Welcome to the land of stark contrasts and wild contradiction where tradition is just as equally embraced as if technology…
From the skyscrapers that loom over ancient temples to the frantic pace of life that is perfectly balanced by the tranquil natural environment, South Korea is a diamond destination in Southeast Asia. Home to some of the friendliest folk in the world, this proves to be a warm and inviting tourist destination. Littered with thousands of fortresses, temples, palaces and modern day marvels of man, South Korea is rich in cultural history and the promise of curious customs, strange foods and a travel experience that seems somewhat otherworldly.
South Korea has many reasons for being such a famous country. For one, its home to the star Psy who literally changed the world with his hit song “Gangnam Style”. It’s also the birthplace of two of the most famous electronic brands in the world, LG and Samsung. As one of the strongest economical forces who are the proud forefathers of the great Tae Kwon Do, and producers of the famous dish Kimchi, it’s no wonder why South Korea is one of the most famous countries in Southeast Asia. You will love the opportunity to get lost in dazzling landscapes, an array of extravagant experiences and the opportunity to delve into more than 5000 years of rich history. The superb public transport system means you can easily explore the awe-inspiring natural beauty of this country and revel in the urban marvel, all in the same trip. From the ancient to the modern, the freaky foods, South Korea truly is a one of a kind destination.
Official language: Korean with English being widely spoken
Currency: South Korean Won
Must See Places in South Korea
Also known as the city of 24-hour parties, Seoul the capital of South Korea, is an urban city that strives to incorporate natural elements into everyday life, giving you endless entertainment opportunities. Some of the country’s premium shopping, eating, drinking and relaxing destinations can be found here.
What used to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla is today one of the coastal cities in South Korea with the richest cultural and historical attractions. There are ancient relics throughout the city, the National Museum, the stunning Anapji Pond and the UNESCO world heritage site of the Bulguk-sa Temple to explore. They don’t call this place the “Museum Without Walls” for no apparent reason…
Seoraksan National Park
This park is another UNESCO site and stretches over 400,000 square kilometers wide. With its unique rock formations, wildlife, hot springs, forests and temples, this park is a destination that cannot be missed out on.
Hahoe Folk Village
If you’re looking for something more relaxed than the bustling Seoul, the folk villages of Adong and Hahoe offer just that. These people still stick to their traditional culture and offer the perfect opportunity for tourists to delve into and explore the ancient traditions of the South Korean folk.
This small island near Seoul is an escape from the typical South Korean setting and is abundant in fresh seafood restaurants and tiny bungalows on the beach. It’s the best place to sit back and enjoy the island life - Korean Style.
Weirdly enough, this island just off the coast of South Korea has its own unique history, dress style, architectural style and linguistic traditions. Jeju was recently voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of The World and boasts lush botanical gardens, sandy beaches, lava caves a folk village and its own museum!
Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the Suwon Fortress boasts some of the best traditional architecture in South Korea. With palaces, temples and great food, this is the one place where you can see and experience Korean tradition at its best.
This is as close to an Amish Korea as you’ll get. Located just outside of Hadong you’ll get a taste of the real traditional with people still wearing the hanbok, not getting their hair cut, living in hanok houses and their massive stone shrine called Samseong-gung, dedicated to the mythical deities of Korean shamanism.
Surrounded by mountain ranges of massive rocks, Danyang is loaded with natural cave sites. During the day, the streets of the city is bustling with markets and come sunset the citizens makes the place come alive with music and dance for entertainment.
An often overlooked province in the southwest corner of South Korea, Jeollanam do is known for its architecture, natural beauty and especially its food. A trip to Yudal Mountain promises some of the most breathtaking sights of Mokpo city, its harbors and the surrounding islands.
Things to do in South Korea
Feast at a Korean Barbeque
Korean Barbeques are high-tech restaurants where just about everything is stir fried right in front of you. Sample some fine Korean Beef with sesame seeds and a peanut dressing for the full flavor fest.
