Sitting within easy reach of Seoraksan National Park and on the shores of the East Sea, Sokcho is a popular tourist destination in South Korea.
While nature lovers will have their hands full, its amazing temples, markets, and neighbourhoods will impress as well.
Come check out our Sokcho travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Sokcho, Korea.
Sokcho City Guide: A Brief History Of Sokcho, South Korea
Sokcho is a charming coastal city situated on the eastern coast of South Korea. Its history can be traced back to the ancient Goguryeo kingdom, which controlled the region from the 1st century BCE until the 7th century CE. During the Goguryeo era, the region was an important hub for trade and commerce, connecting the Korean Peninsula to the vast lands beyond.
Later, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the Sokcho region was designated as a military outpost to protect the nation against potential invasions from the north. The Joseon government established several forts and watchtowers along the coast, including the Seorak Fortress, which was built in the early 17th century and still stands today.
In the early 20th century, during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), Sokcho underwent significant changes. The Japanese government constructed modern infrastructure, including roads, ports, and railways, and introduced new industries such as fishing, forestry, and mining. The city became a vital center for these industries, and its population grew rapidly.
After the Korean War (1950-1953), Sokcho became a center for refugees who fled the conflict in the northern part of the peninsula. The city’s economy shifted towards trade and commerce, and it began to develop into a tourist destination, thanks to its stunning natural beauty and proximity to Seoraksan National Park.
Today, Sokcho is a bustling city with a rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore the Sokcho Traditional Market, which has been in operation for over a century and offers a variety of local delicacies, including squid pancakes, grilled shellfish, and spicy fish stew. The city is also known for its fresh seafood, particularly its abundant squid, which is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
For those interested in the city’s history, the Sokcho City Museum and Seoraksan History Museum are worth visiting. The former showcases the city’s cultural and artistic heritage, while the latter focuses on the history and ecology of the nearby Seoraksan National Park.
In summary, Sokcho’s history is a rich tapestry of ancient kingdoms, colonial influence, and modern-day tourism. The city’s cultural heritage and natural beauty are a draw for visitors from around the world, and it remains a must-visit destination on the eastern coast of South Korea.
Sokcho Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in South Korea
Most people make the trek out to Sokcho to visit Seoraksan National Park, one of South Korea’s most beautiful nature reserves. Here, granite and gneiss peaks rise more than 1,700 metres above the surrounding landscape, giving fantastic views in every direction.
If you are short on time, ensure that you do the Ulsanbawi Rock hike. While it is described as ‘the StairMaster from hell’ by some trekkers, the dramatic views from the top and flora and fauna along the way will make the sweat you’ll shed worth it.
Waterfall fans will also love this park – ensure that Biryong Falls and Towangseong Falls are on your list, as these picturesque water features will take your breath away. Don’t leave Seoraksan National Park off your itinerary, as flowering trees, greenery, fall foliage, and snow make this place stunning in any season.
This national park isn’t just home to natural attractions – it also has cultural assets as well. While in the Sokcho area, make plans to visit Gwongeumseong Fortress. Built on Seoraksan Mountain by King Gojong in the 13th century, its impregnable position helped to keep the peace in the region for generations.
It sits in ruins in the present day, but that doesn’t stop tourists from visiting the site via a cable car. Want to head up the hard way? It used to be allowed, but the steep nature of the trail and sheer cliffs led to its closure, so you’ll have to ride the tram with day trippers.
While the foundations can be hard to pick out from the rocks at the summit of Seoraksan, the views of the surrounding area make up for it. Be ready to wait for at least a couple of hours during peak season – try to visit during the week, if possible.
The stunning natural beauty of the Sokcho region has made it the perfect place to build Buddhist halls of worship. Of them, Sinheungsa Temple stands out – built in the 7th century during the reign of Queen Jindeok, it has been destroyed numerous times over the aeons.
Sinheungsa Temple is best known for its statues – notable ones include the Bronze Jwabul Statue and four that honour former Cheonwang, or kings.
Sokcho is situated less than 100 kilometres from the North Korean border. As the first major city within easy reach of this frontier, it has become home to a substantial community of North Korean refugees during the Korean War.
The neighbourhood where they and their descendants live is popularly known as Abai Village. In a nation that had modernized rapidly over the past half-century, it stands out as a place where old Korean homes remain.
The charming nature of these streets made it a central shooting location for the K-drama, ‘Autumn in My Heart’ – key attractions include a supermarket where the lead actress worked and the boat she took to cross a nearby channel.
Hungry? Be sure to try some hamheung naengmyeon or Abai sundae – both dishes are familiar to this particular neighbourhood.
Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Sokcho, Korea
Spent a couple of days hiking in Seoraksan with your family? Reward yourself and your kids with a relaxing day at Seorak Waterpia. A water park with indoor and outdoor features, it can be visited at any time during the year.
With water slides, wave pools, saunas, and pools that can be as hot as 49 degrees Celsius, this park is the perfect place to unwind.
Connect with locals shopping for dinner at the Sokcho Jungang Market. While it was initially a seafood market, this place has since become famous for its dak gangjeong, or sweet and sour fried chicken.
If you are jonesing for fresh seafood, though, there is no better place to go in Sokcho than Daepo Port. Here, the catch of the day is hauled off boats and is quickly prepared to be bought by restaurateurs and seafood enthusiasts.
In attached restaurants, everything from $100 fish to cheaper seafood tempura is served up – have the latter with some beer or makgeolli – thank us later.
If the peak days of summer have you drenched in sweat, seek sweet relief from the heat at Sokcho Beach. A white sand beach that extends for two kilometres (although, the public swimming area is only 450 metres wide), there are many places where you can roll out a towel to enjoy the sea breeze.
Afterwards, try some fresh sashimi, as there are countless spots along the waterfront where it is available.
source: A Couple of Nomads on YouTube
Top 10 Things To Do in Sokcho, South Korea For Visitors
- Explore Seoraksan National Park: Seoraksan National Park is one of the top attractions in Sokcho and is known for its stunning natural beauty. It offers a range of hiking trails, waterfalls, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Some of the popular hiking trails include Biseondae Rock, Ulsanbawi Rock, and the Daecheongbong Peak, which is the highest peak in the park. The park is also home to several temples and hermitages, including Sinheungsa Temple and Baekdam Temple.
- Visit Sokcho Beach: Sokcho Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located in the heart of the city. The beach is popular for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports, and is particularly beautiful at sunset when the sky is painted with vibrant shades of orange and pink. There are also plenty of restaurants and cafes located along the beach where visitors can enjoy delicious seafood dishes while taking in the view.
- Walk along Cheongcho Lake: Cheongcho Lake is a picturesque lake located in the center of Sokcho. It is surrounded by walking paths, cafes, and restaurants, and is a popular spot for boating and fishing. Visitors can rent a paddleboat or simply enjoy the view of the lake and its surrounding mountains.
- Visit Abai Village: Abai Village is a quaint fishing village located just outside of Sokcho. The village is famous for its traditional architecture, fresh seafood, and beautiful coastal scenery. Visitors can take a stroll along the harbor and watch the fishermen bring in their catch of the day, or enjoy a delicious seafood meal at one of the many restaurants located in the village.
- Enjoy the Sokcho Traditional Market: Sokcho Traditional Market has been in operation for over a century and is a bustling hub of activity. The market offers a wide range of local delicacies, including squid pancakes, grilled shellfish, and spicy fish stew. Visitors can also find souvenirs, traditional Korean clothing, and handicrafts at the market.
- Hike to Ulsanbawi Rock: Ulsanbawi Rock is an iconic landmark located within Seoraksan National Park. The hike to the top of the rock is challenging, but it rewards visitors with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and coastline. The rock is made up of six granite peaks and is said to resemble a fan.
- Visit the Sokcho City Museum: The Sokcho City Museum showcases the cultural and artistic heritage of the city. The museum has a wide range of exhibits, including traditional costumes, pottery, and artwork. Visitors can also learn about the history of the city and its development over the years.
- Take a cable car to Gwongeumseong Fortress: Gwongeumseong Fortress is an ancient fortress located on a steep hilltop within Seoraksan National Park. Visitors can access the fortress via a cable car and explore the ancient ruins. The fortress was originally built during the Goguryeo Dynasty and was used to defend against invading armies.
- Explore Naksansa Temple: Naksansa Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple located on a hill overlooking the sea. The temple was first built in the 7th century and has a rich history. Visitors can enjoy the tranquil surroundings and learn about Buddhist teachings.
- Enjoy a seafood feast: Sokcho is famous for its fresh seafood, particularly its abundant squid. Visitors can enjoy a variety of seafood dishes at local restaurants, including grilled squid, sashimi, and spicy seafood stew. There are also many traditional Korean restaurants located in the city where visitors can sample a range of local dishes.
What to Eat and Drink at Restaurants in Sokcho, South Korea
Sokcho, located on the eastern coast of South Korea, is known for its fresh seafood and unique local cuisine. Here are some of the must-try foods and drinks to experience in Sokcho:
- Hweh (Raw Fish): Hweh is a popular dish in Sokcho, featuring fresh raw fish that has been sliced thinly and served with soy sauce, wasabi, and other condiments. Sokcho’s proximity to the sea means that the fish is incredibly fresh, making it one of the best places to try this dish.
