Sokcho is much loved by travel enthusiasts for its natural wonders such as Seoraksan Mountain, the East Sea, and luxurious hot springs. The shimmering deep blue waters of the East Sea in summer, colourful leaves on the slopes of Seoraksan in autumn, and snow-covered slopes and relaxing hot spring baths in winter – it's a welcoming destination in every season.

    This list of the places locals love to go in Sokcho and, while it includes some of the obvious attractions that you'll easily find, there are also a couple of hidden gems that you'd probably have to be Korean to discover.

    1

    Sinheungsa Temple

    Sinheungsa Temple is in Seorak-dong and was founded by the Silla monk Jajang. It's the starting point of the route from Outer Seorak to Seoraksan. Sinheungsa became the Yeongdong region's iconic temple after the neighbouring temple, Geonbongsa, was destroyed during the Korean War.

    In addition to the 1,400-year-old bumjong (Buddhist temple bell) cast at the time of its foundation, this temple has a geungnakbojeon (hall of the temple), bojeru (pavilion), and a 3-storey stone pagoda at the Hyangseongsa Temple Site. Reverently walk among the spacious grounds to gain a sense of this historic temple’s past.

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    2

    Ulsanbawi Rock

    Ulsanbawi Rock is Korea's most famous rock, standing guard a short distance from Sokcho. The road to the summit is one of Seoraksan Mountain's trails, and it takes about 4 hours to get there and back. Start from Seorak-dong Small Park and pass Heundeulbawi in the middle.

    When you reach the summit and see Ulsanbawi Rock standing at 873 metres above sea level, you can also enjoy a spectacular view of Seoraksan Mountain and the East Sea. The magnificence of Ulsanbawi Rock and the sound of the wind creates a majestic atmosphere. Don’t want a strenuous hike? Visit Heundeulbawi for an easier round trip.

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    3

    Cheonbuldong Valley

    The Cheonbuldong Valley trail starts at Biseondae and runs for 8 km to the Daecheongbong Peak of Seoraksan. The name 'Cheonbuldong' comes from the shape of the rock formations on both sides of the valley that look like a thousand statues of the Buddha.

    The main trail route of Seoraksan, Cheonbuldong Valley is popular with tourists who want to see colourful foliage, especially in autumn. In the middle of the trail are such scenic vistas as Waseondae, Biseondae, Guimyeonam, Oryeon Falls, and Yangpok. The trip to Yangpok Shelter and back takes about 6 to 7 hours.

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    photo by rma2403 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    4

    Biryong Waterfall

    Biryong Waterfall in Towanggol tumbles down 16 metres to add soothing sound to the beautiful mountain panorama. There's a legend that a maiden was offered to a dragon living in the waterfall and sent to the sky to avoid a severe drought. The path to Biryong Waterfall is a relatively easy trail that starts from Seorak-dong Small Park and goes through Yukdam Falls. Hikers will find many valleys and small waterfalls along the way.

    Going a bit further from Biryong Waterfall is Towangseong Falls Observation Deck, which offers a spectacular view of Towangseong Falls. The round trip to Biryong Waterfall takes about 3 hours.

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    photo by Elananna (CC BY 3.0) modified

    5

    Seoraksan Cable Car to Gwongeumseong Fortress

    A cable car offers the easiest route to climb Seoraksan. It runs from Seoraksan Small Park to Gwongeumseong Fortress, which is 700 metres above sea level. During peak season, it's always crowded with visitors who prefer a comfortable ride with a view of Seoraksan, so advance planning is necessary.

    From the top of Gwongeumseong, you can see the magnificent and beautiful scenery of the East Sea, Ulsanbawi Rock, and Towangseong Falls. It’s a 15-min walk from the cable car to Gwongeumseong.

    Location: 1137, Seoraksan-ro, Sokcho-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea

    Open: Daily 9am to 6pm (Subject to change due to inclement weather or other special circumstances)

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    6

    Sokcho Beach

    An area icon, Sokcho Beach is famous for clean sand and clear water. Well-equipped facilities and wooden decks on the white-sand beach offer a great setting for an ocean-side stroll. Jodo Island in front of Sokcho Beach creates a stunning view, and the many restaurants serve sumptuous fresh fish to tourists. The nearby jagged peaks of Seoraksan Mountain and the rhythmic surf of Sokcho Beach create a special memory. Nearby attractions also include Abai Village.

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    7

    Abai Village

    Located in Cheongho-dong, Abai Village is a must-visit destination during a trip to Sokcho. This village was built by refugees who followed South Korean troops from Hamgyeong-do province in North Korea during the Korean War. It's known as the shooting location for popular K-drama Autumn in My Heart.

    The speciality of Abai Village is the gaetbae boat. Gaetbae, a man-powered boat, used to be the only means of transportation to this village, but after a bridge was built, it became a major tourist product instead. They offer an experience programme for children to interact with the gaetbae boat.

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    photo by adam nicholson (CC BY 2.0) modified

    8

    Yeonggeumjeong Pavilion

    Yeonggeumjeong is a pavilion located in Dongmyeong-dong. The name originally refers to the rocky area on the seashore, but it's now also used to indicate the pavilion built on the rock. In the area where the pavilion stands, there used to be a high rocky mountain. Locals thought the sound of the wind hitting the pavilion-shaped mountain was like that of the string of a sacred musical instrument, so they named the site Yeonggeumjeong. Stand at the pavilion on the rocks and be mesmerised by the sights, sounds, and smells, as well as the fresh ocean breeze.

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    9

    Cheoksan Hot Springs Zone

    Cheoksan Hot Spring Zone, along with Seoraksan Mountain and the East Sea, are popular destinations in Sokcho. Cheoksan Hot Spring in Nohak-dong is located between Seoraksan Mountain and downtown Sokcho. The hot spring water is around 50°C and is rich sodium and sulphur. It's said to be good for indigestion, neuralgia, and beauty. Cheoksan Hot Spring offers family and open-air baths.

    For a quick hot spring experience, visit the Cheoksan Foot Spa Park in Cheoksan Village. Admission to the Foot Spa Park is free. Try a footbath and take a rest in the fresh air of Seoraksan Mountain.

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