Accommodation & Camping in South Korea

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Here is the good news: Free camping in South Korea is easy. This is a super safe country and there are parking lots all over the place. Another bonus is that this country has zillions of public toilets, you can literally find them on every corner of the street, in every subway, and in many parking lots. They are free of charge, generally clean, and come with toilet paper, running water and in most cases with soap.

The not-so-good news is that we haven’t found many truly mind-blowing places to rough camp. I guess the country is too densely populated for that. South Korea has lots of nature but that’s mostly in the mountains where a piece of flat land isn’t evident to find. To enjoy nature’s majesty, you will have to hike (so we did, which you can read about here, here, and here).

Note: The end of July/beginning of August is the time that 50 million Koreans go on vacation, thus every beach and campsite is packed.

Koreans use rooftop tents
Rough camp south of Hwacheon.
Maisan National Park.
Hwajinpo Beach, best spot so far.

Campgrounds & Rough Camps

Apart from parking lots and rough camps, you will come across two kinds of campgrounds:

  • Free of charge, with basic facilities such as cold water and public toilets. No need for reservations.
  • Paid campgrounds. These often come with facilities, or so we have been told (we haven’t used them), such as WIFI, hot water, electricity hook-ups. Reservations (online) are required.

Thus far we have stayed mostly in parking lots and once on a free campground. It was weekend thus packed. For us, coming from noisy South America, it was bliss to camp alongside some 20-30 families without blaring radios. At 10 pm it was actually quiet. Koreans have confirmed that this is the norm, not an exception!

Campsite near Goseong.
Near the lighthouse museum of Guman.
The Land Cruiser attracted a lot of attention.
Camping along South Korea’s “Scenic Road”.

Backcountry Camping & Shelters in National Parks

Backcountry camping is forbidden in national parks but some do have campgrounds, (here’s the list). A number of them have shelters though, good for multiple-day hikers. Note that you have to make reservations in advance. The reservation is mandatory, but you pay at the shelter (find the reservation page here).

Expect fees to be around 8000-10000 won (US $6-8.50). For hikers: instead of carrying around an inflatable mattress and/or sleeping bag you can also rent 1 or 2 blankets at the shelter (2000 won, US $1,75) to sleep on/under.

Bring earplugs! Size of shelters can vary from a dozen to more than a hundred persons.

Shelter in Seoraksan National Park.
During our Baekdu-daegan we sometimes pitched our tent in a jeongja.

Jjimjilbang (찜질방)

Jjimjilbang are bathhouses with different types of hot baths but you can also spend the night here. (Thus this may be a very affordable option to stay while e.g. waiting for your car to arrive in the port). Local people often do this. We went to a few just for the bath but haven’t spent the night there. The jjimjilbangs have common rooms for everybody, but the saunas are for same sex. Here’s more on the subject.

Staying with Local People

We were invited through our website to stay with local people (read here). Invitations also came from people we were chatting with on the street. We love taking them up, which have always resulted in special encounters and sometimes friendships.

Staying with Jin and Soena.
Staying with Rachel.

Airbnb

While in Busan, awaiting our car that arrived from Suriname in a container we booked an Airbnb (not knowing about jjimjilbans yet). Nothing special, but a simple, affordable, clean, and friendly place.

Map with GPS Waypoints of our Camping Spots in South Korea

Let there be no misunderstanding: no, you don’t have to go to these places. No, these are not by definition the best spots. In South Korea you will have no problem finding your own places to camp. We decided to share our GPS Waypoints anyway, for overlanders who would like some tips about camping spots which we enjoyed or found practical. Please note that this is always our personal experience.

You can also check out iOverlander, where you can see where other overlanders spent the night. Unfortunately, not many sites have been uploaded on South Korea yet so please, add yours too.

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Busan: 35.282208, 129.073087
Goseong: 34.910688, 999.999999
Tabri (Ssangyesa Temple): 35.226781, 127.642524
Jeonju: 35.823407, 127.174161
Maisan National Park: 35.755471, 127.402300
Yeoju: 37.229654, 127.654797
Yanggu: 38.289886, 128.145430
Hwajinpo Beach: 38.478921, 128.437699
Seoraksan National Park: 38.168989, 128.517014
Seorak Beach: 38.129315, 128.623290
Hwacheon (surroundings): 38.045180, 127.649325
Near Jirisan National Park, along “Korea’s Scenic Road”: 35.444488, 127.700609
Gwaebang-reyong (near Gimcheon): 36.151658, 127.990800
Gimcheon (area): 36.115852, 128.143470
Songnisan National Park: 36.517899, 127.815847
Chungju: 36.988769, 127.898400
Seoul / Gangnam (near subway Suseo): 37.484055, 127.093405
Odaesan National Park: 37.723604, 128.599680
Gangneung: 37.788066, 128.915170
South of Donhae, overlooking Jangho Beach (along Korea’s “Romantic Road”): 37.286216, 129.309060
Between Guinsa Temple and Gosu Cave: 37.037151, 128.439700
Andong: 36.556862, 128.709070
Guman, near lighthouse museum: 36.084747, 128.547810
Daegu: 35.876903, 128.578170
Gyeongju: 35.800839, 120.313180
Busan: 35.167766, 129.062790
Haeinsa Temple: 35.792107, 128.095340
Taean Peninsula – Mongsampo Beach: 36.672855, 126.289560
Taean Peninsula – Batgae Beach: 36.527663, 126.330990
Gonju: 36.467480, 127.105000
Buyeo: 36.277603, 126.897896
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Busan

