You will find Cheonbu (천부) on the Northern side of Ulleungdo. Like most of the towns on Ulleungdo it is a quaint fishing town but there is still a lot to do and see there. It’s also the town where we had our debut on Korean TV; a comedy of errors that saw us eventually pretending to be new tourists needing directions from the police to get to Gwaneumdo!
The easiest way to get to Cheonbu is by the local bus. The drive takes just over an hour but don’t let that deter you from visiting, it’s one of the most scenic drives we have ever been on and the time just flies by! For essential tips on how to make the most of the buses on Ulleungdo, read this post on Ulleungdo Travel Hacks.
Cheonbu is also where you can catch the bus to visit Nari Basin and Gwaneumdo, both are definite must-dos on a trip to Ulleungdo. So here is the definitive list of what Cheonbu has to offer:
What to do in Cheonbu
Cheonbu Underwater Observatory
As the name suggest this is an observatory that is about 6m below the surface of the ocean. You will see it as you arrive on the bus as the observatory juts out into the ocean near an incredibly phallic looking statue of a squid.
Going down into the observatory is pretty surreal. You feel the temperature slowly drop as you get deeper and the subtle change in pressure along the way. Once inside you get a great sense of calm. The blue light from the ocean fills the room and you can spend ages just wandering around and gazing out of the windows into the water.
All the most common fish are pictured on the walls with their names for reference, although the information is in Korean. Food cages are also hung around the observatory to attract fish. The whole experience is great fun but make sure to check on the Ulleungdo App to see if the observatory is open before you go. You will want a green light on ‘천부해중전망대’. It costs 4000 Won to enter.
Cheonbu Swimming Pool
It took us a while to learn that the Korean use of the word ‘swimming pool’ is a lot broader than how we use it in English. We kept getting told about various swimming pools around Ulleungdo without seeing any (except in Taeha). Later we realised that any designated swimming area is referred to as a swimming pool.
The Cheonbu swimming pool is just next to the Underwater Observatory. it is an area of ocean partially walled off by the large concrete blocks. Despite its rough look it is a fantastic place to go for a swim. The water is deep and relatively calm because of the wall. You can read more about our experiences snorkeling around the Cheonbu swimming pool, and Ulleungdo in general, here.
By July the water is warm enough to swim comfortably and the days are hot enough to really want to cool off. I’d suggest bringing your swimming costume on a trip to Cheonbu so you can have a jump into the pool. Just watch out for sea urchins.
Cheonbu Sunset Observatory
Above the town, looking out over the ocean you will see a squat building tucked into the trees. This is the Cheonbu sunset observatory. There is a decently steep climb to get to the observatory but it offers a great view of the area.
Unfortunately if you are relying on the bus to travel around Ulleungdo you will struggle to be on the right side of the island for a sunset. The last bus from Cheonbu leaves at 7:10pm and the sunset time gets to be around 8pm in Summer.
Where to eat in Cheonbu
There are numerous local restaurants serving great Korean food and very fresh fish if you want to have a stop in the town, but I would recommend eating either in Nari Basin or one town back in Hyeonpo.
At the Hyeonpo Bancheom (Chinese/Korean restaurant) you will get the best Jjangmyeon on the island. In Nari Basin you can try the local Bibimbap with vegetables coming straight out of the forest in the caldera. For more information on Korean food, what to expect and how to know what you’re ordering, check out our comprehensive guide to Korean Food.
What to do around Cheonbu
As mentioned earlier, two main Ulleungdo attractions can only be reached by bus from Cheonbu, if you are relying on Public transport. One of those attractions is Nari Basin.
If you didn’t know yet, Ulleungdo is an extinct volcano and Nari Basin is the caldera of that volcano. It is joked that Nari Basin is the only piece of flat ground on the whole of the island. Due to the incredibly fertile soil from the volcanic ash, Nari Basin is covered in farms. It still has traditional grass houses on display if you are interested in the history of Ulleungdo. Many Koreans go to Nari Basin to forage for local herbs and vegetables.
In the actual basin there are several restaurants and a quiet, little cafe that serves great coffee and snacks. I would recommend getting the local Bibimbap, it uses several foraged ingredients from the forest around the basin.
There are a few paths into the forests around the basin. If you follow a path towards the Seonginbong trail you will reach a mountain spring, 신령수, with delicious, icy water. The shade of the trees makes for a pleasant walk even in the height of summer.
You can continue up to the Seonginbong peak if you are feeling like a harder hike. Seonginbong gives an amazing view of the island and you can read more about it here. The hike would take between 3 and 4 hours to reach the top.
