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It has been a busy holiday for the last month, spending time in Thailand, Bali and Korea. The last place we visited before heading home was the small island of Heuksando off the coast of Korea. While visiting my son who is working in Mokpo for a year, we decided this would make for a fun day’s adventure.
Mokpo is a three or four hour trip south from Seoul, depending on which fast train is taken. Our trip took just over three hours with several short stops along the way. You can catch the KTX train at several places including Seoul and Yongsan stations, two of the main hubs of the Seoul Metro maze. As of February 2012, the cost of a one-way ticket was 41, 400 won. You can find great information about the the KTX lines and fares here.
The ferry terminal in Mokpo serves several islands off the coast, including Heuksando, Hongdo and the more popular Jeju. The earliest ferry to Heuksando leaves at 7:50 am. There are a couple more runs at 1:20 p, and 2:00 pm and that is it, as far as I remember. There are about the same number returning from the island, the last being around 5:00 pm. The ferries are basically large water taxis and usually it is not possible to go outside. The windows on our ship were dirty and too water streaked to see much, which was a bit of a disappointment. Don’t expect a full-service cafeteria on the ferry but there is a small canteen with drinks and assorted snacks. The trip to the island takes almost two hours with one short stop at the islands half-way there.
Arriving at the small port of Yerihang, we soon realized that this was no bustling community, especially in the middle of winter. There was hardly a soul to be seen except for a few fishermen unloading their catches and a couple of townspeople walking around. The small island population of just over 3000 is spread across several small villages around the coastline. It did seem that the town had several small hotels and restaurants but it would take some hunting to find them. I’m sure during the peak summer months, they would be more obvious.
It was interesting walking around the village. There were several rock-wall lined alleys to explore and interesting dwellings to observe. After a short walk around town we headed counterclockwise around the island road towards the next small settlement, about a half-hour walk. Along the way, we passed several Korean burial mounds along with a Bronze age dolmen group on the right-hand side of the road. This particular group is highly valued since it is the farthest distance from the mainland and are the only ones found on the island so far. The dolmens are composed of square or oval cover stones supported by three or four stone pieces under the cover stone. Six dolmens stretch here from southeast to northwest.
The circular 25.4 kilometer road around the island was only completely paved in 2010. Until then, most of Heuksando Island was not well known to outsiders. Now, it is easy to hire a taxi to drive around the island or take the local bus for a total of 2,000 won per person. It takes about one hour to complete the journey and along the way, there are many scenic spots. It is a mountainous island and the bus navigates many incredible switchbacks, one section alone containing twelve in a row. One site that details some of the more famous landmarks can be found here.
After arriving back in Yerihang Port, we headed out to find a cup of coffee, not an easy task in the middle of February. There were several buildings that seemed to be small restaurants and we finally found one that contained a handful of people. The owner motioned to us that there was no food but coffee was possible. She boiled a bit of cold coffee that was sitting in a pot, added a small amount to a mug and filled it with hot water. A bit later, we did manage to find a small restaurant and had a wonderful lunch of side dishes and some sort of clam/tofu stew, accompanied by a beer. Despite the cold, miserable weather and lack of any other tourists, it was possible to find nourishment.
There are obviously several hiking trails on the island that link some of the villages as we could see on a map in town. On the drive around the island, we came across several beautiful small beaches, harbors and fishing villages. Supposedly, it takes about nine hours to hike around the island trails, but I think that would be only accomplished at a fairly rapid clip!
In mid-afternoon, we headed back to Mokpo across rough seas and miserable misty weather. Despite the gloomy day, a great time was had. It is a beautiful island with some breathtaking scenery and lots of sites that we did not have time to take in. I would highly recommend it to anyone that happens to be in this area.
Island destinations from Mokpo Ferry Terminal:
Jeju-do / Heuksan-do / Hong-do / Gageo-do / Gwanmae-do / Docho-do / Bigeum-do /Anjwa-do / Amtae-do / Aphae-do / Ui-do / Imja-do / Jaeun-do / Jangsan-do / Jin-do
/Palgeum-do / Haui-do
Mokpo Airport → Mokpo Ferry Terminal
The airport limousine bus runs between Mokpo Airport and Mokpo Train Station. Take a taxi or bus from Mokpo Train Station to the ferry terminal (travel time: 5 min.).
Mokpo Train Station → Mokpo Ferry Terminal
Takes about 20 minutes on foot, or 5 minutes by bus. Base fare for taxis.
Mokpo Bus Terminal → Mokpo Ferry Terminal
In front of the Mokpo Bus Terminal, take Bus No.1 (travel time: 25 ~ 30 min.)
Information on latest ferry schedules
☏ Tel : +82-61-240-6060, 6053 / (ARS) +82-1544-1114 (Korean)