On one of my long weekend breaks, I decided to try my hand at solo traveling over to Tongyeong, Korea, a port city along the southeastern coast. This quick guide is to help anyone else who’s thinking of visiting the “Napoli of Korea.”
Looking back, Tongyeong was probably my least successful weekend trip in Korea! I did manage to see some seriously beautiful views. However, there were so many mishaps, which I covered in this random post, it’s only looking back at my photos that I can really enjoy what I saw.
I’m breaking this up into two posts, this one which is a quick guide to answer any questions you might have planning your own trip, and the other one which will cover all the different things to do in more depth. Hopefully, your trip is about 1,000x smoother than mine was!
A Quick Guide to Tongyeong, Korea
Where is it?
Located in Gyeongsangnamdo, Tongyeong is a bustling port city, often dubbed the country’s own version of Napoli. Situated on a smaller peninsula facing the South Sea, it has something for both nature lovers, history buffs, and those interested in Korean culture.
What is it?
Nature-wise, Tongyeong’s islands offer easy getaways, hiking trailers, and beautiful views of the sea. While the main part of the city might feel a bit claustrophobic, it’s easy to hop on one of the ferries and escape the clutter and noise. There are often pensions and camping areas on some of the bigger islands, so you can stay overnight.
For history buffs, check out everything dedicated to Yi Sun Shin, an admiral who became a famous war hero during Korea’s naval wars with Japan. He was highlighted in Korea’s most viewed film The Admiral: Roaring Currents (명량). Tongyeong served as his base, and there are numerous attractions throughout the city dedicated to his name.
When should you go?
Any time of the year, actually, but late spring and summer are when it’s the most popular. I’d highly advise avoiding Tongyeong on any summer holiday weekend because it will be packed, and the traffic is enough to drive anyone nuts. Speaking from experience, *cough.*
How is the weather in Tongyeong?
The weather is like any southern Korean city. It still has all four seasons, but winters are a little milder and summers are much more humid.
How do you get there?
The easiest way to get from Seoul to Tongyeong is by bus. It’s about a 4 1/2 hour bus ride, but it’s straight from the Express Bus Terminal to the Tongyeong Bus Terminal.
If you’re traveling around Korea, then you may actually want to schedule a trip to Tongyeong from Busan as the direct bus is less than 2 hours.
How do you get around?
There are local buses in Tongyeong, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure them out. They were particularly unreliable when I was there with all the crowds. If you do use them, download KakaoMaps because then you can plug in the points and it’ll show you how long you’ll wait for the next bus.
I took a taxi most of the time I was here because it was just faster to get around, though even they proved to be unreliable! With how bad the traffic was over the holiday weekend, I actually had a taxi let me out and tell me I’d just be racking up money waiting there. Another time I tried calling a taxi using the phone number listed on the taxi booth, and they told me no one would come to that area… I wound up asking a family if they wouldn’t mind giving me a lift closer to the city!
Hands down, I recommend renting a car if you’re planning on visiting Tongyeong. Everyone else I know who came actually drove, and their trip sounded about 100% less stressful than my solo attempt.
Top 5 Things to Do in Tongyeong
Visit one of the islands
Since Tongyeong is a port city, you’ll have access to plenty of islands nearby. The closest and easiest one to get to is Hansando, but other popular ones are Saryangdo, Somaemuldo, Bijindo, and Yeonhwado. If you do wind up going at a more popular time, then get to Ganguan Harbor early ( 6 am) to get one of the more popular islands.
Take a ferry from Ganguan Harbor
Sample some of Tongyeong’s seafood
This is one of the best areas to try seafood in Korea! You can go to Jungang Traditional Market to both see the various vendors and find some restaurants to sit down in. Some of the specialties are Catfish Soup (물매기탕), Chungmu Kimbap (충무김밥), Flounder and Mug-wort Soup (도다리쑥국), Sliced Raw Gizzard (전어회), and Sliced Raw Pike Eel and Pike Eel Soup (하모 (갯장어)회, 탕).
Use any buses to go to 중앙시장
View from Mireuksan’s Summit
Hike up to the top of Mireuksan or take a cable car (followed by a 15-minute hike) to the summit and get a beautiful view of Tongyeong and all of its islands.
Take Bus #141 to the 케이블카하부역사
Learn more about Yi Sun Shin + Korea’s War History
Admiral Yi Sun Shin is one of Korea’s top heroes. He’s right up there with King Sejong who introduced Hangul so that the entire country could read. If I could compare him to an American historical figure, I’d probably say he’s like George Washington, but even more revered to the average Korean.
Tongyeong was one his main bases, so there’s a lot of naval history here. You can visit his shrine on Hansando, stroll around Yi Sun Shin Park, and hop aboard the famous turtle ships while you’re here.
Visit the Dongpirang Mural Village
This fun mural village was right near my guesthouse in Tongyeong, and it’s just a fun place to wander. Since it’s also on a cliffside, you’ll get a lovely view out to the harbor as well.
Head to 중앙시장 on the bus and then walk about 400 m to the entrance. You’ll start to see the murals painted on the walls.
Tours to Tongyeong
These are different tours I found that go to Tongyeong if you don’t want to spend multiple days there or figure out the logistics of renting a car.
This tour leaves from Busan around 8/9 a.m. and returns around 8:3 p.m. You’ll visit Jungang Market, Dongpirang Village, ride the cable cars, and visit the Skyline Luge. (Check prices + availability here)
Trazy’s tour is similar to Klook’s except that you’ll visit the Undersea Tunnel instead of the Skyline Luge. (Check prices + availability here)
The private tour follows the same itinerary as the small group tour, but the price is per 7-seater van. Might be worth it if you’re traveling with a few other people! (Check prices + availability here)
If you are coming from Seoul and would rather do a tour, then you might like this 2-days, 1-night option. It packs a lot into less than 48 hours if you look at the itinerary. However, you will get to ride the cable cars, visit Samdo Sugun Tongjeyong, the turtle ship, Dongpirang VIllage, Jungang Market, and visit Jangsado Sea Park. (Check prices + availability here)
Where should you stay?
There are plenty of options to stay in Tongyeong. If you’re looking to travel around a lot, I’d highly recommend finding somewhere closer to Ganguan Harbor as it’s near many of the attractions and the main ferry terminal.
It’s a bit of a trek from the bus terminal, but overall will make you more central. I personally stayed at Soh Guesthouse in a six-bed female dorm, and it was absolutely lovely given that it was nestled in Dongpirang Village and had its own coffee shop. Below I’ve listed a few options for each place based on prices.
If you’re looking for more a calmer, seaside escape, many of the hotels, pensions, and guesthouses are located around Hallyeosudo, which is on the other side of the canal.
BUDGET (20,000 KRW >)
MID-RANGE 20,000-60,000 KRW)
SPLURGE (60,000 KRW<)
Money + Safety Matters
As always, Korea is one of the safest countries in the world, and Tongyeong is no exception.
I’d always have a little cash just to be on the safe side, but I remember using my card pretty frequently without issue.
Have you been to Tongyeong? What would you add to this list?