One week in South Korea: A guide to discovering this East Asian hotspot
South Korea, so famous for its life in the shadows of missile-toting North Korea, is a cultural gem well worth a visit
South Korea, so famous for its life in the shadows of missile-toting North Korea, is a cultural gem well worth a visit.
With its population of 50 million, the country borders the East Sea and the Yellow Sea and is bursting with charming traditions, mystic heritage and boasts an impressive show of technological and economic power.
For the eager traveler, South Korea is a land of wonders replete with sumptuous foods, natural beauty and battle-scarred history – not to mention the kimchi.
So, weary traveler, you have one week and three South Korean cities to explore, here is exactly how to see this fascinating country:
First destination: Seoul
Seoul is the heart of South Korea, the capital divided by the Han River. The dynamic, fast-paced city is well equipped with public transport and strong Wi-Fi connections are available throughout. Quirky fashion boutiques merge with steaming food stalls and live festive street art entertains passers-by.
Nature is all around, with parks, mountains and of course the Han River. The UNESCO City of Design with its contemporary architectural buildings, skyscraper and historical traditional places will not leave you unimpressed.
April marks one of the best months of the year to visit Korea. It is the first month of the spring season when the cherry blossoms leaves color the city streets in dainty pinks and whites.
To be in Seoul is to be to in one of the most phenomenal heritage spots in the region. You will be transported back to the era of kingdoms, kings and queens. Changdeokgun Palace is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for its historical significance, beauty and the masterpiece of its design.
It dates back to the Joseon dynasty (1392 - 1897) and is one of five royal Joseon palaces preserved in Seoul. The palace has public palace area, a royal family residence building, and rear garden known as the Secret Garden.
Myeong-dong is a shopping district in the heart of Seoul city. It is a great place for all types of shopping, from the local brands to the international ones with a special focus on beauty products. Street food is widely available with a variety of restaurants opening their doors to tourists.
DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)
Excitement for any tourist is to experience unusual adventures. This adventure comes in the form of the demilitarized zone which divides the Korean peninsula into North and South and was set in place after the Korean War of the 1950s. It is a buffer zone that runs along the 38th parallel north. Standing on the border and facing the North’s military is a breathtaking moment and is the closest many will get to the notoriously closed off North Korea. Along the trip, soldiers tell of the fascinating history of the zone and tourists have the opportunity to visit the associated museum and get a taste of the lives of villagers who still live in the area.
Second destination: Daegu
Daegu is a metropolitan city and one of the country’s three largest cities, along with Seoul and Busan. It is a four hour drive from Seoul by bus and it surrounded by two rivers. It blossomed with culture for over 5000 years as the “City of Passion” and the “Hot City”.
It is known for its artistic open events throughout the year, such as Daegu International Opera Festival, the Daegu International Musical Festival, and the International Body Painting Festivals and others. Beside the art, Daegu invests in its industrial powers. It boasts industries including IT, hi-tech machinery, and the hi-tech medical industry.
Is you seek a relaxing spiritual experience, Daegu temples are the right place. Donghwasa temple is the most popular and historical temple in Daegu and it is located on the famous mountain Palgnogsan. It has the biggest Buddha statue in Korea, standing at 33 meters tall. Experience a green tea ceremony and learn about Bhuddist etiquette.
Final destination: Busan
Busan is the second largest city in Korea and welcomes over three million foreign visitors every year. Known for its Haeundae beach – with its wide array of sea sports and nightlife - and beautiful nature it is the prime location for seafood lovers and great shopping. Various festivals run throughout the year from the Sea Festival, Rock Festival, and Busan Fireworks Festival.
The island is located at the southern end of Haeundae beach and is known for its magnificent thick camellias and pine trees. It is also home to the Nurimaru APEC House that was built for the 2005 APEC summit.
Busan Cinema Center
The famous cinema center where the yearly Busan International Film Festival is held was designed in a very unique twisted design and is equipped with three exclusive theatres, an outdoor stage, BIFF Hall, and Cinemountain Hall. The outdoor stage seats around 4000 people.
U.N. Memorial Cemetery
To value and honor the international spirit of cooperation during the Korean War, the U.N. Forces command built a memorial cemetery to bury the U.N. Forces soldiers who died in the Korean War. 2,300 soldiers from 11 countries are buried at the memorial’s cemetery.
Gamcheon Culture Village
A colorful village with uplifting history. The village dates back to the 1940s and was one of the poorest places in Busan. During the Korean War, it was overcome with refugees with over 800 makeshifts homes built. Houses are nested on top of the hills facing the ocean. Over recent years, it boomed from a refugee town to one of Korea’s most artistic places. You will be mesmerized with the tight alleyways and streets filled with painted walls. Gamcheon Culture Village attracts thousands of tourists and photography enthusiasts every year.
Finally, to depart from Busan to Seoul, ride the KTX (Korea Train eXpress) - South Korea’s High-speed rail system in place since 2004. It will take around two hours to reach the city, then head off to Incheon International Airport.