Gyeongju Cycling Courses and Maps

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju Cycling Map

Gyeongju is really a great place for cycling.  The countryside around Gyeongju is fairly flat and dozens of cement farm roads weave their way through scenic rice paddies and rustic villages.  Cycling’s also the fastest way to visit the dozens of ancient Silla tombs, temples, relics and ruins scattered outside of the city.  Not to mention, you can rent bikes for the day at both the train and bus stations and the bikes are usually in fairly decent shape too.   When I first started this blog I’d planned on posting a lot more on different cycling routes in the area.  Unfortunately, aside from one or two early posts, that never really happened.  To be honest, I’ve probably been on a bike once since my son was born two years ago (a sad fact I hope to soon change).

Gyeongju Cycling Brochure Front

Gyeongju Cycling Brochure Front

However, in the mean time it seems cycling has really blown up in Korea.  It’s not unusual these days to see Korean cyclists tearing through town on high budget bikes decked out in the latest aerodynamic helmets and spandex gear.  The Gyeongju City Government has gotten hip to this trend and has published both a cycling map and guide book detailing 6 different biking courses in and around the city.  Unfortunately, the guide book is only available in Korean, but the cycling map is bilingual and is available for free at the Tourist Info kiosks by the train and bus stations.  As a public service for local and visiting expat cyclists, I’ve scanned the maps of the various routes which I’m posting below (click on each map to enlarge it).  I’m also including a few tips and comments of my own for each route.

Gyeongju Cycling Brochure Back

Gyeongju Cycling Brochure Back

Being a (former) serious cyclist, I think it’s awesome that the city’s decided to plug cycle tours in and around  Gyeongju.  However, I do have a few minor gripes.  The cycling map isn’t a detailed street map; nor is it necessarily to scale and sometimes the locations of the stops are flat out wrong (such as Queen Seondeok’s Tomb, #10 on Course 2) or don’t match the locations on course itinerary (like Beaknyulsa Temple, # 8 on Course 3). Unfortunately, this means you’re likely to get lost following a few of these maps, especially if you can’t read or speak Korean.   The city has done a good job of posting road signs around town directing visitors to various historical sites, which helps.  But if you get turned around easily or are planning on doing long distance cycling, I’d suggest stopping by the Gyeongju Cultural Center, down the block from the Bus Terminal as you start your ride.  Here you can pick up a copy of their highly detailed topographic map of the Gyeongju area on your way out of town. Or you can just use Google Maps or Naver Navi on your smart phone, though Naver maps beats Google hands down in terms of resolution.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 1 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 1 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 1

Gyeongju Cycling Course 1

Course 1 covers most of the important historical sites in town, like Cheomseongdae Observatory and Anapji Pond, so it’s a great route for first time visitors to Gyeongju.  It’s also an easy ride, so it’s great for folks who haven’t been on a bike in a while.  Usually I find cycling in town to be a bit hair-raising, but most of the roads on this route are in historical areas or parks and should be alright.  Just be careful of cycling on the main road back to the bus terminal from Bunhwangsa Temple (#9) as it’s pretty busy, especially on the weekends.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 2 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 2 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 2

Gyeongju Cycling Course 2

Course 2 winds through the farm villages and rice paddies around Mt. Nangsan (actually a hill), which is a great area for cycling.  I definitely recommend this route for those who want to get out and see a bit of the countryside around Gyeongju.  If you have more time and are feeling adventurous, you can combine it with Course 6 along the east side of Mt. Namsan.  My only complaint is that you both leave and return along NR 7.  Honestly, I really hate cycling along 7 as it’s the main highway to Ulsan and has heavy traffic, making it unsafe to ride on the actual road, not to mention you wind up sucking truck exhaust the whole time.  Instead of returning along NR 7, I’d suggest heading back to town via Bunhwangsa Temple and the ruins of Hwangnyeongsa Temple (# 9 and # 8 on Course 1).  From Queen Seondeok’s Tomb (# 10), turn right at the next light and head north under the train tracks.   Then, hook a left at the river and Bunhwangsa Temple will be on the left at the next light.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 3 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 3 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 3

Gyeongju Cycling Course 3

Course 3 visits the various historical sites in the newer Gyeongju neighborhoods of Hwangseong-Dong and Dongcheon-dong.  King Heondok’s Tomb (# 10/11) and Pyo-am Shrine (# 8/9) are both pretty cool, but my favorite destinations in this part of town are Baeknyulsa Temple and the ancient four-sided Buddha of Gulbulsa.  Baeknyulsa Temple is listed as #8 on the itinerary, but somehow got left off of the map, which lists #8 as Pyo-am.  Baeknyulsa is just 500 meters north on the main road from Pyo-am and definitely worth the visit.  That said, there’s not much else on this course I’d recommend and, unless you enjoy cycling through heavy traffic and boring residential neighborhoods, I’d give the rest of this course a miss.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 4 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 4 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 4

Gyeongju Cycling Course 4

Course 4 is another route I’d recommend to first time visitors to Gyeongju.  However, give yourself a little extra time to exploring the village of Seoak-dong (#3 through #7) at the foot of Mt. Seondosan, which is also a great place to stop for lunch.  Really, the only thing that really makes this course at all difficult is the return loop south to the IC and back along the main roads on the east side of the river.  But, unless you plan on visiting some sites included on the other courses on your way back to the Bus Terminal, you might as well head back after the tombs (#7) and save yourself some time.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 5 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 5 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 5

