South Korea, nicknamed as the “Land of The Morning Calm”, is a tantalizing slice of the Orient. Thrilling, engaging and thoroughly modern, South Korea beckons travelers worldwide with its red-hot cuisine, technological marvels, dynamic cities, unique nightlife and trendy K-Pop culture. Admired for its natural scenery, this Korean Peninsula also boasts misty pine-clad mountains, emerald green rice paddies and amazingly well-preserved traditions. Whether you’re a history buff, adventure seeker or chic fashionista, you will have tons of choices for places to visit in South Korea.
There’s no better place to start a trip in South Korea than its capital – Seoul. Not only is one of the best places to visit in South Korea, but it’s also a world-class destination with endless possibilities. A dynamic fusion of cutting-edge technology and ancient traditions, Seoul will appease your wanderlust with its serene Buddhist temples, vast nightlife districts, trend-setting youth culture, endless rows of monotonous apartment buildings, and extraordinary architecture. What’s more, Seoul is loaded with amazing places and landmarks, such as Gyeongbok-guk, Changdeok-gung, Deoksu-gung, Olympic Park, Namsan Park, Yeouido Park, Jongmyo Shrine and N Seoul Tower.
Busan offers an irresistible blend of majestic mountains, tropical beaches and ancient Buddhist temples, making it one of the most fascinating places to visit in South Korea. What’s more, the city has a glamorous film festival as well as deliciously fresh seafood. To enjoy incredible views of this diverse Korean city, hike your way up to the summit of Jangan Mountain.
Still can’t get enough of Busan? Although most of the country’s temples are nestled in mountains and hills, the Haedong Yonggung Temple is on the coast of Busan, overlooking the Sea of Japan. In addition to its cultural offerings and natural beauty, the city is jam-packed with cultural delights, like the Busan International Film Festival and the largest department store in the world.
3. Jeju Island
They don’t call Jeju as the “Island of the Gods” for nothing. Known as one of the most romantic places to visit in South Korea, this beloved honeymoon spot will sweep you away into bliss with its lush green scenery, lava tubes and stunning beaches. To make things even better, you’ll find a mishmash of amusement parks and tourist attractions in Jeju. Here, you can immerse into the local culture by visiting the Seongeup Folklore Village as well as swing by Glass Castle – a theme park adorned wondrously with glass sculptures. For an odd and racy experience on Jeju, make your way to Loveland – a one-of-a-kind theme park that features adult-only and romantic exhibits.
Want to see something green and beautiful? Why not include Boseong to your list of places to visit in South Korea? Trust me, even if you’re not much of a tea lover, you’ll love the dazzling sights in Boseong, which is by far one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Korea. Lauded as the tea capital of SK, Boseong lures tons of filmmakers, photographers and sightseers every day, thanks to its dramatic and eye-catching green fields. Besides the breathtaking views of the seemingly endless green tea fields, Boseong also has tasty green tea-related specialties, such as green tea pork belly and fresh green tea ice-cream.
5. Seoraksan National Park
Need to escape the bustling city life? Then, make sure to include Seoraksan National Park to your bucket list of places to visit in South Korea! Famed for its awe-inspiring mountain range, this national park will unleash your inner shutterbug with its stunning lakes, crystal clear streams, rocky and jagged mountain peaks as well as pine forests. For animal lovers, it’s also one of the best places to visit in South Korea, serving as a home to more than 2,000 species of animals.
Start your hike in this park with a quick visit to the National Park Visitor Centre, wherein you may pick up free maps in Korean and English. Afterwards, you can enjoy miles of scenic signposted trails crisscrossing the whole park.
No list of the best places to visit in South Korea is complete without the inclusion of Gyeongju. A former capital of an ancient kingdom, this Korean coastal city boasts a rich selection of historical and cultural attractions. With a heritage that stretches back over a thousand years, you’ll find a plethora of ruins, relics and ancient sites. A must-see here is the Gyeongju National Museum, home to numerous treasures, like the historic 23-ton Emille Bell cast. To make your trip to Gyeongju even more memorable, check out its other highlights, such as the UNESCO World Heritage listed Bulguk-sa Temple Tumuli Park and the picturesque Anapji Pond.
Jeonju, at the pinnacle of Joseon Dynasty, was its unrivaled spiritual capital. Nowadays, Jeonju teems with museums and temples, making it one of the top places to visit in South Korea for history buffs and culture vultures. For a taste of its history and culture, head to Jeonju Hanok Village, and catch sight of its traditional early 20th-century homes. Plus, you may also take a sip of its locally made soju as well as make traditional Hanji paper in this historic village. And, while exploring Jeonju, make it a point to savor the well-known Bibimbap dish, and check out the remarkable Jeonju National Museum, which is a host to a staggering array or artifacts.
