South Korea is an often overlooked Asian destination, situated right in the middle of huge tourist magnets China and Japan, but despite this it continues to grow in popularity year after year.
For anyone who has spent time in this fascinating and diverse country, this growth in visitor numbers is entirely understandable, as Korea is home to many truly incredible natural features, cities and landmarks.
It is impossible to visit South Korea without stopping in the countries huge and vibrant Capital city; all major international flights arrive here. The city itself has a great deal to offer visitors, who can witness first-hand the contrasts between traditional Korean culture and the fast pace of modern high-tech life. There are a number of impressive temples and historical sites spread across the city where you can explore Korea’s past, in addition to all the modern museums, shopping, dining and entertainment options you would expect from any major international city. Seoul is also surrounded by impressive mountain ranges, which offer some truly breath-taking views of the entire city, and can be easily climbed in an afternoon.
2. Jeju Island
One thing Korea is famous for is its abundance of surrounding islands. In fact, there are 3,358 officially recognised islands dotted all around the coastline — meaning you could visit a new one every single day and it would keep you busy for nine years!
The most famous, and largest of all Korea’s islands, is known as Jeju Island. Jeju Island offers visitors a great deal of natural beauty and a variety of things to see and do. Hikers will love the views from the countries tallest mountain Hallasan which stands 1,950 meters above sea level, while those in need of rest and relaxation can choose from a multitude of beaches and resorts offering a variety of spa treatments. There is even an adult theme park dedicated to sex!
There are a number of budget airlines offering cheap flights to Jeju Island from Seoul throughout the year so make sure to include a visit as part of your trip.
3. Seoraksan National Park
Situated towards the east coast, about 2 hours away from Seoul by train, is the stunning Seoraksan National Park. It is considered by many Koreans to be the most beautiful park in the country, and after enjoying one of its scenic and challenging hiking trails, visitors can recover by unwinding in one of the nearby hot springs.
Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom, is a beautiful city full of historical artifacts, including the tombs of the Silla Kings that lie underneath large grassy mounds. The area surrounding the city offers some charming views of the Korean countryside, and a number of traditional Buddhist temples and statues can be found amongst the leafy hills.
Busan is Korea’s second largest city and busiest port, and is a popular destination at all times of the year. Haeundae beach is bustling throughout the year, and the night-time view of the lit-up Gwangan Suspension Bridge is a truly beautiful sight.
Andong is a wonderfully picturesque town in which the traditional life style of ancient Korea lives on into the present day. You can witness the residents going about their daily lives just as they have for hundreds of years, in their traditional Korean houses known as Hanoks. The government strictly restricts modern development to help protect this beautiful historic area in its full glory. Queen Elizabeth II famously visited Andong for her 73rd birthday having requested to be taken to the most Korean place in Korea.
7. Korea National Arboretum
North of Seoul, in Gwangneung forest you can visit the National Arboretum, which is home to the mausoleum of King Sejo of the Chosun dynasty. Within this beautiful area there are 15 specialised plant gardens, a forest museum and a zoo. Remember to book in advance to see this lesser-known treasure, as visitor numbers are limited to avoid disruption to the plants and wildlife that thrive there.