The Shinan Islands are located in the southwest of South Korea, in Sinan County (Sinan-gun), which is a part of the South Jeolla Province.
In the summer the islands are a popular tourist destination, that easily can be reached from the city of Mokpo by ferry. Some islands can also be reached by bridges from the mainland, with more bridges planned and under construction. Several bridges also connect some of the small islands, making it easy to undertake some island hopping, once you arrive there by ferry. Maps have been included at the end of the article to show the location and easy routes to visit the islands.
For my hike of a couple days, I opted to take a ferry from Mokpo to the island of Anjwa (45.2km²), and from there cross via bridges to the islands of Palgeum, Amtea (38.7km²) and Jaeun, before returning to Amtea and taking a ferry there to Aphae (44.3km²). The island of Aphae is connected with a bridge to the mainland. A long bridge between Amtae and Aphae is also under construction, which will soon make this set of island fully connected to the mainland.
In the fall, as tourism slows down on the islands, and the days get cooler, the harvest season sets in. The air becomes light and fresh and the farmers produce take over part of the roads, as much of the crops are gathered and dried out on the roads.
Farmer families and communities are laboring from dusk till dawn. It becomes a wonderful contemplative environment during that time, with a great display of Korean traditional rural community life. Beaches are deserted and campgrounds become your private overnight spots overlooking the serene and calm ocean.
The Shinan Islands are often promoted as the ‘1,004 Islands’ but apparently the Sinan county consists of 111 inhabited islands and 719 uninhabited islands, which make up about a quarter of all the islands in South Korea.
A few days of island hopping by foot via some of the smaller roads allowed for stunning views, and tranquil walks. The locals are incredibly friendly and helpful and as the Koreans say, a visit will ‘cure your mind and body from getting tired everyday’, and a stay there will give you a rest from the daily hectic times in the urban centres. Small rural island have in general this capacity to slow us down. The ferry ride itself is the general interlude to the slowing down process.
From sunrise to sunset the display of light in combination with the islands, the ocean, the wind, island life, and hills, effortless refreshes your mind and soul.
The Sinan County is rich in ecological resources and places of outstanding natural beauty. Several wetlands have been designated under the Ramsar Convention, and it has some of the most extensive mud flats of South Korea. It is said that seabed is a continental shelf located at an ocean depth of at most 15 meter. The region is known for much of it’s seafood, year-round fresh crops and produce, and Cheonilyeom type of salt.
An easy way to visit the islands is by just taking a train to Mokpo, from where you can walk to the ferry terminal. Here you have various options of island destinations. The ferries to the islands often make stops at several islands, so you have some options about where to get off. In the low season the ferries are not crowded, and I easily got a last minute walk-on ticket.
A series of photographs have been included to give an impression of these islands during late September to early October. Day temperatures will still be very pleasant, with temperatures dropping at night.
Text, Maps and Photographs by Jan Haenraets
In the attached link you will find a more detailed tourist map (1.1MB – Pdf), showing an easy route across the islands for sightseeing, and allowing for arrival by ferry at Anjwa Island, and departure by ferry from Amtae Island to Aphae Island.
Location of the Shinan Islands on the Korean Peninsula:
Location of the Shinan Islands that featured in this article: