South Korea probably requires very little introduction. When thinking of Korea, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the Korean War, and then, the fact that Korean products are everywhere these days. From cars, to cellular phones, to TV sets, each of us probably has at least one product originally made in Korea. This trip celebrates not only the amazing fusion Korean contemporary culture is all about, from Confucianism to Buddhism to excessive Consumerism and Materialism, but also the admiration of the Korean people for the amazing natural features surrounding them. In autumn, the entire country undergoes an immense metamorphosis, as its vast forests are painted red, yellow and fifty shades of brown. This is when we, and the Koreans in their thousands, go to admire this phenomena with beautiful walks through national parks and nature reserves.
DAY 1, 16 OCT 2020. ARRIVAL IN SEOUL
Arrive at Incheon airport, Korea‚Äôs largest international airport, and meet the local guide. Then take a one hour‚Äôs drive to Seoul, the national capital and the beating heart of the South Korean economy. South Korea is a part of the distinguished and lucrative Asian Tigers Club, a term referring to the four highly developed and free economies of Asia. This vibrant city is also the heart of Korean modern culture, which consists of western concepts with a unique twist to it, somewhat of a bridge between East and West. If time allows, depending on time of landing in Korea, visit one of the bustling night markets where the locals hang out to indulge in the much-loved practice of consumerism.
DAY 2, 17 OCT 2020. ALONG THE DMZ AND ON TO SOKCHO
Leave Seoul and drive north, to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. Stretched along 38¬į parallel, this division in the middle of the peninsula is considered to be one of the world‚Äôs most fortified border lines. The boundary line serves as a symbol not only to the growing gap between the two nations, but also to reconciliation. It is a place where talks are being held from time to time, in an attempt to bridge the gaps, with the ultimate goal of unifying the peninsula into one thriving nation, assuming the two rival parties would reach agreements. Travel along the border line, and visit some of its iconic sites, showing not only the ongoing confrontation between South and North Korea, but also the last place where the cold war is still very much alive. Late in the evening drive to the city of Sokcho on the northern shoreline of South Korea.
DAY 3, 18 OCT 2020. HIKING THROUGH SEORAKSAN NATURE RESERVE
The whole day is dedicated to exploring Seoraksan Nature Reserve. This is Korea‚Äôs most popular nature reserve, partially due to its proximity to Seoul, but also due to its sheer beauty. The reserve‚Äôs towering ridges are covered with thick forests, which in the autumn stand in beautiful autumn colors. Begin the visit with a cable car ride to Gwongeumseong Fortress, which no longer exist, but from its former location enjoy a bird‚Äôs eye view over the surroundings. Once back in the visitor center, choose one of many trails crisscrossing the reserve, offering fantastic walks for different hiking categories, from a light stroll to Byirong Waterfall, and all the way to the rather demanding climb to Ulsanbawi Rock rising high above the park for a view all the way to the shoreline. Late in the afternoon return to Sokcho to visit the beautiful pavilion perched above the sea, and on to the lively fish market where locals enjoy a meal of fresh seafood in traditional local restaurants. In the evening revert to the hotel for a second night in Sokcho.
DAY 4, 19 OCT 2020. FROM SOKCHO TO ANDONG
Drive down the shoreline and we head towards Hwanseon Cave, one of Asia's biggest limestone caves. To date, only 6.2 km of passages has been discovered, but it is believed that the cave's total length goes well beyond 8 km. Due to the constant flow of water through crevasses at the top of the cave, stalactites and stalagmites were never formed here, however the high volume of water formed an underground river, large water ponds, and even waterfalls that flow through the cave. After visiting the cave continue the road trip through the country‚Äôs backroads to Dosan Seowon Confucian School. The founder of the school is one of Korea‚Äôs best renowned educators, a man who's known not only for his unique interpretation of Confucianism, the country‚Äôs main religious philosophy at the time, but also by his technological inventions, his advanced approach towards astronomy, and probably one of the greatest Korean philosophers ever. Yi Hwang was very close and very much trusted by King Seonjo, who nominated him to be his prime minister. In recent times Yi Hwang's name is commemorated as the figure printed on the 1000 Won bill. Walk through the small and beautiful school, nestled amidst a beautiful forest and along the river‚Äôs bank. Then continue to the village of Hahoe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for being an excellent example of ancient Korean architecture. Walk along the ancient streets and past small vegetable plots and orchards before taking to the city of Andong. After setting in the hotel, and if time permits, spend some time walking through its vibrant night market.
