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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Unmunsa Day Trip

Fall is one of the best times to get out and explore the surrounding areas around Ulsan. Near the end of October and the beginning of November, the Yeongnam Alps turns a beautiful shade of orange mixed with red and gold. In my opinion, one of the best places to check out these colours is around the Unmunsa temple near Cheongdo. If you are looking for a trip that is off the beaten path, then look no further.

I will warn you that this is a tough place to get to. If you don’t have a vehicle of some sort, you might want to look at renting one. Few buses go out that way and none go up the Samgye Valley road. This means that it will take some organizing to get to but do not let that stop you from enjoying the area.

Samgye Valley

For years, I have been travelling down this road on my motorcycle. It was one of the most beautiful rides both in the fall and in the spring. Recently, I decided to explore the valley a little more and was shocked at how amazing it is.

Highway 69 winds its way up over the mountain and down into the Samgye Valley. During the fall this village road gets a lot more traffic than normal. However, this is also a popular “auto-camping” area where families come to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to be with hundreds of other families trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. If you go during the morning, it is quite peaceful.

If you stop along the way, you can wander down to the stream that runs alongside the road. This is a magical area where the sound of the rushing water lets you forget get about the city life for a moment. At this time of year, the stream is covered with a carpet of fallen leaves. The road is narrow so look for the shacks along side the road in order to pull over.

Midway through the valley, you should see a water wheel on the left-hand side of the road. This is Cafe Kusi and it is a great place to stop and take a rest. If you are dressed for it, grab your coffee and head outside. You can enjoy the sounds of the rushing water and breeze through the autumn trees while sipping a tasty warm beverage.

Unmunsa Temple

The temple is one of the more famous temples in the area for a number of reasons. The first being that it is the largest training centre for Biguni or Buddhist Nuns in Korea. However, what draws most people is the fact that it is quite beautiful in the fall. It is also known for the enormous trees located on the property. The two noteworthy trees are the massive weeping red pine tree that can be seen as you enter the temple through the main gates and the other is the massive ginko tree that is located in a primarily “off-limits” area. However, from time to time, they will open this area up for performances and tours.

The temple is one of the best in the area not to mention the numerous hermitages around and most notably Bukdaeahm which is located on the road just before the temple on your left. Follow the road around and up the mountain and you will arrive at the mountain hermitage.   This offers a wonderful view of the the main temple area below. Admission fee for Unmunsa is around 2000 won but may differ depending on if you bring a car or not.

If you park and walk in, do take some time to explore the area before the temple. There are a few shops worth noting there. Tulla is by far the oddest one there but also the best. Of all of the restaurants that I’s expect to see in the area, a homestyle German restaurant was not one of them. However, after a wonderful meal, I will say that I most certainly will be back again. Reservations are a must and if you click here, you will get all the detailed information you require to do so. Across from Tulla is a local produce market that has vegetables and fruits from around the area.

The Kohlrouladen, which is a German beef cabbage roll is amazing.


Unmun Lake Area

If you head down the road you will pass through a wonderful little village. If you keep following the road around, it will give you some impressive views that you may not have seen much of in Korea. This is where you will see the Unmun Lake and Dam meet the surround landscape… and baseball diamond. It is a nice drive both in the fall and in the spring when the blossoms are out. If you make a right just before the lake there is a new park built that allows you to enjoy the lake view without being tailgated by angry ajeoshis.

When you arrive in the village of Unmun, the most popular spot in Milton along the creekside. This cafe seems to be an instagram hot spot. The steps outside are the epicenter for all the selfies. However, their coffee is decent and the view is pleasant. Click here for more information and the Kakao link.

Getting There:

As noted, this is a tricky place to get to. It is best if you have car as not many buses go out that way.

By Car: Take HWY #24 past Eonyang heading to Seoknamsa Temple. Take the same exit as if you were going to the temple but then turn right on tiny roundabout and follow HWY #69 up and over the mountain. This will be the start of the nice views and you can just follow this road until you reach the intersection for the temple or carry on until milton cafe.

By Bus: Buses from Eonyang can get you to Cheongdo and the bus runs eight times a day. The first bus leaves at 7:40 in the morning, while the last leaves at 19:30. However, you can also take a bus from Eonyang to Dongkok and then take the bus from there to the temple as well. This may shave some time off your trip.

Where to Stay:

If you are the type that enjoys camping, then there area is full of places to camp. This goes double for pensions. Many are your basic style but the views around should more than make up for it. If you are looking for something a little more upscale then Fresh Hill is probably your best bet. Located about a minute walk from Tulla, this hotel has been updated recently and from the pics on, it looks nice.