This island (www.ulleung.go.kr), the top of an extinct volcano that rises majestically from the sea floor and has incredibly steep cliffs as a result, offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Korea; think mist-shrouded volcanic cliffs, traditional harbour towns and a breathtaking jagged coastline.
Despite its proximity to Seoraksan National Park, Sokcho (http://sokcho.gangwon.kr) is more of a fishing town than a tourist town. The main commercial activity – and its attendant aromas – are clustered along the waterfront. For most domestic tourists the main draw is the chance to sup on fresh raw fish with the tang of salt in the air.
Heyri & Paju Book City
Less than 10km south of the DMZ, Heyri is a charming village of small-scale contemporary buildings that couldn’t be more of a contrast to the heavily fortified, doom-laden border. Conceived as a ‘book village’ connected to the nearby publishing centre of Paju Book City, it has blossomed into a community of artists, writers, architects and other creative souls.
Famous for its mackerel, strong soju (local vodka) and wooden masks, Andong makes a good base for exploring the numerous historical and cultural sights outside the city. The city itself has a very laid-back vibe and is strikingly friendly, with a good selection of places to eat and stay.
Seongsan-ri & Sinyang-ri
A must-see destination, Seongsan-ri (Fortress Mountain Village) and the neighbouring village of Sinyang-ri are at the foot of a spectacular extinct volcano that rises straight out of the ocean. Black-sand beaches are nearby, as is the lovely island of Udo and the Seopji-koji peninsula, with breathtaking architecture by the Japanese master Ando Tadao.
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.
Chiaksan National Park
This park may be the smallest of the national parks in Gangwon-do, but it offers challenging hikes and is a very doable weekend trip from Seoul. A popular but strenuous route starts from Guryong-sa (구룡사; Nine Dragon Temple) up to 1288m-high Biro-bong (three hours, 5.6km); it’s possible to continue another 5.4km (two hours) down to Hwanggol (황골).
A little gem of a resort town, Danyang (http://english.dy21.net) is cosied right up to the mountains of Sobaeksan National Park, at a bend in the river Namhan-gang. This is small-town Korea at its most charming: you can stay at a riverfront motel and explore limestone caves, hiking trails and a one-of-a-kind Buddhist temple, basking in mountain views wherever you go.
Jirisan National Park - East
This park offers some of Korea’s best hiking opportunities, with 12 peaks over 1000m forming a 40km-long ridge. Many peaks are over 1500m, including Cheonwang-bong (1915m), the country’s second-highest mountain. There are three principal entrances, each with a temple. Two of the three temples, Ssanggye-sa and Daewon-sa, are in Gyeongsangnam-do.