port city in the South Korean peninsula, Yeosu, is itself a small peninsula consisting of the Yeosu Peninsula and 317 islands, all separated by mountains and sea. Being a storehouse of stunning sights, Yeosu has its own history. In the 15th century it was the place of the Joseon Dynasty's Naval Headquarters and in the 16th century it served as the first base for the Great Admiral Yi Sun Shin, a Navy Commander, who saved the country from Japan’s invasion. First named as Wonchon-hyeon or Dolsan-hyeon by King Seong in 538 A.D, this beautiful seaside town had been renamed several times until in 1949 it became a city and subsequently in 1998 it came to be known as Yeosu city after merging with Yeochon city and Yeochon-gun.
Its beauty and uniqueness mostly remains undiscovered as most tourists visiting South Korea usually prefer to stay in Busan or Seoul. But ever since Yeosu hosted the 2012 World Expo, it has been gradually gaining popularity as an international ocean resort and a desirable tourist destination. If you want to experience how it feels like to discover a city by walking through causeways bridging its islands, you have to visit Yeosu and make the most of it by doing all that have been listed below.
Be enthralled at Odongdo
This beautiful small craggy island, situated off the coast of Yeosu and covered with bamboo groves and camellia trees, is one of the most spectacular spots in this city. The island is small, yet it possesses plenty of wonderful sights ranging from lush green fields, towering cliffs, to plantations and rare species of wild flowers leaning over the steps and slopes of the mountains. Once you arrive here, sign boards will guide you and touring the island won’t take too long as it is pretty small but be prepared to do a lot of hiking and climbing. Many of its roads which are lined with bamboo trees on both sides lead to some hidden spots.
However, the main attraction of Odongdo is the lighthouse which is a viewpoint providing best harbour views. For hikes, you may select the Windy Corridor, Seal Rock or The Dragon Cave. From the entrance of the island you can take amazing photos of the Yeosu Expo Bay and observe an amazing musical fountain performance. Stretching across the island is the promenade which is a popular dating spot. Blooming camellias colour the island in scarlet from November to April. The 750 metre long breakwater from Yeosu Port all the way to Odongdo Island is as stunning as the island itself.
Dive into the past at Yi Sun Shin Square
There aren’t many historical sites in Yeosu but Yi Sun Shin Squarre says a lot about the city’s history. It is not located far away from the train station. There is a huge statue of Yi Sun Shin, the Naval Commander of the Imjin war who invented the “turtle ship” and defeated the Japanese fleet of 300 with only 13 ships. Around the statue there is a big plaza where public events take place. The 16th century turtle ship obviously doesn’t exist now but you can see a replica of it by the waterside. Geokbukson, is a magnificent ship with dragon heads, spikes, and turtle-shape. You can also explore everything that’s inside it.
Hang around the Expo
Located just outside the train station, the World Expo is the best fun area in Yeosu where an international exposition took place in 2012. Of all its attractions, those that deserve a special mention are Yeosu Expo Memorial Hall, Yeosu Hanhwa Aqua Planet, and the Big-O show at night. Featuring an ocean fountain event and a hologram show, the Big-O show is a popular show in yeosu that you shouldn’t miss watching. The fountain spouting around a large round steel frame is accompanied by classic and jazz music.
The Yeosu Expo Memorial Hall, which was the pavilion for the 2012 World's Fair International Exposition, still stands as a reminisce of the exposition’s effort to promote conservation of nature and protection of the ocean’s environment. Presently it is a museum showcasing Korea’s latest maritime technology. And the last of the trio is Yeosu Hanhwa Aqua Planet, the second largest aquarium in South Korea where the popular drama The Legend of the Blue Seas was filmed. The aquarium exhibits fish species such as the beluga whale and sharks, all of which are caged in huge fish tanks. You may also happen to watch these fishes being fed.
The whole area outside the exhibition halls make up the park where the sky bridge will grab your eyeballs. Watching sunset from that bridge has a strange calming effect on the onlookers. And, if you feel hungry you can grab snacks and food from nearby shops. Picnicking by the water is also common here. Drink a cup of coffee at the famous Sky Café. You’ll be amazed by the view of the entire port city from this café as it is situated on the top floor of a building that is decorated with colourful lights during night.