DAY 5, 20 OCT 2020. HAEINSA AND JIRISAN NATURE RESERVE
From Andong drive to Haein Temple, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Temple serves as the center for the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism, and is considered one of the Three Gem Temples of Korea. While one of the three represents Lord Buddha, and the other represents the Sangha (the community of followers of the Buddha), Haein Temple represents the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. For this reason, the temple treasures the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of tens of thousands of wooden printing blocks, containing Buddhist scriptures, made in the 13th century. After touring this magnificent temple, drive to a village at the foot of Jiri Mountain, to a rural area dominated by small tranquil villages. Arrive at the simple homestay for the night, and get an early evening rest, gathering stamina for tomorrow‚Äôs hike.
Note: Korean homestay involves sleeping on traditional mattresses on the floor! If you prefer to avoid such an experience, please let us know, and we will arrange for hotel accommodation rather than homestay.
DAY 6, 21 OCT 20202. HIKE JIRISAN NATURE RESERVE
Wake up very early in the morning, before dawn, to drive to the hiking jump off spot at the mountain‚Äôs top. Then walk to the first viewpoint of the day, to wait for the sun to rise over the sea of clouds, a sight much adored by the Korean people. From here continue hiking through the thick forests, featuring stunning autumn colors. From time to time pause by a clearing for a marvelous view over the surrounding mountain peaks. The last part of the hike takes along a gushing stream, and on to a beautiful mountain village. Then hop onto the vehicle and drive back to the homestay for a second night of very simple, yet very authentic means of accommodation.
DAY 7, 22 OCT 2020. BOSEONG TEA PLANTATION AND SUNCHEON BAY
Leave the foot of Jirisan and drive to Boseong Tea Plantation. Like in all neighboring countries, here in Korea tea serves a far greater role than just a hot drink. Tea is well embedded into local culture, tradition, and religion, and bears a symbolic attribute to it, often reflected through elaborate tea ceremonies. Walk through the beautiful terraces, and learn not only about the process of growing, picking and drying these precious leaves, but also about the importance of the drink in the Korean culture. Leave the tea plantation and head to Suncheon Bay Ecological Park. The nature reserve features a magnificent reed bed which stands at full bloom during autumn season, creating the phenomena known by Koreans as the ‚ÄúSilver Grass‚ÄĚ. The mudflats along the bay‚Äôs uniquely ‚ÄėS‚Äô shaped outflow to the sea provide excellent nesting grounds to a variety of waterfowl, some are extremely rare. Take a walk through the reed bed, and then board a boat for a cruise along the waterway, hopefully in time for an amazing sunset over the bay. At dusk take a walk through the beautifully designed Suncheon National Garden before setting in the hotel for the night.
DAY 8, 23 OCT 2020. TO BUSAN
From Suncheon drive to the city of Busan, Korea‚Äôs second largest city, and probably its most important port city. After checking-in the hotel, visit Jalagchi Fish Market, a huge market covering a large stretch of the city‚Äôs shoreline, divided among three main venues- street booths offering as-fresh-as-it-gets sea food, a 3 story building which literally crawls with fresh produce, and a big shed right at the harbor, where vendors sell the fish as they come off the boat. Continue to Gamcheon, once a rundown neighborhood at the city‚Äôs outskirts, and today a site of vibrant art and welcoming community that has decided to break out of the grey urban landscape, and remodel the entire neighborhood to invite visitors from all over the world to roam its narrow streets. In the evening stroll through Busan International Film Festival Square which comes to life in the evenings, as the locals take to the streets to enjoy local food, live performances, and shop through the trendy streets surrounding the square.
DAY 9, 24 OCT 2020. HIKE GEUMJEONG MOUNTAIN
Another day dedicated to indulging in the foliage madness. We drive to Busan‚Äôs northern outskirts, to Geumjeong Mountain. We ascend the mountain with a cable car, for a view over the city, its harbor and surroundings. We then hike down the mountain all the way to the Beomeo Temple. Just like Haein Temple, which we have previously visited, Beomeo functions as a regional headquarters to the Jogye order. The temple‚Äôs history goes back to the 9th century AD, when it was first built and served as one of the main establishments of the Haweom Buddhist order. In spite its long history, the current structure is ‚Äúonly‚ÄĚ 400 years old, as the original 9th century building was burnt during the Japanese invasion of the end of the 16th century. Here we visit some of the 360 halls, for as long as our time and patience will allow us. We then drive back to our hotel in the heart of Busan. Overnight in Busan.
