Welcome to South Korea’s Mysterious Island, Ulleungdo. A secluded island in the middle of the East Sea, between Korea and Japan, where you can find everything from crystal blue oceans, to primeval forest and soaring volcanic cliffs in between. Ulleungdo island is a must-see for anyone travelling through South Korea.
Explore the natural wonders around the island, eat amazing local food in quaint fishing towns along Ulleungdo’s coast, go for hikes through lush forests and up an extinct volcano, snorkel around the rocky beaches to see the varied marine life, enjoy the evenings drinking the local pumpkin Makgeolli, soak up some of the most incredible views in South Korea and so much more!
To many people, visiting this tiny Korean island can be daunting as it is only accessible by a 3 to 4 hour ferry and there is very little English spoken on the island. Don’t let that deter you though as I have spent the last year travelling as much of the island as I can to offer you the most comprehensive English guide to Ulleungdo island.
I feel I can safely say that Ulleungdo is one of the most beautiful places in South Korea. Watch this video for an overview of what to expect if you decide to travel to this breathtaking island:
At the end of this post you will find a downloadable pdf with quick reference map and information on all the main attractions Ulleungdo has to offer, in English. If you feel I have left anything out or have something wrong, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
A Basic Overview of Ulleungdo Island
Geography of Ulleungdo
Ulleungdo is part of the Gyeonsangbuk-do province and lies about 120km off the East Coast of Korea. The island was formed by a major volcanic eruption around 9,350 years ago. The island is roughly 11km by 12km (depending what source you look at) and is about 72km squared. Ulleungdo island is about 76% forest and has a population of just over 10,000 people.
Ulleungdo has an oceanic climate more similar to that of Japan than mainland Korea. It is cooler than the mainland in Summer and it stays warmer in winter. Despite the warmer weather, Ulleungdo has the deepest snowfall in South Korea.
Layout of Ulleungdo
Ulleungdo is separated into 3 different administrative districts, Ulleung-Eup, Seo-Myeon and Buk-Myeon.
Dodong is Ulleungdo’s main town and it is one of the 3 major ferry terminals. It has all the major administration offices for the island as well as the main police station and post office. The 2 major bus routes on the island depart from and terminate in Dodong. It is a good place to stay if you want to be relatively central. The town lies on the South-Eastern edge of Ulleungdo
Jeodong and Naesujeon
Heading east from Dodong you will reach Jeodong, another town with a ferry terminal, and if you keep going you will reach Naesujeon. In January 2019 a tunnel was completed that connects Ulleung-eup with the Buk-Myeon, Naesujeon through to Gwaneumdo. This had made travel a lot more convenient as it used to take around 90 minutes to go from Dodong to Gwaneumdo, it is now a 20 minute bus drive!
As you head around the island West, towards Cheonbu you will first arrive in Sadong. It is the third major port town on Ulleungdo island.
As you continue west around Ulleungdo island, you will pass the following notable towns in order; Tonggumi, Namyang, Guam, Hakpo, Taeha. This side of the island will give you the best sunset views and you will find Ulleungdo’s main camping grounds in Guam and Hakpo.
This is the northern part of Ulleungdo island. As you continue around the island you will pass Hyeonpo and Cheonbu. Cheonbu is where the bus used to terminate but now it carries on to Gwaneumdo and through the Naesujeon tunnel. From Cheonbu you can take a bus to Nari Basin or Seokpo. You can hike from Seokpo to Naesujeon and from Nari Basin back through to Dodong.
Symbols of Ulleungdo Island
Haehorang (해호랑) and Oggidongyi (오기동이)
If you’ve been travelling around South Korea you will be very familiar with the mascots that each town has. Ulleungdo is no different and you will see the smiling faces of Haehorang and Oggidongyi all over the island. Ulleungdo island is famous for its pumpkin and squid, hence the design of these cute mascots. Haehorang is the caped pumpkin and Oggidongyi is the cute blue squid.
A visit to Ulleungdo is not complete without trying some dried squid that you can find at the small markets at all the harbours, or the pumpkin candy (Yeot) that is produced on the island. Pumpkin candy (호박엿) has no preservatives and it may taste strange at first but the flavour grows on you.
Ferry to Ulleungdo
The biggest hurdle in any trip to Ulleungdo is getting to the actual island. Not only are the websites to book a ticket only in Korean but once you’ve got your ticket there is no guarantee that your ferry will actually run.
