Tongyeong Travel Guide, South Korea. Cable cars and lapping waves. Korean girls pretending to be afraid of heights. A fishy smell lingers in the harbor but it's worth the view. Colors pop in mural villages and historical sites are empty and peaceful. Seaside towns across the world share just one thing - a sense of inherent relaxation.
- What to See and Do
- Typical Costs & Budget
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- How to Get There
- General Tips for Korea
- Other Places to Visit in Korea
Tongyeong is a great southern city on the ocean in Korea. It's perfect to pop into if you have the time and like excitement! Check out the details in the Tongyeong Travel Guide.
Top 5 Things to Do
1. Cable Car (10,000krw)
Tongyeong’s cable car is one of the best in Korea. It’s just long enough (the longest in Korea), the cars are comfortable, and the views are lovely. It will take you to the top of the most well known mountain in the area, Miraksan (미락산). Normally, this tumbleweed is not a fan of the constant comparisons Korea receives. “Korea’s Hawaii” “Korea’s Miami,” it never ends. But I will admit the views above did give credence to “Korea’s Venice.” The canals, the glistening waters, the boats along the coast...It’s stunning! Make sure you get the round trip ticket, the bus from the other side only comes once an hour and it doesn't tell you what time it will come.
2. Skyline Luge (21,000krw)
The Skyline Luge may seem a little expensive, but the price includes two trips down the mountain. The Skyline Luge made my trip to Tongyeong, much to my surprise. It is surprisingly fun to whip down the mountain with stellar views on the way. If you're headed to Tongyeong, you have to check this out!
3. Dongpirang Mural Village (동피랑Free!)
Almost every Korean city is home to at least one mural village. But they’re each a little different. This one has great views of the city and the harbor, with a whole lot of quirky charm! At the top of this village there is a little cafe where you can sit and enjoy the sea breeze. Small shops and homes line the tiny twisting alleys that are well worth exploring.
4. Sebyeonggwan Hall (세병관3,000krw)
This attraction doesn’t get a lot of attention, but that seems a pity. It’s one of the best options to learn about what life in Tongyeong would have been during the war with Japan in the early 1600s. It’s one of the few historical sites that provides displays and information in English to explain what the buildings would have been used for. Sure, the palaces in Seoul are great - but what were all those buildings for? It also has one of the widest Joseon-era buildings!
5. The Harbor (강관 Free!)
The Gangguan Harbor is very beautiful. But it is rather stinky. There is a huge fish market nearby that, if you can stand the smell, is also a worth a visit! It's the best place in the city to get that perfect breeze that ripples through your hair. Hang out here and maybe give the traditional Honey Bread a try! You'll also have the chance to see the famous Turtle Ships that kept Korea from being taken over by the Japanese in the 1600s.
Enjoy the seaside
Buy the roundtrip cable ride
Other Things to See and Do
- Go island hopping! There are tons of islands off the coast of Tongyeong - in fact there are 527!! And many are well worth exploring if you have the time. Hansando is the easiest to get to and the site of the famous General Yi-Sun Shin's victory over the Japanese with his turtle ships (check out this excellent Youtube video if you're interested!). Somaemuldo is considered the most famous by the Korean tourism board. It features a gorgeous lighthouse and 50 meter long sea-road with stunning views. Saryangdo will be your island for hiking, beware the hikes are known to be as intense as they are beautiful! The blog Going the Whole Hogg has the best guide to this island.
- Check out the Jungang live fish market. While I don't recommend going to tons of markets, as most are almost identical copies of each other, the live fish market is highly interesting. The sheer variety of fish and traditional methods of drying and eating fish are all on display here!
- Mirae Temple - Again, most temples in Korea are similar. But they're still enjoyable to visit, particularly when they are as quaint and peaceful as this one. It's best to head here from the cable car drop off on Mirasan. The gravel paths and nicely kept buildings are a change from some of the more popular temples (like Bulguksa in Gyeongju) that seem run down.
- Yi Sun Shin Park - Simply a beautiful park along the coast. It has a nice coastal walk similar to Igidae in Busan with views of the islands and ocean.
Tongyeong Basic Costs
- Local Bus: 1,450 (most common)
- 10 Minute Taxi Ride: Around 5,500
- Entrance Fees: 3-21,000
- Coffee: 5,000
- Meal: 6,500 and up
- Hostel Room: 17,000
Estimates are for a weekend in Tongyeong, the most common type of trip to this city. The Korean exchange rate is currently around 1,150krw to 1usd.
