South Korea, a yet undiscovered piece of Asia, awaits you. Travelling around South Korea will take you through five thousand years of history and culture, coupled with gorgeous landscape of tall mountains and calm bays. Trips across South Korea offer all the interesting things for travellers, from large bright cities to small fishing villages in the middle of rice fields. Read the travel tips for South Korea below and you’ll find out where the main tourist spots are in this Asian superpower. And here’s the first tip: visit the Get Your Guide website and pick your favourite trip. If you’re an HI member, you get 10% off each booking.
The country’s capital is Seoul, a city where modern buildings are built right next to small traditional houses. The city is full of various noises that come from the hustle and bustle of lively streets and thousands of events. To get to know Seoul better, explore the oldest palace in the city and the Gyeongbokgung Temple with an experienced guide the first morning after your arrival. The first on the list is the changing of the guard. Part of the tour also includes a visit to the Jogyesa Buddhist temple with beautiful acacia trees growing in front. The tour will be concluded with a visit to the blue palace, the residence of Korea’s president, which is known for the blue tiles and is located under the Bugaksan mountain. In the afternoon, take the tour of the Changdeokgung Royal Palace, the best preserved of the five palaces that was built in the times of the famous Joseon dynasty. The guided tour will then take you to two bustling markets. The first one is the arts and crafts Insadong market that used to be the city’s cultural centre in the past, but today attracts shoppers to its numerous streets. The second one is the Namdaemun market, the largest traditional Korean market where one can shop at reasonable prices, especially when it comes to clothes. The next guided tour will take you on a walk through the famous Gangnam district, showing you both the modern and the traditional side of the capital. The tour starts with a boat ride down the Han River and under the 27 bridges that rise above it. COEX Convention and Exhibition Center with its unique shops and a huge aquarium, filled with sea life, awaits in the district. The next stop is the Bongeunsa Temple, which holds 3,000 Buddhist statues. You can take a look at the city from above from the Lotte World Tower and admire the view from the tallest Korean building.
Seventy per cent of the Korean Peninsula are covered by mountains. It’s no surprise then, that they’re part of the itinerary. Outside of Seoul lies Bukhan Mountain. Climb to the top and enjoy the wonderful view. In the evening, you can relax in the traditional Korean sauna. There are even more options for mountain trips in the Seoraksan National Park in the northern part of the country. There you can explore pine forests that hide clean streams and lakes, with rocky mountains proudly standing above them. DMZ or Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably one of the most famous places in the country and it’s a five kilometres wide protected demilitarised zone that separates North and South Korea. The area is surrounded by electric fences, landmines and soldiers on both sides of the border. The guided tour of the area will take you to Imjingak, a park of memory and hope, where the Freedom Bridge is located, which was used by soldiers to return to their home country. From Dora Observatory, you’ll be able to see all the way to North Korea. Travelling in South Korea won’t be perfect without visiting the island of Jeju, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island should be on every South Korea itinerary and it’s worth checking out why. The island is home to the country’s highest peak, Hallasan volcano, which is located in the middle of a forested park. The island’s coastline is rugged and dotted with waterfalls. Another tour that will be interesting for travellers is a trip to the underground lava tunnel.
There are nine HI hostels in South Korea and HI members get 10% booking any of them. One of the most beautiful of these hostels is located in South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, which lies at the Korea Strait. YH Busan Arpina offers everything a traveller could wish for, and even more. You can head to the hostel’s gym or to the elegant banquet halls where you can organise your very own social events. Everyone is welcome at the hostel, from travellers to conference attendees. And once you’re in the city, take a 90-minute boat tour. While sailing, you’ll encounter many more beautiful attractions, from the legendary Yeongdodaegyo Bridge to wonderful lighthouses that dot the coastline. The city is known for its sandy beaches and excellent sea food.
At the peak of the Joseon dynasty, its capital was Jeonju. It’s now full of temples, museums and tombs, and it’s one of the must-see tourist places when visiting South Korea. If you want to learn more about the local culture, then you should head to the Jeonju Hanok village, which abounds in traditional houses, and try the famous Korean dish called bibimbap, which originates in the region. Gyeongju, an ancient capital of the Kingdom of Silla, is even older. The city is more than 2,000 years old and boasts numerous temples, ancient ruins and cultural festivals. You should start at the Bulguksa Temple, a true masterpiece of Buddhist religion and art that dates back to the 8th century.
It’s always nice to have some assistance when travelling. For travelling in South Korea, I recommend Lonely Planet travel guides. Our members get 20% off all their books. You can buy a guide for the whole country or just the one for the capital city. Lonely Planet also has a language learning handbook, so I you want, go for it.
Enjoy while exploring South Korea and don’t forget to send postcards with MyPostcard. All HI members get 25% off. New users can send their first postcard for free with the HIGlobetrotter promo code through the Globetrotter profile. You can read more about it here.