South Korea is a magical country that has been able to keep its culture, traditions and values alive while also becoming a economic powerhouse in Asia. The nation dazzles with remarkable scenery, islands, mountains and hills, but is also always in motion, from sunrise to sunset, with vibrant and busy city streets and hard working people.
South Korea has it all. If you're looking to party until the sun comes up or if you would rather be on a pristine beach on an island, the country has everything a tourist may be looking for. Check out the capital city of Seoul for its dynamic nightlife, night markets and modern architecture. Spend an entire day on the island of Jeju-do and explore the country's majestic Hallasan Mountain and its waterfalls. Get to know the nation's 5,000 years of history and culture by visiting one of the many stunning temples like the Darwonsa Temple, where you enter through the mouth of a colorful dragon.
If you are starting to plan your next vacation, why not add South Korea to your list? Here we've given travellers twenty reasons why they should make the Korean Peninsula a must see.
20 Exploring The Capital of Seoul
Seoul, South Korea's capital is Asia's third-largest economy and is a city that is booming with life. The city is made up of modern architecture, eclectic shopping, delicious food and high-tech subways, but you'll still find lovely palaces, stunning temples and even traditional hanok houses that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. It is a city that has been able to mix ancient traditions and new age technology. You'll find numerous street vendors, dynamic nightlife and karaoke. Seoul is packed full of things to do whether you want to visit a historic temple, go shopping at night markets or party with locals until the sun comes up.
19 Visit South Korea's Hawaii, The Island Of Jeju-Do
Going to Jeju Island is a way for travelers to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and see South Korea's natural wonders. Rising 6,400 feet is Hallasan Mountain, the country's tallest peak and volcano. You can even hike it all the way to the top and see stunning views, see the mystical White Deer Lake right in the volcanic crater and breathe in the clean mountain air. If you aren't into hiking, check out the islands pristine beaches waterfalls and rare lave-tube caves. The island is tourist friendly, with hotels and tons of attractions, so you'll always find someplace unique to explore here.
18 Visit The Strip Of Land That Seperates South Korea And North Korea
Don't be frightened by the soldiers standing guard the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula and serves as a buffer between North and South Korea. The area is actually a tourist magnet and welcomes more than 1.2 million people each year, who want to see the rather calm front line that former president Bill Clinton once called the "scariest place on Earth." U.S. travelers have been banned from visiting the North side so the South is their only option. However, unlike the North side, you can find a plethora of tour itineraries, observation towers, museums and even a theme park built in Imjingak Nuri Peace Park, just outside the DMZ, which seems a little strange with all the history that has taken place between these two nations.
17 Spend A Day At Everland
Visit South Korea's largest theme park called Everland where you'll find a handful of attractions like roller coasters, a safari, maze’s, dozens of rides and an exhibition of pandas. The theme park is located at the Everland resort in Yongin, a city in Gyeonggi-do and receives 7.3 million visitors annually. The park is rather large, with a zoo and water park called Caribbean Bay and themed areas like the European Adventures which includes many European style restaurants and American Adventure, which includes themes from American history and a western themed ride called the "Rodeo." If you want your blood pumping, go on the T Express, the country's highest, fastest, and longest roller coaster and its first wooden roller coaster.
16 Visit The Surreal Village Of Jeongdongjin
Jeongdongjin is a small village beach that is quiet and beautiful and probably most famous for the Sun Cruise Resort, designed in the image of a cruise ship that sits at the top of a large cliff. The area is relaxing and one of the most popular places to watch the sunrise. The sun rising over the ocean and outlining the train station and surrounding area makes this land picturesque and something "out of a fairytale." You can also find two retired nautical vessels, an American warship from the Korean War and a North Korean submarine.
15 Sample Local Dishes
We cannot mention the delicious food in South Korea. One of the best known Korean dishes is Bibimbap, a hot stone bowl filled with cooked rice topped with vegetables, pickled Chinese radish, carrot and mushrooms, with egg yolk and raw beef as popular additions. Another well-known treat is kimchi, a lacto-fermented Chinese leaf seasoned with chili. We also have to mention South Korea's traditional and extremely tasty barbeque, called Bulgogi, where beef, pork belly or chicken are marinated in soy sauce, sugar and pear juice, then cooked on a hot plate and is ready to eat.
