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 From cars, to cellular phones, to TV sets, each of us probably has at least one product originally made in Korea.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, Oct 16. Arrival in Seoul
We meet at Incheon airport, and take a one hour 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 we have the time, we might visit one of the bustling night markets where the locals hang out, or indulge in the much loved practice of consumerism. Overnight in Seoul.
Day 2, Oct 17. Seoul ‚Äď DMZ ‚Äď Sokcho
We 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. We 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 relevant. Late in the evening we drive to the city of Sokcho on the northern shoreline of South Korea.
Day 3, Oct 18. Sokcho- day excursion to Seoraksan Nature Reserve
The whole day is dedicated to exploring Seoraksan Nature Reserve. This is Korea‚Äôs most popular reserve, partially due to its proximity to Seoul, but also due to its sheer beauty. The reserve‚Äôs towering ridges are covered with forests, which in the autumn stand in beautiful foliage. We take a hike amidst these forests, through the beautiful colors to a stunning vantage point, from which we see on one side the East Sea, and on the other, the seemingly endless mountains covered in golden-brown, red and yellow. We return to Sokcho where we walk to the beautiful pavilion, followed by a traditional dinner in the city‚Äôs fish market. We return to our hotel in Sokcho late in the evening.
Day 4, Oct 19. Sokcho ‚Äď Andong
Driving down the shoreline, we head towards Hwanseon Cave. This is 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 (including a somewhat strenuous climb into it, from the car park), we continue our 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 views over 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. We walk through the small and beautiful school, nestled amidst a beautiful forest and along the river‚Äôs bank. We then continue to the village of Hahoe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for being an excellent example of ancient Korea architecture. Then onto the city of Andong, and if time permits, spend some time walking in its vibrant night market. Overnight in Andong.
Day 5, Oct 20. Andong ‚Äď Jirisan
Andong we drive to Haein Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The
Temple serves as the center for the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism.
The temple 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. This is why the
temple treasures the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of tens of
thousands wooden printing blocks, containing Buddhist scriptures,
made in the 13th century. After touring this magnificent
temple, we head to Hamyang Terraces. Perhaps not the world‚Äôs most
magnificent terraces, and yet, at this time of the year, when the
rice is ripened and yellow, these terraces carved into the
mountain‚Äôs curves form a beautiful sight. After a brief encounter
with the agriculture in Korea, we drive to a village at the foot of
Jiri Mountain, where we stay in a home of a local family, getting to
see and experience Korea‚Äôs rural life up
close. We eat and spend the night at the family‚Äôs house.
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, Oct 21. Hike Jirisan Nature Reserve
We wake up very early in the morning, before dawn, as we need to drive to the hiking jump off spot. We then walk to the first view point of the day, as we await the sun to rise over the sea of clouds, a sight much adored by the Korea people. From there we continue hiking though the forests at the peak of the autumn foliage. From time to time we walk through a clearing, offering us a marvelous view over the surrounding mountain peaks. The last part of the hike takes us along a gushing stream, and on to a beautiful mountain village. We then hop on our vehicle, and drive back to our host family for a second night of the homestay.
Day 7, Oct 22. Jirisan ‚Äď Suncheon
After a last breakfast with our hosts, we say farewell 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, it is well embedded into the culture, tradition, and religion. This is reflected through elaborate tea ceremonies. We 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 society and traditions. We then 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 providing excellent nesting grounds to a variety of waterfowl, some are extremely rare. We 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. Overnight in Suncheon.
Day 8, Oct 23. Suncheon ‚Äď Busan
Suncheon we drive to Geoje, one of several island-cities south of the
Korean Peninsula. Geoje is home to one of the world‚Äôs biggest
shipyards. In fact, 6 out of the 10 largest
shipyards in the world are Korean. A visit to the shipyard would
provide us with not only a glimpse into the advanced industry of
Korea and it‚Äôs hi-tech practices, but also an understanding of the
secrets which turned Korea from a country licking its wounds after an
horrific civil war, into a booming economy.
We drive on to the city of Busan, Korea‚Äôs second largest city, and
probably its most important port city. After checking-in our hotel,
we 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. In
the evening we stroll through the Busan
International Film Festival Square (commonly known as BIFF), which
comes to life in the evening, where the people of Busan gather to
cool off from their day‚Äôs work. Late in the evening we take a quick
ride to Gwangli Beach, for a view over Gwangan Bridge, probably the
city‚Äôs own trademark. Overnight in Busan.
