Korea’s Small Towns: Beyond the Lights

Military Spouse Pohang cafe

The Soul of South Korea Outside of Seoul

South Korea is much more than its big cities – much more than Seoul. In my humble opinion, while you may find the seat of power, the mighty infrastructure, and the cogs of the industry in the big cities, the soul of the country lies in the mountainous terrain of its villages and towns. Here’s a great travel tip for South Korea: the soul of the country can be found in Korea’s small towns, in the farmlands, traditional hanoks, local customs, and festivals, far outside of Seoul.

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Andong Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights

There’s Way More than Seoul

Small Towns in South Korea You Should Visit

If you want to experience the heart and soul of South Korea, look no further than its small cities and towns. From traditional architecture to local customs and festivals, these small towns are the perfect place to immerse yourself in South Korea’s unique way of life. In this article, I’ll be sharing five of my favorite small cities and towns around South Korea that are sure to give you an unforgettable and authentic experience.

steven-on-bridge-at-jinhae-cherry-blossoms-festival Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


Jinhae-gu is an area located in the city of Changwon, South Korea. The Jinhae Gunhangje (cherry blossom) Festival celebrates the city’s abundant cherry blossoms. For two weeks, from the end of March to the second week of April, this small town in South Korea plays host to millions of visitors. The trees bloom throughout the city and the surrounding mountains, with Gyeonghwa Station being the best spot to see the blossoms. There is a mile-long stretch of trees that saturate the air with the fragrant, yet short-lived blooms. The festival also features parades, food stalls, and cultural celebrations. In addition to the festival, Jinhae Bay is home to 26 small islands that are waiting to be explored.

The festival takes place in multiple locations in the Jinhae District and around the Jinhae Jungwon Rotary, located at 9 Tongsin-dong, Changwon, South Korea.

tea Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights



Traditional Tea Plantations

Boseong is a small, but pretty county and the green tea farming capital of South Korea. Forty percent of all the tea produced in South Korea comes from Boseong. Visitors here can see life in of the small towns of South Korea. Traditional terraced farmlands are dotted with local women handpicking the tea leaves. The green tea that is farmed in Boseong is known for its high quality, which has been developed over a 1600-year history. And if you’re looking for something to do around Christmas time check out the Boseong Annual Light Festival which lights up local tea terraces.

Boseong Green Tea Field Daehan Dawon 

Bongsan-ri, Boseong-eupBoseong-gun, Jeollanam-do, South Korea +82 61-852-4540

Tea Museum of Korea

775 Nokcha-ro, Boseong-eup, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea +82 61-852-5806

Myeondong Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights



People who are interested in South Korean Drama might feel familiar with the small town of Mungyeong. This is where many of the KBS dramas were filmed. People can visit the actual sites of some dramas. Try to imagine yourself in one of the numerous over the top dramas.

Address: 932, Saejae-ro, Mungyeong-eupMungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do 36919, South Korea 054-571-0709

Mungyeaong-Rail-Bike Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


Mungyeong Rail Bike

There are a couple of things in Mungyeong for those looking for a little adventure. Mungyeong Rail Bike is a specially-designed bike that is semi motorized and runs along abandoned railroad tracks.  

Address: 407, Saejae-ro, Mungyeong-eupMungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do 36917, South Korea 054-571-9055

Mungyeong Zipline operates 487m above sea level in the Booljeong Recreational Forest and operates 9 biplane courses to take advantage of the variable landscapes and greenery. 

Address: 174, Buljeong-gil Buljeong Natural Recreation ForestMungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do 36987, South Korea +82 1588-5219.

Cheongdo Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights



Traditional Bull Fighting & Persimmon Wine

The Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival celebrates the traditional art of bullfighting in the Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. Drawing over half a million visitors annually since its inception in 1999, the festival is the largest bullfighting championship in the country. In addition to the bullfighting championship, the festival offers a number of exciting events including performances, hands-on experience programs, and exhibitions of the history of bullfighting, local agriculture, cows, etc.

Unlike Spain, France, and Mexico, there are no matadors, blood or gore. Hundreds of bulls are released into the 10,000 capacity stadium where they butt heads until one asserts his dominance over the others. But they all live to moo another day. The festival last four days in March or April.

Cheongdo is a charming destination that offers visitors a diverse range of activities, from exploring the Wine Tunnel the museums to relaxing in cozy cafes. History enthusiasts can visit the Cheongdo History Museum, art lovers can admire the works of local artists at the Cheongdo Art Museum, while nature lovers can take a stroll through the picturesque Cheongdo Arboretum.

