On this trip to Busan and Jeollanam, the southern region of South Korea, I spent 2 days exploring Suncheon, and also decided to take a day trip from Suncheon to the neighbouring city of Yeosu 여수 to see what I could find there. Yeosu translates as Beautiful Water and I spent most of my day admiring the beautiful coastline. I didn’t plan very much beforehand and found most of these things on the fly – here’s a list of things to do in Yeosu and how I got around Yeosu solo with public transport.
Things to do in Yeosu
Yeosu Ocean Railbike 여수해양레일바이크
I did my first railbike in Taiwan and it was quite fun so I was quite psyched to get on the railbike here in Yeosu as well. Located by the sea, the Yeosu Ocean Railbike offers some pretty spectacular views of the Yeosu coastline along 3.5km of railway track.
The one big problem is that you need a minimum of 2pax to ride this railbike. Unlike the Taiwan one where they assign you to a car, solo travellers have to make their own friends if they want to ride the railbike as it is not quite possible to pedal on your own. So ultimately, I didn’t manage to ride the railbike, but I did take a stroll along the stretch until I hit the tunnel area.
Yeosu Expo 여수엑스포
Yeosu became a more well-known location largely because of the Yeosu Expo in 2012 themed around protecting the ocean and climate change, and the reason for building most of the infrastructure and this massive pavilion. As with many of these one-time venues, these large buildings left behind seem a bit empty without the crowds, especially on a random weekday afternoon, but it is still quite fascinating to explore.
Other things in the area:
- Hanhwa Aqua Planet Yeosu – this aquarium is the 2nd largest in Korea, slightly smaller than its sister in Jeju Island and housing 2 beluga whales and baikal whales
- Sky Tower and Cafe Sky – these twin silos have been repurposed into a viewing tower (admission fee 2,000 KRW) with a cafe on top. I didn’t visit this, but it seems to be prettier in the evening/night
- Big O show – this is apparently the world’s largest light and water fountain show that takes place in the evenings except on Mondays (see performance schedule). I only walked by it in the afternoon so I didn’t see anything special then.
How to get there: This is right across the road from the Yeosu Expo Train Station. I walked through here en route to Odongdo. Details at Yeosu Expo website.
Odongdo 오동도 (Odong Island)
I was looking to explore more of Korea’s offshore islands on this trip, so I was definitely keen to visit Odongdo aka Odong Island (do=island). This island is particularly famous for its abundant Camellias that turn the entire island a vibrant red when they are in bloom from November to April. Unfortunately for me I was there in June so I mostly had a tiny lush green island to explore.
The island is very easy to get to as you walk across a breakwater to get there. There is a shuttle bus or dongbaek train if you prefer not to walk.
There’s not that much to do on the island but enjoy a pleasant walk and some nature. I found a lighthouse that gave me a nice view of the island and surroundings, and some camellia tea was on sale, but I didn’t do much else here but enjoy the scenery for about 1.5-2 hours.
Cost: There is a ticket machine on the bridge where I was asked to purchase a 1,000 KRW ticket to enter the park, but honestly it’s pretty easy to walk by without anyone noticing. From the little that I could understand from the guy helping me at the machine, the ticket was only 1-way, but I didn’t have to buy a ticket on the way back.
How to get there: Take bus 2, 68, 76 or 333 to the Odong Entrance bus stop. 2 and 333 will get you to the Yeosu Expo Train Station, while 333 will also get you to the Intercity Bus Terminal.
Odongdo Island on Yeosu Tourism website
Yi Sun Shin Plaza 이순신 광장 / Jungang
Before the Expo, Yeosu was known for its place in Korea’s maritime history. Admiral Yi Sun Shin is arguably one of the most famous naval commanders in South Korean history – you can see his statue in Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul as well. He was the one who led and won that epic battle where he was outnumbered by the Japanese navy at least 10x with just 12 Korean-style battleships (known as Turtle Ships or Geobukseon 거북선).
It was here in Yeosu that Admiral Yi had his headquarters set up in a place called Jinnamgwan Hall 진남관 (closed till 2020 for restoration) which is also the largest single-storey wooden structure in South Korea. It’s not far from the plaza where you can see his statue.
I walked towards the coast and found a full-size replica of one of these famous Turtle Ships which was first built here in a Yeosu shipbuilding yard. This replica is like a mini museum of sorts that you can enter and explore the interior to learn more about the design and what life on these ships was like.
How to get there: Most buses will pass through Jungang so there are plenty of options. Also, it’s free!
Hyangiram Hermitage 향일암
One of four Buddhist hermitages in all of South Korea, Hyangiram dates back to the 7th century and is located in a rather remote part on the south-eastern tip of Dolsan Island. It’s built on the side of the Geumosan Mountain and a very popular place to catch the sunrise, especially on New Year’s Day.
My experience with Buddhist culture is that they are a little masochistic and like to build their temples in hard to access areas. I’m not sure if there’s some moral about the journey that counts more than the destination, but be prepared to do a lot of climbing up steep slopes and staircases here. From the bus stop to the entrance involves one long steep slope where you can pop into a cafe or two for refreshments.
After the entrance where you pay the entrance fee, it’s more staircases to climb, some through forested pathways, others built into the mountain – narrow openings in between slabs of rock. The view of the sea is pretty incredible of course, I went in the afternoon but I imagine mornings must be absolutely stunning.
