South Korea Travel Guide
Embark on a journey to South Korea, a land of ancient traditions, cutting-edge technology, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture. This peninsular nation offers a harmonious blend of old and new, where towering skyscrapers and historic palaces coexist.
From the serene temples and scenic mountains to bustling cities and delicious cuisine, South Korea provides a plethora of experiences that cater to nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and urban explorers alike. Dive into the heart of Asia, and discover a country that takes pride in its past while embracing the future with open arms.
Capital city: Seoul
Currency: South Korean Won – 1 USD = 1360 KRW.
Electricity: Power voltage is 220 Volts. Power sockets type C and F.
Languages: The official and widely spoken language is Korean, slightly different from the Korean spoken in North Korea.
10 Handpicked Highlights of South Korea
Discover the enchanting beauty of Jeju Island, a volcanic island brimming with lush landscapes, pristine beaches, and unique geological formations. The island’s crowning glory, Hallasan Mountain, invites hikers to explore its scenic trails, leading to a stunning crater lake at the summit.
Surrounding the mountain, vibrant wildflowers and a variety of wildlife create a picturesque setting. Jeju’s coastline also offers mesmerizing views, with the iconic Jeongbang Waterfall plunging directly into the ocean, and the mysterious Manjanggul Lava Tube showcasing nature’s underground artistry.
Seoraksan National Park
Embrace the great outdoors at Seoraksan National Park, a haven for hikers, nature lovers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The park is home to Seoraksan, the third-highest mountain in South Korea, providing challenging trails and rewarding panoramic views.
Venture through dense forests, past cascading waterfalls, and up rugged peaks. Along the way, keep an eye out for ancient temples, such as Sinheungsa, which add a touch of cultural intrigue to the natural splendor of the park.
Step back in time in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty, where history comes alive. Explore Bulguksa Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and marvel at the intricate architecture and serene atmosphere.
Nearby, the Seokguram Grotto houses a majestic statue of Buddha, surrounded by guardian deities. Beyond these historical treasures, Gyeongju’s landscape is dotted with royal tombs, palaces, and the beautiful Anapji Pond, offering a tranquil retreat amidst the city’s rich past.
Bukhansan National Park
Experience the natural beauty of Bukhansan National Park, a rugged oasis located on the outskirts of Seoul. The park boasts an extensive network of trails, leading adventurers through dense forests, across rocky ridges, and up to impressive peaks.
The stunning views of Seoul from the summit of Bukhansan Mountain are a rewarding sight, especially during sunrise or sunset. The park also holds cultural gems, such as the Bukhansanseong Fortress and numerous Buddhist temples, creating a harmonious blend of nature and history.
Discover the vibrant city of Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, known for its scenic coastline, bustling markets, and modern architecture. Haeundae Beach is a must-visit, offering a wide expanse of sand, a lively atmosphere, and stunning ocean views.
For a taste of nature within the city, head to Dongbaekseom Island, where walking paths wind through lush greenery and along the rocky coastline. Don’t miss the Gamcheon Culture Village, a colorful hillside community with art installations, charming alleys, and panoramic views of the city.
DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)
Gain insight into the complex history of the Korean Peninsula with a visit to the DMZ, the buffer zone between North and South Korea. Guided tours provide a sobering and educational experience, showcasing the reality of the divided nations.
Attractions within the DMZ include the Third Infiltration Tunnel, discovered in 1978, and the Dora Observatory, where visitors can catch a glimpse of North Korea through binoculars. The experience is a stark reminder of the ongoing quest for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
Experience the enchanting atmosphere of Nami Island, a small island located in the Han River. Famous for its tree-lined avenues and picturesque landscapes, the island offers a peaceful escape from the city.
Explore on foot or rent a bicycle to navigate the charming paths, and don’t miss the iconic Metasequoia Lane, a stunning avenue of towering trees. Throughout the year, Nami Island hosts various cultural events and festivals, adding to its allure as a destination for nature lovers and romantics alike.
Andong Hahoe Folk Village
Immerse yourself in Korean culture at Andong Hahoe Folk Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the architecture and traditions of the Joseon Dynasty.
Stroll through the historic village, exploring traditional hanok houses, and learn about the ancient mask dance drama, a unique aspect of Hahoe’s heritage. The surrounding landscape, with the Nakdong River curving around the village and the lush mountains in the distance, creates a picturesque setting that transports visitors back in time.
Jeonju Hanok Village
Discover the charm of Jeonju Hanok Village, a historic area that showcases traditional Korean architecture and culture. Wander through narrow lanes lined with hanok houses, many of which have been converted into guesthouses, teahouses, and artisan shops.
Jeonju is also known as the birthplace of bibimbap, and foodies will delight in the opportunity to savor this iconic dish in its hometown. The village is not only a feast for the senses but also provides insight into Korea’s rich heritage and the ongoing efforts to preserve it.
Explore Chuncheon, a city surrounded by lakes and mountains, offering a variety of outdoor adventures. Take a boat ride on the serene Soyang Lake, or hike up to the Gwongeumseong Fortress for panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Chuncheon is also famous for its dakgalbi, spicy stir-fried chicken, which is a must-try for culinary enthusiasts. With its natural beauty, recreational activities, and vibrant food scene, Chuncheon provides a refreshing getaway in the heart of Korea’s countryside.
