Places to Visit in South Korea
As the hype for K-pop, K-dramas and Korean food descended on the rest of the world, so did the need to visit the place with a culture so unique to their homeland. South Korea has become a phenomenal place for both touristic vacationers and backpackers, and rightly so. The place has a vast array of experiences to offer, from immersive cultural ones that you’re bound to enjoy regardless of if you’re a fan or not to adventurous, natural and historical experiences. Enjoy our recommendations on some of the best places to visit in South Korea.
There’s plenty to do in South Korea, and the chances are that bouncing back and forth from historically preserved towns to the futuristic neighbourhoods is likely to give you whiplash. We’ve broken down this kaleidoscope of experiences so that you can have your pick of must-visits when you do finally visit this dreamy South-East Asian destination.
Best Places To Visit in South Korea
Every place you go, you’re bound to have a myriad of tourists from all over the world accompanying you. Tourist hotspots such as Times Square in New York City or the Taj Mahal in Agra are bound to be crowded, but they’re also a must-visit of that destination. They’re the things you’d first tick off and have probably heard the most about. Here are some such places that you would not want to write off of your South Korean itinerary.
Visiting Seoul South Korea
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Seoul. The city with the gleaming futuristic towers that blend seamlessly with the old Hanok neighbourhoods and the streets filled with people strutting about in an effortlessly chic fashion. The chances are that Seoul would be your first glimpse of South Korea when you land and the city lays its soul out for everyone to see.
We could make a whole itinerary just on Seoul, but some of the apparent must-visits would be the Gyeongbokgung and the Changdeokgung Palaces, Seoul Tower, Lotte World and the National Museum. We would also urge you to take a pick out of the unique cafés, sprawling parks and drastically shifting neighbourhoods when visiting the capital city.
Traveling from Seoul to Busan
The second-largest city in South Korea, is the port city of Busan. Along with a row of beautiful beaches, Busan is also known for its historic temples, the most famous of which is the Beomeosa Temple. Visiting the Gamcheon Cultural Village, that is known as the Santorini of Korea due to the vibrant cliffside houses, is a top priority. If you’re a fan of seafood, don’t forget to pay tribute and getting some fresh picks at the Jagalchi Market, which is South Korea’s largest seafood market.
If you still find yourself idle in Busan, there’s plenty to enjoy in the urban landscape, and every turn of the street should present you with opportunities to spend time immersing in the culture.
Trip to Jeju Island
Take a day or two out of your itinerary to hop on a boat and sail to Jeju Island. This mass of land with stunning natural landscape hosts Koreas highest mountain, a dormant volcano called the Hallasan. Due to its presence, there are lava tubes all over the island that make a fascinating natural phenomenon to witness. You can also witness an age-old tradition by heading to Jungmun Beach, where women free dive into the sea to catch fresh seafood. For the families, visit the Glass Castle theme park and the lovebirds or adults can witness the unconventional Loveland (Jeju is a well-known honeymoon destination).
Exploring DMZ South Korea
The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) is a world-famous boundary that divides South Korea and North Korea. It also attracts tours of foreigners wanting to see the place with their own eyes. Taking an accompanied tour is possible, and you can visit the Joint Security Area, which is safe for the public. Here, you can shop from a North Korean gift store selling all kinds of oddities and even stand in the other country, though surrounded by South Korean Soldiers.
Tours to the DMZ need to be arranged in advance as both a guide and authorization is required.
The ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom, Gyeongju holds 2000 years of history in its magnificent temples and streets. You can witness primitive Buddhist architecture through the seven national treasures that include sacred pagodas, ancient statues and temples. The most significant of these is the Bulguksa Temple which dates back to the 8th century. Due to all the important architecture that is scattered throughout the city, Gyeongju is often referred to as a ‘museum without walls.’
When visiting Gyeongju, try aligning the dates with its iconic Cherry Blossom Festival.
Secret Places to visit in South Korea
If you’ve seen your fill of the touristic destinations, take your wheels off the beaten path and explore the unspoilt destinations. These are the destinations that aren’t well known but still have a beauty you shouldn’t miss out on.
Suwon is a must-visit for fans of soccer. Just 30 kilometres out of Seoul, Suwon has a clear view of Big Bird, where the 2002 FIFA World Cup was played. However, that’s not all. The city also has a historical significance and hosts the Hwaseong Fortress with a jaw-dropping natural background.
Samhwasa is a creative person’s inspiration and a traveller’s paradise. The peaceful scenic point faces the west of the Dutasan Mountain, which is often believed to have looked like a phoenix and a crane while the east looks like a dragon and a tiger. The place is also home to the Samhwasa Temple, a serene place that has been sought out by several artists and inspired poets due to the tranquility it offers amidst nature. The ancient historic site also houses a Buddhist school and has programs which you can opt in to achieve peace.
Unique Places in South Korea
Apart from the above recommended Places to visit in South Korea, here are some places that are so unique to South Korea, that it’s imperative that you visit at least once in your life.
Chuncheon translates to Spring River and is truly one of the most gorgeous places with babbling brooks, crystal clear lakes and a plethora of activities. Chuncheon is a spring haven for nature lovers with mountains that nestle it in the midst of their towering tips. Foodie lovers also seek out Chuncheon for the special chicken dish- Dakgalbi.
Head over to Nami Island in Chuncheon to partake in the Cherry Blossom Festival and be awed by the beauty of the trees. If you love K-dramas you will also recognize the island by its feature in the famous Winter Sonata.
If you haven’t heard of Jeonju before, we’re here to tell you that you need to put this on your itinerary right now. A short train ride from Seoul, Jeonju is the culinary capital of South Korea and the biggest Hanok village. Hanok villages are the traditional villages with old school architecture. While you’re sure to find these villages scattered about in even modern cities like Seoul, Jeonju Hanok village is the biggest and packs 800 years of history within its walls. Visiting Jeonju is like transporting back in time for many who travel through its streets.
Of course, if you’re only here for the korean food, head over to have the Bibimbap at its birthplace or a local rice wine in Makgeolli town. You can also stop at any of the street vendors lining every corner of the 200-year-old Nambu Market. You can also spend an afternoon gorging on a traditional Korean meal and strolling through the street art scene in the Jaman Mural village.
Seoraksan National Park
Seoraksan is a popular tourist spot but the National Park, spanning six cities and numerous towns is a must visit for vacationers. If you enjoy nature and hiking, then this makes the perfect day trip for you. The park is a UNESCO Biosphere Protection Site and hosts Korea’s third largest peak- Seoraksan Mountain. Popular spots are the granite structure of Ulsanbawi Rock and the Baekdamsa and Sinheungsa temples. Both the temples are known for being an important site to the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism. Baekdamsa has a magnificent 100 fresh water pools surrounding it whereas Sinheungsa is the oldest Seon temple in the world.
When visiting South Korea, skiing is not a must, but it is worth a try if you do it in PyeongChang. The snow-covered mountains of PyeongChang are the place where the 2018 Winter Olympics was held and the lively atmosphere of the place is absolutely amazing. Ski here and get some souvenirs to remember that you skied on the same mountain tops as an Olympic athlete.
South Korea is a marvel to visit and as you can see above, it has a little bit of everything. So, if you’re looking for a week-long vacation with very specific needs or a month-long rendezvous with as much variety as possible, this South-East Asian country is your best bet.
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