Pair Korea’s Underrated Attractions With Popular Spots On Your Holiday

South Korea Upsized: Pair Korea’s Underrated Attractions With Popular Spots On Your Next Holiday

Spice up your itineraries with South Korea’s overlooked gems for a well-rounded getaway.

South Korea’s underrated attractions – K-pop, K-dramas, Korean food. These three phrases alone can conjure many memorable travel moments in South Korea, a true-blue hotspot for explorers. The country is known for its wonderful scenery, culture, delectable cuisine, and of course, extremely popular K-pop idol groups.We have to admit; we — along with the rest of the world — have been completely enamoured by all things Korean, and they’ve definitely been fuelling our travel goals! Aside from the major tourist spots in Hongdae and Myeongdong, you should also take a peek at South Korea’s underrated attractions that remain hidden from the crowd.

Image credit: Joshua Delica

Not only do they amplify the country’s beauty, but you can also kickstart endless discoveries and adventures at these locations on your next trip! Check out these underrated attractions in South Korea; they’re best paired with popular tourist spots for a truly well-rounded holiday in the East Asian gem. Plus, you’ll be pleased to know they were handpicked by Singaporeans at last year’s Go Get Korea! itinerary-making event. Are you excited to know more about your fellow Singaporeans’ South Korea recommendations? Here they are!

Marvel at South Korea’s underrated nature attractions

Hyangmok Observatory & Taeha (Ulleungdo) Lighthouse, Dokdo Observatory

Hyangmok Observatory is listed as one of the top 10 scenic spots in Korea — and it comes as no surprise. Here, you can catch the golden rays of sunshine coupled with the refreshing sea breeze. Top it off with the crashing of ocean waves in the late afternoon and you’ve got yourself a magical moment in one of South Korea’s most underrated attractions. This dreamy location overlooks the breathtaking coastline of Buk-myeon, which sits along the fringe of Korea’s eastern region. It will take a short hike to reach the observatory, but the stunning seaside views waiting at the end of the trek are more than enough to keep you encouraged.

You can also access Taeha Lighthouse via monorail, which takes you up a steep cliff before you reach the location. Another option: Embark on the path up to the lighthouse, located among groves of trees that make for a popular hiking trail. Along the way, catch glimpses of forests peppered with juniper and camellia — the two major trees that grow on Ulleungdo.

Haengnam Coastal Walk

Haengnam Coastal Walk is said to be the country’s best oceanside path, and it’s also among South Korea’s underrated attractions. Then again, of course it would be — considering you’re walking amongst crashing waves and rock formations overlooking breathtakingly glistening waters. Starting from Dodonghang Port, the Haengnam Coastal Walk provides picturesque coastal views of the island. 

Be one step closer to the sea when passing across bridges over open water alongside natural cave formations and eroded valleys. On days when the wind is strong, you can even experience ocean water splashing on you as you traverse the path. There is also a trekking course that diverges from the path — a great opportunity for nature enthusiasts to discover the marine ecosystem and diverse flora of Ulleungdo Island.

Solo travellers and families alike won’t need to worry about safety; the paths are safeguarded with railings to prevent any mishaps. Venture the coastal walk at dusk, and you might even catch trawlers heading out to catch squid. There are restaurants that serve fresh seafood and musicians to entertain you at the end of a lovely visit to Haengnam Coastal Walk. 

Cheonjiyeon Falls

Fun fact: Did you know that Cheonjiyeon Falls’ name was inspired by a Korean legend? The tale talks about seven fairies serving the King of Heaven. According to the legend, they came down to this body of water on a stairway made of clouds. Interesting, right?

Illuminations at this underrated attraction come alive every night to help you search for Cheonjiyeon Falls’ elusive ‘Hidden Face’. This is a rock formation that, under the night lights, looks like a human face.

A UNESCO Global Geopark, Cheonjiyeon Falls is a mystical, otherworldly location that sweeps you off your first at first sight. It’s no surprise that its name, meaning “sky connected with the land”, conveys this blissful imagery. Additionally, there is plenty of greenery that surrounds these pristine waters. Some of the many plants you can find are Gusiljappam trees, Sanyuja trees, and brambles. If you’re lucky, you might even get to spot Mutae eels during your visit!

Immerse in South Korea’s culture at overlooked areas

Gangneung Jungang Market

Opened in 1980 as a permanent market, Gangneung Jungang Market is Gangwon-do’s representative traditional market. There is even an underground fish market for those looking to get a taste of what life in Gangwon province is truly like! Although this may look like any typical market, the traditional and modern aspects of Korean culture seamlessly come together here under one roof — making Jungang Market the vibrant place that it is. 

Also read: 10 Most Insta-worthy Spots in Gangwon Province During Winter

What’s a trip to this underrated market in South Korea without some street food? Some of the area’s must-try delicacies include baenni dakgangjeong (sweet and sour fried chicken), eomuk (Fish Cake), and Royal Wang tteok galbi (grilled short rib patties with sauce). Previously known for its famous rice soup, Gangneung Jungang Market upped the ante by adding more dishes to its list of well-loved specialities. Reading that has already gotten our mouths watering for some authentic Korean cuisine!

Gangneung Coffee Street

Gangneung is recognised as the “city of coffee”, as dubbed by caffeine lovers. The reason? Almost all coffee shops in the area roast their own coffee beans. And if that isn’t a coffee lover’s paradise, we don’t know what is. Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism have declared this place as part of South Korea’s ‘Top 100 Must-Visit Tourist Spots’ three times in a row. We know that unofficially takes Gangneung Coffee Street off the list of underrated spots and catapults it to tourism fame, but Singaporeans think it still deserves a place on this roster!

