Namhae is Korea’s fifth largest island and is famous for its slower pace of life, beautiful sea and stunning nature. Namhae is completely underrated and not yet very touristic. Which makes it the perfect destination for your next adventure in Korea.
We had such a fabulous time on the island. In this post, we will tell you all you need to know about Namhae and the best things to see on the island.
Complete Guide to Namhae in Korea
Namhae is famous for garlic, rice fields and beautiful sea surrounding the island. The drive around the island is arguably one of the most scenic routes in Korea. Rugged ocean view, dense forests, tiny fishing village untouched by tourism, and paddy fields. Simply: WOW!
The entire island is a real gem. Namhae is surrounded by 79 smaller islands which makes the views of the surrounding Ocean so special. In addition, the area sits right in the heart of the Hallyeohaesang Marine National Park, which stretches from Geojedo Island in South Gyeongsang Province (Gyeongsangnam-do), to Yeosu in South Jeolla Province (Jeollanam-do).
For most people, Namhae is associated with the sea and crystal clear ocean. However, Namhae used to be called Hwajeon, which means fields of flowers, as with the arrival of spring, all mountains are covered with beautiful and colorful flowers.
Namhae also celebrates many events such as the Bomulseom Mijo Anchovy Festival, the Oktoberfest in the German Village, and the Admiral Yi Sun-sin Festival.
Namhae is the perfect place to visit if you like beautiful nature. We are excited to share with you some of our photos during our visit and the best things to do in Namhae.
Best Things to Do in Namhae
1. Take the scenic route around the island
To get your first impression of the island, which is accessible via a bridge from the mainland, is to simply take the coastal road and drive around the island. This is one of the most scenic drive in Korea, selected as the top 100 scenic route in the country. The road is especially known for its beauty during sunset.
We especially enjoyed the stretch between the golf from the Ananti Hotel (see below) all the way to Gacheon Daraengi Village. We will talk about this gorgeous village in the next section. The landscape in Namhae is made up mainly of seaside cliffs that block the rough sea, rice fields, and forests. The drive is really stunning and relaxing. We felt like we were driving in the South of France.
There are places to stop on the side of the road to take some magnificent photos.
2. Gacheon Daraengi Village and paddy fields
Gacheon Daraengi Village (가천 다랭이마을) is the #1 thing to see in Namhae. This is certainly where you will see most tourists during your entire stay on the Island.
The village was made famous after it was introduced by CNN as one of the must places to visit in Korea. When you go to Namhae, you can easily encounter rice fields pretty much everywhere. What makes Gacheon Daraengi Village so special, is its 100-storey terraces on the side of a cliff right by the water. It is such a unique scenery.
In addition, the village is a typical rural Korean village where houses were built right by the rice fields on the edge of the cliff with very narrow roads.
When you reach Gacheon Daraengi Village, there are 2 main parking areas. Most people will stop in the first parking as there is a platform built to admire the rice fields. From both parkings you can also choose various trails to walk around the village. From the trails you can reach the edge of the cliff, where the water crashes to the rocks.
3. Namhae German Village
The Namhae German Village was created as a village for returning nurses and miners who left Korea for Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2001, the village was created as a place for the return of miners and nurses to their home country and for them to have a comfortable life. It wasn’t meant to become such a tourist attraction, but became known throughout the country thanks to various broadcasts. Currently, it is in one of the major attraction in Namhae. And yes, it definitely looks like a German village.
The visitors can experience German culture via the Oktoberfest also known as Beer Festival, in October. The festival launched for the first time in 2010 modeled after Munich’s own Oktoberfest. The visitors can look forward to a wide range of German Beers and Food.
One of the main things to do in Namhae German village, is to visit the museum to learn more about the history of the nurses and miners who left to Germany. The museum was completed in 2014. The main square in from of the museum and is where the Beer festival takes place every year.
Most people will then wonder through the village, explore the various shops, restaurants, bakeries, cafes. etc. There is also a small observation deck located next to the main Square which overlooks the village and the sea in the background. Not a bad spot for a nice photo.
4. Boriam Temple
Geumsan Boriam (금산 보리암(남해) is a Buddhist hermitage located on the top of Geumsan mountain famous for its fabulous sunrises and amazing 360 degree view of Namhae.
Geumsan Boriam is one of the 12 most scenic spots in the Southern area of Korea. The temple is located at the top of the mountain. It was founded in 683 by Wonhyo Daesa. It is counted as one of Korea’s three largest Gwaneum sacred sites and is a popular tourist destination visited by many Koreans throughout the year.
The hermitage is a 30-minute drive from the bottom of the valley to reach the final parking lot. Once you reach the entrance of the park count another 20-30 min walk to Boriam. It is all worth it, and the view is absolutely stunning. There are a few other hikes from there, one will lead to a small restaurant called Geumsan Sanjang. It is the perfect spot to enjoy some snacks and refreshing drinks on a sunny day.
5. Sangju Beach
At the bottom of Geumsan head to Sangju Beach, one of the prettiest beaches in Namhae. Sangju is 2 km of soft white sand beach with shallow water. During summer it can be quite packed with tourists. Sangju Beach is popular for its many water sports activities such as Kayaking.
The small town of Sangju has several shops for basic items. There are also restaurants and hotels nearby, although those can be booked pretty fast during the summer months.
A stop at Sangju Beach while you are in Namhae is a must. The beach is really stunning, we loved it.
