All night long the ships cry,
calling me to the sea
– Baek Seok
Essential Tongyeong Guide
When we landed teaching jobs in this small city on Korea’s south coast, little did we know how much we would come to love it. Nestled among sharp-edged forested hills, its clustered buildings climbing the slopes, the city reminded us of New Zealand’s Wellington at first. The locals know it as the ‘Napoli of Asia’, as many harbourside hotels, cafes and shops will attest. It is famed among Korea for its seafood, particularly oysters, and is a top holiday destination for Koreans. As the gateway to the Hallyeohaesang National Marine Park it is busy year round with visitors to its many islands. It is also a place of great historical importance in the country’s long and fraught relationship with its neighbour Japan. The surrounding hills and mountains, chief of which is Mireuksan, provide a network of hiking trails and stunning viewpoints from which to enjoy the area. Outside the city, the roads wind along some fantastic coastline, through sleepy fishing villages and past striking sea views.
During the three years we lived there, our friends and family visited Korea and travelled around the country a fair bit. When pushed to name a favourite place, they always said, “It has to be Tongyeong!” Our local knowledge allowed them to get the best out of the city, and we hope it will do the same for you.
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SEE AND DO
Tongyeong is a small but spread out city. Its hilly geography separates it into different districts. Some of the main attractions are on the island of Mireukdo, connected across a narrow channel by two bridges and one undersea tunnel. Some careful planning can help you get the most from your visit, so let’s take a look at some of the best things to see and do around the city.
In a city of hills, one rises above all the others. At 461 metres, this is Mireuksan. From the top, you have an unrivalled view of the city and surrounding islands on a clear day. There’s a cable car that climbs most of the way and a network of hiking trails that snake up, down and around the mountain. Two temples sit on its slopes and both can be reached by forest path or road. We recommend taking the cable car up and hiking back down, stopping in at the temples.
If you decide you want to skip the cable car and do a proper hike, here’s the relive from our 2018 New Year’s Day sunrise hike to give you a little taster. We’ve marked various hiking routes on our map and you’ll also find them marked on Kakao or Naver Map Apps.
Looking over Tongyeong from the top of Mireuksan
The Cable Car
At 1,975 metres long, the Hallyeosudo Cable Car is the longest tourist ropeway in Korea. It has 47 cars and takes around 9 minutes to get to the summit station. It’s a great experience. As you climb, the views slowly reveal themselves, getting better and better. By the time you reach the top, the whole of Tongyeong is spread out before you.
The cable car runs from 9:30 – 5:30 in Winter, 9:30 – 7:00 in Summer and 9:30 – 6:00 in Spring/Autumn. It costs 6,500₩ for a single or 10,000₩ for a return.
To get there by bus, take the 141 or 181. Both run from the Intercity Bus Terminal, go through town and drop off right outside. For more info, go to Getting Around.
Heading To The Summit
At the cable car station there are toilets and a cafe area where snacks can be bought: coffee, ice cream, corn or some questionable battered hot doggy kind of thing. Throw a coin into the pretend waterfall for some good luck.
From here a wooden staircase heads up through the trees towards the summit. It’s a really pleasant place, with flowers, stone sculptures and sunlight breaking through the trees. One day we even saw monks from 미래사 (Mi-rae Temple), their rhythmic chanting filling the air. The path continues past several viewpoints, looking out to the famous sites below of the Great Battle of Hansan.