This post is also available in: FR
South Korea offers a variety of activities, landscapes, flavours, it is a destination that is part of my bucket list!
Jean-Maximilien discovered it, but we would like to return with our children. There are so many things to discover. To prepare this guide, I asked Sky SEO from Danim Travel agency to give me her best recommendations.
You can listen to the interview between Sky and Jean-Maximilien in our Reward-You Podcast:
Ease of sanitary measures on April 1, 2022
South Korea is finally ready to welcome fully vaccinated travellers. Before you come, you will need to:
- have completed the online Q-Code form,
- apply for an electronic travel authorization (K-ETA)
- and perform a PCR test 48 hours before your departure. The result should be recorded in the Q-Code system.
What to see in South Korea?
South Korea can be visited at any time of the year. It’s up to you to choose your favourite season!
Spring is the ideal time to enjoy outdoor activities and festivals celebrating the flowering season, while summer is the time for beach entertainment, concerts, fireworks and water sports.
In autumn, visitors are invited to walk in the forest and discover the Mindungsan Mountains and the Yeongnam Alps. Winter sports enthusiasts and professionals can enjoy skiing and snowboarding or participate in ice fishing and hiking activities in winter.
Seoul’s capital is a must-see in South Korea and is usually the country’s point of arrival or departure.
Seoul is an entertaining city at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, teeming with shops, galleries, and revamped traditional houses, which can be seen in Samcheong-dong, Seochon Village, and the narrow streets of Ikseon-dong. The “Newtro” (for New and Retro) streets are everywhere. It’s a must-see.
In Seoul, go to the National Museum of Korea, the Jogyesa temple located in the city’s heart in the traditional district Insadong. It is the main temple of the Jogye order, the representative order of Korean Buddhism.
Don’t miss the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a center of design and modern culture, to discover its temporary exhibitions of all kinds, its flea markets (depending on the season), or see the Seoul Fashion Week, which occurs twice a year. A visit to this center is worth it just for its futuristic architecture designed by the British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.
Go and admire the Gyeongbokgung palace, the first palace of the Joseon dynasty, which remains one of the most beautiful and largest. You can also visit some palaces at night.
The changing of the guard ceremony is a tradition to see, which has been preserved with the opening of the gates of Gyeongbokgung Palace by the royal guards.
Taste its colourful and tasty cuisine with, among others, its bibimpap, its homemade beer, its rice cakes (tteok) or fish cakes (eomuk), its desserts based on cereal powder and honey or soju, a traditional distilled drink.
In Korea, the night markets offer a multitude of stalls where you can taste the different specialties. For example, Jeonju, Seomum and Bamdokkaebi.
Korea can be discovered on foot through its many trekking routes along the sea, forest, or urban jungle. It is even possible to camp and enjoy a good barbecue.
Experience the future through virtual reality, such as riding in a spaceship, participating in a virtual rally or skiing down a slope.
Rest from jet lag in one of the city’s Jjimjilbang, Korean saunas with several hot and cold rooms, or explore the city and its skyscrapers with its high-tech subways.
So many choices, so many activities to make your head spin. On one trip, it isn’t easy to see everything in Korea, and that is why we have chosen to present you the Danim Group, an agency that can accompany you in the preparation of your trip.
Here is our selection of the 3 best credit cards for a trip to Korea:
The Danim Group
We recently discovered the Danim Group, a trusted agency that runs the Danim Travel website. We really liked their service offer, so we present them to you. They can help you during your whole trip preparation. Especially because Sky SEO, the co-founder, speaks French!
The assets of this agency?
A personalized plan is suggested to you to discover the most beautiful places in South Korea, taste its specialties, and visit its palaces and temples. Would you like to know more? For a glimpse of what to expect, watch the series “La Corée, tu connais” produced by this agency.
In fact, it has designed special itineraries for our community to meet your needs, such as using your points at Marriott hotels in the area!
Another advantage is that the service is offered in French, and they accompany you from the creation of your trip to your arrival in Korea until the end of your stay if necessary.
Finally, as we travellers like to visit several countries on the same trip, we asked them for 5-day programs. You can contact them for longer programs, of course.
Customized itineraries suggested by the Danim Group
First Itinerary - 5 days, 4 nights - Seoul & Andong
Day 1 – Arrival in Seoul – ICN APT and private transfer to Seoul (extra charge)
- Myeongdong district, where all the Korean cosmetic brands and many restaurants and souvenir shops are located. A must in Seoul!
- Hongdae district, known for its young and romantic atmosphere, underground culture and freedom of expression. Unique cafes, fashion boutiques and gourmet restaurants make it a popular meeting place for the region’s youth.