South Korea's Geography & Landscapes
South Korea is a country with a rich diversity of geographic features, stretching across the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. From mountain ranges and coastal plains to islands and rolling hills, the landscapes are as diverse as they are stunning.
- Mountainous Regions: Approximately 70% of South Korea is mountainous. The Taebaek Mountains run along the eastern edge of the peninsula, home to some of the country’s highest peaks, including Seoraksan and Jirisan. In the north, the Sobaek Mountains host beautiful scenery and ancient temples.
- Coastal Plains: The western and southern coasts of South Korea feature wide plains, which are major areas for agriculture. These plains are also home to the majority of South Korea’s population, with major cities like Seoul and Busan situated in these regions.
- Rivers and Lakes: South Korea has numerous rivers, the largest being the Han River flowing through the capital, Seoul. There are also several sizable lakes, with the most notable being Chungju Lake, created by the Chungju Dam.
- Islands: South Korea boasts around 3,000 islands off its coasts, with Jeju Island being the largest and most famous. These islands add to the country’s diverse landscapes, offering everything from volcanic peaks to tranquil beaches.
- Urban Areas: South Korea is highly urbanized, with bustling cities surrounded by skyscrapers, yet these urban areas are often juxtaposed with pockets of green parks and historical sites.
Best Time To Go To South Korea
South Korea experiences four distinct seasons, each offering unique experiences and scenery.
- Spring (April to June): Spring is arguably the best time to visit South Korea, as the weather is warm and sunny, and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Popular activities include attending cherry blossom festivals and exploring the countryside, adorned with colorful flowers.
- Summer (July to August): Summer in South Korea is hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). It’s also the monsoon season, resulting in heavy rainfall, particularly in July. While it may not be the most comfortable time to visit, summer brings lush greenery and vibrant festivals.
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another great time to visit, with mild temperatures and clear skies. The foliage transforms into vibrant shades of red and orange, creating stunning landscapes. It’s a popular time for hiking and exploring the country’s national parks.
- Winter (December to March): Winters are cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing, especially in the northern regions. However, this is the perfect time for winter sports, as South Korea has numerous ski resorts. The country also hosts unique winter festivals, offering travelers a different perspective of its beauty.
The best time to visit South Korea ultimately depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek. Spring and autumn offer pleasant weather and stunning natural scenery, making them the most popular seasons for tourism. However, winter and summer also have their own unique charms and attractions, providing options for travelers year-round.
Traveling in South Korea
South Korea is renowned for its safety, with low crime rates and a generally secure environment for both residents and travelers. However, like any destination, it’s important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
- Be Mindful of Traffic: While pedestrian safety is generally good, always pay attention when crossing roads, and adhere to traffic signals.
- Secure Your Belongings: Keep your valuables secure and be mindful of your belongings, especially in crowded areas and public transportation.
- Avoid Political Demonstrations: Political demonstrations can occur, particularly in Seoul. While these are generally peaceful, it’s best to avoid them as a precaution.
- Respect Local Laws and Customs: Familiarize yourself with and respect South Korean laws and customs to ensure a trouble-free journey.
- Be Cautious at Night: Although South Korea has a vibrant nightlife, remain cautious, particularly if traveling alone at night.
- Stay Hydrated and Protect Yourself from the Sun: The summers can be hot and humid; stay hydrated and use sun protection.
- Be Aware of Air Quality: South Korea can experience poor air quality days, particularly in spring. Keep track of air quality reports, especially if you have respiratory issues.
- Practice Safe Eating Habits: South Korean food is generally safe, but it’s always a good idea to eat at reputable establishments and ensure food is properly cooked.
- Emergency Services: Familiarize yourself with local emergency numbers (such as 119 for fire and ambulance, and 112 for police).
- Travel Insurance: Always have comprehensive travel insurance that covers potential activities and medical treatment.
Getting to & Around South Korea
Getting to and around South Korea is convenient, thanks to a well-developed and efficient transportation network.
- Air Travel: Incheon International Airport in Seoul is the main international gateway, while there are several other international and domestic airports across the country, including Gimpo International Airport (also in Seoul), Busan’s Gimhae International Airport, and Jeju International Airport.
- Train: The Korea Train Express (KTX) offers fast and reliable service between major cities, with the journey from Seoul to Busan taking around 2.5 hours. There are also numerous regional trains.
- Buses: South Korea has an extensive intercity bus network, making it easy to reach even remote areas.
- Subways and Buses in Cities: Major cities like Seoul and Busan have extensive subway systems, complemented by extensive bus networks.
- Taxis: Taxis are readily available, affordable, and generally reliable, though not all drivers speak English.
- Ferries: There are ferry services to various islands, including a ferry from the mainland to Jeju Island.
- Car Rental: Renting a car is an option, but be aware that driving in South Korea can be challenging due to traffic and different road rules.
South Korea offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences. From luxurious five-star hotels in major cities and popular tourist areas to budget guesthouses and hostels, there’s something for everyone. Traditional Hanok stays are available for those wanting a unique Korean experience.
Prices vary significantly depending on the location and type of accommodation, but in general, South Korea offers good value for money. The level of comfort and amenities is generally high, and you’ll find that even budget options are clean and well-maintained. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.