348 Namseonghyeon-ro, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do +82 54 370 7500

burial-mounds Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


Located on South Korea’s eastern coast, Gyeongju is one of the country’s best small towns to get a taste for traditional architecture and the history of the old ruling dynasty. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and top attractions here include the Bulguksa Temple, the Royal Tombs, and the Gyeongju National Museum, which holds more than 16,000 artifacts.

jeju-waterfall1 Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights

Jeju Island

Traditional Island Life

Jeju is a semi-tropical island found just off the coast of the southernmost point of South Korea’s mainland. It is the country’s largest island and is also home to the country’s tallest mountain, Hallasan. And ideal for hiking and taking in views of the natural surroundings. At the top of the mountain is the crater of an extinct volcano, while the area is full of ‘lava tubes’, the rock formations left by receding lava from ancient eruptions. The Cheonjiyeon waterfall is another natural attraction. Beautiful beaches round out the scenery. For those looking to simply relax. You should be able to book a cheap flight out of Daegu on Asiana or Jin Air.

mask-festival Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


Traditional Folk Village

You can’t visit Andong without visiting the Andong Hahoe Folk Village. It is a very peaceful and historic village to stroll around and enjoy both the modern and the traditional. If you miss the Mask Festival, the village offers a shortened mask dance for visitors. Take a few minutes to explore the mask museum or stay overnight in one of the traditional Hanok’s that can be arranged by the village. Gyeongsangbuk-do, Andong, Pungcheon-myeon +82 54-854-3669

Pohang-Hand Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


The Hand of Harmony in Pohang is not the easiest place to navigate to in the middle of the night. However, I went to bed later than I expected. I decided to set my alarm and see how I felt when I woke in the morning. At 0430, I was full of energy and vigor. After packing my camera equipment and a few snacks in my backpack, I headed out.

And that’s when I found out the trip I had originally planned for 90 minutes was more like 2 hours. I had to be in Homigot Sunrise Plaza by sunrise, which was set to occur at 0713—very little wiggle room for the usual mistakes I make when driving around South Korea. Pohang and the Hand of Harmony.

Pohang has a swimmable beach, lighthouse and museum and several other attractions you can experience. 20, Haemaji-ro 150beon-gil, Nam-gu, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do +82-54-270-5855.

bamboo Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights


The Damyang Bamboo Forest is more than 2.4 kilometers of stunning bamboo trees and gardens. The small town is located towards Korea’ southern tip. Damyang is actually a small county containing a number of small towns and villages. Visitors flock to Damyang for its wealth of bamboo, including a bamboo theme park and a bamboo museum. Peruse the shops for bamboo kitchen supplies or other practical gifts, as well as taste unusual bamboo wine or ice cream. 119, Jungnogwon-ro, Damyang-gun, Jeollanam-do. For more information go to http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=292954.

9-cities-with-Soul-other-than-Seoul-2-683x1024 Korea's Small Towns: Beyond the Lights

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    1. duffelbagspouse

      I wish they lasted a little longer, but I guess it mans you have to get and enjoy them on their time schedule and not your own.

  1. Thi

    Wow so pictures are amazing and your post makes me want to visit South Korea more than I already do! Thank you for sharing xoxo

  2. Katja

    I’ll be honest I never thought South Korea as a destination for a holiday – but I think you might have converted me. These places look so intriguing.
    Katja xxx

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I am glad to hear that. SK is one of the up and coming countries on the tourism scene because its relatively inexpensive, has a modern transportation system and some yummy food and scenery.

  3. stacey

    Thanks for the photos. Feels like I am there too. I must have been lovely there. Hope to go around Asia in the future.

  4. Elizabeth O.

    I’ve never been to South Korea! It would be awesome to experience its beauty. They have so much to offer and I’d love to see all of these places personally.

  5. Kiyshia

    Wow! I’ve learned so much about South Korea in this post! Apart from Seoul, I cant say I had heard of any other cities in South Korea. They all have this sense of tranquillity that makes me want to travel and visit them. Thanks for shairing

    1. duffelbagspouse

      You aren’t alone. A lot of people I know have heard about Seoul, even the people who move here think if they aren’t in Seoul they aren’t anywhere. There is so much to this country, as you see, that’s not in its big cities.

  6. Erin

    I’ve heard the food in South Korea is AH-MAZING but other than that, all I know is what I’ve seen on the internet.

    I watch some YouTube vloggers who lived there and they would talk about all the neat things that there are to do that you normally wouldn’t know about unless you’ve been there a while. This post totally reminded me of that!

  7. Emma

    I believe that about most countries – you have to get out of the big cities to really see what the country is all about. Some fabulous places you’e pinpointed here. I especially love Jinhae with the cherry blossoms – it looks so beautiful

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I thought the same thing about Europe even though the big cities had there draws, I loved the quietness and familiarity you could find in the small cities and towns

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I have a few friends who have ben begging me to take them there, so I am taking them in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow we’re going to Muryeong to biplane and bike rail. Then all I have to do is the bamboo gardens and I will have done everything on the list.

  8. Krysten

    These towns are all gorgeous! I have only ever really heard of Seoul when talking about South Korea. Boseong looks absolutely amazing. I didn’t know that most of South Korea’s green tea came from here, that makes me happy, as I am a green tea fan!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      IKR. Most people only think Seoul and its a cool city. But its so crowded that it makes me nuts when I’m there. I love the small cities because the people are so interesting and the country us stunning… almost 70% is mountanous, forested or on the coastlines.

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