- Gwangjang Traditional Market: 100 years after it opened during the Japanese invasion, the market still offers a wide range of Korean dishes and local side dishes.
- Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a gigantic multifunctional complex and an architectural masterpiece created by the famous architect Zaha Hadid.
Overnight in Seoul (Aloft Seoul Myeongdong hotel – 4* or similar) – Public transportation & admission fees, lunch & dinner not included.
Day 2 – Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel
- Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first palace of the Joseon Dynasty. Built-in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is probably the most beautiful and remains the largest of the five palaces. Inside is also the National Palace Museum, which tells the history of the Joseon Dynasty, and the National Folklore Museum.
- Bukchon Hanok Village, where there are hundreds of traditional houses -called hanok- dating back to the Joseon dynasty.
- Walk through the traditional Insadong district, famous for its ancient street, lounges and small craft shops.
- The National Museum of Korea, the largest museum in the country, tells the fascinating story of Korea from ancient times to the modern era.
- Namsan Tower, a tourist attraction with its panoramic view of the capital and the funicular ride to get there. The tower is sublimated with different colours to indicate the level of pollution.
➢ SUGGESTIONS: Enjoy a traditional performance at Korea House: you can experience the diversity and richness of Korean music and art. OR the rhythmic percussion show NANTA, a mixture of samul mori music and rhythms created by kitchen utensils.
Night in Seoul (Aloft Seoul Myeongdong hotel – 4* or similar)
Day 3 – Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel then travel by Express Bus to Andong (about 3h20 drive).
- Byeongsan Seowon Confucian School, founded by Korean Confucian scholars in honour of Yu Seong-Ryong (1542-1607), a famous scholar well-known for his virtue and knowledge.
- Hahoe Village can be translated as “Village wrapped in water.” Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of Korea’s most important traditional villages. It belonged for 600 years (and still does) to the Ryu clan of Pungsan.
Hahoe Mask Museum, which contains a remarkable collection of traditional Korean masks.
Overnight in Andong (RAKKOJAE Hanok – or similar)
// Traditional Korean “ondol” accommodation, sleeping on futon //
Traditional Korean dinner in the hanok.
Day 4 – Andong – Korean breakfast at the hanok.
- Buyongdae cliff, the summit, offers a panoramic view of Hahoe village. The name Buyongdae, which means lotus, is said to have been given to it because of the lotus flower shape of the village of Hahoe. Near Buyongdae is the house of Ogyeonjeongsa and the Confucian school Hwacheon Seowon.
Travel by Express Bus to Seoul (about 3h20 drive).
Overnight in Seoul (Aloft Seoul Myeongdong Hotel – 4* or similar)
Day 5 Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel.
International departure. Private transfer to Incheon airport (extra charge). End of our services
Second itinerary - 5 days, 4 nights - Seoul, Gyeongju and Busan
Day 1 and 2 and 5 – See the suggestions for visits in the first program.
Day 3 – Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel, then transport by KTX train from Seoul to Busan (about 2h15).
Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, famous for its
beautiful coastal landscape, its fish market and beachfront.
- Jagalchi Market, the largest fish and seafood market in the country and Gukje Market: a great place to enjoy fresh fish or seafood!
- Gamcheon Village, home to hundreds of colourful houses on the foothills of a coastal mountain, gives this village the nickname “Machu Picchu of Busan.”
- Yongsudan Park & Busan Tower, offering a panoramic view of the whole city. Nearby is also the Museum of Cinema, as Busan hosts the Busan International Film Festival.
- Shinsegae Centum City shopping mall (the largest globally) and its Korean SPA, which has all the benefits of a traditional SPA.
- Haeundae Beach, very popular and lively, especially in the evening with its many bars, restaurants and street-food stands.
Overnight in Busan (Fairfield by Marriott Busan – 4* or similar)
Day 4 – Busan – Breakfast at the hotel, then take the KTX train from Busan to Gyeongju (about 35 minutes).
Gyeongju, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, best embodies the
Korean history, being the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom which lasted from 57 BC to 935 AD.
- Bulguksa Temple, a relic of antiquity dating from the Silla period, around the 8th century. This relic shows the creative sensitivity of the Silla people, especially through the Bulguksa temple stone stylobate.
- Gyeongju National Museum, where you can learn about the history and culture of Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla period.
- Tumuli Park, where the ancient and splendid hilltop tombs of the kings and nobility of the Silla dynasty can be visited.
- Cheomseongdae Observatory, the oldest astral observatory in Asia, is also nearby.
Return by KTX train from Gyeongju to Busan.
Overnight in Busan (Fairfield by Marriott Busan – 4* or similar)
Day 5 Busan – Breakfast at the hotel.
