Waves crashing over rocks at Gangneung


Gangneung, the largest city on Korea’s east coast, boasts an enviable location, hemmed in by lofty mountains and the big blue sea – you could quite easily go surfing and mountain climbing on the same day, or perhaps even the same afternoon.

Things are on the up and up in Gangneung, a mellow city fringed with popular beaches, yet also the chilled-out hub of the 2018 Winter Olympics, plus often a K-pop video filming location – and, as such, now firmly in the international spotlight.

With more and more visitors arriving each year, it’s a good job there’s plenty to do in and around the city. Several of Korea’s best ski resorts are located a short drive away in the mountains that rise immediately west of Gangneung, while the adjacent peaks and hiking trails of Odaesan National Park offer natural pleasures year-round.

On the other side of the city, a string of beaches clamour for your attention, each with their own unique appeal to add to the obvious delights of sand and sea. Jumunjin beach ropes in those keen to mimic their K-pop or movie heroes at various shooting locations; Anmok beach is presided over by a surprising number of high-quality, sea-view cafés; while Gyeongpo beach is the busiest stretch, and has numerous restaurants specialising in an unusual type of tofu made with sea water (it’s really good, we promise!). Further south, Jeongdongjin boasts the one thing all good beaches should have – a giant, ship-shaped hotel stuck on a cliff – and has for decades been Korea’s favourite place to see in the New Year, together with its first sunrise.

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South Korea

While best known amongst international tourists as the gateway to nearby Seoraksan National Park, Sokcho’s salty charms make it an intriguing destination in its own right – from super-fresh seafood to what must be up there with the world’s cheapest, and weirdest, ferry rides.

South Korea

Spend a week in Seoul, and you’ll most likely come away feeling that you’ve barely scratched the surface – this hyperactive, endlessly beguiling megalopolis somehow feels uber-cool, hyper-modern, charmingly traditional and historically fascinating, all at the same time.

South Korea

Given that three quarters of South Korea is covered by mountains, it’s both annoying and convenient that most of the best-looking ones have decided to huddle together in the same location, near the east coast – welcome to Seoraksan National Park, the answer to all your Korean hiking prayers.