Written and photographed by Stephanie and Ryan Hedger
A small town like Hadong has no place on a list of big travel destinations. You will not find Hadong on very many top-10 or must-see lists, but that is a huge part of the charm. While this quaint town does very little to draw attention to itself, it manages to encapsulate, perfectly, the spirit of South Korea in one effortless swoop.
1. Rice Fields
Just outside of the small town of Hadong, there is a valley of rice fields renowned for their beauty and symmetry. While many rice fields in Korea are oddly shaped to fit into whatever space is available, this valley has mostly square fields at the foot of towering mountains, with parks and decorative trees planted in the middle of it all. These fields are truly a unique sight in Korea. You can hike or drive up the mountain directly behind the fields to Hanasa Temple to get a view of how expansive they really are. From this ancient building, you have a spectacular perspective on the expansive fields below. In the fall, just before they harvest the rice, a festival is held, and the fields are burned in specific patterns to reveal a massive Hadong city logo in the most Hadong-style possible.
2. Green Tea
While Boseong gets most of the praise when it comes to the country’s green tea, Hadong also has its own fields and flavor. Being more off the beaten path than the more famous fields means that you can enjoy an exceedingly relaxing and genuine experience while sipping from hand-thrown pottery in the middle of the countryside. Walk along the fields and take photos without worrying about them being ruined by hordes of people. Afterward, be sure to check out the Green Tea Cultural Center, which is also located outside of town. In the spring, these fields are lined with stunning cherry blossoms that make for an extremely satisfying experience.
3. Cherry Blossoms
Hadong might be the best place to enjoy trees of cherry blossoms without being surrounded by thousands of other spectators. Jinhae, Yeoido, and countless other places might claim to have the best area for cherry blossoms, but the Cherry Blossom Road (벚꽃길) near Ssanggyesa Temple provides six kilometers of natural beauty every fall. While still drawing a local crowd, this road is just as beautiful as the top cherry blossom destinations, with far less of a crowd.
4. Jirisan Mountain
Hadong happens to be one of many trailheads that make up the Jirisan Mountain Range. If you are spending the weekend in the area, consider using one of your days to hike to the top of the tallest peak on the South Korean mainland! There are plenty of smaller peaks for hikers who just want to leisurely enjoy a nice walk, too. Most of the trailheads can be found near the Green Tea Cultural Center, and since the trails are not as popular here, you can enjoy hiking in relative seclusion. You would be hard-pressed to spend much time in Hadong without being mesmerized by the surrounding mountains, so why not go for a hike?
5. Plum Wine
All of those plum trees are not just grown for the fruit alone, but mostly for making Korean plum wine! This sweet and often overlooked alcohol can also be found in most convenience stores across the country, but Hadong is where they are all grown and made! Take a walk around one of the many fields to see how they are grown. These fields are also great places for impromptu photo shoots! There are many shops around town that sell the wine, so grab a bottle for your picnic or camping trip while supporting the local economy!
6. Geumosan Mountain
Yet another hike near Hadong, the Geomosan Mountain hike definitely stands out from others you can do around Korea. At the top is a large wooden platform for lounging and picnics, which sits picturesquely among the rocky outcroppings and overlooking the sea that stretches clear out to Namhae Island. The mountain is a good hike and is around 850 meters high, which can take you anywhere between four to six hours to hike depending on what kind of shape you are in and how often you stop to rest and take pictures. Driving to the top of the mountain is also possible, and camping on the platforms to see the sunrise from Geumosan is definitely worth your time.
Ryan and Stephanie have lived, traveled, and worked in South Korea since 2013. Based out of Yeosu, they are the duo behind Hedgers Abroad, their blog, which documents their lives through photography, videos, and shared stories. They freelance in their spare time and are on the road constantly.