Andong is a city of 150,000 inhabitants, located in the east of South Korea in the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do. The city is located on the Nakdong River and derives its fame mainly from the cultural sights in the area. A visit to the Hahoe Folk Village is an example of this. But also a few important temples of the Unesco Heritage List can be visited from Andong.
And don’t forget the Andong Mask Dance Festival. This 10-day festival is held every year at the end of September and is, as the name suggests, dedicated to masks and dancing.
Although the city of Andong isn’t very special itself, you can easily spend 1 or 2 full days here. If you are going to South Korea, don’t skip this place! In this article I will explain why, I will tell you all about the main sights and how to get there. But first a short history of the city…
What would you like to know about Andong in South Korea?
Andong and its history
People have lived in this place since the beginning of our era. It was famous under the name of Gochang. But when in 918 the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) started, the name was changed to Andong in 930. And that name would be changed 25 more times, until the final decision was made: Andong it is!
2 events in Korean history have influenced Andong today. In 1392 a change of power took place and the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) started under the leadership of Yi Seong-gye (1335-1408). Many of the traditions, customs, values and practices of South Koreans today originate from this time. That is why a visit to a traditional village, such as the Hahoe Folk Village, is highly recommended.
In addition, the first leader, Yi Seong-gye, determined that Confucianism should be the most important teaching of Korean society. From the 16th century Andong became an important centre of Confucianism when Yi Whang (1501-1570) started the construction of a private school. However, this school only became known as Dosan Seowon 4 years after his death. This school has been on the Unesco Heritage List since 9 July 2019 and can be visited daily. It is located 30 kilometers north of the city of Andong.
During the Korean War (1950-1953) there were big battles around Andong between the army of North Korea and South Korea. The city was largely destroyed and both Korea’s suffered great losses. Fortunately, the city was quickly built after the war and in 1976 a dam was built in the Nakdong River to provide the surrounding area with electricity.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Andong?
For a stay in this area there are a number of options. First of all you can stay in the city of Andong and from there you can travel to the various places of interest. In Andong I stayed in the Andong Peter Pan Guesthouse. For a bed in a dormitory I paid around 12 euros (14 dollars) including breakfast. It is within walking distance of the train station. The guesthouse is run by a young owner who is very helpful and the beds are good.
I stayed in Andong at the beginning of October during the Andong Mask Dance Festival. Even then there was still room left, so as far as I know it is not necessary to book well in advance.
Another option is to stay at the Hahoe Folk Village. Several residents offers a room to guests and it is the ultimate opportunity to escape from the busy city and relax in a quiet environment. For more information see the site below:
A third option is to spent night at a temple, for example at the Bongjeongsa Temple. This temple is located northwest of Andong on the slopes of Mount Cheondeung. The website of the Bongjeongsa is completely in Korean, but at the bottom you will find an e-mail for more information about the Temple Stay:
Sights – 6 x to see and do in Andong
Below is a list of the best sights in, but especially around Andong.
1. Walk through classic Hahoe Folk Village
Of course most foreign tourists, but also locals, go to the Hahoe Folk Village. It is located 25 kilometers west of Andong and gives you the feeling of being 500 years back in time. Enjoy the traditional Korean houses in a beautiful setting of rice fields, mountains and the Nakdong River.
2. Visit the Andong Mask Dance Festival
The 10 days Andong Mask Dance Festival takes place every year at the end of September. Performances with music and dance are everywhere and traditional masks worn by the artists play the leading role. If you are here at the beginning of October, be sure to take a look at this cozy festival.
3. Walk over the longest bridge of South Korea: Wollyeongo Bridge
The Wollyeongo Bridge and the Andong Dam are located 4 kilometres east of Andong. The 374 metres long Wollyeongo is the longest footbridge in South Korea. Especially in the evening when it’s getting dark, the bridge with its many lights looks attractive and cosy. This sight is easy to combine with the Andong Folk Village, not to be confused with the Hahoe Folk Village. The idea is the same and it gives you the feeling of being back in Korea 500 years ago.
4. Drink traditional Soju at the Andong Soju Museum
What is saké for Japan is Soju for South Korea. This strong drink is brewed in Andong, among other places, and is one of the better soju’s in the country. A visit can be made daily and is completely free of charge. It will take you to an exhibition about the history of soju and there is anopportunity to try it yourself. But be warned: it’s quite strong with an alcohol percentage of 45%.
5. Dosan Seowon
The scholar Yi Whang (1501-1570) founded a private school that only after his death gained real influence in Korea. This school was one of the most important in Korea during the 16th century. Confucianism was the main teaching and recently this historical place is on the Unesco Heritage list. It is located 30 kilometers north of the city and can be reached by bus 560 or 567.
6. Bongjeongsa Temple
The Bongjeongsa Temple was first built in 672 by the monk Ui Sang, although documents claim that a pupil of his had founded this temple. It is one of the oldest temples in the area and consists mainly of wood. The temple can be visited every day and even possible to stay there. Access to the complex costs 2000 won and from Andong Intercity Bus terminal it is 30 minutes by bus 51.
Transport – How to get to Andong?
The best way to get to Andong is by train. The train station is close to the city centre, while the bus station is 5 kilometres west of the city. No problem in itself, because with several local buses you can get to the city centre in no time at all. From Seoul Cheongyangni there are 8 daily trains (5 hours) to Andong train station. From Gangnam Seoul Express Terminal there is an hourly bus (3 hours) to Andong.
Sources and useful links