Gyeongju Cycling Course 5

Course 5 covers the scenic farm villages on the north-west side of Mt. Namsan and includes stops at historical sites like Poseokjeong Pleasure Palace and the ancient Buddha triad of Sambulsa Temple.  Again, I’d suggest giving yourself an extra hour or two for this course as you can easily stop at a few places marked on Course 1 or 6 on your way out of town.  Not to mention, the hour’s hike up Samnueng Valley (#10) is one of the most rewarding hikes on Mt. Namsan.  Also, I wouldn’t bother returning to town on the new NR 35 as it’s usually busy and not very pretty.  Instead, try following the old NR 35 back into town along the east side of O-reung Tombs Park, which is especially beautiful if the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Gyeongju Cycling Course 6 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 6 Map

Gyeongju Cycling Course 6

Gyeongju Cycling Course 6

The last course is the longest on the map and covers the farm villages, historical sites and ancient ruins along the east side of Mt. Namsan.  However, the route doesn’t include any serious hills or inclines, so don’t let the “most demanding” ranking scare you off.    Like I said before, you can combine this course with Course 2 around Mt. Nangsan for a day’s ride if you want.  But, unless you enjoy bland nationalist architecture from the late 70’s, Tongiljeon Shrine (#4) is a waste of time in my opinion. Your time would be better spent  continuing on the road south from Seochulji Pond for a kilometer or two to explore the farm village of Namsan-dong, which is home to a lot of photogenic farm houses, temples, and ancient Silla ruins.

Sunset over Mt. Seoaksan

Again, kudos to the Gyeongju tourist board for getting this map out there and providing a few good cycling routes for visitors.  Let’s hope that they also soon put some effort also translating the actual cycling guide book and the Gyeongju cycling website into languages other than Korean as this would go a long way towards promoting Gyeongju as the international cycling destination that it deserves to be.  And if I actually get back to biking soon, I hope to post a few more cycling routes of my own up here on the blog.  Until then, happy cycling.

 

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7 Comments

  • Pingback: Weird Gyeongju: The Teddy Bear Museum (테디베어박물관) and Teseum (테지움) of Bomun Resort | Gyeongjublog.com

  • Nicole
    10/13/2012 - 15:42 | Permalink

    Thanks for this! I’m thinking of doing a quick 2D1N in Geyongju, and don’t really want to be stuck in a taxi or bus. :)

  • Sherwin
    10/20/2012 - 17:14 | Permalink

    Hope you enjoy your visit. The weather’s about perfect for cycling these days.

  • Amy
    01/13/2013 - 08:04 | Permalink

    Hi Sherwin – Thank you so, so much for all that you have put together for this blog. I have two young kids so I understand how hard it must be for you to find time to maintain it – so THANK YOU. It is incredibly helpful to someone like me who also loves to explore via hiking and biking and appreciates an American perspective when trying to learn about what to expect in a foreign country. (And as an aside, somewhere in searching for your blog, I think I read that you went to JMU! My sister went there too. I grew up in Maryland, have spent a lot of time in VA, but now live in Chicago).

    My question relates to biking and hiking during the rainy season. My husband and I are attending a wedding in Seoul this July. We wanted to make our way down to Gyeongju (staying at Ja-Yeon Pension) to explore for a few days before the wedding (around July 8-11). I know it will be rainy season then and have read the “stats”, but I have very little concept of how frequently it rains and how heavily. Every day? All day? Just sporadic thunderstorms? Any breaks in the rain? We want to bike around Gyeongju and hike Namsan but can’t really tell if we even have any hope of doing that. We’re fine biking and hiking in some rain as long as it’s not too dangerous. Can you give me an idea of how much the rain impacts daily life around that region? Is it so much that it’s not wise/safe for us to bike/hike or even stay up in the mountains at the pension? Is there typically more or less rain in the Gyeongju area compared to Seoul? We would hate to forgo a trip to Gyeongju but are prepared to stay flexible and do so if necessary. Thanks so much for your info/advice.

  • Sherwin
    01/22/2013 - 22:17 | Permalink

    Hey Amy, thanks for all the compliments on the blog :-) I apologize for the late reply as I have been away for the last week and a half. Actually I’m afraid the only thing I can say about the rainy season in Gyeongju is that it’s really irregular. I’m trying to remember the weather last July and there were some solid blocks where it rain for several days straight, but I don’t remember it being constant for weeks on end or anything. There were a lot of sunny days thrown in there too. I’m afraid that probably doesn’t help you plan your trip much though. I’d say it’s worth the risk. And if you stay off the steeper and rockier trails, I’d say you’d be alright hiking Namsan in mild rain. Also, I’d be sure to book ahead at Ja-Yeon, as July is peak season and probably quite busy for them. Anyhow, I hope you have a good visit!

  • steffi
    02/20/2013 - 22:44 | Permalink

    hi sherwin! thanks for this amazing post :) am planning a 2d1n trip with my friend, but she can’t cycle so we’re looking for alternatives – for example, if there are kid bikes (aka those with training wheels) up for rental, or perhaps couple bicycles?

  • Sherwin
    07/23/2013 - 22:19 | Permalink

    I don’t know about bikes with training wheels, but you can rent tandem bicycles at Bomun resort, across form Gyeognju World Amusement Park and elsewhere. You can also check the bike rental shops by the bus and train stations, but I don’t recall seeing any tandems for rent there.

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