6. Seomi European Garden
Seomi Garden is a private garden with a European style on top of a mountain and overlooking the beautiful sea of Namhae. The site is gorgeous. The garden is divided into 9 different areas with a unique concept each. Some feature the greek style, British, France, etc. There are many different types of flowers and trees in the garden.
This garden became very popular on social media, as there are many places to take amazing photos. Especially for couples.
7. Mulgeolli Bangjoeoburim Forest
Near the German Village make a stop at Mulgeolli Bangjoeoburim (남해 물건리 방조 어 부림). It is a forest that stretches along the coast, about 1,500m long and 30m wide, and was planted by villagers about 300 years ago.
The forest served as protection for the villagers and their crops. The forest was planted to prevent strong winds coming from the sea and tsunamis. The villagers are working hard to protect the forest, knowing that if this forest is destroyed, the neighborhood will be damaged.
The forest holds a high variety of trees, such as Oak, Radish Tree, Hackberry, Dogwood, Cypress tree, Bamboo, etc. The walk through the forest is very pleasant, especially during hot sunny days, as the forest provides plenty of shade.
8. American Village of Namhae
We stumbled across the American Village while driving past. We actually haven’t read about it in any travel guide and learned that the village was originally designed for Korean-Americans who dreamt of returning and retiring in Korea. The village is not very big, with only 1 main street. When entering the street it definitely feels like driving in the US.
Currently, most houses are pensions and there are a few American restaurants. The visit of the village doesn’t take long, but it’s definitely something unique in Namhae.
9. Eat some great seafood
There are many local seafood restaurants in Namhae. We would like to recommend 2 fantastic places.
The first one is located near Gacheon Daraengi Village, in a small fishing village right by the water. The restaurant is called Namhae Natural Restaurant and specializes in Abalone. In fact, the restaurant is located right next to a cooperative that cultivates Abalone.
You can buy Abalone directly from the cooperative. The food was really delicious and the view was amazing overlooking the sea and fishing boats. The restaurant is very local, hence do not expect anything fancy. However, we strongly recommend making a stop there after visiting Gacheon Daraengi Village.
Location: here (경남 남해군 남면 남면로 219-42 남해전복영어조합법인)
The second one, completely different and much more modern is located right by the Mulgeolli Bangjoeoburim forest.
This Western restaurant is very recent. It is located by the Marina and serves great seafood and Italian dishes. While eating you can check out the beautiful yachts and sailing boats. We loved it. The place is called Golden Anchor. Location: here
10. Enjoy some coffees with stunning views
While driving around Namhae we found many great coffee places, with stunning sea view. A perfect way to relax and enjoy the slow pace of Namhae.
As part of a modern hotel with a majestic infinity pool overlooking the sea of Namhae, Lounge 32 (check it out here) also hosts a fantastic coffee shop with a perfect view. We enjoyed a relaxing time at Lounge 32, with great coffee and an amazing sea breeze. Location: here
Herbstand is one of the most popular cafes in Namhae. Located right by Janghang Haesu Puljang Beach, this location is perfect to admire the sunset. Location: here
A few meters before Herbstand you can check out 보통 날 for a great coffee and amazing view. Location: here
Located a few kilometers before Gacheon Daraengi Village, this modern cafe, has a great rooftop to chill and enjoy the view to the sea. Location: here
Near the mainland, Elga Coffee, is the perfect place to stop for a last coffee before heading back home. The view overlooking the sea is gorgeous. Location: here
How to get to Namhae?
The best way to visit this beautiful island is of course by car. You will then have the full flexibility to visit most things in Namhae.
However, you can also reach the island by bus from Seoul. It will take about about 4.5 hours. From Namhae Bus Terminal take a taxi or small bus to your hotel or pension. There is no train that goes to Namhae.
Where to stay?
There are many options in Namhae. From the very luxury hotel to the simple pension. However, one thing is for sure, most of them have a perfect sea view.
Namhae Whale’s Dream, our favorite one
This hotel is directly facing the ocean. From your bed, wake up with a full sea view every single day during your trip to Namhae.
Whale’s Dream hotel offers comfortable and modern rooms with air conditioning (much needed in summer) and free Wi-Fi. What we love the most about Whale’s Dream Hotel is enjoying the sunset from the balcony with a sea view and a glass of wine…
As the hotel does not have a restaurant, various dining and entertainment options are available within a few minutes drive. If you are planning a trip to Namhae, check out the availability of Whale’s Dream hotel here.
Zen House, the simple and affordable one
Since we planned our trip to Namhae at the last minute, most of the places were fully booked, however, we managed to get a room at Zen Pension.
The place is very simple, however, the view from our room was amazing. The area is very quiet and the owners nice and helpful. We enjoyed our BBQ at night on our terrace. You can book here.
OneDay Namhae, the modern one
If you prefer modern accommodation, we highly recommend OneDay Namhae. Situated on a hill very near Gacheon Daraengi Village, OneDay Namhae has it’s own pool, modern amenities and free breakfast. Book here.
Namhae is Korea’s best-kept secret island. We highly recommend that you plan your next adventure to Namhae. This island of South Korea is gorgeous, green, full of flowers, and surrounded by the sea. Exactly what we love! It’s a great escape from Seoul for a few days.
You can combine your trip to the Southern part of Korea with Boseong Green Tea Plantation, check out our post here.
We love to hear from you. Leave a comment if you found the information useful or if you have any questions.
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