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  • Luxury accommodation throughout
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  • Private transfers
  • Domestic flights
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At a glance

Discover South Korea in style on this privately guided journey through the nation’s rich history and culture, visiting fascinating cities and green Jeju Island.

Begin with four nights in the vast metropolis of Seoul, the capital, where you’ll be shown around grand royal palaces and ornate secret gardens, then led through bustling markets in search of the best Korean street food and handicrafts. Wander the streets of historic villages which stand in stark contrast to gleaming skyscrapers, the tallest of which you’ll venture up for an unmatched vista. You’ll also visit the Demilitarized Zone and a memorial to learn about the country’s recent history, as well as seeing how life was in the more distant past.

Next take a train across the peninsula to Gyeongju, once the centre of the ancient kingdom of Silla and today known as the ‘the museum without walls’ thanks to its proliferation of temples, tombs and pagodas. A short way south is Busan, Korea’s second city, home to the beautiful sea-side Haedong Yonggungsa temple, rainbow coloured Gamcheon village, some incredible food markets and an infectious buzz.

From here, fly out across the Korea Strait to Jeju Island for a final three nights. A dramatic landscape offering scenic hikes up volcanic cones, along tumbling coastlines and to idyllic waterfalls, it’s also home to cutting edge art galleries, its own unique culture and some delectable culinary specialities.

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-5

Seoul

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Seoul

Accommodation in Seoul

seoul-city-skyline-south-korea
Four nights in Seoul Four nights in Seoul

South Korea’s capital and by far its largest city with a metropolitan area home to over half the country’s entire population, Seoul is one of East Asia’s major centres of culture and commerce. A contrasting mix of bleeding edge technology and tradition, an incredible work ethic and serene Buddhist temples, utterly unique youth subcultures and conformity, it is a truly fascinating city.

Bisected by the Han River into the northern historic ‘Gangbuk’ and modern southern ‘Gangnum’ halves, Seoul is further divided into 25 districts, known as gu, each with an area and population comparable to a small city. With these each having their own centre, the whole metropolis has no true core, much like Los Angeles. Thankfully getting around is easy as Seoul enjoys an incredibly comprehensive, modern and genuinely pleasant metro system.

Sites to see include five major palaces, numerous temples and many museums. Food lovers will be spoilt with delectable street food, busy markets and great restaurants while numerous and vast nightlife districts play host to one of the liveliest city scenes in the world. Getting out of town, the surrounding mountains reward hikes with spectacular city views.

Changdeokgung Palace and Secret Garden Changdeokgung Palace and Secret Garden

Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1405. It was the principal palace for many of the Joseon kings and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces. The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden. Known as a place of rest for the kings, the rear garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond, and a pavilion. It is one of the historic attractions that represent the beauty of Korea.

bukchon-hanok-seoul-south-korea
Bukchon Hanok Village visit Bukchon Hanok Village visit

Surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine, Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional houses called hanok that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Today, many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses, providing visitors with an insight into Korean life here some 600 years ago.

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Insa-dong Art Street tour Insa-dong Art Street tour

Insa-dong, located in the heart of the city, is where you can find Korean art, crafts and antiques for sale. There is one main road in Insa-dong with alleys on each side. Within these alleys are galleries, traditional restaurants, tea houses and cafes. To keep the ambience, even international chains like Starbucks change their usual signage from English to Korean Hangeul.

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Gwangjang Market tour Gwangjang Market tour

Gwangjang Market is one of the Seoul's oldest street markets, an energetic place with some 5,000 independent stalls and shops selling food and clothing. It's also famous for its delicious Mung-bean pancake (Bindaetteok).

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Dongdaemun Design Plaza was built in 2014, designed by world famous architect Zaha Hadid. Also known simply as the DDP, it is is located in the center of the Dongdaemun area and has become the newest iconic landmark of Seoul after N Seoul Tower. Its sweeping neofuturistic shapes house large exhibition and art spaces, numerous shops and the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park which was made around historic remains uncovered during construction.

Korean Demilitarized Zone tour Korean Demilitarized Zone tour

Korea is the only divided country in the world. After the Korean War's Armistice of 1953 Korean War, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) were formally separated along an agreed line known as the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which roughly cuts the peninsula in half. Troops from either side moved their troops back 2000m (2200 yards) from this line, creating a 4km (2.5 mile) buffer area known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Large numbers of troops, including many from the US, are still stationed along the line which has seen numerous incidents over its history.

The DMZ itself, essentially devoid of people for decades, has become an accidental protected area with many endangered animals and plant species thriving between the barbwire fences, landmines and listening posts such as the red-crowned crane, the white-naped crane, and, potentially Siberian tiger, Amur leopard and Asiatic black bear.

War Memorial of Korea visit War Memorial of Korea visit

The War Memorial of Korea was opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters to exhibit and memorialize the the Korean conflict from from the perspective of the South. The memorial building has indoor exhibition rooms and an outdoor exhibition area displaying memorabilia and military equipment.

