Andong is a town about 3 hours from Seoul by train ($22-30) or bus ($15-30), right in the middle of the country. Like many underrated places in Korea, there is a surprising amount to do in Andong! So let me give you the top 10 things to do and some ideas for where to sleep and eat!
What to Do in Andong
1. Masked Dance Festival
Although there are many things to do year round in Andong, it is best to time you trip to the Masked Dance Festival. Taking place in September or October every year, it is one of the most impressive festivals in Korea. Expect dancers brought in from around the globe! Andong is perhaps most famous for it’s preservation of Korean traditional masked dance performances. The very best are selected for the week and half of festivities. All manner of traditional foods and drinks can be bought on the fairgrounds, and expositions of Korean handicrafts and fashion are also on display. This festival is also one of the most foreigner-friendly in Korea, with separate English speaking staff to guide you through the ticketing and map process. Each performance ticket cost around 7,000krw ($5.50). If you’re looking for a guide on how to navigate Korea, check that out here!
2. Masked Dance Performances
If you can’t make it to the Andong festival, don’t worry! The Hahoe Village has performances year round. I will say, while I found all the foreigner performances at the Andong festival very impressive, I found the Korean selection a tad boring. The performances in Hahoe were more impressive and immersive (perhaps because of all the audience interaction!). Even if you are going to the Andong Festival I would still check out a regular performance in Hahoe.
3. Hahoe Folk Village
The entire village is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is filled to the brim with interesting things to do. Check out the small museum about the Ryu family who lived in the village, the tree Queen Elizabeth II planted on her visit, an ancient tree with thousands and white paper wishes tied around it, and beautiful thatched roof hanok houses.
4. Mask Museum
I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting a lot from this museum! And yet, I actually found the exhibits highly informative and interesting. The museum takes you around the globe with examples of different masks and traditions from as far as Mongolia to Venice. It’s also free! I spent a surprising amount of time here and wish I had gone before watching the performances. Then, I could have understood some of the mask meanings beforehand.
5. Andong Soju Museum & Traditional Soju
Andong is famous for its soju, perhaps the most popular of Korean alcohols. The soju from Andong is still made in the traditional way with distilled rice and grains. If you’re just looking to buy this soju, it is available just about everywhere, from restaurants to souvenir shops and displays in the Hahoe Village. However, if you actually want to learn about the process of making soju and also learn about some traditional foods, the Soju Museum is one of the few points of interest in the city proper. It’s open from 9-5 everyday except some holidays!
6. Stay in a Hanok
Andong is one of the best places to stay in a hanok (excepting, perhaps, Jeonju). It’s one of the most peaceful places in Korea. This also ensures you can enjoy the village when most everybody has gone back to the city. While you can stay in places in Andong proper, I recommend you splurge a little to stay in Hahoe. Bukchondae is over 200 years old and full of historical treasures (and a friendly owner!). Obviously, the price is steep at 350,000krw ($320). So if you’re looking for (slightly) cheaper try Rakkojae doesn’t quite have the history but is around 250,000krw ($220).
7. Take a Ferry to Buyongdae Cliff
Be aware that the ferry is not always operational. But, if you can, the short trip across the river encircling Hahoe Village is a treat! It’s also one of the few “short” hikes in Korea (only 64meters high). And it actually has a rewarding view of the river and village below. Just walk down to the small beach in front of the river (easily accessible from the village) and see if the little boat is working. Maybe you’ll be rewarded with a scenic ride!
8. The Confucian Village
This is one of the largest and most informative Confucian villages in Korea. And, it is only a 15 minute bus ride away from the Hahoe Village! The museum isn’t often visited so it’s quiet and scenic unlike most tourist spots in Korea. Although Confucianism heavily influenced much of the Korean culture you see today, I found there to be a surprising lack of museums and information dedicated to explaining the philosophy to tourists. This is one of the best places in Korea to gain an understanding! The 246 bus times are fairly infrequent. Make sure to check with the guide at Hahoe Village to ensure you can get back easily. A cheap taxi is also always on offer and might be the best bet for a return trip.
Where to Stay in Andong
I do recommend above that you stay in the Hahoe Village. However, outside of the village your best option in Kim’s House in Andong proper. It is well located, within walking distance to the fair grounds and other attractions. It’s very reasonably priced around $20 a night for a bunk bed, with tea and small snacks provided. I found the travelers I met here were some of the best of any hostel outside of Seoul!
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