Cost: An entry ticket to Hyangiram costs 2,000 KRW (~S$2.40).
How to get there: Take bus 111 or 113 from the Yeosu Expo Station (they have a handy bus timing listing for you at the tourist info centre) or Jungang all the way to the end. You’ll pass through lots of countryside and the bus journey will take you about 45 minutes in total. You can also take bus 116.
Hyangiram on Yeosu Tourism website
Yeosu Marine Cable Car
One of the highlights of visiting Yeosu is to take the cable car that runs between Jasan Park 자산공원 (at the entrance to Odongdo) and Dolsan Park 돌산공원 (at the northern tip of Dolsando/Dolsan Island) and alongside the Geobukseon bridge.
I took the cable car on the way back from Hyangiram, so I just bought a one-way trip from Dolsan Park to Jasan Park, and was pretty lucky to catch the sunset along the way.
Opening Hours: 9am – 930pm (opens 10am in Winter Dec to Mar, ticketing ends at 9pm)
Cost: For standard cabins, a 1-way ticket costs 12,000 KRW (~S$14), while a round-trip ticket costs 15,000 KRW (~S$18). The round-trip ticket is definitely more value for money. The crystal cabins with the glass floors cost more, and you can also save by getting package tickets if you want to see the Fantasy World Media Art Museum as well.
How to get there: Take bus 2, 68, 76 or 333 to the Odong Entrance bus stop to get to Jasan Park. 2 and 333 will get you to the Yeosu Expo Train Station, while 333 will also get you to the Intercity Bus Terminal.
Eat: Angler Fish Stew 아귀찜 (Aguitang)
I decided to grab dinner before I went back to Suncheon, and looked up a bunch of listings in the Jungang area. The original spot I wanted to visit was closed, so I randomly picked this restaurant called Bok Chun Restaurant 복춘식당 (Bokchun Sikdang) which turned out to have over 40 years of experience according to this naver review.
Here’s a tip for solo diners when you don’t speak the language: if you spot any English menus outside, take a picture of the menu so you have something to point to in case they don’t have any English translations inside. Yeosu has more translations because of the Expo previously, but you’ll have to rely on luck or pictures in many other places in Korea.
The menu isn’t extensive, and I was particularly curious about the Angler Fish Stew or A-gui-tang 아귀찜 so that’s what I ordered. It turned out to be pretty good – I wouldn’t have known it was angler fish if you no one had told me about it. This restaurant is also famous for Seodaehoe 서대회 or Tonguefish Sashimi.
I would have liked to try more of Yeosu’s speciality foods, like Soy sauce braised raw crab Ganjang Gejang, but the peril of travelling solo and having a small appetite means having to pick and choose your meals! These Yeosu posts by the Real Seoul look like pretty decent recommendations.
Opening Hours: 9am – 830pm
Cost: My Aguitang cost 10,000 KRW (~S$12)
Location: 5-8 Gyodongnam 1-gil, Jungang-dong 전남 여수시 교동 남자 1길 5-8
How to get from Suncheon to Yeosu
The train from Suncheon station to Yeosu Expo station takes about 25 minutes. I recommend taking the train over the bus because it’s quicker, and also because it takes you to the Expo area which is closer to more Yeosu attractions than the town centre. Price ranges from 2,600 KRW (~S$3) by the Mugunghwa to 8,400 KRW (~S$9.50) by KTX.
By Intercity Bus
The intercity bus from Suncheon to Yeosu takes about 45 minutes and a one-way ticket cost me 4,500 KRW. Note that the Yeosu bus station is in Orim-dong which is the official town centre, so you will need to take a taxi or public bus to get to the Expo and Jungang areas.
From other places
If you’re based in Busan, the bus from Sasang Station to Yeosu takes about 2.5-3 hours in total. The bus is a more direct and faster option than the train.
If you are coming from Seoul, you can take the KTX from Yongsan to Yeosu Expo on the Jeolla Line. The journey takes about 3+ hours. If you take the bus, it will take 5.5-6 hours.
Getting around Yeosu
My Suncheon post has more details on how to get around Korea via public transport solo, but the most important thing is to make sure you download the Naver Maps app and sign up for an account to get all the public transport info you need (in English!), as well as have to buy and load a T-money or Cashbee card to get around easily and get public transport discounts.
Where to stay in Yeosu
I took a day trip from Suncheon and stayed in Baguni Hostel [booking.com affiliate link] which is between the bus terminal and the train station. Read more about Baguni Hostel and my time in Suncheon. On hindsight, I think staying one night in Yeosu would have been good as a lot of Yeosu’s light attractions are best seen at night.
but I had a look at accommodation options around Yeosu, and if I stayed in Yeosu these are places I probably would have considered. All links below are booking.com affiliate links.
- Backpackers in Yeosu – 4-bed dorms from S$20, double rooms from S$40. Closer to the Expo Station, it looks like a convenient and nicely designed hostel
- 1004 Hostel Guesthouse – 4-bed dorms from S$20, family rooms from S$75. Located somewhere between the other 2 listings, the facilities of this hostel look pretty good
- K Grand Hostel Yeosu – single room with attached bathroom S$40. This is quite a cheap private accommodation option, and even more affordable for those travelling in pairs or small groups as you can split the cost of the room. Closer to the Jungang area