Having made the trip several times and assisted non-Koreans getting to the island, here are my tips to booking your ferry to Ulleungdo island:
- There are 3 port cities that you can catch a ferry from to Ulleungdo island: Pohang, Gangneung and Mukpo. I would highly suggest using Pohang because it is the largest of the cities so if your ferry is cancelled it is the easiest to find last minute accommodation using something like booking.com. There is also a KTX line to Pohang.
- From Pohang you can use the following website to book your ferry ticket: daezer.com. I have put together a video to assist you in using this website for your booking in this post about Ulleungdo Travel Hacks.
- You can choose between 2 ferries from Pohang, the Sunflower and Sunrise. The Sunflower takes you to Dodong and the Sunrise takes you to Jeodong. Check which town will be the most convenient to your accommodation.
- You must remember to have your ID, passport or ARC with you.
- Get yourself seasick medicine. I don’t get motion sickness, but even I felt queasy by the end of my first trip. The East Sea can get very rough, even on a beautifully clear day, so be prepared for the worst! You can get medication at the ferry terminal shop, just ask for ‘mol-mi’ (멀미).
- Anticipate that you will have a ferry cancellation. Because the weather is so variable there is a good chance that your ferry may be cancelled. Don’t plan flights too close to leaving the island and have backup plans just in case.
A ferry ticket will cost around 60,000 Won, one way, depending on the company and type of seat you get.
The ferry to the island is often the biggest deterrent to potential tourists, especially English ones. It can be difficult but if you use the tips and the resources I’ve recommended you should have no problems.
Getting around Ulleungdo
Once you’ve reached Ulleungdo you may still find some things difficult and frustrating because most of the information is only in Korean. A big complaint by many people who have visited the island is that the buses are terrible but if you take a minute to check the timetables you will actually find a schedule that is well thought out and runs incredibly punctually.
The biggest travel hack that I can give is get yourself the Ulleungdo Island App, you can find it on the Google Play Store here. On this app you will be able to get the bus timetable on your phone, you will be able to check what attractions are open, and you can keep an eye on what is happening with the ferries. I explain how to use the App in detail on my Ulleungdo Travel Hack post.
So much of what you see on Ulleungdo is weather dependent and things may be closed if you’re unlucky. Avoid disappointment by checking the app.
The buses between Dodong and Jeodong run every 20-25 minutes so if you miss a bus it isn’t too bad. But the buses that go around the whole island only run every 50 minutes, so if you miss this bus you will be sitting around for a long time. Plan your days carefully and keep an eye on the time to avoid boring waits.
To make the most of your time on Ulleungdo check out these suggested itineraries. I’d suggest reading on to the rest of the best attractions on the island so the itineraries makes sense but no reason to not get them open in a new tab!
Accommodation on Ulleungdo
Ulleungdo Island relies quite heavily on the tourist season for its economy. Because of this there is a huge range of places to stay, from incredibly expensive and fancy hotels, to simple homestay Airbnbs. I would recommend staying in either Dodong or Jeodong because they are close to the ferries and they are the best places to pick up buses.
You can have a look at what is available on booking.com through the link below. It is an affiliate link for us so we get a tiny commission if you use this link to make your booking, at no extra cost to you.
Also check out Airbnb. If you are using Airbnb for the first time, use the icon below to get a $40 discount.
A recommended Airbnb option is this home in Hakpo. The owner is fluent in English and can help you get to and from the ferry.
Unfortunately the majority of pensions, hostels and hotels are not online. You will need to book over the phone and be quite fluent in Korean. For a comprehensive list of other accommodation on Ulleungdo island check out this list.
If you would like to camp on Ulleungdo island there are 2 good options to choose from, one camping site in Hakpo village near Taeha and another at Guam, just past Namyang. Both campsites are well looked after and have all the necessary facilities for camping.
Guam Camping site (국민여가캠핑장) – (054)791-6781
Hakpo Camping site (학포야영장) – (054)790-6573
Ulleungdo’s top 10 attractions
1. Seonginbong (성인봉)
Seonginbong is literally Ulleungdo island’s central attraction. The peak of Ulleungdo’s extinct volcano rises up 984m and towers over the island. During spring and summer, the mountain’s sides are covered in the dense green trees of Ulleungdo’s Primeval forest and during Autumn the same forests are the beautiful, mottled colours of embers. There are several routes you can use to hike this peak and you can read more about it in this post on Seonginbong.