14 Visit The Insadong District Of Seoul
The Insadong district of Seoul is a popular hotspot for tourists who want to see a mix of traditional Korean culture in a modern atmosphere. The area was once a famous street for Korean artisans going as far back as 1392. Today, Insadong is still a bustling market for tourists and locals alike who want to purchase locally made arts and crafts. If you're looking for a unique gift, then the markets in Insadong are definitely your best bet. There are also plenty of historic buildings including the Unhyeongung mansion, Jogyesa, one of the most significant Korean Buddhist temples, and one of the country's oldest Presbyterian churches.
13 Attend A K-Pop Concert
The K-Pop genre is growing in the United States, but there is no better place to watch a K-Pop concert than in South Korea. The genre refers to the pop music scene in the country, with its funky dances and catchy music. One of the most well-known and successful K-Pop musicians is Park Jae-sang, most famously known as Psy, who out "Gangnam Style" back in 2012. Another famous K-Pop group is the all male pop group known as Big Bang. The band is known for their dynamic rap and over-the-top fashion choices. The concerts are extremely lively, fun and will have you on your feet.
12 Visit The Island Of Ulleung-Do
Another enchanting island to travel to while in South Korea is the island of Ulleung-do. Take a hike up to a stunning waterfall where locals get their drinking water and breath in the fresh clean air. This mysterious island in the East Sea is a well-kept secret where you can also find yourself in a natural wind cave. The cave is the same temperature all year round and acts as a cooling stop before reaching the top of Bongnae waterfall. A bus trip will take visitors to the other side of the island where you'll get stunning scenic views and when arriving to Jeodong Port, don't miss the Coastal-walking trail.
11 Hike The Highest Mountain In Seoraksan National Park
You'll get the most fascinating sceneries of all of Korea while hiking in Seoraksan National Park. The park is home to Seroak-san (Snowy Peaks Mountain) the third highest mountain in South Korea. Within all the greenery and amazing natural wonders, you'll find two Buddhist temples, Sinheung-sa and Baekdam-sa. While hiking the area, you'll find yourself among dramatic peaks, deep valleys and dazzling waterfalls. Some of the best attractions in the park include the large bronze statue of Buddha at Sinheung-sa temple and a famous rock formation composed of six granite peaks called Ulsanbawi Rock. From Seoul, the park is about a three-hour car ride, so make a fun day trip here.
10 Walk Through Damyang Bamboo Forest
Walk through a serene and peaceful bamboo garden where some bamboo stalks reach over 20 meters tall. This bamboo forest is located in the small town of Damyang, just outside of Gwanaju. The forest is a 25 acre complex with hiking trails, pathways, man-made waterfalls and bamboo everywhere you look. It is a calming area and one of the most enchanting places in South Korea. After you've made your way through this forest, check out the two-story cafe and gift shop to find cool bamboo made toys and even try bamboo ice cream or tea. Walking the bamboo forest takes about one to two hours, so make it a lovely day trip and stop at one of the many restaurants and try daetongbap, a dish featuring rice and nuts cooked inside a bamboo stalk.
9 Ride The Hallyeosudo Cable Car
Hallyeosudo Cable Car is South Korea's longest cable car ride, stretching 1,975 meters, and offering stunning views of Hallyeo Maritime National Park. The cable car is located in Tongyeong and was designed with an eco-friendly manner, and is a great way to get around so that roads would not have to be built on this beautiful green land. The route goes along the wonderful coast, overlooking the ocean and the harbor. With the cars located on Mireuksan Mountain, visitors on the cable car can see South Korea's natural beauty, including the hisotrical venue for the Great Battle of Hansan, the national park, Japan's Daemado Island, Jirisan National Park's Cheonwangbong Peak, and Dolsando Island.
8 Visit Seoul's Five Ancient Palaces
Seoul is home to five royal palaces from the Chosun Dynasty. Each of these palaces has its own unique beauty and should be a must see for those who enjoy history and want to explore the culture of Seoul. Each of the awe inspiring buildings were made out of wood and feature a tile roof and multi-colored paintings on the pillars and rafters to show "the authority and dignity of the king." At Gyeongbok Palace, visitors can witness the royal guard changing ceremony in front of the main gate every hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. At Changdeok Palace, the back garden is a must see. The other three fascinating palaces include the Changgyeong Palace, Gyeonghui Palace and the Deoksu Palace.