Go camping at Jangdeung beach
Situated far away from the main part of the city, Jangdeung is a remote and secluded beach. This place is ideal for swimming and diving but the sea water remains a little cold even in early summer. It is highly recommended to visit this beach from July to August but if you don’t come here during the beach season you will not find many people here. If camping is your thing, you can bring a tent and build a fire to camp out on this beach. Besides giving eerie and exciting feels, it may also turn out to be one of those rare thrilling experiences that is hard to forget.
Make a wish at Hyangiram
Founded around 1400 years ago, Hyangiram is a famous site on the Dolsan Island having many temples and shrines. It may be quite an arduous hike for many as reaching the trail would require climbing 291 stone steps but all the toil is worth it. Though there are many Buddhist temples, the Hyangiram hermitage is the most significant of all. It was built in 664 by Wonhyodaesa, a great Buddhist master belonging to the Shilla Dynasty. It is one of the four temples of the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. This gorgeous sea-facing temple celebrates the Sunrise festival when many people come here to visit the first sunrise of the New Year. The natural setting of Hyangiram is absolutely stunning and the cliff edges overlooking the South Sea are the special view-points of this place. On the way to the hermitage there are seven stone caves, where it is believed that, if you make a wish it will come true.
Hike Yeongchuisan and Bonghwasan
Yeosu is full of mountains that overlooks its islands and the sea. So hardly it’s possible to hike each and every mountain but you must hike the sea-facing Yeongchuisan which remains covered with azalea flowers in spring. This 510 metre high mountain has a valley and the famous Heungguksa temple and Heungguksa Bridge. Bonghwasan also acts as a vantage point from which you will be able to see a reservoir.
Enjoy bathing at Manseongri beach
Manseongri, famously known because it is the only “black sand” beach in Korea is located at Manheung-dong in Yeosu. This hot beach is as suitable for sightseeing and photography as bathing. It is locally believed that taking a hot black sand bath here has a healing effect on diseases and neuritis. Perhaps this is because of a legend that insists on every April 20 the black sand cures diseases of those patients who visit the beach on that day. Nevertheless, it is a quite exotic beach that projects a mesmerising view of Odongdo Island and the Southern sea. There are small carnival games and fresh seafood restaurants on platforms overlooking the beach where you’ll find delicious blue crab soup. You can also buy fireworks from nearby shops to shoot into the night sky.
Laze around on Mosageum beach
If you want to have a nice daytime beach experience, Mosageum, not located far away from Manseongri is where you should be heading. Though it is a small beach in a crescent cove, it is full of beautiful sceneries. The beach is surrounded by many fishing villages. You can walk on the soft golden sands or sit on refined gravel to watch the sunrise. And, if you love swimming don’t hesitate to dive into the glistening blue water of the calm sea. You’ll also be amazed by the 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape and seascape while standing on the breakwater.
See the Bridge Light Show from Dolsan Park
One of the best nightlife experiences that Yeosu offers is the Bridge Light Show at Dolsan Park. After exhaustive day explorations, you’ll love to spend a relaxing evening by walking around in Dolsan Park. But you must arrive here before sunset in order to see the setting sun from the cable car that will take you up across the ocean and once it gets dark you’ll get to see the illuminated Dolsan Bridge and stunning night scenery of Yeosu from above. You can get some really nice snaps here. You can stroll the park as long as you want and the fireworks and night lights will not bore you until your legs get weary. To make the most out of it, attend live shows.
Behold Geomundo’s spectacular beauty
Steeped deep in history, the Geomundo Island is located midway between Yeosu-si City and Jeju Island. It had long been the centre of East Asia sea route since ancient times and hence is also referred as “an island that is like a big door”. In fact this island was known by the name “Godo” until British sailors constructed the Port Hamilton, a naval port to fight with the Russian fleets. The island was later renamed as ‘Geomun” meaning “great literacy” by Admiral Jeong Yeochang who was surprised by the rich culture and high literacy of the islanders. Its present name Geomundo means “island of great scholars”. Dongdo, Seodo, and Godo Islands collectively form the Geomundo Island.