DAY 10, 25 OCT 2020. DRIVE TO GYEONGJU
Leave Busan and head to Gyeongju. Gyeongju served as the capital of the Silla Kingdom, ruled by one of the longest ruling dynasties in human history which held powers for 960 years. Accordingly, the ancient capital of the kingdom which at its height ruled over two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula is scattered with historic relics, and thus it is known as ‚Äúthe museum without walls‚ÄĚ. Prior to arriving in Gyeongju visit Seokuram Grotto. This hermitage, perched 750 meters above the sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Evidences suggests works in the grotto begun in 742, and completed in 774, resulting in some of the most important and best-preserved Buddhist sculptures in the world. From here take an easy walk along the winding trail gently descending through the forest to Bulguksa Temple. This 8th century temple serves as the main temple of the Jogye order, and is home to several national cultural treasures. Amidst these are significant stone pagodas, the Blue Cloud and White Cloud Bridges, and gilded Buddha figures. Wrap up this busy day with a visit to Anap Pond, formerly the centerpiece of a royal recreational garden, lavishly lit as a reminder of the city‚Äôs past glory.
DAY 11, 26 OCT 2020. REVERT TO SEOUL
Leave Geyongju and drive through Korea‚Äôs amazing network of highways all the way up north, back to Seoul. Upon arrival back in the Korean capital city, talke a walking tour through Bukcheon. Once residential neighborhood of officials and clerks serving the royal court, today it's a hip place of trendy restaurants, art galleries and coffee shops, showcasing the fusion of new, rebellious culture amidst traditional architecture and old lanes.Proceed to Dongdaemun Design Plaza, an architectural wonder right at the heart of the city, designed by the late Zaha Hadid. After a walking tour around this massive complex, take to the Dongdaemun Night market for an evening stroll.
DAY 12, 27 OCT 2020. EXPLORING OLD SEOUL
Today enjoy a walking tour around the historic and cultural center of Seoul. Begin at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which unsurprisingly resembles the structure and characteristics of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The palace, first constructed in 1935, is the largest of the five palaces of the Joseon Dynasty. Like many other significant buildings in Korea, it was totally burnt during the Japanese invasion at the end of the 16th century, and then fully restored only to be destroyed once again during the Japanese takeover of the early 20th century. The site, much of a symbol for Korean sovereignty, is undergoing massive reconstruction to be brought back to its days of glory as the residence of Korean royalty. Make a stop at the National Folk Museum, located at the palace compound, featuring exhibitions of Korean art, history and contemporary matters. Proceed to the War Memorial. Though the site is dedicated to those sacrificed their lives during the last Korean War, and telling their heroic stories, it provides an insight into Korean history in general, with emphasize on its military history, and the ongoing waring state amidst the ancient kingdoms that ruled the peninsula, and the wars with neighboring countries, providing in-depth understanding of the region‚Äôs geopolitics which are still very much relevant to these days. Late in the afternoon take a short ride to N Seoul Tower, probably the city‚Äôs most prominent landmark. From the top of this communication tower, rising 263 meters above a hill overlooking town, get a view over this vast city, which nearly half of South Korea‚Äôs citizens calls home. After the unavoidable stop at one of the city‚Äôs lively night markets, revert to the hotel for last night in Korea.
DAY 13, 28 OCT 2020. DEPARTURE FROM SEOUL
fter breakfast at the hotel drive back to Incheon Airport. Say farewell to the local guide, and board the international flight out of Korea.
Dates & Pricing
Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above. If you are booking this trip for a party of four travelers or more, please contact us for our special rates.
Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$3450/ person
6 travelers- US$3356/ person
8 travelers- US$2772/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
16th October, 2020–28th October, 2020
- $5,499 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $1,190 Single Room Supplement
- Accommodation at selected hotels/homestay
- Transfer by private A/C vehicle
- Meals as indicated in the program (B&B basis)
- English speaking guide
- Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
- International airfare to/from Seoul
- Travel insurance
- Korean tourist visa
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Seoul- PJ Hotel 4-star
- Sokcho- Ramada Sokcho 4-star
- Andong- Andong Richell 4-star
- Jirisan- Homestay
- Suncheon- Ecograde 4-star
- Busan- Crowne Harbor 4-star
- Gyeongju- The Suites Hotel 4-star
Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.
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