2. Nari Basin (나리분지)
As you travel around the Ulleungdo you will find that everything is either up or downhill, luckily Nari Basin is almost completely flat. The basin is the caldera of the volcano that formed the island. With incredibly fertile soil a lot of the original farming on Ulleungdo was done here. Now you can find preserved traditional houses, forest walks and great local food. To learn more about Nari Basin read this post on what to see around Cheonbu.
3. Sea Walkways (해안 산책로)
The ragged volcanic cliffs of Ulleungdo island are one of its most beautiful features. The best way to experience and explore these natural wonders is to take a wander along the sea walkways. There are 2 main walkways that are still intact, one starts in Dodong (행남 해안 산책로) and the other is in Taeha. On a sunny day the water is crystal clear and at night the walkway from Dodong is well-lit for a romantic evening stroll.
4. Bongnae waterfall and wind cave (봉래폭포 & 풍혈)
Ulleungdo’s primary water source is the Bongnae waterfall (also sometimes translated as Bongrae). You will find the waterfall after a short walk through more of Ulleungdo’s beautiful forests. There is a large platform built so you can view Bongnae waterfall without getting too close. You can see three distinct levels that are made of 3 different types of volcanic rock. At the bottom of the hill to the waterfall you will find the wind cave, which acts as an air conditioner in summer due to the randomly arranged volcanic breccia. The cave is a great place to rest on a hot day. For more information have a look at all the things to do around Jeodong.
5. Taeha Monorail and view of Buk-Myeon Coast (태하향목관광모노레일 & 대풍감에서 바라본 북면 해안)
The Taeha Monorail affords some of the best views on Ulleungdo. The ride takes about 5 minutes and you have a birds-eye view over Taeha. At the top you can go to the Taeha lighthouse to enjoy the view of Buk-Myeon’s coast. This view is consider one of the top 10 Korean pilgrimages. It is very popular so for tips how to get to a more secluded, and better, viewing point that most tourists don’t know about read up on our post about Taeha.
6. Gwaneumdo (섬목-관음도 보행연도교)
This is a really fun place to visit on your travels around Ulleungdo. Gwaneumdo is a tiny neighbouring island that is connected to Ulleungdo island by a large suspension bridge. The island itself is beautiful and offers a wonderful view back onto Ulleungdo. The best way to reach Gwaneumdo is by bus from Cheonbu so for more details on what to expect check out our post on Cheonbu and around.
7. Hakpo Beach (학포마을)
Ulleungdo island is wonderful in that you can find almost any spot around the island to jump into the East Sea for a swim if the waves are calm enough. If you are looking for a more controlled swimming environment then you must visit Hakpo village and beach. There is a cute cafe by the sea and lots of water activities during summer to keep you busy. Check out this post for more on Hakpo and if swimming is your thing, then have a look at this post with all the best swimming places on Ulleungdo.
8. Around the Island Ferry (섬일주)
Despite being quite a small place, you will find that travelling the entire island is really difficult unless you have a lot of time at your disposal. A way to at least see the whole of Ulleungdo is by taking the Around the Island Boat Tour. Boats leave from Dodong and Sadong for this tour and it is a beautiful experience. Read more about it in what to do in Dodong.
9. Sculpture Garden (예림원)
This is one of Ulleungdo’s hidden gems. It is not well advertised and the garden is tucked away off the road so it can be difficult to find if you don’t have someone to take you there. It is unfortunate because the gardens are large and well-kept with weird sculptures, beautiful bonsai trees, waterfalls and other quirky features. There is also a great viewing platform over Elephant Rock. It is just outside Hyeonpo, so make sure to look for it!
10. Dokdo Museum and Cable Car (독도박물관과 독도전망대케이블카)
If you’ve looked up Ulleungdo you will have heard about Dokdo. This a very touchy issue with many Koreans and is even more pronounced on Ulleungdo. To learn more about Dokdo and the issues around it then visiting the Dokdo Museum is your best stop. If museums aren’t your thing then make sure to take the cable car to the Dokdo viewing platform. On a clear day you will just be able to see the tiny island but you will also have a wonderful, panoramic view over Dodong, Sadong, Seonginbong and the ocean.
Ulleungdo’s Other Attractions by Area
- Naesujeon Sunrise observatory (내수전일출전망대)
The sunrise observatory at Naesujeon offers an amazing view over the East coast of Ulleungdo island. You will also have great view of Gwaneumdo, Jukdo and on a clear day you can see all the way to Dokdo.
