South Korea Travel Guide
This lush, forested land on the mountainous Korean peninsula boasts ancient traditions next to world-class information technology. Koreans themselves are nature freaks and the many national parks provide plenty of opportunity to show off your latest adventure fashion outfit.
When to Go
South Korea is surprisingly cold for its location, so those who don’t like piling on the layers are well advised to visit from May to September. However, Korean winters have plenty of blue skies.
Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are mild and mostly dry, and are commonly considered the best times to visit.
In July and August, the rain combined with high temperatures of around 80°F can make things rather sticky.
Getting There & Away
Seoul is the main air hub and domestic flights are not really necessary due to the country’s small size. The coach network is fast, safe and on time, while trains reach most corners of the country with frequent services. Buses within cities are often packed and difficult to negotiate if you don’t speak Korean. Taxis are a good choice and cheap, but few drivers speak English.
Health & Safety
South Korea is a very safe travel destination, but watch out for illegal taxis. Many underground car parks exit directly onto sidewalks, but a revolving red light will usually warn you. The typhoon season is from June to August, which can bring heavy flooding in some parts.
Food & Hospitality
Not all dog and kimchi, Korean cuisine is lean and healthy, and meals are centered on rice and soup. Most restaurants specialize in one or two dishes such as pork restaurants, spicy chicken restaurants and cow knee soup restaurants. Korean motels are very reasonable and sleeping arrangements consist of a small mattress and a stiff pillow on the traditional hot floor-heating system. Hotels in Seoul are typically twice as expensive as elsewhere.
One week is the minimum time you can spend here to enjoy the highlights of this small country.
Four days taking in modern Seoul.
Two days visiting Gyeongju’s cultural treasures.
A daytrip to Korean Folk Village.
A few days hiking in Songnisan National Park.
A trip to Seongnamsa.
Seoul: is the bustling capital with serene temples, secret gardens and lots of fine museums.
Gyeongju: is an open-air museum featuring Silla culture and archaeology as well as the ruins of temples, tombs, shrines, palaces, castles and pleasure gardens.
Songnisan National Park: is central Korea’s top scenic spot and a magnet for hikers, with lots of first-rate walks. It is also home to one of Korea’s largest and most glorious temple sites.
Korean Folk Village: is set around a quiet river and is a real working village - not a tourist show, with a temple, a Confucian school and shrine, a market, storehouses, a bullock and cart, and represents traditional housing styles from all around the country.
Seongnamsa: is a visual work of art. Sublime interlocking stone path leads from the park entrance to the temple. There is a multi-storied pagoda surrounded by bamboo trees, and it is an easy daytrip from Busan.
Visit a monastery: temples and monasteries are now opening their doors to tourists. You can enroll in Buddhist retreats to practice silence, meditation and prayer.
Shopping: in Seoul, a shopper’s paradise, with huge markets offering anything from state-of-the-art electronics to calligraphy brushes.
Winter sports: are popular at the Alps Ski Resort, Odaesan National Park and the Dragon Valley (Yongpyong) area farther south.
Honeymooning: on the scenic resort island of Jeju-do, near the southwest coast. Climb the trail to the peak of Mount Hallasan, Korea’s highest mountain at 6,400ft.
Korean wrestling: is similar to Sumo wrestling and is a very popular spectator sport in Korea.