Pages Navigation Menu

Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Tongyeong and Somaemuldo

By Scott Rotzoll

Got any plans for the big vacation period this summer? No??

Well, there’s still plenty to see and do around here if you didn’t get yourself booked for a much needed escape.

As you probably know, Ulsan is pretty well situated between one of Korea’s most well-known historic sites, Gyeongju, and one of its largest and most eclectic cities, Busan. Either of which – or both – will definitely fill your days, if you’ve not been before.

A little planning, however, can take you just a little further along either of those paths to some lesser traveled places. Don’t get me wrong, most places in Korea are pretty far from being “lesser traveled”, but some of them are traveled to just a little bit lesser…er. And by a little planning, I mean get yourself to the bus station and buy a ticket.


Tongyeong is a small port city of about 140,000 people, in South Gyeongsang. It’s about 1.5-2.5 hours from Ulsan by bus (depending on the route the bus takes) and a cultural gem of a place to spend a couple of days. This was the home base of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, so they’ve got a few replica turtle ships in the port that you can check out.

Tongyeong tunnelThe first undersea tunnel in Asia, built by the Japanese, connecting Tongyeong to Mireuk Island.

 Tongyeong Grand bridge sunsetThe Tongyeong Grand Bridge is about a 30-40 minute walk from the central port area of the city.

Tongyeong Grand Bridge nightTongyeong Grand Bridge lit up at night.

Tongyeong fishermanTongyeong has a large, bustling market, serving up some of the freshest seafood you can get your hands on.

Tongyeong Art village alleyA five minute walk from the port, there is an art village up in the hills. The village has lots of twisty paths and interesting artwork throughout it. There’s even a coffee/snack shop with a lookout point to view the city from near the top. At the very top sits a pagoda and another great city view.

Tongyeong Art Village poopI’m not entirely sure what the artwork on the right is exactly, but it could very well be a poop on a rope.

Tongyeong pagodaThe pagoda which sits atop the art village hill.



Somaemul Island is just one of the many islands which dot the Hallyeohaesang National Park. The ferry leaves from the terminal at various intervals throughout the day, and the trip takes about an hour and a half, so it’s easily doable for a day trip. You’ll pass (and probably stop at) Bijindo, the bigger brother version of this island, as well, so you can get a look at it for next trip possibilities.

The island is pretty small, and the hike around it will only take about 30 minutes to maybe an hour, depending on how far you go, but it’s a refreshing break from the pace of life on the mainland. It’s likely that you will be joined by a thousand or so fellow hikers but there’s plenty of room for all of you. There’s a tiny village you first pass through that has a couple of shops and restaurants. The food is traditional fare and it’s great, but they know you’re stuck on an island, so it’s a little more expensive than what you’d pay in Tongyeong.

Tongyeong SomaemuldoSomaemuldo

Tongmyeong island schoolThere’s a very small, abandoned elementary school tucked away along the hike.

Tongmyeong island school hallThe hallway in the school.

I didn’t get to a lot of other places in the area. These are just a few of the ones I was able to reach in my two days spent there. I’ll definitely be going back. Have a look at their tourism website or wikipedia for more info on these and some of the other sites in the area. It’s well worth it to get out and explore the nooks and crannies of Korea – there is always something interesting to discover.

(For more photos from all around Asia, check out Scott’s Facebook page (linked through his name above) or his flickr account.)