Korean Folk Village tour Korean Folk Village tour

The Korean Folk Village is a living museum where replicas of various historic and traditional houses have been reconstructed to show life and culture through the ages and different social classes in Korea's past. There are numerous performances on show such as of nongak farmer’s music, martial arts, horseback displays, dance, traditional wedding ceremony and more.

Lotte World Tower Seoul Sky observatory Lotte World Tower Seoul Sky observatory

The Lotte World Tower is South Korea's tallest and (currently) the world's fifth tallest building and its Seoul Sky observatory can be found spanning floors 117-123. The Sky Deck, located at 478m, hold the Guinness World Record as the highest glass-floored observatory in the world and offers an uninterrupted view of the city, beautiful both day and night, through two story-high glass windows.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to the train station

Transfer

Korea Train Express to Gyeongju

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Days 5-6

Gyeongju

Accommodation in Gyeongju

gyeongju-district-south-korea
One night in Gyeongju One night in Gyeongju

Once the capital of the great Silla kingdom which ruled much of the Korean Peninsula between 57 BC and 935 AD, Gyeongju was at its height one of the largest cities on earth.

Known as ‘the museum without walls’, the city Gyeongju is strewn with historic temples, tombs, pagodas and statues. Some of the most notable remains are the 8th-century Bulguksa Temple and nearby Seokguram Grotto – the latter of which contains one of the finest Buddhist sculptures in the world – the earthen mound tombs in Tumuli Park and a number of preserved fortresses and palaces.

Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto tour Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto tour

Built in the 8th century on the slopes of Mount Toham, Bulguksa is a Buddhist temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains a number of Korea's most revered national treasures. The grounds are designed to represent the land of Budda with three areas – Birojeon (the Vairocana Buddha Hall), Daeungjeon (the Hall of Great Enlightenment) and Geungnakjeon (the Hall of Supreme Bliss) – along with stone terraces, bridges and pagodas which show the incredible masonry skills of the time.

Close by is the Seokguram Grotto, built in the same period as Bulguksa, which contains a monumental statue of the Buddha surrounded by realistic depictions of gods, Bodhisattvas and disciples, and is considered a masterpiece of Buddhist art in the Far East.

sunset-tumuli-south-korea
Daereungwon Tomb Complex and Cheomseongdae Observatory tour Daereungwon Tomb Complex and Cheomseongdae Observatory tour

A number of larges, ancient burial mounds of kings and noblemen of the Silla Kingdom can be seen around Gyeongju at the Daereungwon Tomb Complex. The most famous of these is Cheonmachong which was excavated in 1973. Found to contain a lacquered wooden coffin with burial goods placed around it, over 11,500 artifacts were recovered from the tomb. The name of the tomb, translating to 'Heavenly Horse Tomb', derives from a famous painting of a white horse found on a birch bark saddle flap.

Dating to the 7th century, Cheomseongdae Observatory is the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia. Constructed from 362 pieces of cut granite during the reign of Queen Seondeok, it was used for observing the stars in order to forecast the weather.

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond

Gyeongju Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond was the secondary palace site which was used by the crown prince. It also served as a banquet site for important national events and important visitors. After the fall of the Silla dynasty, the site was abandoned and forgotten. The pond was referred to as Anapji during the Goryeo and Joseon period. In the 1980s, pottery fragment with letters Wolji (a pond that reflects the moon) carved onto it was found, revealing the true name of the pond. After the discovery, the site was renamed to the current Donggung Palace and
Wolji Pond.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Busan

Days 6-8

Busan

Accommodation in Busan

Two nights in Busan Two nights in Busan

Busan is South Korea's second-most populous city after Seoul, and is the economic and cultural centre of southeastern Korea. Its port is among the world's busiest and this energy can be found on its streets where gleaming high-rises fill the gaps between green mountains and the beach while elegant bridges span across the sea. There's an energetic restaurant and nightlife scene, thronging fish markets and some scenic hikes, it is a fascinating city where you can see many sides of modern Korean life.

Haedong Yonggungsa temple tour Haedong Yonggungsa temple tour

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is scenically situated on the coast of the north-east of Busan. First built in 1376 by the great Buddhist teacher known as Naong during the Goryeo Dynasty, it was destroyed during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) and rebuilt in the 1930s and is now a popular attraction especially on Buddha's Birthday celebrations when the complex is decorated with paper lanterns.

Nurimaru APEC House visit Nurimaru APEC House visit

Created by combining the Korean words nuri (“world”) and maru (“summit”), the Nurimaru APEC House was the venue for 2005's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. Today, its peaceful location and gardens make for a pleasant walk with scenic views to the city.

Gamcheon culture village Gamcheon culture village

Gamcheon is a beautiful village of brightly coloured houses built in staircase-fashion on the foothills of a coastal mountain. The many alleys cutting through this community are vibrantly decorated with murals and sculptures created by the residents, among which you can find a small museum, art shops, tea rooms and workshops.

