Best of South Korea

A fine blend of rich tradition and rapid modernization, South Korea offers a unique destination for avid travellers around the globe. From sprawling urban landscapes to breathtaking natural sceneries, this peninsular country in East Asia envelops a host of experiences that cater to all kinds of interests. Here are the top 11 activities that reveal the best of what South Korea has to offer.

1. Wander Around the Grand Palaces of Seoul

Your Korean adventure would be incomplete without a visit to the grand palaces of Seoul. Especially the vibrant Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is the city’s largest and most spectacular. Donning the traditional Korean Hanbok (available for rent), witness the changing of the guard’s ceremony, which is a colourful and elaborate display mirroring the grandeur of the royal court.

2. Shop ‘Til You Drop in Myeongdong

Shopping enthusiasts will find a paradise in Myeongdong, Seoul’s bustling shopping district. From high-end global brands to local skincare and fashion labels, the choices are endless. Street stalls selling all varieties of trendy clothes, accessories, and cosmetics line the district. Make sure to sample the fantastic Korean street food options available here – from spicy rice cakes to sweet honey pancakes.

3. Discover the Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace

Located in the heart of Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace and its exquisite Secret Garden are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The garden, also known as Biwon, boasts mesmerizing pavilions, ponds, and an array of flora. It was an escape for the Joseon kings from royal life, and with a guided tour, you too can grasp the serenity hidden in this secret wonderland.

Image source

4. Explore the Folk Villages

Immerse yourself in South Korea’s long-held traditions by visiting the open-air folk museums dotted around the country. Wander through the historic houses in the Andong Hahoe Folk Village or step into a time capsule at the Hanok Village in Jeonju. Experience traditional tea ceremonies or craft-making workshops that offer an authentic plunge into Korean culture.

5. Seek adventure at Jeju Island

South Korea’s biggest island, Jeju, is often referred to as the ‘Hawaii of South Korea’ due to its glorious beaches, lush countryside, and volcanic landscapes. Climb up Mount Hallasan, trek through the Jeju Olle Trail, or explore the lava tubes at Manjanggul Cave. DO NOT miss out on witnessing the spectacle of Jeju’s Haenyeo – women divers gathering fresh sea-animals, that is a testament to the island’s unique matriarchal culture.

6. Delve into Korean Cuisine

Korean cuisine is flavorful and diverse. Take a cooking class or indulge in a food tour to explore the wide variety of Korean food. Feast on sizzling Korean BBQ, comfort yourself with Bibimbap—a bowl of mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables or challenge your taste buds with the spicy Kimchi. For an even more authentic culinary adventure, taste Soju, the popular Korean spirit.

7. Unwind at Korean Spas

Jjimjilbangs, or Korean spas, are an integral part of Korean culture and a must-experience. These public bathhouses provide hot tubs, showers, and kiln saunas for relaxation. They’re open 24 hours, reasonably priced and offer other amenities like entertainment rooms, restaurants, and sleeping quarters.

8. Take a Hike to Seoraksan National Park

South Korea’s most renowned national park — Seoraksan National Park — is a trekking paradise. Known for its stunning natural beauty, the park has remarkable granite peaks, clear streams, and abundant wildlife. Hike to the Ulsanbawi Rock for an impressive panoramic view of the park.

9. Volunteering in Korea

Volunteering encompasses a wide range of activities that make a positive impact on individuals and communities. It goes beyond mere participation; it’s about dedicating one’s time, skills, and energy towards a cause or group in need. Volunteers facilitate progress, touch lives, and contribute to societal well-being. Whether it’s assisting in local community centres, campaigning for environmental preservation, providing disaster relief, or lending a hand in education and health initiatives, the possibilities are endless. Volunteering also promotes personal growth, expanding perspectives, fostering empathy, building relationships, and enhancing skills. Treat yourself to a new experience by going on a wonderful volunteering abroad trip. Lastly, the sense of satisfaction and achievement it brings is unparalleled – knowing that you’ve made measurable changes helps cultivate a sense of purpose and fulfilment.

Image source

10. Visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Stretching across the Korean Peninsula, the DMZ is a 250-km long, 4-km-wide strip of land that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. Touring this area is a unique opportunity to learn about the history and political climate of the two Koreas.

11. Attend a Korean Festival

Plan your trip to coincide with one of the many Korean festivals like the Lotus Lantern Festival, the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, or the Boryeong Mud Festival. Engaging in these festivals offers a chance to celebrate and understand Korean culture in a fun and interactive way.

South Korea is a melting pot of the old and new. Its exciting blend of history, culture, cuisine, and modernity guarantees a rich array of experiences. So, plan your journey, pack your bags, and get ready to experience the best of South Korea through these top 10 activities. From the ultra-modern metropolis of Seoul to the serene landscapes of Jeju Island, every corner of this vibrant country is waiting to amaze you. South Korea promises a memorable experience that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.