Our tip? Go on a coffee crawl! A few must-try stops: Kikirus Coffee, Cafe Bossanova, and Santorini. But don’t confine yourself to the cafés we mentioned; explore to your coffee lover heart’s content! Each place here boasts its own unique vibes, making Gangneung Coffee Street a hip district that intrigues both the young and the young at heart.

What’s more, all the shops here feature windows that face the neighbouring beach and sea, giving you unparalleled oceanfront views, which are better appreciated with a warm cuppa joe. Fun fact: This area used to be lined with coffee vending machines in the 1980s!

Jumunjin Beach

Jumunjin Beach is a classic family vacation spot perfect for a summertime escapade. It is a shallow beach located in the northern-most part of Gangneung that boasts crystal clear waters and picture-perfect rows of pine trees in the distance.

With a plethora of amenities such as a forest fitness park and a nearby campsite, you can connect with your loved ones and nature all at once. Moreover, you’ll come to see that it makes for a prime spot to relax and reset. 

Also read: Rekindle Your Love for Your Favourite K-Dramas With the On:tact K-OST Concert Snow Festa!

Ikseon-dong Hanok Village

Heads up: You’ll probably need more than a day to cover all the interesting nooks and crannies of Ikseon-dong Village. It has made its mark among other major attractions in Korea like Gwanghwamun, Myeong-dong, and Dongdaemun. Given its popularity as a must-see tourist hotspot, you wouldn’t imagine this cultural space being a functioning neighbourhood today. However, Ikseon-dong Village still remains home to many residents, leaving some parts of it largely unexplored.

Once narrow alleyways, the streets of Ikseon-dong Village have been revived into thriving spaces for young entrepreneurs to dabble in business. We’re talking about cafés, arcades, and salons that fill the village with life. Wind through the maze-like streets and you’ll definitely get to see a side of Korea’s rich youth culture bustling with energy. For hardcore Instagrammers, the aesthetic views of hanoks and colourful shops make for a perfect backdrop. Happy snapping away!

Also read: Beyond Myeongdong & Hongdae: 7 of Seoul’s Hippest Neighbourhoods You’ve Yet to Discover

Take on off-the-beaten-path routes outside the city

Daegwallyeong Sheep Ranch

Daegwallyeong Sheep Ranch sits in Pyeongchang, which is about a 3-hour drive from the city centre. It isn’t entirely impossible to get there with public transport, and people usually opt to drive out to visit the farm’s fluffy residents. Then again, you’d need all the space you can to accommodate some 300 sheep grazing in the fields.

This underrated location is surely worth venturing out of the city for, considering the rolling plains and vast spaces you’re free to roam especially when the weather is fair. While you’re at the ranch, we highly recommend interacting with the animals. You can even feed the sheep if you’re keen! Cap your visit by taking in the mesmerising views of Gangneung and the East Sea beyond.

Remember how we mentioned that Jumunjin Beach was the site for some of our favourite Korean cultural icons? Well, you’re in for a treat since a wooden shack located in the field was featured in the movie A Man Who Went to Mars (2003), too. 

Odaesan National Park – Birobong Peak Course

Birobong Peak is a perfect trail for anyone looking to challenge themselves. And of course, smell the flowers along the way. 

Nature-lovers will be excited to embark on this underrated hiking spot in South Korea, since Odaesan National Park which houses it, teems with a large diversity of flora and fauna. Moreover, it covers the largest area of natural forest in all of Korea and is peppered with sacred Buddhist sites like the Woljeongsa Temple.

The Birobong Peak Course, which spans 7km, is suitable for all levels of fitness thanks to the paths which are clearly marked and well-maintained, allowing visitors to explore with ease. It also promises splendid panoramic views in every step of the way. Feast your eyes upon an arresting blanket of evergreen yew trees and luscious royal azalea. Whatever season you visit, you can be sure that Mother Nature will put on a grand show!

 Jukdo Island

Jukdo is a small, uninhabited land off the coast of Ulleungdo Island. Although it is vastly underrated compared to Jeju’s bustling tourist hub, there is beauty in simplicity when it comes to visiting Jukdo Island. Given its uninhabited state, its natural ecosystem remains relatively untouched. This results in a pristine, tranquil land that lies away from the noise and excessive distractions of city life. 

You can even witness dense bamboo forests on the island (which is why it’s called ‘Bamboo Island’). If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see tidal flats teeming with life and try your hand at sea fishing! 

So what do you think? Without a doubt, South Korea has plenty to offer for every type of traveller there is. Nevertheless, the best way to explore the country is to strike a balance between the thrill of city life and the serenity that emanates from pristine landscapes and overlooked trails.

Experience the best of both worlds by pairing South Korea’s underrated attractions with its popular spots for a well-rounded holiday! Why not draft your dream South Korea itinerary now, with places suggested by Singaporeans like you, as part of the Go Get Korea 2020! Campaign? That way, you know you’re getting the best revelation and won’t have to worry about planning once borders reopen.

Brought to you by Korea Tourism Organization.

About Author

Sarah Jane Lee
Sarah Jane Lee

Sarah strongly believes that much like sunflowers, she draws her energy from basking in the sunshine. She believes that detours, chance encounters and stories shared by strangers at a bus stop are part of what makes adventure beautiful. Apart from being a sports enthusiast (current fix: Muay Thai), Sarah enjoys soaking up the afternoon sun with a book in hand.