Unlike most Yellow Sea islands, GANGHWADO (강화도) is close enough to the mainland to be connected by road – buses run regularly from Sinchon bus terminal in Seoul via Gimpo, taking around ninety minutes to arrive in Ganghwa-eup (강화읍), the ugly main settlement; from here local buses dash to destinations across the island, though the place is so small that journeys rarely take more than thirty minutes. While this accessibility means that Ganghwa lacks the beauty of some of its more distant cousins, there’s plenty to see. One look at a map should make clear the strategic importance of the island, which not only sits at the mouth of Seoul’s main river, the Han, but whose northern flank is within a frisbee throw of the North Korean border. Would-be adventurers should note that this area is chock-full of military installations, and closed to the public.
Before the latest conflict, this unfortunate isle saw battles with Mongol, Manchu, French, American and Japanese forces, among others. However, Ganghwado’s foremost sights date from further back than even the earliest of these fisticuffs – a clutch of dolmens scattered around the northern part of the island, dating from the first century BC and now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.