Do you dream of the far East and in particular of this region that is nicknamed “The Land of the Morning Calm”? We have selected for you the 10 most beautiful places to visit in South Korea.
Situated in North-East Asia, at the same latitude as South Japan, South Korea is located on a peninsula, which it shares with its neighbour, North Korea. The partition between the two countries took place in 1953, following the Korean War, which pitted the South, supported by the United Nations, against the North, supported by China and the USSR. However, the two halves did not conclude a peace treaty and are still officially at war, although the conflict is latent. As a result, the Land of the Morning Calm can only be reached by sea or air.
We invite you to follow us to discover the most beautiful places to visit in South Korea.
1- The DMZ
The demilitarized zone that separates the two countries for 235 km has become a tourist attraction, especially since this No Man’s Land has been colonized by a flora and fauna of great interest. However, it can only be reached by an organized excursion, which will take you to visit the key points along the zone, without entering it.
From the observatories, you may have the chance to observe deer, which take advantage of this natural environment. There is also a more comprehensive tour, which includes the UN-run JSA (Joint Security Area) and takes you inside the area.
When you come to visit South Korea, it is important to know the broad outlines of its history. The charming town of Gyeongju, not far from the coast in the southeast, is perfect for soaking up Korean culture.
The city, which was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for 1,000 years, between 57 B.C. and 935 A.D., has preserved many vestiges of its glorious period. You can discover them during a walk in a green park with nearly 200 mounds, one of which has been cut out to house a small museum. A little further on, you can see one of the oldest astronomical observatories in the world, dating from the 7th century, and then the Donggung Palace, on the banks of the Anapji pond. Go there at the end of the day to enjoy the illuminations at dusk.
3- Andong and Hahoe
Another charming place to visit in South Korea is the city of Andong, located in the central-eastern part of the country.
First go to the top of the Buyongdae Cliff for a panoramic view of the village, then continue to Hahoe, a historic village dating back to the 14th century and remaining as it was then. What a sight this village is, nestled inside a meander of the river, surrounded by fields and mountains! In spring and autumn, it is illuminated by the colors of the flowers or those of the reddening leaves. Stroll through the narrow streets, enter the traditional houses that are still inhabited and enjoy colorful folklore parades.
It is difficult to visit South Korea without visiting Busan, the second largest city and important port. If the city is not globally attractive, it has at least two places that are worth the detour: Gamcheon, the cultural village, with narrow streets winding among brightly colored houses. The construction of this area dates back to the 1950s and everything has been thought out so that each house has an unobstructed view. Street art is very present, with a statue of the Little Prince contemplating the city.
At about 1 hour from Busan, it is absolutely necessary to walk on the coastal path of Igidae, between forest and indented coast. The hike starts at a sea bed observatory on the tiny Oryukdo Islands, then crosses a beautifully landscaped park, superbly laid out on a former military site, and then winds through the forest to end with a breathtaking view of the Gwangan Bridge.
On the south coast, Suncheon shines with its botanical garden and ecological bay. After the International Garden Expo 2013, the huge botanical park has retained many of the floral and landscape designs of the guest countries. This space was designed to represent the configuration of the city and from the top of one of the hills you can see the general view. The lake represents the urban area. In passing, admire the work of the gardeners, who pull the weeds out by hand…
At the end of the afternoon, take the monorail that leads to the bay, erected as a protected natural park. A long walk in the largest reedbed in the country will make you appreciate the calm of the place and enjoy the birds singing. At the end of the road, the sunset over the Yellow Sea rewards you for having walked here.
It is impossible to visit South Korea without getting to know one of Asia’s emblematic cultures! So, let’s discover the tea fields in Boseong, about 1 hour from Suncheon. Here, it is not only your sight that will be awakened, but also your sense of smell, with the delicious scent of tea leaves, gently rocked by the breeze. You will be amazed by the lush green hilly landscapes, sometimes highlighted by light mists. It is not without reason that this region is often used as a backdrop for Korean films.
Many plantations are open to the visit and are thus the object of a walk among fields and hills. You will also have the opportunity to visit a tea museum and taste the local specialties, based on green tea, of course.
Jeonju, 200 km southwest of the capital, is a stopover not to be missed. Plan traditional accommodation (hanok) in the old town, you will feel transported back in time. Your sleeping accommodation will be the traditional futon on the floor. You may need some explanations in order to install it properly, as you will find it folded, in order to free the space. It will be the occasion of a pleasant moment of sharing with your host.
In this unspoilt area, forbidden to cars during the day, you will wander between small traditional houses, historic buildings, museums – including one of the arts of calligraphy, and even a Catholic cathedral, founded by an Aveyronnais. Everywhere in the streets, you will be accompanied by young and old alike, wearing traditional dress. You can also try them on, they are for rent and this will allow you to enter the museums free of charge. The city is famous for its gastronomy (it is from here that the famous bibimbap comes from) everything here is gathered for the pleasure of the senses.
8- Seoraksan Park
To the northeast, in the mountains that were the setting for the 2018 Winter Olympics, is Seoraksan Park, considered the most beautiful park in the country. Here nature reigns supreme, as the park is protected. Choose one of the 15 hiking trails to discover the forest, cut-out rocks, waterfalls or temples along the way. Climb the Ulsanbawi, a rock composed of six peaks, the highest of which is 950 m.
The hike is a bit demanding, but you will be rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding valley. You can end the day at the nearby Sokcho beach.
9- Seonyudo or Sunyudo
This pretty string of islands, 2 hours from the capital, is an authentic and refreshing stopover after the hustle and bustle of the city. Accessible in one hour by ferry from the port of Gunsan, the small islands of Seonyudo, Munyeodo, Janjado and other Daejangdo are quickly explored on foot, and are an opportunity to observe fishermen at work, natural creeks, as well as a curious endemic tree: the rain tree. The perfect opportunity to taste raw fish, prepared in front of you and to admire a magnificent sunset. The best is to arrive by the afternoon ferry, to arrive when the excursionists have just left! Be careful not to confuse with Seoul’s Seonyudo Park when you prepare your itinerary…
Jeju Island is a paradise destination and one of the most popular places to visit in South Korea. Jeju Island is located 85 km south of the peninsula. Formed by several volcanic eruptions, it offers beautiful landscapes, numerous hiking opportunities and the benefits of a subtropical climate. However, by climbing Mount Hallasan, which peaks at 1950 m, you can also experience a subantarctic climate!
Another unusual experience in Jeju is Manjanggul Cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the longest lava cave in the world.
Of course, there is no way to visit South Korea without discovering the charms of the capital, Seoul. Of course, the megalopolis may seem difficult to apprehend at first glance, as it is so vast, but its centre is easy to visit and includes many attractive districts. The Royal Palaces cohabit without complex with the futuristic buildings and each street corner reveals new surprises.
The most popular and relaxing stroll is along the banks of the Cheonggyecheon, a river that has been freed from its concrete straitjacket to provide Seoulites with a breath of fresh air. Nearby, the pedestrian street in the traditional district of Insadong allows you to admire the small shops and art galleries at your leisure.