Travel South Korea: Dokdo & Ulleung-do - Korea's Easternmost Islands

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Travel South Korea
Dokdo & Ulleung-do, Korea's Easternmost Islands
A National Geopark

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Land and cuisine are inextricably entwined and a hand's on exploration of both is highly recommended when you visit Dokdo and Ulleung-do, the easternmost islands in Korea. Be sure to arrive dressed for an active visit since the best vistas are to be found by walking and climbing the islands' many peaks. You'll come across remnants of the region's past along the way.

Located in the East Sea, Ulleung-do Island and Dokdo are known for an impressive natural environment that combines mountains, forest and sea. Created by volcanic eruptions with a unique geographical landscape, the islands offer an abundance of picturesque spots to explore. In the center of Ulleung-do Island stands the majestic mountain known as the Seonginbong Peak, where its highest point offers a bird’s eye view of the entire island. Visitors may also choose to enjoy a cruise on the deep blue waters of East Sea with oddly formed rocks and strangely shaped stones surrounding you.

It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes by boat to get from Ulleung-do Island to Dokdo, where you can get a glimpse of the most beautiful first sunrise of Korea. Dokdo holds a special place in the hearts of Koreans as they hold pride in defending Korea’s easternmost reached territory.

Haengnam Coastal Walking Path (Jeodong)
Jukdo is a small island adjacent to Ulleung-do Island, and it is considered the largest island among the others in the region. The island takes its name from the strong presence of bamboo as juk refers to bamboo in Korean. In order to get the bird's eye view of Jukdo Island, visitors will have to first climb a spiral stairs consisting of 364 steps. After making your way up the stairs, an observatory deck offering a panoramic view of the neighboring Ulleung-do Island with facilities including log benches, two rest shelters, camping ground, picnic sites and restaurants offering local dishes.

From the observatory deck you can also view the cliffs to the of Northeast of Ulleung-do Island, Gwaneum-do Island and the Samseonam Rocks. More often than not, tourists visit Jukdo Island on their way back to the Ulleung-do Island, the ‘main island’ by taking a ferry service leaving from Dodonghang Port. The cruise service only operates during the summer peak season (from Dodong Port to Juk-do Port). It takes about 20 minutes from Dodong Passenger's Port for a one-way trip to Jukdo Island.
☞ Address: Jeodong-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: Take a passenger cruise from Dodonghang Port to Juk-do Island
☞ Fees: Passenger Cruise (Round-trip) 15,000 won / Jukdo Island Admission 2,000 won

Naesujeon Sunrise Observatory
The Naesujeon Sunrise Observatory offers an expansive view where you can see most of Ulleung-do Island. It takes about 15-min to get to the Observatory from the harbor by following the narrow inclined pathway. Aside from the plentiful camellia flowers and rowan plants (also known as mountain ash) that fill the tunnel along the pathway, lights have also been installed for visitors who flock to catch a glimpse of sunrise and the local fishermen at work.
☞ Address: Jeodong-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, walk about 200m to Dodong Bus Stop → Take a bus bound for Cheonbu-Jeodong and get off at Naesujeon Bus Stop → Walk for about 1km to arrive at Sunrise Observatory

Bongnae Waterfall
You'll thrill to the stunning view of Bongnae Waterfalls, a three-tier waterfall with a height of about 30m. While the abundant volume of water flows down majestically throughout the year, the water also serves as a main source of drinking water for local residents in the south. A therapeutic walk in the Redwood forest located within the Bongnae Waterfall can be chilly as the natural breeze is colder than an air conditioner. Ulleung-do Island’s nostalgic traditional shingle-roofed houses of first settlers’ can also be found nearby, functioning as rest shelters for visiting tourists.
☞ Address: Jeodong-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, walk about 200m to Dodong Bus Stop → Take a bus bound for Dodong-Bongnae Waterfall and get off at Bongnae Waterfall Bus Stop → Walk for about 850m to get to Bongnae Waterfall

Taehahyangmok Tourist Monorail
Gawk at the vistas of mountains, forests and sea in style in the Taehahyangmok Tourist Monorail. It takes only about 6 minutes to arrive at the top of the observatory deck, or a distance of about 304m. During the peak cuttlefish fishing operation, you'll see the bright lights from the fishing boats at night along the Ungpo Coast and in front of Daepunggam Aromatic Tree Inhabitants.
☞ Address: Taeha-ri, Seo-myeon, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, walk about 200m to Dodong Bus Stop → Take a bus bound for Jeodong-Cheonbu and get off at Taeha-ri Bus Stop → Walk for about 350m to arrive at Taehahyangmok Tourist Monorail
☞ Operating hours:  09:00–17:30 (Ticket box closes at 16:30)
☞ Fees: Round-trip 4,000 won

Elephant Rock (Gongam)
Elephant Rock (Gongam)
The Elephant Rock, Gwaneumssang Cave and Samseonam Rocks are the top 3 picturesque sites of Ulleung-do Island. The name 'Elephant Rock' originates from its resemblance of an elephant drinking water with its trunk. There is a hole at the back of the elephant trunk, which has a diameter of approximately 10 meters wide that boats can even pass through. It's not only the shape of the rock but the surface texture that resembles the skin of an elephant.
☞ Address: Hyeonpo-ri, Buk-myeon, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, walk about 200m to Dodong Bus Stop → Take a bus bound for Jeodong-Cheonbu and get off at Pyeong-ri Bus Stop → Walk for about 750m to arrive at the Elephant Rock

