South of the city centre, the mainland soon melts into a host of islands, many of which lie under the protective umbrella of Dadohae Haesang National Park (다도해 해상 국립 공원). Many can be accessed from Yeosu’s ferry terminal, and as with Jeolla’s other island archipelagos, these are best explored with no set plan. Dolsando (돌산도), connected to the mainland by road, is the most visited and most famed for Hyangiram, a hermitage dangling over the crashing seas. Further south are Geumodo (금오도), a rural island fringed by rugged cliffs and rock faces, and Geomundo (거문도), far from Yeosu – and briefly occupied by Britain during the 1880s, during an ill-planned stab at colonizing Korea’s southern coast – but now an increasingly popular holiday destination. From Geomundo you can take a tour boat around the assorted spires of rock that make up Baekdo (백도), a protected archipelago containing a number of impressive formations.
Clinging to the cliffs at the southeastern end of Dolsando is the magical hermitage of Hyangiram (향일암), an eastward-facing favourite of sunrise seekers and a popular place to ring in the New Year. Behind Hyangiram is a collection of angular boulders which – according to local monks – resembles an oriental folding screen, and is soaked with camellia blossom in the spring.