Note: Visiting the shipyard is subject to company‚Äôs consent, and might be revoked at any time without prior notice.
Day 9, Oct 24. Rural foliage in Busan
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, Oct 25. Busan ‚Äď Gyeongju
We begin the day at the temple considered the most beautiful of all Korea‚Äôs temples. At the south of Busan, on a high cliff over the sea, is Haedong Yonggung Temple. Popular with foreigners and locals alike, it is believed that a wish prayed for at this temple would materialize. After visiting this impressive compound we depart Busan and head to Gyeongju. Gyeongju served as the capital of the Silla Kingdom, ruled by one of the longest ruling dynasties in the history, 960 years. Accordingly, the ancient capital of the kingdom which at its height ruled over 2/3 of the Korea Peninsula is scattered with historic relics, and thus it is known as ‚Äúthe museum without walls‚ÄĚ. In the afternoon we visit some of the city sites for as long as time permits. After visiting Cheomseongdae Observatory, East Asia‚Äôs oldest astronomical observatory, we take the 15 minutes‚Äô walk to Anap Pond, formerly the centerpiece of a royal recreational garden, lavishly lit as a reminder of the city‚Äôs glorious days. Overnight in Gyeongju.
Day 11, Oct 26. Gyeongju ‚Äď Seoul
The last two religious sites we visit in this trip are probably the most important ones in the entire country. We begin with a visit to Bulguksa Temple. This 8th century temple serves as the main temple of the Jogye order, and home to several national cultural treasures, amongst these are significant stone pagodas, the Blue Cloud and White Cloud Bridges, and gilded Buddha figures. After walking through the temple, we drive to Seokuram Grotto, 4 kilometers away from Bulguksa. This hermitage, perched 750 meters above sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Evidences suggests works in the grotto begun at 742, and completed in 774, resulting in some of the most important and best preserved Buddhist sculptures in the world. Inspired by these highly spiritual sites, we take the long drive across South Korea, all the way to the city of Seoul. Depending in time of arrival, we might enjoy free time to walk through Insadong, one of the city‚Äôs hotspots for the young and trendy. Overnight in Seoul.
Day 12, Oct 27. In Seoul
Today we have a walking tour around the historic and cultural center of Seoul. We 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 reconstructed only to be destroyed once again in the Japanese takeover of the early 20th century. We also visit the National Folk Museum, located at the palace compound. From here we walk to Bukcheon, once the 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 with the old values and traditions. We then 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, we get a view over this vast city, which nearly half of South Korea‚Äôs residents calls home. We won‚Äôt call it a night until we mingle with the Koreans on one of their favorite pastime activities, celebrating the evening in lively night markets, or pedestrian streets that are brought to life as the days wind down. Rather exhausted we arrive in our hotel late in the evening. Overnight in Seoul.
Day 13, Oct 28. Departure from Seoul
We began our journey through South Korea at the DMZ, and we wrap it up at the War Memorial of Korea. This memorial reveals the seemingly endless history of wars over the Korea Peninsula, from prehistoric times to the tragic civil war, known to us Westerners as the Korean War, which in fact never came to an end, and to this very day still causes tension between east and west, or actually, as it so happens, south and north. We drive back to Incheon Airport for our departing flight.
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$3268/ person
6 travelers- US$2673/ person
8 travelers- US$2590/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
16th October, 2020–28th October, 2020
- $4,991 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $984 Single Room Supplement
- Accommodation in selected hotels
- Transfer by private vehicle
- Meals as indicated in the program (Half Board basis)
- English speaking guide
- Entry fees for all sightseeing as mentioned on the program
- Government taxes
- International airfare
- Travel insurance
- Korean visa
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Seoul- Mayplace Dongdaemun Hotel
- Gangwon- Hanwha Sorano Resort
- Andong- Andong Richell Hotel
- Jirisan- Hanwha Resort
- Suncheon- Ecograd Hotel
- Busan- Aventree Busan Hotel
- Gyeongju- Gyeongju Koron Hotel
Note: the listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.
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