Camping in South Korea, Gureopdo Island
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
Camping in South Korea you'll find is very different from the United States. I asked a Korean once where some good camping spots were, and they had no idea what camping was, and no it wasn't a language barrier. Growing up in the United States, camping and s'mores was a right of passage to childhood. But in Korea, not so much. In Korea, you must have a permit and reservation to go camping, and their camp grounds come in bulk. And I mean, you might as well bring some ear plugs because you will have plenty of neighbors. And if you are planning on going around September near Chuseok, you better plan in advance. You can either rent a glamping site, which they are actually pretty cool, or you can set up a tent next to a hundred other people. I did hours of research on where to go, and you couldn't just hike onto a national park and set up camp. I joined a Facebook page called "Camping in South Korea", and that was where I found pictures of a guy camping on Gureop-do Island and had to know more. This guy had planned a group camping trip out to this island through a website called MeetUp, where he had some information on how to get there.
Go to this website, to look for ferry tickets from Incheon Port International Passenger Terminal. The website is only in Korean or Chinese, so you will need to find someone to help you if you don't speak either of those languages. I grabbed my shop Katusa to help me out.
To get to this island, you must take a ferry from Incheon --> Deokjeok-do and then Deokjeok-do --> Gureop-do.
The ferry times are limited, so plan to head out on the first ferry by 09:00 in the morning to make it to Gureop-do by the afternoon.
Note: make sure you buy both ways before you leave, because there are no ferry ticket offices on Gureop-do Island. Also, ferries leave at different times depending on if it's an even or odd number day. Figuring out the ferry schedules was a headache, so good luck.
It cost me a little over USD $50 total each way for one person for the ferry tickets. So it was about USD $100 per person round trip.
Add your transportation to and from the Incheon Port for parking, taxi, or metro costs.
And add in your expenses for camping gear and food.
You'd probably break even if you were to rent out a glamping site on the main land.
What to do when you arrive?
Follow the crowd. Don't get left behind, because you may get lost. Some people had tour guides that hired trucks to carry all their gear into the island for them, where they had rented shacks to sleep in. When you get off the boat, you will walk around the island to the right, you can't go left so you shouldn't get lost yet. In about 400 meters or so, don't hold me to the distance, there will be stairs and an opening into the trees up a hill. Had we not been following a group, we probably would have missed it. It's a good 40 minute to an hour hike to the camping location, so just keep walking. You'll walk down a road, until you hit some little houses and continue walking down the middle path (see image 4). You'll then come across a beach, walk across the beach (cue Welcome to Night Vale voiceover). You probably won't see anything but mountain, but keep walking. Once you are across the sandy beach, you will begin to climb some unstable rocks that goes up into a fence, that has signs in Korean. We have no idea what they say. You will walk up a faded pathway, over many rocks, and through random patches of forrest, and continue walking. You will reach a giant opening with breathtaking views and tall grass, you are not done yet, drink some water, and keep walking. You will see more trees, that looks like it goes nowhere, go towards the trees. Climb onto the unstable rocks into the forrest. You are almost there. Once you leave the trees, it will empty onto another patch of tall grass at the end of the island. That is where you can set up camp, however, you can keep walking. (End Welcome to Night Vale voiceover). I know, who knew? I swear, I thought we were done walking so many times, but the Koreans just kept walking further and further into the island. Now keep reading for what to expect when you get there, ticks!
That is right, TICKS. NO ONE else looked concerned about the 20 ticks on each of our legs. WEAR PANTS! This is tick haven. I'm not sure if there are such things as good ticks, or if Koreans just don't know what Lyme's Disease is. Continue to check for ticks on your body, bring tick spray, and wear pants. They were everywhere in the evening, but by morning they weren't around anymore. I'm not sure why they left, maybe it was too windy, or not hot enough outside. If you want to avoid the ticks, I recommend setting up camp on the beach, but we made it through on top of the cliff. We found a little patch of concrete hiding in the grass where we sat to avoid the ticks. It was like hot lava, but for adults, and with blood sucking demons.
There are little shops that sell water, coffee and some ramen on the beach but bring your own. We bought a Jetboil camping system, camping pots, plates, cups, and utensils.
Bring things such as; soups, breads, ramens, beans, chips, crackers, cookies, etc.
And bring your favorite bottle of whiskey or wine, but make sure it's a twist off cap.
Bring toilet paper, you may have to dig a slit trench. There is ONE bathroom down by the beach, so that doesn't help you when you are camping on the cliff. There are woods to go to the bathroom in, but make sure you bury any toilet paper and such. And watch out for spiders and ticks.
Potential Packing list:
Tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, traveling pillows, sandals, toiletries, baby wipes, hiking shoes, hiking pants, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, tick spray, charging bricks, camping light, cooking system, lighter, food, plates/cups/utensils, water, towels/rags, plastic bags, camping seats, tarp, rain gear, camera gear, alcohol, trash bags, tweezers (for ticks).
Keep ants away.
Reduce your trash. Keep it away from your sleeping area. And make sure it's wrapped up well, and double wrap it. Take it with you, don't be that person to throw away trash on an island.
What I would do differently?
-I'd bring tick spray.
-I would sleep with the waterproof cover of the tent off, because it was so windy and loud at night, I barely slept.
-I wouldn't bring pancake mix, it spilt every where, and it was impossible to cook.
-Bring a backpacking back pack, I was PCSing, so I didn't have one.
It was quite the experience! From the tickfest, to the incoming storm, the pancake fiasco, and Chasen forgetting to bring the coffee. But whatever bad things come our way, I always enjoy our little adventures! I would still highly recommend this camping trip!