Entering a pirate's cove: Ulleungdo island's Dodong harbor
It's the most beautiful island you've never heard of: Ulleungdo. A three-hour ferry ride from Korea's east coast will drop you off in the tiny, abrupt harbor of Dodong. The pirate's-cove feel of the place is not just a movie-inspired comparison; for centuries, until the Joseon Dynasty repopulated the island in the 19th century, this jagged island did serve as an isolated haven for outlaws.
Rising out of currents flowing down from Siberia and Japan, this seven-mile-wide volcanic summit is known for its abundance of fresh seafood: squid, cuttlefish, mussels. Head into the steep interior, and the forests are lush with wild medicinal vegetables, mushrooms, and roots. There is no flat land here, and the lone coastal road, often one-laned and wave-washed, doesn't even completely encircle the island yet.
If you make the effort to get here—the once-a-day ferry is often canceled due to rough seas—you may well find yourself the only non-Korean on the island. I've even met Koreans who don't know of this place. Although the government is trying to market this "Mysterious Island" to Westerners, it is still well off the beaten path. Think of the terrain in the film "Jurassic Park," minus the giant reptiles, and you'll have a good idea of the rugged nature of this spectacular speck of "terra" that is still "incognita" to most...
(The central tourist information office in Seoul can help you reserve a ferry from Gangneung or Pohang.)