Gentle sunset over Yudalsan mountain, in the port town of Mokpo South Korea


Situated in the far southwestern corner of the Korean peninsula, this once-hidden treasure is now served by the high-speed KTX train, making it easily accessible from the capital. Mokpo also boasts a bounty of natural attractions and acts as the gateway to a Dadohaehaesan National Park, a whole host of islands (about 1,700!) that stretches into the distance off the west coast.

Mokpo is the perfect place for visitors interested in diving a bit more deeply into Korea, which may include second-time visitors and those keen to learn about the country’s storied naval history. Its proximity to the islands of Dadohaehaesan also makes it an attractive place for nature-lovers and anyone else drawn to Korea’s older, unhurried, quieter side.

Given its strategic location, Mokpo has long-been a valuable naval port, with famed Admiral Yi Sun-shin setting up a garrison to repair and resupply his turtle ships here during his fight against the Japanese in the Imjin War (1592 – 1598). While their navy was defeated, the Japanese eventually returned, and their imprint can be seen in many of the buildings in the Yudal-dong neighborhood next to the port. With all of this, Mokpo oozes history, while also serving as a thriving center of commerce with great seafood and a kind of jaunty character all its own, making it one our favorites spots in the country.

Start at the fish lover’s paradise that is the Mokpo Specialty Seafood Market. Nestled at the edge of the habour, you’ll taste salt and kelp in the air as you stroll among the array of edible sea life on display before sitting down for a local meal. After all, Mokpo is a clambouring port with small fishing boats constantly on the move, and the local people possess a proud, gruff, and warmhearted demeanor that is hard not to love. It’s old Korea at its finest, with narrow streets, ramshackle shops, and a palpable sense of both innocence and community that has been lost in other parts of the country.

Once you’ve had your fill of seafood, take the cable car over the water to Gohado Island – a strategic location during the Japanese invasion of Korea – and stop in at the eminently instagrammable Coffee Panache Café. Catch the sunset after a hike up Yudal Mountain and linger for the unmatched nightscape views of the far-off islands, as well as the design marvel that is Mokpodaegyo Bridge, which is brilliantly illuminated after the sun goes down. Make sure to also pay a visit to the Maritime Museum, where you can take in shipwrecks from the 11th and 14th centuries, and don’t miss the Gatbawi Rocks – an ancient stone formation that is said to resemble a couple wearing the traditional Korean hats known as gat.

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