The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia extending southwards for about 680 miles from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east, and the Yellow Sea to the west. It is divided into North and South Korea and this guide is for South Korea which is situated in the southern half of the peninsula. South Korea has a rich culture steeped in history, a quiet countryside and vibrant cities. South Korea is definitely a place to visit at least once in your lifetime. With so much to see and do, it can be quite overwhelming planning a trip to the ‘Land of the morning Calm’ but with this South Korea travel guide you can relax and vacation easily. So, without further ado, let’s head out and explore the peninsula of wonder!
The Namsan Seoul tower is a landmark that has truly become a multi-cultural venue and representative of Seoul. With a top that towers 1,575 feet above sea level, it is considered one of the tallest towers in East Asia. Originally established in 1969 as a radio and television broadcast tower, it has just been recently opened to the public. Opening the Namsan Seoul tower to the public made it the first tower-type tourism destination in Korea. We also can’t forget about the Observatory, Ssentoy Museum and Hello Kitty Island.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, or the northern palace, was built in 1395. It is the largest of all five palaces in South Korea and, arguably the most beautiful. Between 1592 and 1598, a period characterized by a Japanese invasion, the palace was destroyed in a fire. However, between 1852 and 1919, during the reign of King Gojong, and under the leadership of Heungseon Daewongun, the palace was restored. The Hyangwonjeong pond and the Gyeonghoeru pavilion have remained relatively unscathed and are remarkable structures that represent the Joseon Dynasty. Shrouded in history, it’s no wonder this is a major tourist attraction and the first stop on our list! Let’s see what else South Korea has to offer.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Our next stop in our South Korea travel is Bukchon Hanok Village. Bukchon translates into “northern village,” which is quite fitting since it sits surrounded by the ‘Northern Palace’ or Gyeongbokgung Palace, the Changdeokgung Palace and the Jongmyo Shrine. Bukchon Hanok village also acquires its name because it lies just north of two significant landmarks in Seoul: the Cheonggyecheon stream and Jongno which means Bell Street. Home to hundreds of traditional Korean houses, or ‘hanoks’, Bukchon Hanok village dates all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty. These hanoks, today, furnish visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in, and experience, traditional Korean culture. They operate as guest and tea houses, restaurants and cultural centers, preserving the atmosphere of the Joseon Dynasty. This 600+ year old urban village, with its narrow streets and alleyways primed for exploration, makes this the second stop on our list. Let’s keep exploring!
Our trip to South Korea wouldn’t be complete without stopping at the Everland resort. Nestled in dense hillsides approximately 25 miles or 40 kilometers south of Seoul in Yongin (A city in the Gyeonggi-do province) lies the massive Everland theme park. Everland Resort’s theme park is divided into five zones which house diverse attractions that everyone can enjoy. The resort also hosts several different themed festivals all year long. Everland’s five zones include European Adventure, American Adventure, Zootopia, Magic Land and Global Fair. It’s no wonder this theme park and resort was voted 16th in the world for amusement park attendance in 2014. With various festivals, themed areas and rides, Everland constantly, without failure, keeps its visitors entertained day after day. And although you may never want to leave Everland, it’s a safe bet that South Korea can never come up short in ‘wowing’ its tourists. So, let’s see where we are off to next.
Take A Boat from Seoul To Namiseom Island. What would this trip be if we didn’t stop and catch a ferry to the beautiful half-moon shaped island an hour away from the suburbs of Seoul? Namiseom Island’s half-moon shape was formed by the construction of the Cheongpyeong dam. The island also houses the grave of General Nami, who led his troops to victory against the rebels during the 13th year of King Sejo’s reign of the Joseon Dynasty between 1455 and 1468. This historic island is also famous for its beautiful tree-lined roads and underground cabling rather than above-ground telephone poles, which preserves the natural feel of the landscape. Aside from its history and beauty, there are several tourist attractions that are fun for couples as well as the whole family. If you’re looking for a thrill visit the island’s theme park or stop by the water sports facility if you’re up for a little water skiing. Now, aren’t you glad we caught the ferry? OK, we’re off to our next destination.
Lotte World Adventure
Yay! We just arrived at Lotte World Adventure! This place holds the Guinness World Record for the largest indoor theme park. It also has an outdoor amusement park aptly called ‘Magic Island’. Magic Island is an artificial island in the middle of a lake that is linked by a monorail. The island also provides luxury hotels, shopping malls, movie theaters and more. When they came up with the name of this wonderland, they weren’t kidding about the adventure! Now let’s see what other adventures await us on our trip to South Korea!
Mid-December through the end of February is peak ski season for South Korea. Its high altitudes, abundant snowfall, and well-developed ski resorts, make this country a great winter sports destination. It’s no wonder that South Korea is set to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. South Korea’s ski resorts have slopes for any skill level and offer common amenities such as walking trails, day spas, sled rides for children and gondolas. You can also ski any time day or night since many of the resorts offer night skiing with lit slopes.
Shopping : Myeongdong and Dongdaemun
Myeongdong and Dongdaemun are huge shopping districts full of shopping malls and department stores that sell top-end clothing, accessories and cosmetics. In both shopping districts visitors can find virtually every Korean and international cosmetic imaginable. Myeongdong is more tourist-friendly and has more upscale malls, whereas Dongdaemun furnishes better deals, but since they are only a stop away from each other you can have the best of both worlds.
Shows: COOKIN’ NANTA, BIBAP
Cookin’ Nanta is a non-verbal performance show that first premiered in 1997 in the Nanta Theater located in Seoul on Seodaemun by city hall. It’s a comically-charged 100-minute performance of four cooks who must prepare an entire wedding banquet in one hour. Cookin’ Nanta is not only one of Korea’s most popular musicals, but is also the longest running show in Korean history.
BIBAP is another non-verbal performance show that debuted in 2009. BIBAP is an extremely hilarious and entertaining show based on the Korean representative dish bibimbap, or rice mixed with beef and vegetables. Seeing that the performance is non-verbal, the performers imitate the sound of making bibimbap with beat-boxing and demonstrate their motions through martial arts, acrobatics and B-boying. Since its debut it has been well-received and accepted among global venues and food conferences and has been touted as a trailblazer of a new culture. Mixing cooking with martial arts, you are sure to be amazed!
While in Seoul stop by and visit one of their saunas, or jjimjilbangs. Although these saunas are places for peace, quiet and relaxation, they are progressively becoming social focal points for friends, families and couples. Beyond socialization, these saunas also provide detox options that span from anti-aging to purification. Seoul’s saunas are not only great for purification, relaxation and socialization but, also for entertainment. So, as we start to draw our trip to a conclusion, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stop by one of Seoul’s jjimjilbangs for a little rest and relaxation.
Before we pack up and head home, we have to touch on South Korean cuisine in order to leave home with a better understanding of the country’s culture. The best way to learn about Korea’s traditional food is to try making that food ourselves. Seoul offers a variety of cooking classes to its international guests to teach them how to make popular dishes. These popular dishes include bibimbap, royal cuisine and kimchi plus many others. The length of these classes varies depending on the dish or dishes being taught but most can be completed in a half-day or less. By signing up for one of the classes can make your trip to Korea that much more delicious and memorable!