Sokcho City Guide
An alluring East coast fishing town facing out towards Japan and home to some of the nicest beaches Seoul side of Jeju Island, Sokcho is a must visit during your time in Korea. The town is heavily guarded on the north side due to its proximity to the North Korean border, backed by the hefty hikes of the Seoraksan Mountain Range and a truly great spot to spend your summer.
For all its great draws, though, Sokcho is almost a village at heart. You can walk through the centre of the town in no more than ten minutes, with the entire array of restaurants, noraebangs (karaoke’s) and tacky shops spread along the beach or the main road behind. In summer the beaches are packed, with drinking on the sand and launching fireworks a compulsory night time activity. You can head out to sea and leap off the waves in a speed boat or Jet Ski, or head to the offshore islands of UlleungDo or DokDo, little visited and charming in their own right. You’ll need to allow a few days to get there and back, though, given the sporadic ferry journeys.
Sokcho’s culinary specialty is fish, with seafood appearing in almost everything, from the street side snack stalls selling dried squid amongst a market full of impressive specimens of (often still alive) sea creatures, to the entire fish, eyes and all, that can pop up in the middle of a spicy soup. This is a seaside town right to the core, a slow, drifting place of arcade games and sunshine where days can drift past at double speed.
The main draw, though, is certainly the mountains, which include the lengthy and slightly epic hike up Seoraksan itself, as well as a number of other, calmer routes that takes you to waterfalls and to the heights of temples and Buddhist hovels. Some have magnificent views, where Zen Buddhist monks hover in the cave entrance chanting amongst candles and incense, staring all day through their fabric drapes down over the layer upon layers of mountain ranges that seem to float into the distance. You could dedicate weeks to exploring this mountain range, swimming in the waterfall pools late in the evening, or cheating by grabbing the cable car to the summit and getting a great peak at the view the easy way. Rock climbing and paragliding is also abundant. The entire range can be accessed with relative ease from Sokcho’s main bus terminal, and includes all the great hiking facilities that generally come with Korean mountains, such as old folks waiting at the peaks with coolers full of ice cream and superb mountain side restaurants serving pancake and bottles of liquor.
This is a delightful part of the country, a dramatic, scenic corner that’s worth following down west all the way back to the capital, town by town. It’s also a place that’s charming in its simplicity, largely doing away with the neon signs of the bigger cities in favor of late night glimmering squid boats and beachside indulgence. Many visitors quickly shift Sokcho – and its surroundings – to the top of their ‘great spots in Korea’ list.