The discovery of a sword stone at one of these islands indicated that the island existed in the bronze era. Later on, Han Dynasty coins used till 621 AD and Goryeo Dynasty celadon were discovered here. As the island served as a meeting point of people from different nations, the conveniences of modernisation reached it quite early. Starting from billiard halls, electric lights, telephones to schools, the island had everything even in the 19th century when the mainland didn’t have such facilities. Even now it’s still an important place because it serves as a gateway to Baekdo Island Group, an array of uninhabited rock pinnacles called.
Picnic on the Ungcheon beach
Widely known as a capital spot for family picnics, Ungcheon beach is an artificial beach located in Ungcheon-dong, Yeosu. The beach has a broad cover of sand, brown decks, cabin shaped tents and a beach site. Hence it is convenient enough for tourists to stay here for more than a day as it provides equally good nightlife and daytime experience. Despite being relatively small, it is a very crowded and popular area. Prior to the Expo in 2012 this manmade beach didn’t even exist. Now this beach harbours series of restaurants and cafes. People come to Ungcheon especially on sunny days. Though it is not the best place for sunbathing, one can always try their hands at some water sports. Though environmentalists have stated that this beach has ecological problems, it is being preserved well.
Obtain Yeosu’s authentic eating and drinking experience.
While exploring Yeosu’s scenic beauty, how can you not explore its special delicacies! Start with Yeosu’s classic dishes. You can taste some in the restaurants of Jwasuyeong Food Street. Then head to the “Soup Tent” which serves various types of stew, soups and bulgogi. It is one of the most favourite eateries of international tourists. You can also check out standard Korean dishes In Ungcheon and Yeocheon. Yeoseo Dong also has some good eateries where you’ll get delicious barbecue. If you visit Yeosu In July or August, you must try Yeosu’s special spicy pork at a restaurant near Chonnam’s Main Gate. Yeosu’s regional dishes are a bit different. Gejang is a dish made up of raw crab and soy sauce.
Other special delicacies are Dolsan Gat Kimchi, leaf mustard kimchi, Korean lettuce, cabbage soup or ugeoji, seodaehoe which is made up of raw tonguefish, gat jangeohoe that is sliced raw pike eel, gul gukbap or oyster rice soup, gul cho muchim consisting of oyster and vinegar and gul gui which is grilled oyster, and gul jeon or oyster pancake. Sliced raw pike eel known as hamo and pike eel known asm shabu-shabu are also distinctly prepared mouth-watering dishes of Yeosu and you can enjoy them during the summer season here.
Go on a ride via Yeosu Ocean Railbike
Along the rocky coast of Yeosu there is a 3.5 km long open track that passes through open beachfronts and a tunnel portion. Riding the Yeosu Ocean Railbike is an incredibly exciting way to see the cliffs and islands jutting out of Yeosu’s sea. It is also a quite safe and comfortable ride. If you do not want to tire your legs by hiking around Yeosu’s coast, this is the best alternative for you. If you aren’t contended with these, go paragliding or island hopping and explore the murals of Angel Alleys.
Let Gubongsan dazzle you
Gubongsan is another delightful watch of the harbours, islands and the rising sun. Climbing up to the lighthouse and hiking around it will hardly take two hours and it’s perfectly safe to go there after sunset as the paths are well-lit and remain crowded even at night and there are maps for guiding how to explore the trails of this mountain. You’ll literally feel like you are at the top of the world while observing the sea view from Gubongsan lighthouse.
Visit Yeosu’s markets
South Korea has world-class fish markets and Yeosu is no exception. Yeosu Seafood Market in Namsan-dong is a big fish market where you’ll get a great variety of fresh seafood. There is a store on the first floor that sells raw fish. You can buy raw fish and eat it at the restaurant on the second floor while watching the Yeosu Port and Dolsan Bridge. Another remarkable fish market in Yeosu is Dolsandaegyo Bridge Raw Fish Street which sells fresh octopus, abalone, shrimp, skate and vegetables along with some seasonal delicacies. Other market areas of Yeosu are Yeoseo-dong Ssambap Street, Deokyang-ri Gopchang Alley which is famous for beaf and mushrooms, the Bongsang-dong Marinated Crab with Rice Street which sells rock crabs caught from the sea, Gaejang Street and the West Market in the Jungang Dong area.