Tongyoung City Guide
Located in a relatively inaccessible spot one hour to the west of Busan, Tongyoung – in our opinion – is a strong contender for the most under-rated tourist draw Korea has to offer. Still steeped in attractive traditions, Tongyoung harbor is a stunning spot where you can watch the sun fade over hole-filled pagoda roofs, explore the surreal glassiness of the city’s sculpture garden, settle in for a picnic or explore the defensively inspired ‘turtle boat’ still floating amidst it all.
Like many Korean cities, Tongyoung is famed for its local cuisine, though – surprisingly given the city’s waterside location and Koreans general fish fixation – theirs is not seafood. Tongyoung has created a special type of Kimbap – the rice roll that’s traditionally provided as a kind of healthy street snack – that has become so popular that many of the city-centre restaurants have featured on national television, something they invariably advertize in garish wall posters and amusing storefront features. The dish itself is a mind-meltingly spicy two-sided plate that’s a challenge to eat, and despite the popularity, still comes in at only a few pounds in most of the harbor-view spots.
In many ways, Tongyoung offers a more attractive alternative to the massively overcrowded beaches that dominate nearby Busan in the summer. Here, things move at a more leisurely pace, and you can spend your days clambering to rocky peaks to staring down at the dozens of islands lining Tongyoung’s coast (incredible at sunrise), before taking a dip off one of the tiny beaches. In Tongyoung’s quiet harbor you’ll find tiny dinghies for hire, while you can look down on it all from the cable cars that rush you to the peak of the region’s highest hill, which offers a truly epic view.
If there’s one downside to Tongyoung, it’s probably that it’s so unpopular with travelers that you might struggle to get by in English on any level, something that’s usually achievable elsewhere with a bit of effort. Still, if you want to get off the beaten track and discover a town that’s worth writing home about, this is the one we’d recommend, if only for the great vibe and unspoiled feel of the place. There’s something a little special about all those views, and while you will still get the summer sunburn, you’ll still be able to move on the beach. Mark it down as a relaxed end to your trip.