- Squid: Sokcho is also known for its squid, which can be cooked in various ways, such as grilled or stir-fried with vegetables. One of the most popular dishes is ojingeo sundae, a type of sausage stuffed with squid and vegetables.
- Naengmyeon (Cold Noodles): Naengmyeon is a Korean noodle dish served cold, perfect for hot summer days. The noodles are made of buckwheat and served in a chilled broth with slices of beef, pear, and cucumber.
- Dakgangjeong (Sweet and Spicy Fried Chicken): Dakgangjeong is a popular Korean fried chicken dish that has a sweet and spicy glaze. Sokcho has its own version of this dish, which is made using local ingredients such as mushrooms and green onions.
- Makgeolli (Rice Wine): Makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine that is brewed using rice, water, and a fermentation agent. Sokcho has its own version of this drink, known as Seoktanju, which is made using a special type of rice and has a unique flavor.
- Dongdongju (Rice Wine): Dongdongju is another type of Korean rice wine that is made using rice, water, and a fermentation agent. Unlike makgeolli, which is smooth and creamy, dongdongju is slightly cloudy and has a sour taste.
- Bingsu (Shaved Ice): Bingsu is a popular Korean dessert made by shaving ice and adding various toppings, such as red beans, fruit, and syrup. In Sokcho, one of the most popular types of bingsu is the patbingsu, which features shaved ice topped with sweetened red beans.
- Soju (Korean Liquor): Soju is a clear and colorless Korean liquor that is made from rice, wheat, or barley. It has a slightly sweet taste and is typically consumed with food or as a mixer in cocktails.
- Cheongju (Korean Rice Wine): Cheongju is a clear and colorless Korean rice wine that is made using rice, water, and a fermentation agent. It has a milder taste than other Korean rice wines and is typically served chilled.
- Sikhye (Sweet Rice Punch): Sikhye is a traditional Korean sweet rice punch that is made using malt and rice. It has a sweet and slightly nutty flavor and is typically served as a dessert.
When visiting Sokcho, be sure to try these local delicacies and drinks to experience the city’s unique culinary culture.
Tours For Visitors To Sokcho, Korea
Here are some of the best tours for visitors to Sokcho:
- Seoraksan National Park Tour: Seoraksan National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, and a tour to this beautiful park will provide visitors with the opportunity to explore its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife. The tour includes a cable car ride to the top of the mountain, where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the park.
- Sokcho City Tour: This tour offers visitors the chance to explore the city’s top attractions, including the Sokcho Beach, Sokcho Jungang Market, and the Abai Village, which is known for its traditional Korean houses.
- Fishing Tour: Sokcho is a popular fishing destination, and visitors can enjoy a fishing tour that includes a boat ride, fishing equipment rental, and the chance to catch various types of fish in the sea.
- Temple Stay: Visitors looking for a unique cultural experience can opt for a temple stay at the Sinheungsa Temple in Seoraksan National Park. This tour offers visitors the chance to learn about Buddhism, participate in meditation and other temple activities, and enjoy vegetarian meals.
- Sunrise Tour: The Sokcho Sunrise Tour is a popular activity for visitors who want to witness the stunning sunrise over the East Sea. The tour includes a hike up Seorak Mountain, followed by breakfast at a local restaurant.
- Rail Bike Tour: The Sokcho Rail Bike Tour is a fun activity for visitors of all ages. The tour includes a scenic ride on a rail bike along the old railway tracks, passing through tunnels and over bridges while enjoying beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
- Island Tour: Visitors can enjoy a tour of the nearby islands such as Naksan Island, which is known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters. The tour includes a ferry ride, hiking, and a visit to a lighthouse.
- Beach Activities: Sokcho Beach offers various beach activities such as jet skiing, banana boat rides, and parasailing. Visitors can also enjoy a relaxing day at the beach, sunbathing, and swimming in the sea.
- Local Food Tour: Sokcho is known for its delicious seafood, and visitors can enjoy a food tour that includes a visit to local markets and restaurants to sample fresh seafood dishes.
- Winter Sports Tour: During winter, Sokcho becomes a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports activities at the nearby ski resorts such as High1 Resort and Phoenix Park.
These are just some of the many tours and activities available for visitors to Sokcho, providing travelers with a variety of options to suit their interests and preferences.