7 Visit The Many Temples
South Korea has managed to keep its traditions while still modernizing their country. You'll find more than 900 Buddhist temples among high skyscrapers, where they offer a sense of calmness, meditation and relaxation. One of the must-see Buddhist temples is the Gagwonsa Temple in the city of Cheonan. Weighing 60 tons, a massive bronze Buddha greets its visitors at the top of 203 stairs at this temple. Devotees kneel on a platform in front of the statue or follow a ritual of walking around the Buddha three times while they pray. If you're in Seoul among the modern technology and tall buildings, find the Bongeunsa Temple tucked between these high rises, where it offers temple stays and where visitors can experience a daily monastic life.
6 Check Out A South Korean Baseball Game
Baseball is one of the most popular sports in South Korea. There are ten pro teams in the Korea Baseball Organization. American missionaries introduced the sport to the country in 1905 during the Korean Empire and after that, there have been numerous Korean baseball players that have made a big name for themselves. Baseball became extremely popular when pitcher Chan Ho Park made his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994. Since then, the KBO has seen many international wins, including placing second in the World Baseball Classic, winning the bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the gold medal against Cuba in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
5 Visit The Boseong Green Tea Fields
Take a day trip to the Boseong Tea Fields found in the South Jeolla Province of South Korea. The most famous tea field is the Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation where visitors can see the beautiful greenery, the curved lined row of tea fields found between trees and mountains and the lovely scent of green tea. The areas offer many hikes and the observation deck offers views of the well-groomed tea fields and even the sea on clear days. The hike through these lovely fields may take about two hours, depending on how often you stop to take photos. However, once you've finished walking through them, stop at one of the restaurants inside the ticket area for delicious Korean food and of course, hot or cold green tea and even green tea ice cream.
4 Visit The Natural Beauty Of Oedo Botania
Get away from the city for a day and discover the magical Oedo Botania Island found in the southern coast of South Korea, near Geoje Island. The little island is something you can't find anywhere else, with a fusion of European and Korean styles, manicured gardens and stunning tropical plants. One blogger wrote that the island was reminiscent of being in a "European Palace, Korean version of Hawaii and Alice in Wonderland, all at the same time." You'll find white classical statues, semi-tropical plants, twisted hedges and a stunning coastline. The island is open from sunrise to sunset, with just one small cafe, so make sure you get the last ferry before the sun goes down.
3 Step Into The Mouth Of A Dragon At Daewonsa Temple
There are hundreds of temples in South Korea, but Daewonsa Temple in Pohang features a large dragon, with its mouth wide open, that visitors must walk through to enter the temple's lower hall. It's unlike any other temple in the country with the dragon's body twisting roughly 330 feet through trees and bushes. According to Atlas Obscura, the dragon represents "good fortune, spiritual clarity, and in Buddhism, they are the protectors of the Buddha and the temples." The dragon also acts like a long and winding hallway, with religious statues and artwork all around that tell the story of Buddha. Apart of the colorful dragon, you'll find a fascinating main temple.
2 Step Inside Traditional Korean Houses In Jeonju Hanok Village
To see traditional Korean houses, make your way to Jeonju Hanok Village in the city of Jeonju, South Korea. There are over 800 traditional homes called "Hanok," which were first designed back in the 14th century, during the Joseon Dynasty. The lovely homes have become somewhat of a tourist attraction because they sit around a modern city. The village has a relaxed pace of life, but has numerous attractions such as Jeondong Catherdral, one of three Catholic Churches in the country and the Jeonju Hyanggyo, which was a Confucian temple and school for students during the Joseon Dynasty.
1 Visit The Port City Of Busan
The Port of Busan is the largest port city in South Korea and is the second largest city. There are numerous things to do in this port city that visitors should check out including, markets, temples, historical ruins, the Busan Tower, and of course, many wonderful sights like the seashore. If you make your way to the Busan Tower, the city's most well known landmark, you'll get amazing views of the city, water and land. There is also the Busan International Market that you can't miss, with vendors selling just about anything and everything imaginable. The area is also home to the world's largest department store, the Shinsegae in Centum City, surpassing Macy's in Herald Square, in New York City.