- Chotdaeam (candle rock) (촛대암)
The most prominent feature of Jeodong is Chatdaeam, the candle rock. There is an interesting myth behind the rock, to find out more about it and some fun activities around the town, like bridge jumping, make sure to read this post on Jeodong.
- Botanical Garden (울릉자생식물원)
Ulleungdo island is home to many unique plant species. To discover these species, and even enjoy a relaxing picnic overlooking the ocean, make sure you visit the Ulleung Botanical Garden. The gardens overlook Sadong and are easily accessible by foot from the nearest bus stop.
- Ulleung History and Culture Experience Center (울릉역사문화체험센터)
If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee then make sure to visit the Ulleung History and Culture Experience Center. The building is a restored Japanese style house that has been turned into a mini museum. If you fill in a survey on your visit to Ulleungdo the owners will print out one of your travel photos from the island and you will also receive a small gift.
- Mineral Springs (약수)
There are several locations around Ulleungdo island where you will find these mineral springs. With water high in iron, they are meant to be very healthy in small quantities. You will find this spring at the Mineral Spring Park near the Dokdo museum.
- Haengnam Beach and Lighthouse (행남등대)
At the end of the Dodong sea walkway you will reach Haengnam beach and perched above that you will see the lighthouse. The lighthouse offers a great view over Jeodong and is a sunrise viewing point. You can also reach Haengnam via a Forest Trail that starts in Dodong.
- Jukdo (죽도)
A short ferry ride from Ulleungdo island you will find Jukdo. Jukdo is known as the bamboo island and you will see it rising up out of the ocean from anywhere along the East of Ulleungdo. The only path leading onto the island has an impressive 365 stairs, so be prepared for a little climb.
- Beautiful Rock formations in Namyang (남양익 아름다운 바위들)
Of all the towns on Ulleungdo, Namyang does not have a lot to offer with regard to attractions but you may be interested in stopping to look at the rock formations. You can find Lion rock, duck rock and even penis rock here.
- Geobukbawi (Turtle Rock) (거북바위)
You will find Turtle Rock at Tonggumi beach, one of the few sandy beaches on Ulleungdo. You will often find fishermen spread around this rock as it juts out into the ocean. In the parking area at the base of the rock you will find a statue of 3 sea lions. This is a memorial to the species of sea lions that used to live on Dokdo but were hunted to extinction in the early 1970’s.
- Taeha Sea and Land Museum (수토역사전시관)
This museum looks at the early history of Ulleungdo island and its settlers. There is a full sized model of an old inspector’s ship that you can explore, with life-sized models showing what life was like on the East Sea during the Joseon Dynasty.
- Seongha Temple ( 성하신당)
You will find this small temple at the Taeha bus stop. It is a shamanic temple erected in the 15th Century. There is an annual ritual held on the 1st of March (lunar calendar) to honour the spirits of the child deities whose spirit tablets are kept in the temple and to pray for a good harvest and a bountiful catch of fish.
- Taeha’s painted streets
Taeha is one of the oldest of Ulleungdo’s towns. If you wander the streets you will find some delightful street art that the locals have painted on their buildings. Find Alice in Wonderland, money obsessed owls and many other fun characters.
- Taeha Hwangto Cave (Red clay cave) (태하 황토굴)
At the start of the Taeha sea walkway you will see a large overhang of rocks with a thick belt of ochre rock that looks like clay. Unfortunately with the new sea walkway you cannot get close to this rock but it was once used to create red pigment by the early settlers of Ulleungdo island.
- Hyeonpo Tombs (현포고분)
On the hills surrounding Hyeonpo you will find ancient tombs that were built around the Unified Silla Period. To find out more detail about this Ulleungdo town, make sure to read up on what not to miss in Hyeonpo.
- Cheonbu Underwater Observatory (천부해중전망대)
As you approach Cheonbu you will see the underwater observatory sticking out into the ocean. This observatory allows you to watch some of the local Ulleungdo fish swimming around at 6m below the surface without getting yourself wet. It is a slightly surreal experience but a great way to see some of Ulleungdo island’s marine life.
- Songgotbong (송곳봉)
This mountain peak is impossible to miss if you are around Cheonbu. It towers above the surrounding area and has a distinctive hole in its side. You cannot hike up it but it is part of Ulleungdo island’s natural beauty.