See the Silla tombs
See the Silla tombs - In Gyeongju more than 200 tombs of the ancient Silla kingdom lay scattered across the region. Twenty three of them can be found within a walled park, with some of them measuring in at more than 21 meters high.
Get a taste of the traditional in Bukchon Village
Get a taste of the traditional in Bukchon Village - with nearly a thousand traditional courtyard houses, small alleys, cafes and shops, Bukchon Village is the epitome of traditional life, and if you can check into one of the houses that accepts visitors, it promises to be an experience unlike anything else!
Visit the Silla masterpiece at Bulguksa Temple
Visit the Silla masterpiece at Bulguksa Temple - located near Geyongju, this is South Korea’s official Historical Site Number One. The two gilded Buddha statues and the stone bridges are set to take your breath away.
Take a trip into the Demilitarized Zone
Although it seems like a Cold War theme park of sorts, but it’s still worth seeing…if you have the guts to do so. Dubbed as one of the real life scariest places in earth, it’s a sight that has to be on the itinerary of those who dare to brave the elements.
Experience life in a Buddhist temple
If you go through the right channels, a company called Templestay, you can stay over in a Buddhist temple for a night. For a truly profound and exotic experience, this is a must do. You can choose between 40 different temples available through the program.
Pick the time right
Tourists visit South Korea in Spring and Autumn
South Korea might have a temperate climate, but it can also go extreme at times with summers reaching 45°C with humidity in the high 70’s. November month sees the Siberian winds, which means extremely cold temperatures. The temperature from Seoul varies drastically from the temperature in areas such as Busan. The hottest part of the year falls between July and August; this is also the rainy season. The winter is typically from December to February. Spring and Autumn are considered the best visiting times because they bring along mild and mainly dry weather.
Did you know?
- Bibimbap - this is a boiled rice dish with vegetables and chilli peppers
- Kimchi - the Korean National Dish is a highly spices pickle of Chinese cabbage (white radish) with turnips, onions, salt, fish, chestnuts and red peppers.
- Grilled Galbi - you have to try this delicacy of seasoned ribs
- Haemultang - a traditional and rich seafood stew
- Yakju - for a drink try this refined pure liquor made from fermented rice
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- If you’re going to visit South Korea during the winter months, ensure you have ENOUGH warm clothing, it gets seriously cold
- Drinking Korean tap water is a bad idea, rather just stick to good old sealed bottled water
Lunar New Year
To this day, the Lunar New Year is still one of the biggest celebrations in South Korea. Locals get up early to dress in their best and feast throughout the day while the palaces in Seoul host grand celebration parties.
Inje Ice Fishing Festival
When the Soyang lake freezes over in winter, people flock to the small town in inner Seoraksan to do some ice fishing, play ice soccer, ski on the ice in their sleds and enjoy some freshly caught smelt.
Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival
This festival is held to celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. With duck and pig races and a spectacular showdown of fireworks, it’s a festival that promises heaps and bounds of entertainment value.
Gwangalli Eobang Festival
Celebrating the arrival of spring, this festival is now a representation of three major festivals (Millak Live Fish Festival, Gwangalli Beach Festival and Cherry Blossom Festival) combined. There’s a parade where hundreds of Busan residents dress up in masks and costumes, fireworks and fishing boats that are lit up at night to represent age old torchlight fishing traditions.
Hi Seoul Festival
Highlighting all things culture and tradition about the capital city, this event showcases an abundance of live music performances and lightened boat parades at night.
Lotus Lantern Festival
This festival coincides with the Birthday of Buddha, so it’s always a massive festival. Thousands of people parade up the Han River with lanterns and there are also lots of other celebratory events that take place at the temples throughout the country.
Boryeong Mud Festival
This is a great excuse to roll around in the mud. Mud from this region is used in cosmetics and spa products, so it’s supposedly great for your skin. Mud wrestling, mud slides, and mud soap making are all part of the festive celebrations.
Also known as the Korean Thanksgiving, this festival celebrates a bountiful harvest and the hopes for another great season to come. This time of the year sees a lot of festivities held at palaces and also at the National Folk Museum in Seoul.