Buyeo (www.buyeo.go.kr) is home to several Baekje-era sites and relics. King Seong, a statue of whom presides over the roundabout in the town centre, moved the capital here in AD 538, when it was known as Sabi. It lasted till AD 660, when the combined Shilla-Tang army destroyed it.
Gyeryongsan National Park
Gyeryongsan is the region's most popular park, perhaps because of the sense of accomplishment it offers: you can easily hike from one end to the other in a day. There are two park entrances: the eastern one closer to Daejeon and the western one closer to Gongju.
Boryeong (www.boryeong.chungnam.kr) is the gateway to sandy Daecheon Beach (10km away) and the harbour Daecheon-hang (a further 2km), from where ferries sail to a dozen rural islands. Though it’s well-supplied with motels, restaurants, bars, cafes and norae-bang (karaoke rooms), Daecheon Beach is less a proper town than a resort outpost, surrounded by rice paddies and the sea.
Taean Haean National Marine Park
This beautiful marine park covers 327 sq km of land and sea, with 130 islands and islets, and more than 30 beaches. It was badly hit by South Korea’s worst-ever oil spill in December 2007, but the coast has been cleaned up and fishing and tourism have resumed with aplomb. At the southern end is Anmyeondo (www.anmyondo.
If you like undeveloped beaches and the salty smell of fish, skip out to Sapisdo, 13km from Daecheon. There isn’t much to do here except hit the beach or wander between the two villages, Sulttung and Bamseom. You’ll see locals mending fishing nets, collecting shellfish at low tide or working in the rice paddies.
In a controversial bid to decentralise the government in Seoul and to move some agencies further away from the northern border, the construction of Sejong (세종; www.sejongcitykorea.com) began in 2007. Sejong is not replacing Seoul as the capital; rather, it has been designated a ‘special autonomous city’. As of 2015, 36 government agencies have been relocated here.
It’s stumpish and a woody colour, with wispy roots trailing from its ends. Use your imagination and you might see the shape of a body, complete with limbs, perhaps even a head-shaped tip with thinning ‘hair’. No wonder the Chinese call it ginseng (literally, ‘man root’). To the Koreans it’s insam (인삼), and they have been cultivating it for more than 1500 years.
This popular strip of almost golden-hued sand runs 3.5km long and is about 100m wide during low tide. The main hub of activity is at its southern end, near the Civil Tower Plaza (시민탑 광장), but in summer the entire stretch gets overrun with beachgoers, especially during the increasingly bacchanalian Boryeong Mud Festival.