South Korea // Gyeonggi and Gangwon //

The West Sea Islands

Gyeonggi’s perforated western coast topples into the West Sea in an expanse of mud flats – the tidal range here is said to be the second biggest in the world after the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada, though this is challenged by Britain’s Bristol Channel. Whoever the silver medallist, the retreat of the tides is fantastic news for hunters of clams and other sea fare; it does, however, mean that beaches are in short supply. Fear not, Korean land rises again across the waves in the form of dozens of islands, almost all of which have remained pleasantly green and unspoilt; some also have excellent beaches. Life here is predominantly fishing-based and dawdles by at a snail’s pace – a world away from Seoul and its environs, despite a few being close enough to be visited on a day-trip. Quite a number of these have next to no traffic, making them ideal places for a ride if you can find a bike to bring along.

Up the Gyeonggi coast from Incheon is Ganghwado, an island whose dolmens betray its ancient history. Just to the west is delightfully quiet Seongmodo, home to an enchanting temple. Ganghwa is connected to the mainland by bus, but there are other islands that can take hours to reach by ferry; two of these are Deokjeokdo and Baengnyeongdo, both beautiful and sufficiently far away from “regular” Korea to provide perfect escapes for those in need of a break. Swarms of less-visited islands are also there for the taking, if you’re in an adventurous mood.

In case you haven’t guessed already, the suffix -do (도) means “island” in Korean; accordingly, you may see signs for “Deokjeok Island” and so on.

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