Sokcho Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels
Here is a guide to accommodations in Sokcho:
- Beachfront Hotels and Resorts: Sokcho is known for its beautiful beaches, so if you want to be close to the water, consider staying in one of the many beachfront hotels or resorts. They offer stunning ocean views and easy access to the beach.
- Guesthouses and Hostels: For budget travelers, guesthouses and hostels are a great option. They are affordable and offer a communal atmosphere where you can meet other travelers. Many guesthouses and hostels in Sokcho are located near the beach or in the city center.
- Hanok Stays: Hanok is a traditional Korean house made of wood and clay. Staying in a hanok can be a unique and cultural experience. In Sokcho, you can find hanok stays in the nearby countryside, offering a peaceful and serene environment.
- Pension Houses: Pension houses are similar to guesthouses, but they are often more spacious and private. They are usually located in more secluded areas and offer a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
- Luxury Hotels: For those who prefer more luxurious accommodations, Sokcho has a number of high-end hotels that offer first-class amenities, such as swimming pools, spas, and fine dining restaurants. These hotels are often located in scenic locations and offer stunning views of the surrounding nature.
Some popular accommodations in Sokcho include:
- Seorak Kensington Stars Hotel: A luxury hotel located near Seorak Mountain and Sokcho Beach, offering a pool, spa, and ocean views.
- Sokcho Beach Hotel: A beachfront hotel with easy access to the beach and seafood restaurants.
- Goodstay Smile Resort: A budget-friendly hotel located near Seorak Mountain and offering a peaceful and quiet atmosphere.
- Hanwha Resort Seorak Sorano: A resort located in the Seorak Mountain area, offering beautiful views and a range of amenities, including a golf course and a water park.
No matter what your budget or preferences are, Sokcho has a variety of accommodations to choose from. Be sure to book in advance during peak seasons to ensure availability.
Day Trips From Sokcho, South Korea
Sokcho is located on the east coast of South Korea, surrounded by natural beauty and historic landmarks. Here are some recommended day trips from Sokcho:
- Seoraksan National Park: A must-visit destination for nature lovers, Seoraksan National Park offers stunning views of the mountain range and various hiking trails for visitors of all skill levels. The park also features a temple, Sinheungsa, which is located at the base of the mountain and is a great place to take a break from hiking.
- Naksansa Temple: Located on a cliff overlooking the East Sea, Naksansa Temple offers beautiful views and peaceful surroundings. The temple features a large bronze statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, as well as several other historic buildings.
- Abai Village: Abai Village is a traditional fishing village located on the outskirts of Sokcho. Visitors can walk through the village, which has preserved its historic buildings and traditions, and sample some of the local seafood.
- Sokcho Beach: If you want a relaxing day by the sea, Sokcho Beach is the perfect destination. With soft sand and clear water, it’s a great place to swim or sunbathe.
- Goseong Unification Observatory: Located on the border of North and South Korea, the Goseong Unification Observatory offers a unique view of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the surrounding area. Visitors can learn about the history and politics of the area and view North Korea from a distance.
- Hwanseon Cave: Hwanseon Cave is a popular destination for cave exploration, with unique rock formations and underground streams. Visitors can take a guided tour through the cave and learn about its history and geology.
- Daepo Port: Daepo Port is a bustling fishing port located just a short distance from Sokcho. Visitors can watch the boats come in with their catch of the day and sample some of the fresh seafood at the nearby restaurants.
- Osaek Hot Springs: If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip, Osaek Hot Springs offers natural hot springs surrounded by lush forest. Visitors can soak in the hot springs and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
- Sokcho Traditional Market: Sokcho Traditional Market is a vibrant and bustling market featuring a wide variety of local food, produce, and handicrafts. Visitors can wander through the market and sample some of the delicious street food.
- Yeongnangho Lake: Yeongnangho Lake is a large freshwater lake located just outside of Sokcho. Visitors can rent a boat or take a leisurely stroll around the lake and enjoy the scenic views.
Sokcho Transportation Guide
Sokcho is located in the northeastern part of South Korea and is a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists. There are several transportation options available to get to and around Sokcho.
- By Plane: The nearest airport to Sokcho is Yangyang International Airport, which is located about 30 minutes away by car. It offers domestic flights from Seoul and Busan, as well as international flights from Japan and China.
- By Train: Sokcho is accessible by train from major cities in South Korea such as Seoul, Busan, and Daegu. The train station in Sokcho is located in the city center, making it convenient to reach most accommodations and tourist attractions.
- By Bus: There are several intercity bus services that connect Sokcho to other cities in South Korea. The Sokcho Express Bus Terminal is located in the city center, making it convenient to reach most accommodations and tourist attractions.
