South Korea Itinerary: Best Places to be Included!
Last Updated on 03/10/2021
South Korea, this East Asian country, nestled in the southern part of the Peninsula of Korea, has been creating a significant global fan base for themselves through Korean Dramas and Korean Pop (a.k.a. K-pop) in recent years. They are mostly known for their perfect, glamour-filled creative performances, incredible skincare routines, other forms of cosmetics enhancements and so much more. But what many fail to give attention to is what a fascinating travel destination South Korea is. From stunning and diverse natural landscapes, national parks, and volcanic islands like the famed Jeju Island which can be explored through hiking trails, cable cars, to rich cultural and historical sites and temples, to refined modern cityscapes like Seoul – not forgetting the incredible Korean food and drink experiences you can enjoy as a traveller! We hope that this article helps paint a better picture of what you can do and enjoy and include in your South Korea Itinerary for your next trip there!
Table of Contents
Hanok Village – Top choice from our South Korea Itinerary
The Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Seoul. Perched on top of a hill between several royal shrines, famous and historic palaces, this traditional village served as a residential area for the noble crowd of Korea in the Joseon Dynasty. Many travellers enjoy exploring the streets of Hanok Village. Observing the traditional Architecture of Korea and exploring the incredible history and the cultural significance of these streets is something you will be able to here. The Bukchon Traditional Culture Centre is the perfect place to start, to do just that. Visit the Gahoe Museum – which focuses on highlighting the unique traditional aspects, as well as the intriguing historical artefacts left by the Joseon Dynasty.
The Seoul Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre should be your next stop – this is the ideal place to immerse in the traditional values and arts of South Korea. Apart from that, you can witness the traditional practice of Gold Leaf printing, – which is the technique used to printing gold into the fabric – a super fascinating technique belonging to Korea. And finally, treat yourself to take a quick trip to Solgaheon, where you can enjoy a warm cup of exquisite tea and even a super soothing foot bath – which is ideal after a long walk around the Hanok Village. A definite must add to your South Korea Itinerary.
While South Korea is not the first destination to spring into your mind when you think of a holiday destination, Jeju Island has managed to create a reputation as a place worthy of a holiday visit. Located within the Jeju province, it covers an approximate area of 1833 square kilometres and a residential population of 670,000, making Jeju Island one of the largest South Korean Islands amid the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea. Jeju Island was created by an underwater volcano that erupted approx. 2 million years ago. And it hosts a lush, verdant landscape surrounded by a white sandy coast and turquoise blue ocean that looks unbelievably picturesque. The Hyeopjae Beach and Woljeongri Beach are the star beaches on Jeju Island. They offer the perfect place to take a dip in and enjoy the pristine blue waters and enjoy an authentic beach stay. Here, you can visit the Jeju Volcanic islands and the Lava tubes – deemed as one of the most beautiful tubes/UNESCO sites in the world.
Jeju Island is home to many UNESCO sites too. Especially national parks like the Hallasan National Park, located on the Hallasan Mountain. It offers breathtaking natural hiking trails for park visitors. Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone – another UNESCO Site, the ideal place to witness one of the most beautiful sunrises. No trip to Jeju Island will be complete without doing some island hopping. Udo, Marado, Chaguido are some of the smaller islands located in close proximity. Finally, if you love food as much as enjoying paradise holiday, then you must take some time to go on a Jeju Island gastronomy adventure. The Jeju black pork dish is a local delicacy that has won the hearts of many visitors. And if you are looking for a more romantic destination for your honeymoon, we do believe it has all the features to make your stay super romantic. So make sure to include Jeju Island in your South Korea Itinerary.
Unlike the Jeju Islands that is located a few miles away from the mainland of Korea, amid the ocean, the Nami Island is found in Chunceon, Gangwong-do Province, towards the northern parts of South Korea in close distance to Seoul. This half-moon shaped island comes with eerie Korean history and a charming natural environment to just relaxingly enjoy. The island was named after General Nami – who had a tragic death after being falsely accused of treason in the Joseon Dynasty. While the history has lead to many spooky speculations, your focus will be diverted more towards the scenic trails and the yummy street food as well as other cultural attractions – making Nami Island a must-add to your South Korea Itinerary.