8. Bukchon Hanok Village
Looking for more historic places to visit in South Korea? Perfectly preserved and fascinating, this historic village dates back more than 500 years to the Joseon Dynasty. Billed as one of the fines historic places to visit in South Korea, this village has a host of wonderful features, like traditional homes with classic pagoda roofs, and narrow streets. And, while very few folks actually live in this village, the buildings here are still used cultural centers, tea houses, guesthouses and traditional restaurants, making it the ultimate place to soak up the atmosphere of Korea’s historic side.
With a history of over 2,000 years, it’s no wonder Andong is often labeled as the “Capital City of Korean Spiritual Culture”. The city’s main tourist draw is no other than Andong Hahoe Folk Village, where local cultural heritage has been remarkably persevered and is shared with its visitors. Furthermore, the town is an absolute paradise for foodies, boasting a variety of local specialties, like jjimdak – a well-known noodle and chicken dish. And, did we mention that its home to the soju – a special type of Korean alcohol?
10. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The Korean Demilitarized Zone, or also known as DMZ, is a buffer zone between South and North Korea. Created at the end of the Korean War in 1953, the DMZ remains one of the world’s most militarized regions and intriguing places to visit in South Korea. The MDL (Military Demarcation Line) directly runs through the middle of the Demilitarized Zone, marking the exact point wherein the front lines were prior to the agreement between South Korea and the UN, as well as North Korea and The People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union.
Even though tensions still exist between the two Korean states, fascinating and insightful tours operate to the Demilitarized Zone, allowing visitors get a deeper insight into the events that led to the division of Korea. As an added bonus, it also gives you a sneak peek into North Korea. As you visit the DMZ, spend some time exploring Imjingak Park, an esplanade commemorating all those who suffered during the division in Korea.
Don’t know where to go in South Korea during spring? Jinhae, with its lively annual spring cherry blossom festival, is definitely one of the best places to visit in South Korea during springtime. For 10 days in spring, the city will flaunt Instagrammable cherry blossom trees in spots, like the Gyeonghwa Station. Eye-catching cherry trees aside, the festival also features parade and cultural performances. And, by the way, did you know that that the event draws around 2 million visitors every year?
Fond of K-dramas? Don’t forget to put Chuncheon to your list of places to visit in South Korea. For years, flocks of tourist come to Chuncheon to relive the scenes of “Winter Sonata”, a popular soap opera that was filmed in this part of Korea. But, make no mistake about it – there’s more to Chuncheon than its Winter Sonata filming locations. As a matter of fact, some Koreans even call it as a paradise for food lovers, thanks to its irresistible culinary delights, such as dakgalbi, a grilled chicken dish with rice and spicy vegetables. To me, this Korean food is best enjoyed, after touring its major attractions, such as Cheongpyeong-sa Temple, and the Soyang Dam.
Drenched in history and culture, Suwon is definitely one of the best places to visit in South Korea for those who want to delve into the country’s heritage. Here, you get to visit a massive UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site that dates back to the Joseon Dynasty – Hwaseong Dynasty. Even better, the city lets you see a bunch of special performances and events. To top it all off, the city has fabulous fortress walls and other magnificent architectural gems, like the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. For foodies, don’t miss out on the opportunity to indulge on one of the tastiest dishes in the region – the marinated short ribs.
Pyeongchang is an incredibly laid-back haven with astonishing scenery. With plenty of seasonal snow and challenging slopes, it’s totally the ultimate spot for winter sports in South Korea. And, that’s why it was picked as the official host of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The two major resorts in the area – Yongpyong and Alpensia – draw avid snowboarders and skies with slopes reaching up to more than a kilometer. Moreover, the place is a delight for mountain hikers who climbed their way up to the snow-capped peaks. To make your trip even memorable, check out the dozens of ancient Buddhist Temples in Pyeongchang Hills, like the Woljeongsa Temple.
Yeosu is by far one of the most picturesque places to visit in South Korea, especially at night. Famed for its marinas, flowers, beaches and seafood, it’s a booming destination and an international ocean resort. Selected as the host city for the 2012 World Expo, Yeosu has a plethora of goodies to offer to its visitors, such as the romantic marina cafes, the stunning sunset from Dolsan Bridge and Hallyeo Ocean Park.
Incheon, billed as one of the most popular places to visit in South Korea, is an expanding metropolis that portrayed a great role in the peninsula’s history. After all, it’s where Korea opened up to the rest of the world, ending hundreds of years of self-imposed isolation in 1883. Not to mention, it’s the place where the great Douglas MacArthur made a bold landing behind enemy lines, in 1950. And you can see fragments of its history all over Incheon, specifically in Open Port areas and the colorful Chinatown. Even better, there are plenty of cool and hip spots within the city as well, like Bupyeong, Arts Centre, Liberty Park and Jeondeungsa Temple.
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