Located in Gyeongsangnamdo along the southern coast of Korea, Tongyeong is a bustling port city, often dubbed the country's own version of Naples, Italy. Situated on a smaller peninsula facing the South Sea, it has something for both nature lovers, history buffs, and those interested in Korean culture.
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.
For culture lovers, Tongyeong served as home to many prominent Korean artists, poets, and performers. Check out their profiles here. There are a few different events that cater to these cultural ties, and a few parks that highlight the works of these men and women.
All in all, there's something for everyone in Korea's version of Napoli!
THE EIGHT VIEWS OF TONGYEONG
소매물도에서 바라본 등대섬
Walking around one Tongyeong's more southern islands, you can view cliffs rising from afar that make up "lighthouse island." During low tide, you can even walk across.
Take a ferry from Ganguan Harbor to Somaemuldo.
한산도 제승당 앞바다
Jeseungdang Shrine, a memorial to Yi Sun Shin and his battle from Hansando, sits on a little peninsula surrounded by a beautiful view of the sea. Only about half an hour from the harbor, it's a nice morning trip.
Take a ferry from Ganguan Harbor to Hansando
미륵산에서 바라본 한려수도
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
In this park, you can find sculptures from artists around the world as well as get a beautiful view of Tongyeong from a mountainside park. There's also a giant Yi Sun Shin statue.
Take Bus 101 and get off at Nammangsan Sculpture Park Station (남망산조각공원)
Along the sea view road that circles Hallyeosudo, sits Dara Park. Here you can see all the islands along the sea,and it's known the most for its sunset views.
Take Bus #530 or #536 to Dara Park (다라 공원)
Yongmeori (Dragon's Head) is a line of rocks seem to get smaller as they move further away from the island, creating a beautiful effect. They can be see from Yeonhwa Island.
Take a ferry from Ganguan Harbor headed for Yeonhwado.
This island is more northern than the others and known for its own Jirisan. The trek across the island can take around 5 hours, and Ognyeobong allows you a view from the top. It's even possible to camp!
Take a bus to Gaochi Ferry Terminal (가오치 사량도행 여객터미널) and head for Saryangdo.
Tongyeong Canal was actually constructed under Imperial Japan, who also made an underwater tunnel. You can head here to check out the city views at night as well as Tongyeong's blue bridge. It's easy to walk there from Ganguan Harbor.
From Ganguan Harbor, walk towards the bridges.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE
- Bijindo (비진도) | One of the southern islands and known for its beautiful beaches. Take a ferry from Ganguan Harbor.
- Chungnyeolsa Shrine (충녈사) | This shrine is dedicated to Yi Sun Shin to celebrate his victories. Head to 충렬사 on Bus 101.
- Dongpirang Village (동피랑벽화마을) | Located on a cliffside, Dongpirang is Tongyeong's entry to Korea's art villages. All along the buildings are cute paintings to see. There's an especially adorable Frozen themed wall. Head to 중앙시장 on the bus and then walk about 400 m to the entrance. You'll start to see the murals painted along the walls.
- Geobukseon (거북선) | In Ganguan Harbor, you can visited these famed turtle ships. These are the type of ships Yi Sun Shin used during his naval career. Use Bus 101 for 중아시장. Walk along the harbor, you'll see them right away.
- Jungang Traditional Market (중앙시장) | Since Tongyeong is coastal, it's the perfect place to get your seafood fix. Check out Jungang for a market vibe and for some seafood restaurants. Use any buses to go to 중앙시장.
- Seopirang 99 Stairway (서피랑99계단) | Seopirang Village is on its way to being a second Dongpirang, and the work started with it's 99-step stairway. Use Bus 101 for 서피랑길.
- Undersea Tunnel (해저터널) | Under Imperial Japan, this tunnel was built through the Tongyeong canal. Interesting to see, and a little bit of a shortcut if you're walking. Head to 통영해저터널 on Bus 101.
- Yeondaedo (연대도해수욕장) | A pretty small island famous for its black pebble beach and housing some prehistoric relics. Head there on a ferry from Ganguan Harbor.
- Yi Sun Shin Park (이순신옹원) | This park is specifically dedicated to the war hero, and it also offers some beautiful views of the sea. Take Bus 101 to 이순신공원까지 약, then walk for about a kilometer.
- Yokjido (욕지도) | About 90 minutes from the harbor, this is the perfect island for fishing. You can also visit Deokdong Beach (독동해수욕장), a pebble beach. Head to the ferry terminal in Ganguan to get there.
WHAT TO EAT
Since Tongyeong is a port city, many of its specialties involve seafood of some sort. Its two most famous must-tries are chungmu kimbap and honey bread, both of which can easily be found around the city, particularly by Ganguan Habor.
- Bungeoppang (붕어빵) | (Pictured above) Not necessarily a specialty, but I got this dessert up in a cafe within Dongpirang, and it was delicious. Fish bread with red bean and green tea ice cream. I hadn't seen this style anywhere before.
- Catfish Soup (물매기탕) | Best eaten in the winter.
- Chungmu Kimbap (충무김밥) | One of the most famous meals to have in Tongyeong, this kimbap is different then the norm. Boiled rice is wrapped in seaweed and instead of the rest of the ingredients going inside, they're served with, rather than in, the kimbap. Typically the side dish is squid with special seasoning.
- Flounder and Mug-wort Soup (도다리쑥국) | Best eaten during the spring seasons.
- Honey Bread (꿀빵) | Very different from the typical honey bread you can get in cafes, Tongyeong's honey bread doesn't even seem to have honey. A sweet bread covered in corn syrup, it's typically filled with red bean though other sweet fillings like sweet potato or pumpkin, are also used.
- Sliced Raw Gizzard (전어회) | Autumn specialty.
- Sliced Raw Pike Eel and Pike Eel Soup (하모 (갯장어)회, 탕) | Summer specialty.
WHERE TO 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 this is near many of the attractions and it's where the main ferry terminal is. It's a bit of a trek from the bus terminal, but over all 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 within 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 >0)
BEYOND OUR GUIDE TO TONGYEONG
- The PDF version is coming! For access, subscribe to our e-mail list here.
- Korean Name: 통영.
- Tongyeong's Main Site
- Tongyeong City Tour via Imagine Your Korea
- "Hiking the Jagged Peaks Trail & Camping on Saryang Island" via CityGirl Searching
- "Tongyeong in 24 Hours" via Rafiqua Israel Express
- "Cross-country exploration, part 1: Tongyeong, a city of military, music and the arts" via Korea.net
Words and Photographs by Samantha