Tree lanes are a popular thing here, and there are several tree lanes here for you to enjoy a stroll in. The Central Korean Pine Tree Lane, Gingko Tree Lane are some of the most beautiful lanes that will make your walk all the more special. If you prefer to focus on the scenery with minimum physical effort then you don’t need to think twice, because you can always take a bicycle or even take an electric tour car. It is an experience on its own. You can drop by the Ostrich Pen that is near the Central Korean Pine Tree Lane, this whole island is just a Photographers dreamland. Tranquillity and Beauty all packed in for a good day trip!
The Han River, also known as Hangan, is one of the main rivers in South Korea – as well as the fourth-longest one starting from the east hillside in the peninsula of Korea – converging at Seoul. This makes it one of the main water sources for approx. 12 million South Koreans. Seeing as this scenic river is lined up along with parks, cycling and strolling paths, cafes and restaurants around Seoul, there is much to engage in and keep the experience fun. If you are into water sports – perfect! Because there’s a large amount of that in these waters. Windsurfing, Boating, Kayaking, even epic activities like Flyboarding! But if you like engaging in activities that are mellow and maybe less wet? Then you can opt-out for a relaxing bike ride, with the river in view and scenic green surroundings. Have a memorable camping experience amid the serene surroundings so close to Seoul, but if that is a no-go, then you can always enjoy a lovely picnic instead. BUT, to experience the beauty of this flowing beauty in its very own element, you can even join a lovely River Cruise. There are many tours available with so many options and packages -which is honestly the best way to enjoy the picturesque sceneries of the Han River.
The Seokguram Grotto is one of the most religiously as well as culturally marked sites in Korea. Now, it is a hermitage that belongs to the Bulguksa temple complex. Located in Gyeongju, this incredible grotto was built by Kim Daeseong in 742. It is now recognized as a remarkable treasure of Korea as it homes over some of the most valued stone sculptures of Buddha. The grotto is considered to be even more special for visitors thanks to its unique location as well. It not only allows you to get an incredible oceanic view of the Sea of Japan, but it is the ideal place to catch the magical sunrise on a clear day.
The Grotto and the temple were established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Perched on a hill, the trail leading to the Seokguram Grotto and the Bulguksa Temple is very scenic. There’s much to see in the ancient Bulguksa Temple too! The craftsmanship of the temple structure is another unique aspect we can marvel at. The intricate carvings and patterns are so mesmerising that you will find yourself deeply drawn in. It also homes some of the most culturally significant relics of South Korea, which you can learn all about in great detail while visiting. Worth a trip? We certainly think so.
Seoraksan National Park
Located along the East-Central part of the peninsula of Korea, the Seoraksan National Park was recognized as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1965. This National Park stretches over a surface area of approx. 163.3 square kilometres. It also hosts lush verdant landscapes, mountain peaks and ridges (that has earned the 3rd spot for the tallest mountains in South Korea), as well as rare endemic wildlife like the Korean Musk Deer and the stunning Tristram’s Woodpecker. All these factors add to creating a national park that attracts large crowds of wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Just 3 hours away from Seoul, this national park is an ideal place for a day trip.
During spring and summertime, the national park emits the sweet subtle smell of cherry blossoms as the trees are coated in a pink hue. While immersing in its charm, you can visit the Ulsanbawi Rock – a one-of-a-kind rock formation with 6 peaks of granite – a major attraction in the national park. Explore the epic Geumganggul Cave, which is approx. 2000 feet up the Seoraksan Mountains, from the caves you get an incredible view of the park. If trekking takes a little too much out of you, then there is always the scenic cable car ride – which reaches the ancient Gwongeumseong Fortress on top of the Seoraksan Mountain. From incredible rugged climbing trails to cable car rides over stunning nature trails through the woods, the Seoraksan National Park certainly needs to be included in every traveller’s South Korea Itinerary.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site that draws in curious travellers. The palace is located within the big park, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The Changdeokgung Palace (which directly translates to Prospering Virtue Palace) is one of the five palaces built in Seoul in the Joseon Dynasty. Despite the heavy damages accumulated during the Japanese Occupation, the Changdeokgung Palace remains one of the most popular cultural sites and tourist spots in South Korea, and it is approx. 20 minutes away from the highly commercial Myeongdong station.