Nari Basin
The northern part of Seonginbong Peak was created by caldera, crater formed during volcanic eruptions or subsequent collapse. It is the only flatland in Ulleung-do Island. Located north east of Nari Basin is Nari Village, and located south west is Albong Peak Village where no people are residing at present. There is one traditional shingled-roof house of the first settlers, as well as four tumakjips (houses built by stacking up wood and soil) preserved as cultural assets in the Nari Basin.
☞ Address: Na-ri, Buk-myeon, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, walk about 200m to Dodong Bus Stop → Take a bus bound for Jeodong-Cheonbu and get off at Cheonbu Bus Stop → From Cheonbu Bus Stop, transfer to a bus bound for Cheonbu-Nari Basin and get off at Nari Basin Bus Stop

Haengnam Coastal Walking Path (Jeodong)
On the left of Dodonghang Port, you can enjoy the beauty of nature by walking along the coastal walking pathway that follows the coast, natural caves and valleys. The trail is about 1km and when you make a right turn at the end of the trail, another pathway towards the Dodong Lighthouse is revealed. Go up to the lighthouse and you can see Jeodong Port and the famous Chotdae Bawi Rock statue, which can be reached by a separate coastal walking path from the Jeodong Port. Keep walking from Jeodong Naesujeon Sunrise Observatory to the north of Seokpo Village as it is an old road that is densely filled with trees for an intriguing experience of sightseeing through the island.
☞ Address: Dodong-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: Walking distance from Dodonghang Port

Here are some regional favourites to try out when you're there, made with ingredients that combine the bounty of the land and sea.

Barnacle Noodle Soup & Rice with Sea Mussels
Barnacle Noodle Soup
Made with barnacles that grow on coastal rocks, the barnacle noodle soup is one of the must-eats on Ulleung-do Island. Barnacle pieces as big as the size of a thumb, as well as wild edible greens are added, creating a delicious and fresh scent of the ocean with every savory mouthful of this dish.

Rice with Sea Mussels
On Ulleung-do Island, mussels are often cooked and complemented with rice. Seaweed is added with some spicy soy sauce and the dish is eaten by mixing ingredients together like a bibimbap. Unlike mussels caught closer to the mainland, those caught in Ulleung-do Island are the size of an adult's hand. For a true blue local taste, the dish is typically eaten with side dishes like wild aster, dried laver, fatsia shoots, and other wild edible greens found on the island.

Ulleung-do Island Beef & Cold Raw Squid
Ulleung-do Island Beef
A wide assortment of medicinal herbs can also found on Ulleung-do Island and the cows that were fed with medicinal herbs are thus known for its great quality and a unique herbal flavor. You may enjoy the taste of fresh meat - even unseasoned - when it is roasted over hot coals. The most delicious way to eat it is to cook the meat till slightly burnt, place a piece of it and wrap it together with fresh and pickled vegetables.

Cold Raw Squid
Squid  is one of the local delicacies on Ulleung-do Island and there are many dishes made with it. One of the mosst popular dishes is ojingeo mulhoe (cold raw squid) and it delivers a fresh, sweet and spicy sensation in a single bite. The cold broth adds a refreshing zest, mixed along with vegetables and sauce that enhances the other flavors. It also serves as a great side dish for cocktails.

Dodko Island & Seodo Island
Dokdo Island, Korea’s First Sunrise Spot
Dokdo Island is comprised of two main islands: Dongdo, or East Island and Seodo, or West Island, as well as numerous smaller rock formations. The clear blue sea and the surrounding natural environment create a spectacular landscape.

Dongdo is located in the southeast part of Dokdo Island, rising 98.6m above sea level. It includes a manned lighthouse  and the Dongdo wharfs, where you'll see major storage areas where marine products are kept fresh. It's also where the facilities for the coastguard are located. The large wharf has the capacity to allow the passage of the large ferries (over the 500-ton class) which transport a boatload of tourists through the area every day - weather permitting.

Tthe rugged terrains of Seodo are used by fishermen only in cases of emergency. The area is also home to Gajaebawi Rock, Dongnimmunbawi Rock, Chotdaebawi Rock, Eolgulbawi Rock and many other uniquely shaped rocky islands to enjoy on a boating tour.

Designated as Natural Monument No. 336, access to Dokdo Island had been restricted according to the Article 33 of the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.

Passengers entering Dokdo Island (Dongdo) from Ulleung-do Island via ferry can only stay for a maximum of 30 minutes on the island. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that the transit may not be possible due to harsh weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Nonetheless, visitors can still enjoy the beautiful nautical view from the deck that offers a full view of Dokdo Island and its surroundings. Please also note that the ferry does not operate during the winter season.
☞ Address: Dokdo-ri, Ulleung-eup, Ulleung-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
☞ Directions: From Dodonghang Port, take a ship bound for Dokdo Island. (Total travel time: about 4 hours; round-trip including time of stay on the island)
☞ Fees: Passenger Ship 50,000 won (varies according to shipping company)
☞ Website: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)