Busan. In Busan we booked an Airbnb hotel for the days we organized getting the car out of the container. With our own home on wheels back on the road we drove about 20 kms north, to the Beomeosa temple. We could not stay in the parking lot of the temple itself, which closes at 9pm, but could stay at the one below the official entrance. It was not particularly interesting but convenient and quiet. Alongside was a small shop where you can buy noodle soups, snacks, and get hot water (260 mtrs, Apr '16).
gps: 35.282208 129.073087

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Goseong

Goseong Dinosaur Museum. At the museum, along the shore, is a free campsite with toilets and cold water. No WIFI. We enjoyed staying here during the weekends in the company of Koreans camping here (Apr '16).
gps: 34.910688 128156471

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Tabri (Ssangyesa Temple)

Tabri (Ssangyesa Temple). We camped in the parking lot of the Tea Cultural Center down by the river. Very quiet and public toilets (92 mtrs, Apr '16).
gps: 35.226781 127.642524

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Jeonju

Jeonju. Camped in a small parking lot along the lake just outside the center. No facilities but quiet place to spend the night (75 mtrs, Apr '16).
gps: 35.823407 127.174161

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Maisan National Park

Maisan Provincial Park. Campsite with toilets, hot shower, and WIFI in the office at the entrance. Not sure whether normally a fee is charged but we didn't have to pay (entered via a friend). Beautiful hiking tails (360 mtrs, Apr '16).
gps: 35.755471 127.4023

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Yeoju

Yeoju. Parking Lot of the Silleuksa Temple under a tree and next to drinking fountain and public toilets. (118 mtrs, June ’16).
gps: 37.229654, 127.654797

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Yanggu

Yanggu. In the parking lot of the tourist information office where you have to buy the permit for the Eilji Observatory and 4th tunnel (day pass, costs 6000 Won). WIFI right in front of the tourist office, and public bathroom at the museum also situated here (445 mtrs, June ’16).
gps: 38.289886, 128.14543

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Hwajinpo Beach

Hwajinpo Beach (north of Sokcho). Beautiful wide, white-sand beach with public toilets. Quiet too. Could be, what we guess from information panels, is that during high season (Jul-Aug) you have to pay an entrance fee, the place will be packed but then there will also be access to publish showers. At nearby Aquarium was WIFI signal (June ’16).
gps: 38.478921, 128.437699

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Seoraksan National Park

Seoraksan National Park. There are lots of enormous parking lots 2 or 3 kilometers before the entrance of the park, but one night we camped in somewhat nicer looking spot: the forested parking lot of a dysfunctional hotel (153 mtrs, June ’16).
gps: 38.168989, 128.517014

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Seorak Beach

Seorak Beach (south of Sokcho). Not as impressive as Hwajinpo Beach but still a nice place to camp. WIFI at CU convenient store located next to the parking lot. Public toilets  (June ’16).
gps: 38.129315 128.62329

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(Originally published in 2016 / updated in 2017)

For more on South Korea, check out these articles:

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6 thoughts on “Accommodation & Camping in South Korea

  1. Love your roof tent from Carpas Anaconda! What do you think of it? How does it stack up against your old model? And most importantly, did you splurge for the model with the A/C insert? 🙂

    • Heya guys, as always, the perfect RTT doesn’t exist. It will always be a compromise in some ways. The old Eezi Awn wasn’t waterproof anymore and we used it only in very good weather. In that respect the Anaconda tent is a winner for us. Absolutely waterproof. But as there was a list of improving the Eezi Awn, there is a familiar list for the Anaconda. Little improvements can be made to taste by ourselves but the most important part would be improving the storm ability of the tent and that would mean touching the structural basis of the fly. In my opinion the Eezi Awn still rules. But for a cheaper tent, the Anaconda holds up very well. And for your information, we didn’t splurge anything as we were giving the tent as a generous gift of the Venezuelan manufacturer for which we still are very grateful.

  2. Korea seems like such an exotic place to camp at! Next time, I think I’ll skip the Airbnbs and try camping instead. Thanks for the tips!

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