The Changdeokgung Palace has thirteen buildings and over twenty-eight pavilions and gardens. Many travellers who have explored the lands of this royal monument speak of the incredible aged beauty that the palace premises still holds. The Gwolnaegaksa Complex, Huijeongdang Hall, and not forgetting the beautifully maintained Huwon Secret Garden are some of the highlighted areas within the palace premises. Huwon garden is approx. 78 acres, and it is said to occupy more than half of the whole palace landscape. Initially, the garden was said to have been built for the use of the royal family and palace women. Later on, however, it was entirely dedicated to the King’s private use.
The Palace is full of different halls and complexes, each with a historical story of its own. A real treasure trove for those who find pleasure in exploring the deep history as they travel. So come prepared to spend some time in the Changdeokgung Palace and immerse in its fascinating history. No South Korean Itinerary is complete without a trip to Changdeokgung Palace.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple has to be one of the most scenic ancient temples in South Korea. It has one of the most epic names (the Dragon Palace Temple) as well as the most scenically stunning surroundings. Located in Busan, this oceanside temple probably also has one of the most fascinating histories and legends connected to it. Perched on a rugged cliff overlooking the ocean, the temple was brought to life in 1376, with the honourable intention of bringing relief to the nearby villages that were deeply suffering from the continuing drought by appeasing the spirits. The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is also known as Busan’s Temple on the Coast. It is a great place to enjoy some stunning coastal views against the green hills the temple stands on.
Although it was one of the many temples that received much damage during the Japanese invasions, it was renovated under the care and guidance of the Ungang’s monks. If you make a very early visit during the day, you can enjoy the enchanting sunrise over the sea of Japan. The temple almost has a golden glow as the first rays of the day touch it. Another great time to visit this sacred temple is during spring/summertime. When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. It gives the temple an almost ethereal look that looks absolutely breathtaking from a distance. A definite must-add to your Busan Itinerary as well as your South Korea Itinerary.
If you are looking to shake things up and take a break from all the temple exploring, hiking trails and historical sightseeing, Itaewon is where you are head. Located in Seoul, South Korea. If you are using the subway, you can take the Seoul Subway Line 6 via Itaewon. So what awaits at this quirky party town? Let us start with shopping! Shop till your heart drops or your wallet drops. From antiques to premium cosmetic products to high-quality electronic products, everything and anything is available here. And even if you are not planning to buy anything – nothing like window shopping in a foreign land. Visit the Leeum Museum. This private art museum is a harmonious existence between two vastly different eras – masterpieces born from traditional art influence and modern contemporary pieces.
Savour the mouth-watering South Korean cuisines at the many eclectic cafes, restaurants and bars that come to life as the day turns to night. But, till then, you can always visit the gorgeous Namsan Botanical Garden. This is a park for all seasons. During spring and summer, it will be filled with blooming cherry blossom trees – this is the time the annual Cherry Blossom Festival takes place! And during autumn, the colour aesthetic changes to darker shades of red, orange and gold! With nightfall, the streets of Itaewon fills up with music like Jazz, and it is also where the incredible Global Village Festival takes place! We are talking street performances, food exhibitions, and so much more! A destination worth adding to your South Korea Itinerary.
Korean Folk Village
If you love Korean dramas and if you get great pleasure in learning all about Korean culture, then the Korean Folk Village should be at the top of your South Korea Itinerary. The Korean Folk Village is pretty much a real-time museum from the Joseon period. It means that here you get to do more than observe from a distance. This major tourist attraction is located in Yongin, Seoul. The place is built to create a replica of a Joseon period village. And one would say that they certainly have managed to capture the rural beauty of that time successfully. As a result, the Korean Folk Village has been used for many Korean Dramas including the very popular Dae Jang Geum (2003). If you have enjoyed this Korean Drama, then a day trip to the Korean Folk Village would be even more special. The routes capture the beauty and the authentic rustic village aesthetic in Korea, it will be like travelling back in time and witnessing everything you ever enjoyed watching through a screen.
