Yeosu is a stunning yet understated coastal port city located on the southernmost end of South Korea. Given that it’s surrounded by the East China Sea as well as the cities of Suncheon, Goheung, and Namhae, it is very much its own peninsula! Made up of 317 islands, there is more than 500km of land for you to explore – not to mention the beauty of the ocean right beside the city!
But why Yeosu? What is so enthralling and exciting about this charming seaside city that would make globetrotters such as yourself want to visit?
As it turns out, many things!
The historical and cultural aspects of this city are unique and interesting, to say the least, and there are several natural wonders to explore on foot that’d leave you hungry and keen to visit local eateries at night.
Yeosu is also home to two things that have left permanent marks in Korean history: Yi Sun Shin and the 2012 World Expo.
Yi Sun Shin is amongst the most celebrated war figures in Korean history. He was a naval commander during the Imjin War who made ripples across Korea for his stunning victories against the Japanese. One of his biggest claims to fame would be his invention of the “turtle ship” that helped lead his army to victory.
The 2012 World Expo was an international expo that focused on climate change and ocean protection. Its success is still celebrated today, and the main part of the expo still exists for people to visit.
Is Yeosu Worth Visiting?
What’s your idea of a great holiday destination? Does it include leisurely exploration on foot? A combination of delicious local cuisine and street stall snacks? Admiring historic temple structures and the natural beauty of the ocean, and more? If you’re ticking all the above boxes, then yes, Yeosu is worth visiting.
This city is still unbeknownst to many international travelers and yet it’s blossomed into a popular destination for local tourists.
For this very reason, the crowds are limited and on a good day, you might be only one of few visiting.
The 12 Best Things to Do in Yeosu
1. Explore Odongdo
The 317 islands in Yeosu make it sound impossible to explore properly. However, note that only 49 of those islands are inhabited.
Of those 49, Odongdo is by far the most convenient and accessible to explore. Odongdo is connected to the main port via a stunning breakwater that will have you stopping to take photos along the way.
This small craggy island is home to bamboo groves and camellia trees, as well as expansive green fields of plants and other wildflowers. The island is small enough so that you can explore it completely within a few hours, however, prepare yourself for some arduous walking and climbing.
Once you’re done exploring, head to the lighthouse, which is arguably the main attraction of Odongdo. It boasts sweeping views of the harbour and during sunset, it’s simply breathtaking.
2. Explore Yi Sun Shin Square & Visit the Life-Size Replica of the ‘Turtle Ships’
Yi Sun Shin Square is the closest thing you’ll get to visiting a proper historical site in Yeosu. This small area is a short walk from the train station.
The first thing you’ll notice is the enormous statue of Yi Sun Shin erected in the middle of the square. People love taking photos with his historical figure, so why not join in on the fun!
The plaza that sits nearby the statue is where many events and celebrations take place in Yeosu, so if you’re there during a festive period, there may be a festival going on.
On the waterside of the square, you’ll be able to witness a life-size replica of the famous 16th-century turtle ships. These turtle ships were invented and commandeered by Yi Sun Shin to aid the Korean troops to victory over the Japanese. Whilst it’s not the original ship, it’s still breathtaking in size and design.
3. Explore the World Expo
The World Expo is located just outside of the Yeosu train station, so if you have a bit of time, it’s worth checking out.
There are a few different features of the World Expo, however, some standout ones include the Memorial Hall and the Big-O Show.
The Yeosu Memorial Hall currently acts as a stunning museum that showcases the latest maritime technology for you to learn about.
The Big-O Show is a popular night-time show that you should plan your itinerary around. This exciting display of waterworks and music is accompanied by a hologram show and is much loved by all those who have witnessed it.
4. BBQ or Camp at Jangdeung Beach
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Jangdeung is a fairly remote and secluded beach situated further out from the main city than most other beaches. If you want to spend time away from crowds and noise, this is the spot you’d be looking at visiting.
