I heart Heuksando

We’re madly in love with the islands off of Mokpo. Jeollanamdo’s islands have been the site of battles, tragedy and a vibrant fishing industry. For now, they are a well-kept Korean secret.

Heuksando might be the most picturesque island in Korea.
In fact, the New York Times probably didn’t endear them to anyone last week when my favorite Korean journalist Choe Sang-hun wrote a lovely piece about its rather putrid fame for hongeo or fermented skate. In Choe’s piece Joe McPherson at Zen Kimchi apparently gave one of the most apt descriptions of this delicacy: “It’s like licking a urinal.” Even with that taste in my mouth, this article made me nostalgic for Heuksando and my adopted home province of Jeollanamdo.

Be sure to cycle the switchback road. Worth the effort!

Ironically, this article may have even cemented Heuksando’s place on our list for this summer’s 2nd ever (and 6 years later) Korea Without a Care journey. If we go, it will be my 3rd time to Heuksando, and this time I’m going to have to try the hongeo for the first time. I need to join my Jeolla brethren and learn the ways of the hongeo.

Anyway, I’ve already started doing my research about a trip to Heuksando. Here are some facts.
Getting There:
Go to Mokpo Ferry Terminal (목포연안여객선터미널) for access to most of the southwestern islands. The area around the terminal is in itself a lovely part of Mokpo. We’ve gone down the night before our ferry just to kick around that part of town and hike up Yudalsan.

         The ferry terminal to Heuksando in Mokpo is right up there ^  
Fast boats leave daily at 7:50AM, 8:10 and 1PM and 4PM from Mokpo at 34,300. These boats stop at Bigeumdo (another lovely island we have frequented) half way and moves on to Mokpo. On Tuesday and Friday at 7AM there is also a car ferry that takes 4 hours.

Top timetable is departing Mokpo, bottom timetable is arriving in Mokpo. Ferries leave Heuksando at 9, 11, 3:30 and 4:20, and arrive  in Mokpo at 10:50, 1:00, 5: 30 and 6:10 respectively.

Getting Around

Bikes– I’m told that you can still rent bikes. A friend of mine was recently there and managed to rent a motorbike from the bicycle shop though it is probably unlikely to happen for everyone. The bike shop is in the village of Yeri that is to your left once you get off the ferry. The village is small enough that you shouldn’t miss the bike shop. Doing a quick ride up and down the famous switchback road is totally worth the money and effort. It’s gorgeous up top and a great ride coming down. Also, there are hardly any cars. I’m anxious to get a bike out there and ride the whole island. It would be a lot of up and down, but fun for people who like riding hills.

Tours- I’ve read that for about 10,000 won or so you can take a tour bus around the island in an hour. I’ve bused and walked the eastern half of the island and find it to be drop-dead gorgeous, hilly and mostly nice roads. Again, my friend who rented the motorbike raved about the rocky shores and beautiful overlooks around the island. I’d consider doing this for a quick look around. Also for a bit more you can do a 2 hour ferry boat around the island.

You can hike, bike, lounge by the beach or just walk the roads. One of the best road runs I have had in Korea was from Sosari Beach heading south. The road climbed up a mountain and gave me a breathtaking overlook. Maybe 3 cars passed me. Don’t count on your legs to get you all around the island as it is bigger and hillier than it might appear. You can also see this blog for more information on hiking and some spectacular photos of the sunset from one of the island’s peaks. You can find Sosari Beach by taking a bus from the ferry terminal. Someone should be able to point you the right way.

The bus ride to Sosari beach (see red pin) is beautiful. Up and down huge mountain roads. Taxis are also an option but expect to pay at least 10,000 won per person.

Word of warning
Heuksando is way out there. Just getting there takes some patience. Also, the bus around the island isn’t all that frequent. Taxis are scarce as are shops once you get away from the main town of Yeri. You have to be flexible, prepared and patient if you go to Heuksando. The reward is there, but you will earn it. See the challenges at this blog.