- Cheonbu Sunset Observatory (천부일몰전망대)
Perched on the hill overlooking Cheonbu you will see a strange building with circular windows, this is the sunset observatory. With a great view over the ocean and surrounding areas, this observatory offers a good opportunity to watch the sunset.
- An Yong-Bok Memorial Hall (안용복기념관)
An Yong-Bok is a Korean fisherman who went to Japan twice (Once as a captive from a maritime clash) to confirm Korean sovereignty over Dokdo from the Japanese Shogunate. To learn more about him and Korea’s claim to Dokdo make sure to visit the An Yong-Bok Memorial Hall in Seokpo.
- Elephant Rock (코끼리바위)
The Elephant rock lies between Hyeonpo and Cheonbu and it really does look like an elephant. There are several great places to view this rock from and a trip to Ulleungdo island is not complete without at least one photo of the Elephant Rock.
- Samseonam Rocks (삼선암)
On an island that has such magnificent rocks it comes as no surprise that there are lots of stories attached to many of them. Ulleungdo’s Samseonam rocks are no different and you can read more about their story in our post on Cheonbu. You will see the rocks rising majestically out of the ocean on your way to Gwaneumdo.
- Trail to Sillyeongsu (신령수 가는 길)
Sillyeongsu is a mountain spring in Nari Basin. The walk to the spring takes about 30 minutes and you walk through the thick forests of the Basin. Along the way you will pass a small, fenced off field which has Ulleungdo island Thyme, a natural monument of South Korea, Ulleung Chrysanthemum and many other protected plant species.
You cannot write about Ulleungdo without taking some time to mention Dokdo. Liancourt Rocks is the Western name given to Dokdo and the Japanese refer to it as Takeshima. Dokdo is part of Ulleung-eup even though it sits about 80km away from Ulleungdo island. Dokdo is made up of 2 parts, Seo-do (서동) West Island, and Dong-do (동도) East Island. Like Ulleungdo, Dokdo is a beautiful natural wonder but what makes it a talking point is the contentious politics surrounding it.
Both South Korea and Japan have claims to Dokdo for fishing rights. The history is long and complicated and older generations on both sides can get very passionate about why their country has the right to control the land.
South Korea encourages Western tourists to visit the island because it means they have international recognition of their control of Dokdo. You will thoroughly impress any Korean on Ulleungdo if you tell them you have visited Dokdo.
There used to be a species of sea lions that lived on the island but they were hunted to extinction around the 1970s. You can see a memorial to these animals at Turtle Rock in Tonggumi and most Dokdo memorabilia have sea lion pictures.
You can get a ferry to Dokdo from Dodong and Sadong ferry terminals for about KRW 60,000 and the trip takes about 2 hours.
General Activities on Ulleungdo Island
Ulleungdo island offers a large range of hikes through its beautiful, primeval forests. Travelling around the island you will often spot information boards detailing various hikes and you could quite easily have a hiking specific trip to Ulleungdo. Some notable hikes are Seonginbong, the Dullegil trail from Naesujeon to Seokpo and the Dodong Forest Trail to the Haengnam Lighthouse.
Hiking on Ulleungdo island is an exceptional escape from busy city life and it allows you to relax in nature. Many of the hills are very steep so be prepared for a tough walk but no specialist equipment is needed for hiking.
Swimming, snorkeling and other water activities
During summer it is difficult to constantly pass the sparkling ocean waters without wanting to take a dive in. If you are adventurous you can jump in almost anywhere that you can find a spot. Luckily there are also several beaches and pools all around the island that you can swim at. Pools are literally just demarcated areas of ocean, it is not a swimming pool.
Hakpo, Naesujeon and Tonggumi have the best beaches for swimming. At Hakpo and Naesujeon you will find extra activities like snorkeling, glass bottom boats, jet skis and banana boats. There are also good pools at Cheonbu and Sadong.
If you enjoy snorkeling you will love Ulleungdo as the water is clear and during summer there are a fair number of fish to see. The water temperature is around 20-24 degrees Celsius and the pools and beaches get up to 3m deep quite close to the shore. For more details make sure to read this comprehensive guide to snorkeling on Ulleungdo.
The are various diving centres around the island that offer a scuba experience. The ocean around Ulleungdo is very deep, getting to approximately 30m or 40m, so it offers a great diving opportunity. Diving is popular so make sure to book in advance or you may be disappointed when you arrive.