Gwaneumdo is another attraction that is easiest to get to from Cheonbu. It is an island right next to Ulleungdo that is accessible by bridge. The bus from Cheonbu takes you right to the entrance. There is an entrance fee of 4000 Won.
You can walk up a huge stairwell or take an elevator to the path that leads to the bridge. The impressive suspension bridge makes for great photos. It can get really windy though and sometimes access to Gwaneumdo will be closed, so again, check your app.
Be prepared for a lot of stairs when visiting Gwaneumdo but the views are fantastic. The island sits high above the ocean with beautiful cliffs and you have a great view back onto Ulleungdo.
The 3 Angels and the road to Gwaneumdo
On the way to Gwaneumdo you will pass 3 huge rocks rising out of the ocean. These are are called the 3 Angels. The story is that three angels came to earth but when time came to leave they didn’t want to so they were turned to rock. They are beautiful and also make for great photos. The bus does not stop at the viewing area so I would suggest walking back from Gwaneumdo to this spot. Afterwards, you can flag down the bus on its way back to Cheonbu.
The view along the road is breathtaking and in a bus it goes by a little too fast. There are also numerous areas where you can hop into the water for a swim if the sea is calm enough. There is a long wait between buses at Gwaneumdo of around 1.5 hours so you should have extra time on your hands for a stroll along the beach road.
If history is more your thing than just sightseeing you will probably be interested in taking the bus from Cheonbu to Seokpo. There are several memorials that you can visit and it is apparently the best place to try see Dokdo from Ulleungdo. Here’s what you can find at Seokpo:
Ahn Yong-bok Memorial Hall
This memorial hall opened in 2013 and is in memory of the Korean fishermen who fought to defend Dokdo from Japanese fishermen. Like all museums and memorials on Ulleungdo you will find many records that confirm Korea’s control over Dokdo and Ulleungdo. It also contains historical documents detailing Ahn’s activities, where he went to Japan twice in 1693 and 1699 to get Tokugawa Shogunate’s edict that both islands were Korean possessions. You can read about it in the Korean Herald article here.
Dokdo Volunteer Forces Memorial Hall
The ‘Dokdo Volunteer Forces’ was a civil organisation formed by 33 residents of Ulleungdo who went to Dokdo to defend it from the Japanese from 1953 to 1956 when the Korean National Police took over. This memorial recognises the monumental task these 33 civilians undertook to defend Dokdo from invading forces. It is a small but interesting memorial that looks at what these 33 Koreans had to endure.
Russo-Japanese War Memorial
At the start of the Russo-Japanese war, Japan saw its chance to seize Dokdo, which it had been eyeing for strategic purposes, and this memorial commemorates that period.
I would not suggest going out of your way to visit these memorials. Even though they are well put together and historically interesting, there are much better sights on Ulleungdo. If you have a day or 2 to spare and want to learn more about the history of Ulleungdo and Dokdo then consider visiting!
If you are planning to visit Gwaneumdo and Nari Basin from Cheonbu it is essential to plan with the bus times. The buses alternate to each place so there is a long delay between them. Going early to Gwaneumdo and then moving on to Nari Basin for lunch would be the best option as there is only a little pop-up cafe food truck at Gwaneumdo.
The buses are synced so don’t worry about missing your Nari Basin or Gwaneumdo bus from Cheonbu or your bus back to Dodong. The bus drivers know to wait for tourists so even if your bus is a few minutes late they will wait for you, just don’t dawdle!
If you miss a bus you will be in for a long wait and there is not always a coffee shop to visit to burn time. The best advice I can give you is to keep a very close eye on the timetables. The buses are almost always perfectly on time.
Final thoughts on Cheonbu
Although Cheonbu has several things to see and do, it is more of a gateway to get to Nari Basin and Gwaneumdo. If you are short on time in the Island you will be best off to just visit these 2 main attractions, but if you have time to kill, take the time to enjoy the other attractions of Cheonbu.
Booking accommodation on Ulleungdo can be tough, the pension and hostel owners often don’t speak English. Thankfully we have ways of booking that don’t require phone calls. Airbnb is a great way to find affordable accommodation. If you use the link below to sign up to will receive $40 off your first booking and we also get a little bonus, it is win-win!
Or search some more up-market hotels on booking.com. We have an affiliate link with booking.com so we get a small fee if you use the link below to book your stay. It costs you nothing extra but helps us keep the blog running!
For a complete overview of Ulleungdo, what to see and what to do, make sure to read the most comprehensive English guide to Ulleungdo Island online, with a free, downloadable pdf guide. For more specific information check out the links below:
- Ulleungdo Travel Hacks
- Taeha and Hakpo
- Sadong and Tongumi
- The best snorkeling on Ulleungdo
- Taeha Monrail
Happy travels and blue skies!
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