- Hostel: 17,000 a night
- 6 Local Bus Rides: 9,000
- Intercity Bus from Busan: 11,000
- Food: 15,000
- Activities: 3,000
- Guesthouse: 42,000 a night
- 6 Local Bus Rides: 9,000
- 2 Taxis: 10,000
- Intercity Bus from Busan: 11,000
- Food: 25,000
- Activities: 34,000
- Hotel: 90,000
- 6 Taxi Rides: 30,000
- Intercity Bus from Busan: 11,000
- Food: 55,000
- Activities: 37,000
Where to Stay
Most Koreans use Booking.com for booking their stays so all of the links are through that site. If you sign up for an account, you can earn Level 2 Genius status after only a few bookings and receive discounts. It's saved me over $100 so far!
This is where I stayed and the owner is wonderful. The entire place has a comfortable, homey feel. It's also just across from Sebyeonggwan Hall. If you're there on a weekend the owner may offer you the chance to have a rooftop BBQ for 10,000. You should absolutely take him up on the offer! It included all the meat and drinks I could stuff into my tiny stomach. Additionally, it was a great way to meet some local Koreans who were also in town. It was a fantastic night!
If I were to stay in a private room it would be here. The value for money is great, as is the location. The rooms are also very cute 🙂
Everyone seems to like this hotel and it's one of the only traditional hotel options in Tongyeong. It also is well located, unlike the few others. If you're wanting to splurge on your coastal vacation, this is the places to go.
If you have a car, more time, and want to experience a different side of Tongyeong, a pension is a good idea. Many Koreans rent pensions for their holidays and they provide more of an entire house that includes a kitchen, washing machine, etc. This one is extra nice because there are beautiful gardens and places for fishing!
Where to Eat
Honey Bread (Ggul bang) 꿀빵
Make sure you snatch up some of this delicious traditional Tongyeong snack. They're everywhere and the perfect cheap sticky-sweet snack.
Chef Jang (세프 장)
Everyone who lives in Tongyeong eventually discovers this gem. One of my friends knows several of the foreigners in Tongyeong and it's always so hard for them not to head here every time they visit. It is expensive compared to most Korean meals, but for sushi, it is by far the best in town. An average meal will cost you around 20,000. Everyone raves about Chef Jang's ability to make each piece of seafood it's own tasting experience.
How to Get There
Most people will be coming from Busan or Seoul so I'll give prices and times for those. Sadly there are no train options so you will be limited to intercity buses. RometoRio is a good option for estimating routes and costs, but they are not always accurate so expect a bus ticket to cost a few thousand won more.
Head to your nearest intercity bus station. You can try to check the bus times on the T-Money Bus website but I would generally avoid booking tickets through it.
- From Seoul: It will take you around 4.5 hours and will cost you around 35,000krw
- From Busan: It will take you around 2 hours and will cost you around 11,000krw
General Korea Tips
There are two main apps for getting around Korea; Naver and Kakao. Google Maps does not work. I recommend Kakao as the romanization spellings are more consistent and the features are generally better in my opinion.
You may need to type in Korean to find some destinations so make sure you download a Korean keyboard.
When you go to catch a bus, it will tell you when the bus is arriving and how many stops you have. If you hit the bell icon in the upper right hand corner it will highlight which bus stop you're currently at, and it will alert you when you need to get off. It's amazing.
What to Pack
Depending on the season, Korea is either hot and humid or chilly and humid. In general, just take out the winter clothes for summer and add some leggings and a coat for winter.
- 2 pair shorts or skirts
- 1 pair jeans or comfortable trousers
- 1 pair leggings
- 4 shirts (crop tops are not a common sight in Korea, I would avoid outside of Seoul)
- 1 dress or nice shirt for going out
- 1 swimsuit (bikinis are basically unheard of but foreigners wear them frequently - just accept the stares :P)
- 6 pair socks (fresh socks are the best)
- 1 pair sneakers
- 1 pair flip flops/slides for showers and out and about
- 5 pair underwear
- 1 travel towel
- Deodorant (it can be difficult to find and expensive)
- Small lock for lockers
- Universal plug adapter
- Period products - if you prefer an option besides pads they can be difficult to find
- Tissue packs - surprisingly difficult to find
- General pain killers/common over the counter medicines - also can be a little hard to find depending on what you're looking for. Not all pharmacists speak English and it can be very trying to attempt to communicate about medicine when you're in pain.
Just about everything else is very easy to find, there is no need to buy shampoo, toothpaste, etc. It's all right there in a Daiso or supermarket for reasonable prices. Of course, if you have a preference, that's something you should bring as well.
Korea is an incredibly safe country. Women often walk alone late at night and theft is almost unheard of. You should always be cautious, but in general Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.
Other Korean Cities to Visit
If you enjoyed this Tongyeong Travel Guide, you should check out my other guides to cities in Korea!