South Korea, located in the southern part of the Korean peninsula is a lovely East Asian nation with a rich heritage, impressive Buddhist pagodas, diverse landscapes of coastal towns and scenic countryside, delicious cuisine and a vibrant culture. The country is renowned worldwide for the musical genre k-pop and has grown into a popular travel destination over the past decade.
The bustling futuristic metropolis of Seoul is the capital of South Korea. From modern skyscrapers to ancient palaces, the city displays a beautiful blend of the past and contemporary. The impressive Dongdaemun Design Plaza, featuring neo futuristic design elements and the ancient palaces of Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung are fine examples of the city’s diverse architecture. Make sure you visit the Namdaemun Market, Korea’s largest market with over 10,000 stalls and excellent street food and the picturesque Bukchon Hanok Village lined with beautiful traditional Korean-style homes. The nearby Bukhansan National Park is popular for its splendid hiking trails among mountainous terrain, dense forests, clear streams and temples too.
Incheon, a modern port city known for the huge Incheon International Airport which is rated as one of the best in the world, borders the capital Seoul. The city is famous for the lovely Incheon Grand Park, the beautiful Eurwangni Beach and the colourful Chinatown. Suwon, the capital of Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul, is known for the massive 18th-century Hwaseong Fortress with its four impressive arched gates. Hwaseong Haenggung Palace and Suwon Hwaseong Museum are other popular attractions. Ganghwado island, located in the Han river is a popular getaway from Seoul and Incheon. Here you will find interesting historical sites like the UNESCO listed burial site Bugeun-ri Dolmen, the Bomunsa temple with rock carvings and the Gapgot Dondae fortress. Another interesting visit from Seoul is the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a narrow strip of land acting as the buffer zone between the North and South Koreas.
The Gangwon province is a natural delight, comprising lovely coastal towns along the East Sea, mountainous terrain and splendid natural parks. The Seoraksan National Park is one of the best in the country and features dramatic rock formations, dense forests, beautiful waterfalls and natural springs and abundant wildlife. It also houses two Buddhist temples, Sinheung-sa and Baekdam-sa, and is known for amazing hiking trails. Taebaeksan Provincial Park is home to the Taebaeksan mountain, a sacred mountain in Korea and there are numerous religious shrines along the trail to the top. Jeongdongjin is a coastal town that is famous for its fairytale sunrises and the two sea vessels, an American warship and a North Korean submarine, which can be explored by visitors.
Chungcheongbuk-do is a landlocked province that features a landscape of mountains, lakes and agricultural lands. The lakeside resort town Danyang, surrounded by national parks, caves and Buddhist temples, is the highlight of the province. Here, you can visit the Sobaeksan National Park which houses Guin-sa, a Buddhist complex and has numerous hiking trails that pass through thick jungles, streams, caves and viewpoints.
The province of Chungcheongnam-do is filled with breathtaking natural sites and historical remains. The city of Gongju and the town of Buyeo were ancient capitals of the Baekje Kingdom and you will find interesting historical sites including hilltop fortresses and royal tombs. The Taeanhaean National Marine Park, one of the country’s best natural sites, is popular for hiking, trekking and wildlife watching. The park comprises coastal plains with over 30 beaches, islands, pine forests, swamps and traditional villages too. It is notable for its hundreds of marine species which includes Eurasian otter, minke whales, Chinese egret and finless porpoise. In the province, you will also find the Daecheon beach in Boryeong, which hosts the popular 10 day mud throwing festival every July.
Gyeongsangbuk-do is famous for its historical landmarks which include ancient temples and cultural sites. The capital of the province, Andong, is located on the banks of the Nakdong river and known for its open-air museum, the UNESCO listed Hahoe Folk Village. This village is over 600 years old and you can observe the traditional architecture of the houses and the ancient culture and customs that are followed by its inhabitants. The coastal city of Gyeongju, nicknamed as the ‘Museum without walls’, was the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom. Here you will find several pagodas, rock carvings, tombs and ruins of palaces that display traditional architecture. In spite of being one of the largest cities in the country, Daegu is an aesthetic delight, featuring verdant parks like Bullo-dong Ancient Tomb Park and Duryu Park and lovely churches like the Gyesan Catholic Church.
Gyeongsangnam-do features lovely coastal towns, wetlands, mountains, spa resorts and excellent cuisine. The bustling port city Busan is known for its splendid beaches, booze and seafood. The colourful Gamcheon Culture Village and the ancient Buddhist Beomeosa Temple are important attractions in the city. The Jirisan National Park, South Korea’s first, largest and arguably the most popular national park spans across three provinces and is best accessed from Busan. The park is known for amazing hiking trails and contains a dozen towering peaks that are over 1000 m high. The Cheonwang-bong peak, Hwaeomsa temple and Sanggyesa temple are popular sights within the park.
Jeollabuk-do is a small province that is popularly known for serving the best version of the country’s native cuisine and lush green landscapes. The city of Jeonju is known for the Jeonju Heritage Village which features traditional Hanok style houses and shops. It is also a great place to sample authentic Korean food and taste rice wine. The Maisan Provincial Park features dramatic rocky peaks for hiking and is named after two peaks which together resemble a horse’s ears. Seonyudo island, located in the Han river, houses the Seonyudo Park which comprises four verdant parks and a botanical garden with lovely walking trails.
Jeollanam-do is considered as South Korea’s greenest and most underrated province, with rolling hills, coastal plains, thousands of islands and traditional villages. The Suncheonman Nature Reserve comprises coastal wetlands and one of the largest fields of reeds in Korea. It is a popular spot for migrating birds and waterbirds like hooded cranes, white storks and Chinese egrets. The fortified Naganeup-seong Folk Village featuring dry stone architecture is another popular attraction in the province.
Jeju-do is the largest island in South Korea and is a popular holiday destination in the country featuring lovely resorts, beaches and lush natural beauty. The Jeju Olle walking trail, that mostly passes along the coastline contains 21 scenic routes that together span over 400 km. Walking along these trails is a great way to explore the island. Hiking to the dormant volcano Hallasan, visiting the interesting rock statues called Dol hareubangs, enjoying the views from the UNESCO listed Seongsan Ilchulbong, or ‘Sunrise Peak’ and admiring the beautiful three-tiered Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls are other popular things to do in the island.
South Korea has all the right elements for a wholesome and fulfilling holiday. Its rich history and culture, architectural delights, verdant natural settings and very friendly people make it a great destination to explore.
South Korea is a potpourri of majestic cityscapes, stunning mountains, rich cultures and mouth-watering delicacies.