Jangdeung Beach is at its peak in popularity during July/August, however, even then the crowds are thin. If you’re game, bring along a beach tent and pitch it up for some quiet reflection time with yourself, your friends, and the ocean for company.
Jangdeung Beach allows small fires to be built as well, so if an overnight stay isn’t quite in the books, a BBQ is also a great way to experience this beach. Bring along some fresh seafood, build a small fire, and bunker down.
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5. Bath at the Manseongri Beach (aka Korea’s “Black Beach”)
Manseongri is Korea’s only black beach, which is why it’s also one of the most popular beaches in Yeosu. People visit Manseongri for a variety of reasons, with the main ones being for photography and sightseeing, although people do sometimes bath here as well.
The black sand is believed to actually help with blood circulation and getting rid of toxins, so locals sometimes take black sand baths here for its ‘healing effects’.
There are games and food stalls set up along the edges of this beach as well as restaurants lining the streets. You could probably spend a few hours here exploring and eating if you’d like!
It is a rather hot beach, so if you’re visiting in summer, beware of how hot the sand gets!
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6. Ride the Yeosu Marine Cable Car
Everyone loves a good cable car ride, right? Well, the Yeosu Marine Cable Car was one of Korea’s first marine cable vehicles. You’ll be experiencing history right here if you decide to hop on!
The cable car links the mainland to the island where Dolsan Park is. It’s an exciting yet relaxing way to take in the beauty and sights of the island, especially since you’re above water the entire time.
There are two types of cable cars, which include 35 standard cars and 15 ‘crystal’ cars. The crystal cars have tempered glass bottoms which allow you to watch the ocean move below your feet as you ride across!
7. Eat and Drink Your Way Through Yeosu
Exploring a city would not be complete without experiencing local delicacies. We highly recommend that you build your itinerary around Yeosu’s classic dishes because they are simply incredible!
Firstly, Yeosu is famous for several distinct dishes: agujjim (braised spicy angler), seodae hwae (sashimi), Dolsan gat kimchi (leaf mustard kimchi), and ganjang gejang (soy sauce marinated crabs). In saying that, the food scene, in general, is super impressive in Yeosu and you’ll be able to get a fantastic meal at most of their local eateries.
The best place to experience these dishes would have to be Jwasuyeong Food Street, which is home to tonnes of popular restaurants serving the classics of Yeosu. If you’re looking for variety and a bustling food scene, visit this place!
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8. Visit Hyangiram
Hyangiram is located on Dolsan Island, where you’ll need to catch a cable car across. This site is home to a cluster of temples and shrines. To get to it, you will need to climb 291 steps, which does get painful but trust us, it’s worth it.
Hyangiram was built in 664 by a Buddhist master. It’s considered one of the most architecturally impressive temples in South Korea, and its ocean-front views help!
During New Year, local people make the trek to this temple to witness the first sunrise of the year.
9. Ride the Yeosu Ocean Railbike
The Yeosu Ocean Railbike consists of a 3.5km open track that trails across the craggy coast of Yeosu. It takes its riders along the coastline in open-air (and through a short tunnel) at an extremely leisurely pace.
It is designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages, so young families will find that this is an exciting and leisurely activity to do whilst simultaneously enjoying the views of Yeosu.
10. Visit Yeosu Markets
When people think of world-class fish markets, Korea is always on the list. With a super long coastline and superior access to the abundance of fresh fish from the ocean, Koreans are spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood.
Yeosu’s Fish Market is no exception. Located in Namsan-dong, this huge fish market will surprise and stun you with its massive variety of daily fresh seafood. You can walk along the aisles to have a look at all that’s on offer before deciding what you want to eat.
The fish markets here operate quite similarly to all fish markets around Korea. Once you’ve decided what seafood you want to eat, simply purchase it from the vendor and they’ll prepare it for you on the spot. The restaurants along the side of the market will take your fish bones and prepare a soup for you for a small fee. Otherwise, they’ll send the seafood up to one of the restaurants to prepare a full meal for you.
