The island of Maemuldo in Tongyeong, South Gyeogang Province is known for its beautiful scenery, created by three islets set in deep blue waters. From the coastal city, it takes about 90 minutes to travel the 26 km to the islets by boat. However, it can now be accessed in just 30 minutes courtesy of a new waterway that opened last year from the nearby city of Geoje.
The three islets are named according to their respective sizes and features. Daemaemuldo is the biggest ("dae" means "big" in Korean), while Somaemuldo is smaller ("so" means "small"). Deungdaedo, the third, takes its name from the Korean word for lighthouse.
All three can be seen in a day trip, but it requires quite a carefully planned itinerary to do so. Visitors must board a ferry from Daemaemuldo to Somaemuldo, and they can only cross from the latter to Deungdaedo at low tide. As such, those who are pressed for time are advised to head directly to Somaemuldo as it offers the most breathing views and permits access to Deungdaedo.
It takes about three hours to circumnavigate Daemaemuldo via a 5.5 km trekking course that takes in much of its coastline. On a fine day, Japan's Tsushima Island can be seen from the islet's Janggunbong Peak (210 m). Due to its long grass, sharp rocks and steep slopes, sturdy pants and suitable shoes are highly recommended.
Regular ferries head to Somaemuldo from two villages on the islet -- Danggeum and Daehang -- but travelers are advised to leave plenty of time as operations can be disrupted by weather conditions.
Somaemuldo is known for its oddly shaped cliffs and an observatory where visitors can enjoy sweeping views of Deungdaedo and its lighthouse. A walking course that incorporates both outcroppings takes 2-3 hours and covers some 3.1 km.
Due to Maemuldo's soaring popularity, visitors are advised to book ferry tickets in advance for trips at the weekend or during vacation periods by visiting the official website at http://www.maemuldo.go.kr. It also provides information in English at http://eng.maemuldo.go.kr.
Those interested in lighthouses can head to the nearby city of Busan and take a pleasure boat from Haeundae Beach to the Oryukdo islets. On the only inhabited islet, a lighthouse guides ships coming from all over the world. Oryukdo can also be appreciated from Igidae Park in the port city's Yongho district.
In the neighboring city of Ulsan, Daewangam Park plays host to the first lighthouse built on the east coast. Constructed in 1906, it also ranks as the third oldest in the country and serves as one of the city's most famous tourist spots. People flock to its dense forest filled with century-old pine trees, and magnificent ocean views overlooking an islet shaped like a dragon's head.