Private transfer to Busan airport (extra charge). End of our services
Third itinerary - 5 days, 4 nights - Seoul and Jeju Island
Day 1 and 2 and 5 – See the suggestions for visits in the first program.
Day 3 – Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel then domestic flight to Jeju Island (1h10 approx, not included).
Start of your car rental (not included).
- Manjanggul Cave, one of the most beautiful lava tunnels globally, has a variety of interesting structures, including 70cm stalagmites and lava tunnels.
- Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, a gigantic volcanic rock formed several thousand years ago by underwater eruptions. The site offers a nice hike to the top (~45min round trip).
- Seopjikoji Coast, a beautiful coastline covered in canola flowers, with Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak rising in the background.
Night in Jeju (Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort – 4* or similar)
Day 4 – Jeju Island – Breakfast at the hotel
- Jeongbang Waterfall, the only waterfall to plunge into the sea in Asia – the impressive Oedolgae Rock is nearby.
- Jusangjeollidae cliff, stone pillars stacked along the coast, and Jeju Island’s cultural monument. The Jusangjeolli cliff was formed when lava from Hallasan Mountain came into contact with the Jungmun Sea.
- Jeju Folk Village, which encompasses 117 houses and facilities and restores scenes from the 1890s.
- Sanbangsan, a huge block of lava resulting from a major volcanic activity about 700,000 years ago. At the top is an intimate shrine with a Buddha statue.
Overnight in Jeju (Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort- 4* or similar)
Day 5 – Jeju – Breakfast at the hotel.
Private transfer to Jeju airport (extra charge). End of our services
Fourth itinerary - 5 days, 4 nights - Seoul and Seoraksan
Day 1, 2 and 5 – See suggestions for visits in the first program.
Day 3 – Seoul – Breakfast at the hotel
Travel by Express Bus to Sokcho (about 2h20 drive).
Seoraksan National Park is designated by Unesco as a biosphere reserve and is the most popular with locals, especially during the Autumn.
- Visit the Sinheungsa temple, built during the 6th year of Queen Jindeok’s reign; the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times during its long history.
Cable car ascent optional and subject to availability: not bookable in advance, payment on-site only.
- Hiking in the Seoraksan National Park through the various trails.
Overnight at Seoraksan National Park (Kensington Hotel – 3* or similar)
Day 4 – Sokcho – Breakfast at the hotel
- Hiking in the Seoraksan National Park via the various trails.
Travel by Express Bus to Seoul (about 2h20 drive).
General information about Korea
Don’t miss Seoul, the capital of South Korea but also its metropolitan cities Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Ulsan and Sejong.
The Korean currency is the Won. You can use your credit cards almost anywhere. Only a few stores and restaurants require cash payment.
US dollars are also accepted at some tourist locations.
Going to South Korea?
If you are arriving, Incheon International Airport will surely be your gateway! It is one of the busiest in South Korea and is located about an hour from Seoul. You can easily reach the capital by bus, metro, cab or train with theAREX (Airport Railroad Express).
If you go, you will find “City airport terminals” in Seoul and Gwangmyeong train station. This will allow you to register and pass through immigration.
To facilitate transactions, you can purchase one of these transportation cards:
- T-money and Cashbee: these are prepaid cards that can be reloaded and used for bus, subway and cab in major cities in Korea. You can get one at a convenience store.
- M-Pass or Metrolitan Pass: a card reserved for foreign travelers that can be used on buses, subways, AREX and cabs in Seoul and Jeju. You can make up to 20 trips per day within the Seoul metropolitan area and Jeju Island. The card can be reloaded like a T-money. Several packages exist.
- Korea Tour Card: a transport card for foreign tourists that allows you to pay for your various transports but also gives you many advantages on attractions, restaurants, stores, etc. You can buy it online or on the spot via mini-markets, metro vending machines, banks or even on the plane! Available on smartphone, you can pay directly with your mobile.
Finally, South Korea is a safe destination where robberies and attacks are rare. You will feel safe. All the indications and signs are translated at least in English so that you don’t get lost.
Did you get lost anyway? Wi-Fi is available in many places free of charge. Otherwise, the Danim Group is at your service to help you.
Impossible to get bored, the country never sleeps. Everything is open at all hours and every day! And you can use your credit card anywhere. There are a few exceptions but credit cards are encouraged. Now is the time to pull out your HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® to pay no foreign transaction fee.
Finally, the National Tourism Board has established a quality certification system “Korea Quality” to help you identify approved tourism facilities and services.
Contact the Danim agency on our behalf. They will offer you a tailor-made program.
Do not hesitate to continue your reading on the subject with one of our reports of flight for example:
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