Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Seollal Travels Part II: Somaemuldo

The beautiful view of Deungdaeseom from Somaemuldo

Somaemuldo is a small island located off the southern coast near Tongyeong city and it is easily one of the most beautiful places I've visited in Korea. One of the things that made it so special is that when I traveled there last February during Seollal, or the Korean Lunar New Year, there were hardly any other tourists. Many of Korea's most beautiful natural places are so full of crowds that it's difficult to really relax and enjoy them. I can't say how Somaemuldo is during a busier season, but if you go on a quiet day, it is truly spectacular.


There were a few other tourists, but it really felt like we had the island all to ourselves

To get there, you need to book a ferry at the terminal in Tongyeong city. It's a good idea to book it in advance (the busier the season, the more advance you will need). There aren't many ferries to and from the island, or at least there weren't many in February, so we only had a few hours to explore the island before we had to return to Tongyeong. But it was absolutely worth the trip, not only for the chance to see Somaemuldo, but also for the gorgeous boat ride there.


The "Pencil" lighthouse by Mireuk Island

Eating breakfast up on the deck on the way to Somaemuldo

Nothing like a coffee, a good sea breeze and beautiful ocean views

Just sunshine and little islands on the ferry ride

The ferry takes you out of Tongyeong past a seemingly endless series of beautiful islands and green coastline. It's great to sit out on the deck in the fresh air or hang out downstairs in one of the areas designed for sleeping (you can just stretch out on the floor and take a nap Korean style.) It takes about an hour to get from Tongyeong to Somaemuldo.


Arriving at Somaemuldo

The ferry from Tongyeong

One of the few shops on the island

As the map shows, there aren't too many trails on Somaemuldo
On the island you'll see a few little houses, restaurants and inns, although I wouldn't plan to just show up and find accommodation as there are very few options. Getting a same day return to Tongyeong or planning your stay in advance is a good idea. Follow the trail up the hill and head right to start the main route through the island.


The island off in the distance is Maemuldo

Beautiful cliffs along the hiking trail

You'll walk along stunning clifftops with views of the ocean and the neighboring islands, including the original Maemuldo (It was apparently called "Somaemuldo" because of its proximity to the original Maemuldo.) The larger and more populated namesake island was named "maemul", the Korean word for buckwheat, because it was the largest producer of it in the area. 

Somaemuldo actually has another neighbor island right next to it called Deungdaeseom, or Lighthouse Island. You can even walk to it during certain times of the day when the tide goes out and exposes a thin strip of sand that links them.


Everyone waiting for the tide to go out

The lighthouse that gives Deungdaeseom its name

There is another loop trail that you can follow through the small forest on the other side of the island (opposite the side with Deungdaeseom.) But altogether, it will probably only take 2 or 3 hours to walk all over both Deungdaeseom and Somaemuldo. The best thing here is to take your time, bring a picnic lunch, and just soak in the beauty and tranquility of the island.


Amazing sunny weather even in February on Somaemuldo

So sad to say goodbye!



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