Here you can also buy craft items like bamboo ware, wooden ware, and so much more. To liven things up, travellers also get to witness and enjoy traditional performances that are held daily. Some artistic performances include the Farmers Music & Dance, Traditional Weddings in the ancient era, and the infamous Horseback Martial Art. You can get first-row seats to these incredible performances while diving deep into the significance and the true meanings behind these performances, as well as their relevance at the time. There’s a diverse array of activities and enjoyments to keep you entertained during your trip.
Andong is one of the largest cities in the northern part of South Korea – a 3-hour train ride from the Seoul Station. It belongs to the North Gyeongsang province, and it boasts of being the ‘Most Korean Place in Korea’. Andong is all about culturally aged beauty. It’s not a replica of a rural village, but rather a city that has taken great care in preserving the many traditions, agricultural practices and way of life. And as result, Andong has earned the reputation as the cultural capital of South Korea – and there are some incredibly interesting things you can experience here.
The Hahoe Folk Village is one of Andong’s star attractions. This nearly six centuries old rural village has a key activity to help visitors get a real feel of how things happened in the Joseon Era. The Choga – uniquely-built traditional houses are ancient yet well maintained. Don’t forget to sample the authentic taste of Soju here. This unique recipe for Soju includes using a mix of fermented and distilled grains and rice. Something amazing as Soju should always be paired with an incredible dish. So make sure to try the Gan Godeungeo (salted mackerel) JJimdalk (braised chicken and vegetable stew), which are popular among the locals of Andong. Take a ferry to Buyongdae, where you can easily climb the 64-metre cliff to get a rare view of the Andong landscape – especially the Hahoe Village. And if you are visiting Andong from September to October, you can also be a part of the iconic Mask Dance Festival. A two-day festival that is packed with insanely awesome activities and performances. A rare treat to any traveller exploring Andong. With so many incredible things to do here, Andon is definitely a must add to your South Korea Itinerary.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone
The Demilitarized Zone a.k.a. DMZ is a strip running across the borders of North Korea and South Korea, at the Peninsula of Korea. The main purpose of this strip is to act as a buffer between the two borders, and it has been under the strict maintenance of both governments since 1953. This 240 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide strip is extremely secured, and if we are being honest, it doesn’t exactly exude a ceremonious vibe. Ironically, it still one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Korea, attracting bulks of curious tourists who wish to witness this somewhat high-tension inducing strip.
Former President of the United States, Bill Clinton who visited the DMZ in 1993, even described it as the “scariest place on Earth”. If you are someone who enjoys visiting and exploring such unnerving destinations and learning the history attached to them, then the Demilitarized Zone needs to be added to your South Korea Itinerary. Of course, it’s not a trip you can make on your own, you are advised to reserve a private tour or a group travel guide, and there are a considerable amount of regulations you will have to follow during the trip. It’s also the ideal way to learn more about the history of the DMZ, and the ongoing situation between the South and North.
Located in Busan, Haeundae Beach is one of the most famous beaches in South Korea. It’s a beach for all seasons. White sandy shores, pale blue waters that looks quite inviting on a hot day – it has all the essentials to make it an ideal place for a good beach trip. But if you are looking to do more than sunbathe and take a dip in the clear waters, there are a couple of activities that will help you keep the excitement going through the day. The Dongbaekseom Island is one such place you can drop by. This small island is s a great place to take a stroll along the footpath and enjoy the unique views you get of Gwangandaegyo Bridge a.k.a. Diamond Bridge, which is the second-longest bridge in South Korea.
Haeundae Beach also hosts incredible cultural events and celebrations throughout the year. The Busan International Film Festival is one of them. Not only is it one of the most eagerly awaited festivals in South Korea, but rather a Massive Event that has earned a renowned reputation throughout the whole of Asia. If you have the time, you can even visit Marine City, a luxurious coastal town, to do a little exploring. Much to do, many ways to enjoy. The Haeundae Beach is a must add to any traveller’s South Korea Itinerary.
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