South Korea is becoming an increasingly attractive travel destination for visitors from across the world. Rich with history, culture and tasty cuisine, the East Asian nation is also packed with beautiful scenery. The only question is; where to start? Here is our guide to the most picturesque towns and cities in South Korea.
You can visit Seoul, Busan, Gyeongju and more as part of Culture Trip’s 10-day epic adventure to South Korea – led by a Local Insider.
Damyang is located towards the southern tip of South Korea and is actually a small county containing a number of small towns and villages. Visitors flock to Damyang for its wealth of bamboo, including a bamboo theme park and a bamboo museum. Visitors can peruse bamboo kitchen supplies or other practical gifts, as well as taste unusual bamboo wine or ice cream. There are also a couple of nearby hiking opportunities around the mountains of Byeongungsan and Chuwolsan.
Off the northwest coast of South Korea, a couple of hours’ boat journey from the mainland, is Deokjeokdo, a small island famed for its relaxing beaches and hiking routes. The island is secluded but has a decent selection of hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. There are both sandy and pebble beaches and a beautiful pine forest where visitors can enjoy a shady walk. While there are many idyllic islands for visitors to choose from around the country, Deokjeokdo is a popular choice with those staying in Seoul, as it makes a perfect day trip from the city.
Busan is a popular destination for visitors as it boasts a mix of stunning beaches, city life and historic buildings. Busan is the second-largest city in South Korea, located on the southeastern corner of the mainland. Haeundae Beach is popular with Koreans from across the country as well as foreign visitors, although it can get busy; other quieter beaches include Daedepo or Songdo. The city itself is modern, cosmopolitan and fashionable. Busan is home to the world’s largest department store, traditional markets and sophisticated restaurants – foodies will love trying traditional South Korean dishes.
Jinhae is mostly visited for its annual spring cherry blossom festival, when the city’s cherry blossom trees are in full bloom for a short 10-day period before the petals start to fall. The best spot within the city to see the blossoms is by Gyeonghwa Station, where there is a mile-long stretch of trees. The festival also features cultural performances, art and parades; the event attracts more than two million visitors annually.
The cosmopolitan capital city of South Korea is constantly bustling and full of life, although there are some surprisingly tranquil and secluded spots to be found here. Seoul is modern, booming and full of restaurants and bars; but it also has a number of historic temples and other buildings, including the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, for fans of traditional architecture.
Located on the eastern coast of South Korea, Gyeongju is one of the country’s best towns to get a taste for traditional architecture and the history of the old ruling dynasty. The city is a Unesco World Heritage Site and top attractions here include the Bulguksa Temple, the Royal Tombs and the Gyeongju National Museum, which holds more than 16,000 artefacts.
Boseong is a small but picturesque county and the tea farming capital of South Korea. Visitors here can see traditional terraced farmlands dotted with local women handpicking the tea leaves. The green tea farmed in Boseong is known for its high quality, which has been developed over a 1,600-year history. As well as tea fields, the area is surrounded by an impressive mountainous landscape, with cedar trees that can reach a height of 20m (66ft).
Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is actually within the city of Seoul itself, but it’s a perfectly preserved village dating back 600 years to the Joseon Dynasty. Features include narrow streets and traditional one-storey homes with classic pagoda roofs. Today, very few people actually live in this area, but the buildings are used as traditional restaurants, guesthouses, tea houses and cultural centres, making it the perfect place to absorb the atmosphere of historic Korea.
Jeju is a semi-tropical island found just off the coast of the southernmost point of the South Korean mainland. It’s the largest island in the country and is also home to its tallest mountain, Hallasan, which is ideal for hiking and taking in views of the natural surroundings. At the top of the mountain is the crater of an extinct volcano, while the area is full of “lava tubes”, the rock formations left by receding lava from ancient eruptions. Jeju also boasts the picturesque Cheonjiyeon waterfall, plus there are plenty of beautiful, quiet beaches for those simply looking to relax.
Yeongam Gurim Village
As well as being an historic South Korean village, Gurim is also close to the Wolchulsan National Park. The national park is one of smallest and least well-known in the country, which makes it quiet and relatively free from tourists. The park reaches 800m (2,625ft) above sea level at its highest point, which makes for outstanding views of the area. Gurim Village is nearby and is famed for its old buildings and pottery.
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