Ulleung Diving Resort in Tonggumi (울릉다이버리조트) – (054)791-2763
Chusan Diving Resort near Hyeonpo (추산다이버리조트) – 010-5300-9835
Ulleung Aqua Camp in Naesujeon (울릉아쿠아포츠캠프) – (054)791-7770
Biking around Ulleungdo Island
The main attraction of Ulleungdo island is its natural beauty. What better way to bask in the view than by biking around the island? I would not recommend this if you are not a regular cyclist though as there are a lot of very steep hills.
For more information contact Ulleung MTB (울릉MTB) – 010-66558532
Fishing is a hugely popular pastime on Ulleungdo island. You will often see fishermen perched all over the rocks around the whole island. The easiest fishing spots to access are along the sea walkways.
For more information on fishing contact Ulleung Fishing (울릉낚시) – (054)791-5255
Festivals on Ulleungdo
A great part of travelling through South Korea is the variety of festivals that you can experience. Ulleungdo island is no different and there are some truly unique experiences you can have if you plan your trip right. For some of Korea’s other festivals check out this post on 5 small town festivals but here is what you can find on Ulleungdo:
Ulleung Seaside Song Festival (해변가요제)
At the beginning of August every year this song festival is held at the Dodong Harbour. There are various events that include a singing concert with Korean artists and school groups, fireworks and food tasting.
Squid Festival (오징어축제)
Squid is a very important part of life on Ulleungdo island. At night you can always see the bright lights of the squid fishing boats in the distance; a late night stroll on a sea walkway is a great time to see these boats. The actual festival is very hands-on, quite literally, you will have the chance to catch squid by hand!
Other activities include a squid marathon, log rafting races, cooking contests and of course eating lots of fresh and dried squid. The festival is held in Jeodong and it is on the first weekend of August or the last weekend of July so be sure to check in advance.
Mountain Ski Festival (산악스키페스티벌)
This festival is held every January and is considered an essential part of any winter trip to Ulleungdo island. The festival is more of a fun sledding day for children and is completely dependent on the weather.
Woosan Culture Festival (우산문화제)
Named after Ulleungdo’s ancient name, this festival is held in October every year and promotes local culture. The festival was first held in 1965 and its major events include religious celebrations, decoration of boats with colourful flags, making neowaneo bird cages and a local food contest.
For more information of any of these festivals and exact dates to help you plan you can phone the Ulleungdo Department of Culture and Tourism on (054)-790-6391
What to eat on Ulleungdo island
Korea has some incredible dishes and if you’re new to Korea I would recommend reading this comprehensive guide to Korean food. Ulleungdo has certain unique dishes that you must consider trying while you are here.
Ulleung beef – 울릉약소 (Ulleung Yaksu)
What makes this meat special is that the cows have been eating herbs unique to Ulleungdo island. The meat is beautifully marbled and delicious. You will find it at most barbecues around the island, or anywhere they advertise ‘Hanu’ (한우).
Mussel rice – 홍합밥 (Hong Hambap)
There is no shortage of seafood on Ulleungdo so if you enjoy seafood make sure to give it a try as it is incredibly fresh. Mussel rice is a popular dish but make sure to check the menus of the restaurants you go to as not all of them sell this. Often restaurants will have pictures on the walls outside for quick reference.
Wild Bibimbap – 산채비빔밥 (Sanchae Bibimbap)
Bibimbap is a quintessential Korean dish. On Ulleungdo, in Nari Basin, on you will find this special Bibimbap made with foraged herbs and vegetables from the surrounding forests. It is completely vegetarian.
Squid soup – 오징어내장탕 (Ojingeo Naejangtang)
This soup is made from squid intestines. If you like unusual dishes then give this a try. It tastes just like normal squid but it is prepared differently.
Raw fish and squid 회 & 오징어물회 (Hoe & Ojingeo)
Ulleungdo seafood is served incredibly fresh. Either just caught or kept live in tanks right outside the restaurants. As someone who does not love strong fish flavours I thoroughly enjoy the raw fish on Ulleungdo. It is smooth and buttery and with some soy or gochujang sauce it is absolutely delicious.
Top Places to Eat on Ulleungdo
Ulleungdo’s many towns offer a wide range of traditional Korean food and many specialties unique to the island. Don’t be afraid to explore the small restaurants or even the little stalls you find in markets or on the sea walkways.
That being said, here is a list of my favourite restaurants from around the island and what to eat there.
