Complete South Korea
A luxury introduction to the cities, culture and history of South Korea
Personalised journeys from start to finish
Save an acre of rainforest each time you travel
Every detail taken care of
- Luxury accommodation throughout
- Private tours with an English speaking guide
- Private transfers
- Domestic flights
- Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
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
Private transfer to your hotel in Seoul
Accommodation in Seoul
- 185 guestrooms including 38 suites
- Three restaurants
- 24th floor infinity pool
- Spa & Fitness Centre
In Seoul’s exclusive Gangnam District, the Park Hyatt’s towering glass structure encloses a thoroughly modern and understatedly elegant city hotel. It has an unmistakably Korean soul, littered as it is with select Korean antiques and works by local artists. There are a grand total of 185 guestrooms including 38 suites, the generous space maximised by the floor to ceiling windows and incredible city views in every room. Bathrooms don’t scrimp on size either with deep soaking baths and a rain shower. A particular highlight of the hotel is the 24th floor infinity pool with expansive vistas best at sunset. There’s also a modern fitness studio and spa. The Park Hyatt Seoul has three dining options; Cornerstone, an open kitchen restaurant specializing in grilled meats and seafood prepared in wood-burning ovens, the 24th floor Lounge’s Korean dishes and light snacks, and the Timber House, with its three bars (Sake/Soju/Sushi, Whisky and Cocktails) and exquisite Japanese cuisine.
- 317 rooms
- Seven restaurants and bars
- Swimming pool
- Golf simulator
Located in the heart of Seoul, the Four Seasons is a luxury five-star hotel perfectly positioned to allow guests to soak up the energy of this vibrant city. The hotel decor is a mix of old and new. Its 317 rooms and suites combine classic Korean motifs with a clean, modern aesthetic. Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure rooms are filled with natual light, and offer incredible views out over the city towards the mountains in the distance. Eating and drinking at the hotel is a real treat, with seven restaurants and bars to choose from. Enjoy sushi and Japanese sharing plates at Kioku, Italian cuisine served straight from the open kitchen of Boccalino, Korean favourites at Maru, or Cantonese at the Michelin-starred Yu Yuan. Indulge in a treatment in the spa, unwind in the Korean sauna, work out in the gym or take a dip in the indoor swimming pool. There is also a golf simulator where five 3D screens display courses from around the world and state-of-the-art technology means you can analyse swing and posture without having to step foot outside.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Private transfer to the train station
Korea Train Express to Gyeongju
Private transfer to your hotel
Accommodation in Gyeongju
- 330 rooms
- Restaurants and bars
- Swimming pool
- Fitness room
- Jogging track
Hilton Gyeongju is located by Lake Bomun, surrounded by mountains but just 20 minutes from downtown. There are 330 rooms and suites, spacious and bright with large windows and marble bathrooms. Most come with a balcony overlooking the lake. Guests are spoiled for choice when it comes to eating and drinking with six restaurants and bars on site. Enjoy Italian cuisine at Da Vinci which overlooks the hotel gardens, sushi and Japanese cuisine at Genji, or Cantonese and Sichuan at Silkroad. There is also a cocktail lounge on the 9th floor, a lobby lounge and a poolside bar. When you’re not out exploring, take some time to enjoy the fitness room, swimming pool, jogging track and bikes that are available for guests to use.
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.
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.
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.
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
Private transfer to Busan
Accommodation in Busan
Park Hyatt Busan is located in the heart of the city’s upmarket shopping and beach district and has everything you need for a luxurious, five-star stay. The hotel is deigned to look like a wave, fitting given its position on the tip of the Korean Peninsula. Inside are 269 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the ocean and the Gwangan Bridge. Blonde wood and a neutral colour scheme create a light and calm space. The Dining Room is the hotel’s grill and sushi restaurant, while the Living Room offers modern French cuisine. There is also a patisserie offering a selection of delicious sweet treats, as well as a lounge on the 30th floor where you can drink in the incredible cityscape views. For unwinding, there is an indoor swimming pool, sauna, spa, fitness room and golf simulator.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Private transfer to Busan airport
Flight from Busan to Jeju Island
Private transfer to your hotel
Accommodation in Jeju Island
- 429 rooms and suites
- Restaurants and bars
- Fitness centre
- Three swimming pools
Shilla Jeju is a resort hotel located on the island of Jeju, just 50 minutes from the airport. There are 429 bright and spacious rooms with mountain or ocean views. Decor is simple but elegant, with light colours and splashes pf pastel. There are several restaurants to choose from, serving everything from Korean and Japanese to Mediterranean. There are also three bars as well as a pastry boutique. There are two outdoor swimming pools with cabanas – one for adults and one for families – as well as one indoor pool. For those that like to stay active while on holiday, there is a fitness centre and tennis courts, while those looking to unwind will find all they need at the Guerlain spa.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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, 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.
Private transfer to Jeju airport
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Complete South Korea
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We create fully personalised trips from start to finish, working with you to pick locations, accommodation and guides that suit you.
Each time you travel with us, you preserve an acre of precious rainforest through our partnerships.
From in-depth private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your journey.