Samcheok City is located at the southernmost region of Gangwon do, reaches out to the east coast, and Uljin in Gyeongsangbuk do to the south. You can enjoy a romantic time by the blue ocean and mysterious caves.
Nonstop buses to Samcheok Express Bus Terminal leave every 40 to 50 minutes from the Seoul Express Bus Terminal. On weekdays, the first bus is at 6:30 am and the last runs at 11:30 pm. There are also 15 services daily from Dong (East) Seoul Bus Terminal to Samcheok between 7:10 am and 8:05 pm. Check to make sure the buses are the kind with 3 seats across instead of 4. Same price but much more comfortable.
If you’re planning to drive from Seoul, take the Yeongdong Expressway to Gangneung junction, then get onto the Donghae (East Sea) Expressway to Donghae. National Road No. 7 will then take you to Samcheok.
Next to the express bus terminal is an information booth, right on the sidewalk. They are extremely helpful and will give you maps and schedules in English. There are city and regional buses that go to all of the tourist sites and usually leave every hour from a bus stop alongside the back of the city bus terminal. To get to the caves, a ticket must be purchased inside the terminal. For the penis park and Youngwha beach you pay on the bus. Taxis are also plentiful and relatively cheap. The main downtown area is a 10 minute walk from the terminal.
Although a number of caves have been discovered throughout Samcheok, their interiors are deceptively fragile, and so only these two, both part of Daei ri County Park, are open to the public. They are ‘Hwanseongul’ and ‘Daegeumgul’.
The bus will drop you off at the parking lot / ticket-buying area. From there, the distance to Hwanseon cave is a 1.3 km hike, and the distance to Daegeum cave is about a 500 meter hike.
You can reach the entrance of Hwanseon Cave after passing the ticket office, several traditional houses, a bridge, waterfall, and 398 iron stairs. 448 wild plants grow around the cave. It is also possible to take a monorail ride after the ticket office (return ticket ₩ 5,000, one-way ₩ 3,000), but this is not really worth it, and if busy will take longer than walking (walk is about 30 minutes from the ticket office). It takes about 1 hour to see the inner side of the cave which is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm during the winter season (Nov.~ Feb.), and from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm during the summer season (Mar.~ Oct.). The price for an entrance ticket is ₩ 4,000.
Stories surrounding the stream abound. One popular legend has it that a beautiful woman used to appear at a waterfall near Daei ri village to bathe. But when she was approached by the villagers one day, she disappeared. Lightning struck, rocks tumbled, and the lady turned into a cave. Believing that she must have been a seonnyeo (fairy), the villagers named the cave Hwanseongul or reborn deity. Also the Hwanseongul Cave has bridge of confessions and you’ll see a sign inviting you to confess your sins.
Daegeum begins with a monorail ride uphill. The Daegeum monorail offers a seven minute journey. Daegeumgul Cave’s monorail carries visitors into a hidden underworld, passing beautiful stalactites and rock formations on the way. Be sure to book this in advance, as in high season it might be fully booked. Booking can be done at the Tourist information booth outside the bus station. Booking online can only be done with a Korean issued creditcard.
“Railbiking” means old unused railroad tracks are repurposed. Now, there are pedal-powered golf-cart looking things that go along the old railroad tracks. The tracks go along the coast. You must make a reservation in advance, but the website is only in Korean, so get a Korean friend to help you. The Samcheok tourist kiosk has an English-speaking employee who will help you call and make a reservation.
Penis Park (Haesindang Park)
Legend has it that long ago, a young girl died a virgin, by drowning in the ocean. (Different versions of the legend have different stories of how/why she died.) After she died, the nearby fishing village started having problems – all the fish were gone. One day, some guy exposed his penis to the ocean (whether by urinating or what have you, different legends have different takes on the situation), and then the fish came back. The villagers finally understood that the virgin girl’s ghost was driving away the fish, and the only way to please her was to build statues of penises to look at. So they did. And thus, Haesindang Park was born.
Haeshindang Park 해산당 공원. Address: 167-8 Seongnam-dong. (alternately, in Sinnam village.) 033-570-3568. Ticket price: W3000. Opening Hours: Summer (Mar-Oct), Tues-Sun, 9 am-6 pm. Winter (Nov-Feb), Tues-Sun, 9 am-5 pm
Buses from Samcheok to Haeshindang Park take about 50 minutes. In the Samcheok bus terminal, ask for “Haeshindang Gong-won (해산당 공원).” The bus ticket should cost about W3000. Buses 20, 24, 90, and 90-1 go there. Tell the driver that you’re getting off at Haeshindang Gong-won, and when he gets there, he’ll tell you to get off the bus.
There are two bus stops for Haeshindang Park – one at the top of the hill, and one at the bottom. You can buy tickets/enter the park from either end.
Buses from Samcheok to Haeshindang Park: Depart Samcheok – Arrive Sinnam village 5:50 – 6:30 6:40 – 7:20 7:20 –8:00 8:00 – 8:40 9:00 – 9:40 10:00 - 10:40 11:00 - 11:40 12:00 - 12:40 13:00 - 13:40 14:00 - 14:40 15:00 - 15:40 15:40 – 16:20 17:00 - 17:40 18:00 - 18:40 19:20 - 19:40 20:20 – 21:00
Buses from the bottom of the hill at Haeshindang Park, to Samcheok: Depart Haeshindang park, near Sinnam Village: 7:00 7:25 7:35 8:25 9:25 10: 25 11: 25 12:05 13:25 14: 05 15: 25 16: 05 17: 05 18: 25 18:40 19:10 20:10
Quite a large number of motels can be found near the bus station. It is worth looking around a bit to find a decent priced room as the prices seem to vary quite a bit (ranging about ₩ 50,000 ~ ₩ 150,000).