Since Elicia and I had five days off for Chuseok this year, our game-plan was to explore Jirisan National Park on Wednesday and Thursday (post about Jirisan is here), then on Friday we’d pick up our friends Cory & Michelle in Gokseong and drive our car to Tongyeong to meet up with four other friends (DJ & Lauren and Curt & Marene) and take a ferry to Bijindo Island. This particular island was highlighted in a CNN Travel article and it appeared to have beautiful beaches and scenery, so it caught our attention (and the attention of many other foreigners who also visited the island for the long weekend)!
After our incredible hike in Jirisan on Wednesday, we packed up our gear and drove about two hours west, through the mountainous national park, and found a new campsite in the western part of Jirisan. After establishing camp once again, we relaxed a bit and explored the beautiful freshwater rivers and beauty of Jirisan National Park. Elicia captured some amazing photos of this portion of our vacation in her blog, here. Early Friday morning we picked up Cory & Michelle in Gokseong and headed east to Tongyeong. This two hour drive was eventful because there’s a mass exodus of Korean people traveling during this Chuseok Holiday to visit their hometowns and family. Therefore, the roads were a bit congested, but we still made the afternoon ferry to Bijindo as we had planned. From Tongyeong, there are three ferries per day and roudtrip costs about $14 for the one hour journey.
We arrived at Bijindo on Friday afternoon and found a lovely area to set up our four tents. The eight of us relaxed, took a swim, and marveled at the beauty of this island. We also took in the sunset. Here’s where we plopped our tents:
Bijindo was a blast. Gorgeous sunsets, warm campfires, S’mores, clear water, tossing frisbees, and playing sports on the beach in September with weather in the 80s and not a cloud in the sky. Naturally, however, come Saturday afternoon, I became a bit stir-crazy and wanted to explore the island and go for a hike. Bijindo Island offers a nice hiking trail. The island itself is shaped like a dumb-bell, with a mountain on each end and a huge beach in the middle. The hike goes around and up one of these mountains, and it has spectacular views along the way. Here’s the start of the hike, right next to the beach. There’s a little map and directions, but since there’s only one trail, we didn’t find this too necessary. We did the entire loop.
The start of the hike is paved, and cuts through the locals’ little gardens. It was quiet and peaceful.
Soon you’re met by a “gate” and the trail remains pretty flat. It continues to hug the sea so you’re often looking out into the sea as you trot along the path.
Coming in the opposite direction of us, we encountered a huge group of 30+ Koreans that came to Bijindo to hike for the day. It was all smiles and “hello’s”. Everyone loved the hiking here at Bijindo Island! We were loving it, too.
After 1.5km or so of flat trekking, the trail takes you up a bit and exposes you to some dramatic cliffs.
We continued along, climbing a moderate grade for 30-45 minutes and finally you reach the summit of Bijindo, called Seonyubong Peak. Just a bit beneath the summit there’s a nice wooden deck structure that offers beautiful views of the dumb-bell shaped island and the beach that connects in the middle. We hung out here for a while, snapping pictures and taking in the majestic landscape.
And, on the way down, you come through a few more gardens. We did the entire loop of the island, which was 4.1km and took a little under two hours to accomplish. Alternatively, you could take a shorter route and climb straight up to the lookout point and back down, probably taking only one hour to complete. BUT, Elicia and I really enjoy hiking and by walking a little extra we saw lots of cool sights we otherwise wouldn’t have!
We’ve been seeing lots of these little stick-bugs around. They’re not so little! This guy hung out with us for a while.
Well, Chuseok break was certainly a spectacular one. It was five days off to relax and have fun. It also provided a great opportunity for Elicia and I to explore Jirisan National Park for the first time, and to spend quality time with our amazing friends on the quiet island of Bijindo. Success! We are extremely blessed here in Korea.