11. Walk Through Angel Mural Village
Yeosu’s Angel Mural Village is quite similar to Busan’s Gamcheon Cultural Village. The distinct art murals painted along the walls of this small alley are quite a sight to behold!
The murals hold some significance as they reflect a bit of Yeosu’s past and culture in their bright colors and eye-capturing images. They first emerged in popularity during the 2021 World Expo, when young artists gathered here to paint the murals. Now, they’re a top tourist attraction.
12. Witness the Bright Light Show from Dolsan Park
Dolsan Park is a place where you’d spend the end of your day unwinding and taking in the sights from above the city. From Dolsan Park, you’ll be able to witness some of the most beautiful night-time sceneries Yeosu has to offer.
If you time your visit right, you’d be taking the cable car up from the mainland during sunset to witness it in all its glory before arriving at Dolsan Park to experience the illuminated Dolsan Bridge.
Honestly, there’s nothing better than ending a day of exploring with some stunning illumination appreciation. Walk around, photograph the beautiful scenery, and just take all the beauty in.
Where To Stay In Yeosu
Guest House ($) – Backpackers in Yeosu
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly, convenient and comfortable place to stay, check out Backpackers in Yeosu.
This modern, clean, and well-managed hostel offer free parking for guests, free Wi-Fi, and many common areas to relax in. All guest rooms are decent-sized, and the shared lounge, dining, and kitchens are well-equipped.
Book It Now: Backpackers in Yeosu
Traditional Stay ($$) – Hotel O Dong Jae
For a more traditional stay, we recommend Hotel O Dong Jae. This stunning hotel will immediately impress you with its historic exterior. Many elements of its internal design are throwbacks to Korean tradition, and the guest rooms are no exception.
Featuring the Ondol heating system, traditional Korean furniture, expansive views, and light-filled rooms, this hotel would make a memorable stay.
Book It Now: Hotel O Dong Jae
Hotel ($$$) – Hidden Bay Hotel
The stunning Hidden Bay Hotel in Yeosu is the cream of the crop. If you’re looking for a premium stay during your visit to Yeosu, this is the one.
Hidden Bay Hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, a well-equipped fitness center, free Wi-Fi for all guests, and a 24-hour front desk. It offers both modern rooms, as well as traditional Korean style rooms for you – you’d be spoilt for choice.
The thing that guests loved the most about this hotel, though, was the expansive views of the ocean – it’s simply mesmerizing.
Book It Now: Hidden Bay Hotel
How To Get To Yeosu
From Busan, the recommended methods to get to Yeosu would be either by bus or by train. Both options take around the 3-hour mark, but riding a bus is slightly cheaper.
The bus leaves Busan Sasang Bus Terminal and arrives at Yeosu. You will need to change at Yeosu for a bus to Yeocheon. Price is between $14-$22USD.
The train leaves Busan Station and arrives at Suncheon Station. You will need to alight there and take another train from Suncheon to Yeocheon Station in Yeosu. Price is between $24-$39USD.
From Seoul, you can catch the KTX. The ride itself is direct and will take around 3 hours. You depart from Seoul train station and will arrive at Yeosu train station.
We recommend booking your KTX tickets online. There are only 4 departures from Seoul station every day. The price is approximately $55USD.
Have a look at booking your tickets here.
How To Get Around In Yeosu
As Yeosu is not as touristy and bustling as other cities, public transport there is not the greatest. There is a bus system which does the job of taking you around to the more common areas. However, it’s not convenient for visiting lesser-known sites.
There are taxis, but they’re not always available, and it does get a bit expensive if you’re paying for every trip around Yeosu.
If you’re a confident driver, we recommend renting a car to get around. Without much traffic on the roads, driving won’t be as stressful as most people believe.
This charming, understated, surprisingly wholesome Korean city has been off the radar of international tourists for too long. With this guide, we’re anticipating that you’ll find time to hop off the beaten paths in Korea and check out the smaller pockets of magnificence that the country has to offer.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Yeosu! Let us know if you’re planning a trip here soon in the comments section. We’d love to hear how you’re going to explore this great city!