The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Korea

Plan the vacation of a lifetime in South Korea with Culture Trip
Plan the vacation of a lifetime in South Korea with Culture Trip | Y K / Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

With a totally unique culture, a truly ancient history and a vibrant, neon-lit present, South Korea is one of the most enriching destinations you can visit. Here is our complete guide to making the most out of travel in Korea.

Browse the full itinerary for our 10-day Soulful South Korea trip here.

Best time to visit South Korea

South Korea is a bit of a year-round destination but, with four very distinct seasons, it is worth considering what time is best for you. The most beautiful time of year to visit, and our personal favourite, is springtime. More specifically, cherry blossom season, when Korea’s city parks and rural landscapes explode with a pop of vibrant colour. Typically blooming takes place in late March and early April.

Shoulder seasons in general are probably the most well-rounded times to visit South Korea. Temperatures are pleasant but not too hot, springtime has cherry blossom but autumn also offers stunning fall foliage in October and November. Expect more crowds and higher costs in spring, so autumn is a good alternative, especially if you prefer auburn to pink.

Summer can get very hot and humid in Korea, while winter can easily drop to freezing and coat the landscape in snow. Neither of these variations are extreme enough to stop you from going. In fact if you’re planning more of a beach holiday then those summer months are perfect, while snow-capped Seoul takes on a totally different kind of beauty. Ultimately in comes down to personal preference, but if you’re schedule determines when you can visit South Korea, then don’t worry, this is a year-round destination for sure.

What to do in Seoul

South Korea’s capital is one of the most vibrant and atmospheric in all of Asia. The blending of ancient East Asian aesthetics with modern, neon-lit city skyscrapers is strangely seamless, and breathtakingly beautiful. It’s important to explore both sides of this city. The 600+ year-old Gyeongbokgung Palace is a sight to behold, particularly during the changing of the guard ceremony. Bukchon Hanok Village is an absolute must-visit. This historical area’s mazy streets and traditional houses are easy on the eye, while the city’s modern look occasionally pops its head up in the distance. Fully embrace tradition by renting Hanbok clothes and dining in a local establishment. On the modern side you can find everything you’d expect from a high-tech metropolis, including art, culture, shopping and incredible food – even interactive K-Pop installations. If there’s one thing you have to do in Seoul, it’s spending a night singing away in a neon-lit karaoke bar which, in some ways, perfectly blends the old with the new.

Nowhere blends the old and new quite like Seoul

DMZ tours

The Demilitarised Zone might just be the most sought-after attractions in Korea, such is the mythicised fascination people have with North Korea. The DMZ is a former highly-armed stretch of the border between north and south, which you can now explore for yourself. Catch a glimpse of North Korean villages from the Dora Observatory and get as close as 170m to the border in the spooky DMZ tunnels. It’s a truly fascinating experience, not to be missed when in South Korea, which inspires thoughts on the nation’s identity, the mystery of North Korea and the long, complex relationship between the two.

Beaches and seafood markets in Busan

South Korea’s second city is totally different but just as fascinating as Seoul. It’s a coastal city through and through, as well as being the historic port that connects Korea to Japan. The cable car ride up to Amnam Park offers truly breathtaking views of the coast, but the real joys of Busan are found on the ground, where we can dive head first into its extraordinary culinary scene. Be sure to sample some Busan Hotteok, a sweet pancake treat that any visitor to the city must try. Continue the foodie theme at Busan’s number one attraction, the famous Jagalchi Fish Market, where the city’s world renowned seafood scene begins. It’s pungent, but strolling through endless stalls stacked with catches of the day is the only way to understand the beating heart of Busan. Outside of culinary treats, main attractions include BIIF Square, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and the splendid Haeundae Beach, as well as the iconic naked bathhouse of Centum Spa Land, for those who don’t mind getting their kit off.

Temple stays in Korea

This is an ancient land with a long history in spirituality, especially Buddhism, and the best way to learn about this is to experience it first hand with a Korean temple stay. Not only does a night spent in an actual Buddhist temple offer incredible cultural insight and a potentially soul-warming spiritual experience, but it also often allows you to get masterclasses in meditation, martial arts, archery, vegetarian cooking and much more. We recommend looking at a stay in Golgulsa Temple, a stunning sixth-century mountainside site near Gyeongju, which offers one of the most authentic temple stay experiences around.

The ultimate South Korea trip

There is so much to see in South Korea and, in our totally unbiased opinion, the best way to see it is with an expert local guide. That’s the benefit of our comprehensive Soulful South Korea trip, which blends major cities, historic sights, national parks and a temple stay all into just 10 days. Logistics all planned out and taken care of. Just book your spot, join us in Seoul and get ready for the Korean adventure of a lifetime.

We’ll start in the capital, visiting all the aforementioned main attractions, including Bukchon Hanok Village and a top class karaoke bar. We’ll head out to the DMZ for a fascinating guided tour before continuing to the luscious Seoraksan National Park. We’ll hike amid forests, mountains and indigenous wildlife en route to the jagged peaks of Ulsanbawi Rock. We’ll also take the famous Gatbae Boat to Abai Village and the old lighthouse, before heading to Sokcho City’s amazing fish market.

The verdant peaks of Seoraksan National Park shouldn’t be missed on a trip to South Korea

Next up is a comprehensive cycling tour of Gyeongju, the former capital, followed by a traditional dinner in a Hanok village and a visit to Anapji Pond. On day six we’ll transfer to Golgulsa Temple for an immersive temple stay, featuring masterclasses in meditation and martial arts.

Then we head to Busan, where you’ll dine on local delicacies and ride the scenic cable car. Smell freshly caught seafood delights in Jagalchi Fish Market and sip soju on the beach before taking an optional trip to the naked bathhouse (if that’s your kind of thing). Before heading back to Seoul we’ll stop off in one of Korea’s most culturally rich cities, Jeonju, where you can walk along Jeonjuchun River and visit Nambu Market. We’ll sip beers at a local craft brewery and stay in a traditional Hanok village. Jeonju is also the birthplace of Korea’s most famous dish, Bibimbap, which we’ll gorge on during our tasty farewell dinner.

Sold on our Soulful South Korea tour? Browse the full itinerary and book your spot on a trip today!

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