- By Car: Sokcho is accessible by car via the national highways. The drive from Seoul takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours depending on traffic conditions.
- By Taxi: Taxis are readily available in Sokcho and are a convenient way to get around the city. However, they can be more expensive than other transportation options.
- By Bicycle: Sokcho is known for its scenic bike routes, and many visitors choose to rent bicycles to explore the city and its surrounding areas. There are several rental shops located in the city center.
- By Foot: Sokcho is a relatively small city, and many of the main tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking is a great way to explore the city and get a sense of its unique charm and culture.
Overall, Sokcho is a relatively easy city to navigate, and there are several transportation options available to visitors. Whether you prefer to travel by plane, train, bus, car, taxi, bicycle, or foot, there is a convenient and affordable way to get around and explore all that Sokcho has to offer.
Where To Visit After Your Trip To Sokcho?
If you’re looking to continue your journey and explore more of the country, here are some great destinations to consider:
- Seoraksan National Park: This national park is one of the most popular attractions in South Korea, and for a good reason. It’s home to Seoraksan Mountain, which is the third highest peak in the country. The park has many hiking trails that range from easy to challenging, and they offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains, waterfalls, and forests. In the fall, the park is especially beautiful as the leaves change colors. You can also visit the Sinheungsa Temple, which is a Buddhist temple located in the park.
- Gyeongju: Known as the “museum without walls,” Gyeongju was the capital city of the Silla Dynasty for over 1,000 years. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to many historical sites and artifacts. You can visit the famous Bulguksa Temple, which is a beautiful example of traditional Korean architecture, or explore the ancient burial mounds of the kings and queens of the Silla Dynasty. Gyeongju is also known for its traditional Korean food, such as Ssambap, which is a dish made with rice, meat, and vegetables wrapped in lettuce leaves.
- Busan: As the second-largest city in South Korea, Busan is a vibrant and bustling city with a beautiful coastline. You can visit the famous Haeundae Beach, which is one of the most popular beaches in the country, or explore the Gamcheon Culture Village, which is a colorful neighborhood filled with art installations and murals. Busan is also home to the Busan International Film Festival, which is one of the largest film festivals in Asia.
- Jeju Island: Located off the southern coast of South Korea, Jeju Island is a popular destination known for its natural beauty. The island is home to many volcanic landscapes, such as the Hallasan Mountain, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also visit the Manjanggul Cave, which is a lava tube that stretches for over 7 kilometers. Jeju Island is also famous for its seafood, such as Jeonbokjuk, which is a rice porridge made with abalone.
- Seoul: As the capital city of South Korea, Seoul offers a mix of ancient tradition and modern culture. You can visit the famous Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is a beautiful example of traditional Korean architecture, or explore the trendy Gangnam district, which is known for its high-end shopping and entertainment. Seoul is also famous for its street food, such as Tteokbokki, which is a spicy rice cake dish, or Mandu, which is a Korean dumpling.
These destinations are just a few of the many amazing places to visit in South Korea. Whether you’re interested in nature, history, or modern culture, there’s something for everyone to discover.
Sokcho Travel Guide: Final Thoughts
Sokcho is a charming city located on the northeast coast of South Korea. It’s a great destination for those who love nature, as it’s surrounded by stunning mountains and a beautiful coastline. The city offers many attractions and activities, such as the Seoraksan National Park, the Sokcho Beach, and the Abai Village.
If you’re planning a trip to Sokcho, there are a few things to keep in mind. The best time to visit is during the fall or spring, as the weather is mild and the scenery is stunning. In the summer, the city can get quite crowded due to the high number of tourists.
When it comes to accommodations, there are many options to choose from, such as hotels, guesthouses, and resorts. It’s important to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak season.
In terms of transportation, Sokcho has a good bus system that connects the city to nearby destinations. However, renting a car is also a good option if you want more flexibility in your itinerary.
Sokcho is a great destination for those who want to experience the natural beauty of South Korea. Whether you’re interested in hiking, beach activities, or cultural experiences, Sokcho has something for everyone to enjoy.
In Sokcho, where the mountains meet the sea, A land of natural beauty, waiting for thee. With Seoraksan’s peaks and Sokcho’s beach, Adventure and relaxation are within your reach.
The Abai village, a glimpse into the past, A reminder of cultures that forever last. With fresh seafood and local delights, Your taste buds will be in for a delight.
The air is crisp, the scenery divine, The perfect place to unwind and dine. Take a hike, take a stroll, Let the wonders of Sokcho take control.
So come and visit this coastal gem, A place where memories are made, not just a whim. Sokcho welcomes you with open arms, A place of serenity and natural charms.