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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Stuck in Ulsan for Chuseok?

Perhaps you’ve only just arrived in Korea, and have not yet saved your shipwons for a trip abroad, or perhaps Chuseok’s early arrival this year (it’s usually in late Sept to early Oct) threw you off, and you didn’t have a chance to book tickets. Whatever your reason, here are some suggestions of places to go in the area to make the most of your time off. Most of these are easiest to reach by car or motorcycle. For bus routes, check the Ulsan Online bus page.

Ulsan Museum – Newly opened, the Ulsan Museum is located near Gonguptap Rotary and Ulsan Grand Park’s main gates. Read Jason’s excellent article here for more information.

Ulsan Petroglyph Museum – This one is harder to get to, as it’s way out in Ulju-gun. The museum explores life in this area during the Neolithic period, when cave men in canoes were out catching whales. It also examines the Bangudae petroglyphs in detail. The real petroglyphs are now under water, so this is as close to the real thing as you can get.

Petroglyphs at Bangudae

Cheonjeonri petroglyphs – Way down a little back road (so of more interest to those with vehicles or excellent cyclists) there are actual petroglyphs on actual rocks, in a picturesque setting beside a river. There are also dinosaur footprints on the other side of the river. Nice spot for a picnic. The easiest way to get there by bus is to head out to the Eonyang bus terminal, and then take 308, 308-1, 313, 313-1, 318, 318-1 or 318-2. If you’re driving, take the road from Guyeongli out towards Dudong. On your way you’ll pass a sign pointing you down a little back road to the petroglyphs. Follow that for a while, keeping your eyes open for further signs.

At Cheonjeonri a peaceful stream curls around the petroglyphs on the left and dinosaur prints on the right

Cheonjeonri Petroglyphs

Gyeongju – just 45 mins – 1 hour away, Gyeongju is the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, which unified the kingdoms of the Korean peninsula into one nation. It’s a trove of national treasures, with the burial mounds of kings, a National Museum, Bulguksa (temple) and Seokoram grotto to mention a few highlights. Gyeongju also has a large recreational area, with an amusement park, rental scooters and atvs, swan boats and all those other fun things to do. You can take trains, buses, or drive up on the free highways 7 and 35, or the express highway 1.

GyeongJu Unification Hall

Splendid views are easy to find is historic, picturesque Gyeongju

Jinha Beach – Though it’s a bit of a trek out of town through the Petrochemical Industrial Complex, Jinha is a pretty little sandy beach, bordered by restaurants and shops. Up behind the town is the old Japanese fortress. While only the walls remain, it’s an interesting place to check out, and it’s very pretty as it’s filled with persimmon trees. Take the 405, 715, or 1715 buses from Ulsan, or drive out on either highway 14 or 31.

Jeongja Beach – On the north side of the city, you’ll find Jeongja beach, famous for it’s black pebbles. Most of the beaches on Ulsan’s northern coast are pebbly rather than sandy, which makes them better for picnics (no sand blowing into your sandwich) and less crowded. There’s also a large fish market and a fishing harbour to explore. If you have a vehicle, the drive up the coast road from Ulsan to Pohang (and farther, if you feel like it) is quite beautiful. From highway 7, take 31 out over the mountains, and follow the signs. From Donggu, drive up over the mountain behind Nammock. Or take buses 137, 411 or 421.

Ilsan Beach/Daewangam  – One of the easiest places to get to on the list, Ilsan Beach is in Donggu, between Bangeojin and the Hyundai Department Store. In recent years, Ilsan has undergone quite the facelift, and now the beach is lined with trendy coffee shops and restaurants. The end that used to be crowded with fishing boats and shacks has also been cleaned up to make way for pleasure craft, and what looks like it might become a marina. On the opposite end, the Pine Forest leads out along the cliffs to Daewangam, fabled home of Queen Munmu, who after death became a sea-dragon to guard the country from attack, much like her husband, King Munmu, who’s watery tomb is farther up the coast, near Gyeongju. As it’s a stop on the way to the Ggottbawi bus terminal, many buses pass Ilsan beach, like the 102, 103, and 401. Check the bus guide to find the best one for you.

Some of the many shops lining Ilsan Beach in Dong-Gu

Ilsan Beach is sandy and calm with a beautiful pine forest protecting the southern boundary

Busan – There are 3 ways to take public transportation to Busan. Take a slow train or bus to Haeundae Beach , a bus to Nopodong or the KTX to Busan Station, in the heart of the city. Haeundae is a very popular area, filled with restaurants serving non-Korean food and lots of bars that are popular with ex-pats. It also has a lovely stretch of beach, that at the height of the summer season can host over 1 million people per day. Haeundae Beach is also on the subway line, and is close to the Busan Museum of Modern Art; BEXCO, the giant exhibition hall; and Centum City, the world’s largest department store.

Nopodong is the end of subway line 1. It’s also close to Beomeosa, a Buddhist temple nestled in one of Busan’s inner-city mountains, which means there’s lots of hiking around the area. Busan Station is a few subway stops from Nampodong, the main shopping area of Busan, which has both upscale brands and side streets crammed with carts selling all kinds of knock offs for a quarter of the price. Jalgachi Fish Market, the largest in Korea  (maybe even Asia?) is just around the corner. Nampodong is home to the Busan International Film Festival, and has a thriving bar scene at night.

Just drive around! – If you have a car or motorcycle, or even a bicycle, there are so many little things to discover tucked away down the back roads all around Ulsan. Get out of the city and just head into the country side. Not only is this a beautiful place to explore, but you can find all kinds of temples, historic monuments and places of interest tucked into the hills and valleys. And since Korea does pretty well with road-signs, it’s pretty easy to find your way back home again without too much hassle.

Just driving around examples of beautiful Korea are abundant

Ulsan has a lot to offer, if only you can take the time to get out there and find it.