Hyangtomatjib (향토맛집) – Duck Bulgogi
This restaurant is just next to the post office. I would highly recommend trying the Duck Bulgogi from this restaurant. It is quite expensive at 25,000 Won but the portion is large enough for 4 people and it is incredible! I always feel like rolling out of this restaurant because I just can’t stop eating this dish. There are a large variety of other meals you can try but the duck is the best.
Yaksomaeul (약소마울) – Barbecue
If you like Korean Barbecue then this restaurant is a must. It is large so even during the busy tourist season you should still be able to find space. The meat is delicious and they have some of the best ban chan (side dishes) on the island.
Seonchanghoe (선창회) – Fish
Ulleungdo is a great place to eat fish. The fish is the freshest you will ever eat; either caught that day or fished out of one of the tanks outside the restaurant. This fish restaurant served us more fish than we could possibly eat for 25,000 Won. If you enjoy fish you cannot leave the island without having eaten at one of their numerous fish restaurants.
Aeddiang (에띠앙) – Squid Ink Pizza
This is a western, pub-style restaurant in Dodong and feels slightly out of place on Ulleungdo, but it is a novel place to visit. The restaurant advertises pasta and pizza so it is a great place for any visitors who are missing western cuisine. They do serve a variety of quirky dishes and I would suggest trying the squid ink pizza. With a grey base and covered in cheesy squid legs, it is an unusual but delicious pizza. The restaurant is just up the road from Dodong’s post office.
Woosanguk (우산국) – Sushi
Woonsanguk is a Japanese restaurant. It’s a small restaurant next to the harbour as you go along the road away from Jeodong towards Naesujeon. If you are looking for traditional Japanese food and some of the best Sushi you will eat, then this is the restaurant for you. Fashionably decorated and with a welcoming host, Woosanguk is a great place to stop for lunch.
Sinbiseom (신비섬) – Hwe
Sinbiseom is a famous fish restaurant on Ulleungdo. If you visit you will see that the walls are covered in pictures of various celebrities who have visited over the years. What apparently makes this restaurant so famous is that it serves live fish. That is not something that appeals to us but they also have very fresh Hwe that you can order.
Ulleung Bancheom (울릉반첨) – Tangsuyuk
The Ulleung Bancheom in Taeha has the best Tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) on the island. Portion sizes are large and prices are very reasonable. It is a great stop for lunch on any of your tours around the island.
Chusan Maru (추산 마루) – Donkas
Some of the best restaurants on Ulleungdo are very well hidden and this one is particularly difficult to find. I wouldn’t have known about it at all if my co-teacher hadn’t recommended it. Chusan Maru advertises that it serves sushi, draft beer, and coffee but the main reason to visit is to have their donkas (pork cutlet). I have never been served such a huge slice of meat. It was juicy, tender and nothing short of incredible. The restaurant does not serve walk-ins and tables need to be booked in advance at (054)-791-7279.
It is tucked behind a cluster of buildings near the petrol station (gas station) as the road enters Taeha.
Hyeonpo Bancheom (현포 반점) – Jjajangmyeon
If you find yourself in Hyeonpo around meal time make sure you visit the Hyeonpo Bancheom. This place makes the best Jjajang sauce on the island and their Jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles) is fantastic!
Top places for coffee on Ulleungdo Island
Green Beans Cafe
This cafe is a quirky little shop with a great view over the Dodong ferry terminal. The decorations are unique and fun and the coffee is really good. It is entertaining to sit and watch the tourists around the terminal and it is a great place for a rest in Dodong.
커피 & 계란빵 (Coffee and Egg Bread)
This little coffee shop can easily be missed on the side of the road heading out of Dodong. You will find it just by the bus stop where the 3 roads meet under Ulleung Elementary. This cafe has the cheapest coffee that we have found on Ulleungdo at 2,500 Won and the egg bread is fantastic. You can have plain egg bread or pumpkin egg bread, both are delicious. If you are lucky enough to get one of these little taste sensations straight out the oven, you’ll never want to leave!
This quaint cafe is at the top of Dodong 3-gil as it meets the main road. The interior is designed to look like Santorini and it serves possibly the best coffee on the island. There are also a variety of smoothies and teas to choose from which are all delicious. If you feel snacky you can buy a tub of little coffee breads or else you can also order their delicious and freshly made pretzel pizza breads. The menu is in English so it is easy to read.
This is our go-to coffee shop in Jeodong. They serve a variety of coffees, teas and smoothies that are all delicious. If you are feeling hungry they also make great sandwiches. If the staff see that you are English they will offer you their menu in English and the service on the whole is really good.
