South Korea // Gyeonggi and Gangwon //


The small settlement of Oepo (외포; pronounced “Way-paw”) on the island’s western coast is by far the most appealing place to stay; small and delightfully old-fashioned, it’s a little like stepping into the Korea of the 1970s, before the country’s “economic miracle” mopped up old traditions by the bucketload. There are no particular sights, so wandering around to soak up the atmosphere is the order of the day. There’s an appealing little fish market near the dock, and restaurants all around it; you can even stay above one at the impossible-to-miss Santa Lucia (032/933 2141), the only building to take advantage of the village’s views of SEONGMODO (석모도), another island just across the water.

Ferries (every 30min; 10min) run to Seongmodo from Oepo’s tiny terminal, and ornithophobes should note that large flocks of seagulls tend to circumnavigate the vessel for the entire journey, waiting to catch thrown crisps (and highly proficient at doing so). Buses (15min) meet the ferries and head to Bomunsa (보문사), a charming temple that constitutes the island’s main sight. The complex is a five-minute uphill pant from the bus stop, with a small tearoom (9am–5pm) at its entrance; many choose to give their legs an extra workout by taking the mountain path behind the temple, which leads to a clutch of small grottoes that function as Buddhist shrines and boast wonderful sea views.

Ferries back to Ganghwado dry up at 8.30pm, but this is a wonderfully peaceful place to be stranded – there are restaurants and simple accommodation around both the temple and ferry terminal, as well as bicycle hire immediately off the ferry ramp for those with the muscle to pump up and down the island’s hilly roads.

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