Gukje Market tour Gukje Market tour

One of the largest markets in Korea, Gukje sells everything from souvenirs and electronics to meat and fruit. There are also numerous food stalls.

jagalchi-fish-market-busan-south-korea
Jagalchi Fish Market tour Jagalchi Fish Market tour

Jagalchi Market, located by the sea across from Yeongdo-gu Island, famous across the country, selling both live, fresh caught and dried fish. Most of the people who sell fish are women, so the vendors here are called Jagalchi Ajumma, 'ajumma' meaning middle-aged or married woman in Korean.

UN Memorial Cemetery visit UN Memorial Cemetery visit

The UN Memorial Cemetery in Korea honors UN soldiers from 16 countries and UN aids from five countries that were killed in battle during the Korean War from 1950-1953. This serene park spreads across a grassy plain area of 135,000 square meters. Some notable sites and memorials include: Memorial Service Hall, Memorabilia Hall, two Turkish Monuments, Greek Monument, Australian Monument, British Common Wealth Monument and two ponds. The Memorial Service Hall and the Memorabilia Hall were constructed in 1964 and 1968 respectively. The citizens of Busan dedicated the Main Gate in 1966. There are many annual events held here such as April’s Tributary Ceremony of the Veterans of the Korean War, May’s American Memorial Day, June’s Korean Memorial Day, and October’s UN Ceremony Day.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Busan airport

Flight

Flight from Busan to Jeju Island

Days 8-11

Jeju Island

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

Accommodation in Jeju Island

Three nights on Jeju Island Three nights on Jeju Island

The largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju is dominated by Hallasan, the volcano from which it was formed and the highest mountain in South Korea.

Sloping down through rich forests past villages built from black volcanic rock and the famous dol hareubang grandfather statues carved from basalt, the island’s coastline is a dramatic place of rugged cliffs, waterfalls and beaches, at its most beautiful when carpeted in wildflowers. You’ll also find some impressive temples and lava tubes in between.

Another major draw for visitors here (of which there are many, Jeju is the top honeymoon spot for newlywed Koreans and the air route between Seoul and the island is the busiest in the world) is the food. Along with fresh fish, Jeju is famous for its seafood, much of which is hand caught by the haeyno women who dive for clams, abalone, octopus, squid and seaweed with no breathing apparatus.

sunrise-jeju-island-south-korea
Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak sunrise hike Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak sunrise hike

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption just years ago creating a round bowl-like crater with dramatic cliffs tumbling down to the sea. A ridge connects the peak to the village in the north, provides an ideal spot for walks up to the crater rim and is especially scenic as the sun rises.

Seopjikoji hike Seopjikoji hike

​​​​​​​Seopjikoji is located at the east coast of Jeju. You can find Sinyang Sandy Beach at the entrance, while the end will let you see the traditional beauties of Jeju, such as a vast land filled with canola flowers growing on the hill, Jeju donkies grazing peacefully, beautiful rock cliffs with Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak rising up in the background.

Yumin Art Nouveau Collection tour Yumin Art Nouveau Collection tour

The Yumin Art Nouveau Collection is a collection of glass gathered by Yumin Hong Jin-gi by leading French Art Nouveau artists including Emile Gallé, Daum, Eugène Michel, René and Lalique. The building housing the collection, the work of Osaka-based Japanese architect Ando Tadao, is itself a piece of art.

cheonjeyeon-waterfall-jeju-island-south-korea
Cheonjiyeon Waterfall tour Cheonjiyeon Waterfall tour

The water at Cheonjiyeon Falls, meaning "sky connected with land," appears to fall from the heavens, giving the falls its name. Reach the falls by walking along a path through subtropical forest where you'll hear the water before you see it as it flows over the 22m (72 foot) drop.

Bonte Museum visit Bonte Museum visit

The Bonte Museum, designed by world-renowned architect Tadao Ando, aims to explore the beauty of Korea's traditional and contemporary crafts, from simple wooden furniture to ornate artwork. There's also a permanent display Yayoi Kusama’s works, Pumpkin and Infinity Mirrored Room - Gleaming Lights of the Souls, a sculpture garden and an exciting, and an ever changing programme of exhibitions.

Seongeup Folk Village visit Seongeup Folk Village visit

Seongeup Folk Village shows the unique culture and characteristics of of Jeju Island such as the black lava rock walls, the straight but curvy alleys to block the wind and the stone grandfather statues (Harubang). Though it can be considered a folk village of sorts, it differs from regular folk villages in that people still live in it to this day.

O'Sulloc Tea Museum visit O'Sulloc Tea Museum visit

O'Sulloc Tea Museum, located next to O'sulloc's Seogwang Tea Planation in Jeju, celebrates the teas and traditional tea culture of Korea. The museum is a cultural space where the West and the East, and modernity and tradition, coexist in harmony. The museum has a tea gallery and cafe where visitors can enjoy a variety of tasty tea-based desserts.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Jeju airport

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