Ulleungdo Coffee Van
If you stop by the Elephant Rock viewing point in Hyeonpo you can pick up a coffee from the Ulleungdo Coffee Van. The van is run by a local couple and they make a variety of delicious coffees and teas to drink while you take in the view. The hazelnut latte is especially good.
The History of Ulleungdo Island
Over time Ulleungdo has been called Mureung, Ureung and Woosanguk. Remnants of these names can be seen in some places like restaurants and tour companies. Ulleungdo has been populated for millennia as tombs, patternless earthenware, and grind stones have been discovered that date back to around the Bronze or Iron Ages.
In Goguryeo history there is a document that referred to an island which is presumed to be Ulleungdo island. The first true Korean documentation of Ulleungdo is from year 513 CE. The document shows that General Yisabu of Silla Dynasty conquered and subjugated what was then known as Woosanguk.
In 930CE King Taejo of Goryeo gave the people of Ulleungdo the title to the land. During the next few centuries there was continued conflict between Japan and Korea over control of the Island and the residents were forced to leave the island. In 1693 and again in 1696 (the latter time as a captive after a maritime skirmish) An Yong-Bok went to Japan to negotiate with the sovereign of Baekgiju, Japan and had Ulleungdo recognised as land belonging to Joseon.
Permanent settlement of Ulleungdo island happened again in 1883 when 54 settlers arrived from Mainland Korea.
Ulleungdo in the future
If you visit Ulleungdo island you will see a huge amount of construction all over the island. The major projects that are being worked on at the time of first writing this post in October 2018 are the following:
The Ulleungdo Island Airport.
Projected to open in 2022, hopefully travel to the island will no longer rely only on stomach-churning ferry trips. Projects of this size usually run over time but it is an exciting development to keep your eye on if you’re thinking of visiting. You can read more about this project at the centre for aviation.
A tunnel connecting Gwaneumdo to Naesujeon.
At the moment you can only reach the North-Eastern corner of the island either by hiking across from Naesujeon or travelling all the way around through Cheonbu. The tunnel was meant to be temporarily opened during Chuseok this year but that never happened. Hopefully this tunnel will be completed soon as it will make travel around the island much easier.
UPDATE: The tunnel was opened in January 2019 and it has made travel much easier! Enjoy the new road that rings the entire island!
A two-lane road around the whole island.
If you’ve visited Ulleungdo in the past you will have found many stop-go controls at tunnels and certain parts of the road. In a few years that will be a thing of the past as the plan is to have a two lane road running around the entire island. This will also cut down on travel time and make getting around Ulleungdo easier.
A sea walkway around the entire island.
When we first arrived on Ulleungdo island there were town meetings about working on a sea walkway around the whole island. We never found out what the resolution was but hopefully this is a step in the right direction to at least repair many of the ailing walkways. You can no longer use the Jeodong sea walkway and the path from Dodong to Sadong is also closed. Maybe in the future you will be able to use these again!
After living on Ulleungdo island for a year we are going to move on to our next exciting adventure so many of these projects may have subsequently been completed by the time you read this. I will do my best to keep this post up to date but feel free to comment on any new developments that you find on your journeys to Korea’s Mysterious Island, Ulleungdo.
Final thoughts on Ulleungdo island
Ulleungdo Island may not be the easiest of travel destinations but it is definitely worth the effort. There is so much to do and see on the island and it is far removed from the hustle and bustle of big city life. To have a truly amazing Korean experience, Ulleungdo should be on your itinerary. Part of the problem is how little information there is in English on the island but hopefully with this comprehensive guide we can change that.
Below is a free, downloadable pdf guide to Ulleungdo island. It provides a rough map to where you can find all the main attractions of the island and short info boards on those attractions. Feel free to download, print it and share it!
This entire guide is meant to assist you have a self-guided tour of Ulleungdo island. If that is still too daunting then consider going on a tour. Adventure Korea offers an English tour around the Chuseok vacation and is worth looking into. You can find their Facebook page here.
For another video glimpse of Ulleungdo Island, here is what I managed to visit going around the entire island in 1 day. I started in Dodong at 7am and got back to Dodong around 6:30pm the same evening. It involved many kilometres of hiking and a lot of time on and off the bus but it was a great day!
If you’re looking for more tips or information about life on the island be sure to drop us a message or comment.
Happy travels and blue skies!
Liked it? Pin it!