The elusive, exotic land of South Korea beckons every traveler and backpacker to experience its many wonders. You’ll be spoilt for choice when shortlisting places to visit in South Korea, which offers such an unbelievable range of unexplored natural sites and urban delights.
There are tradition folk villages and swanky cities, gorgeous islands and breathtaking natural vistas. Here is a list of our top picks of places to visit in South Korea, from the popular to the unexplored, from countryside villages, grand Buddhist temples & palaces to ancient fortresses and high-tech urban cities.
The dazzling capital city will impress you with its dizzying mix of modern architecture, party vibes, pop culture, beautiful parks & glittering promenades. Vibrant Seoul is not just a buzzing urban hub but also rich in history and culture. With gorgeous palaces, chic restaurants and stylish boutiques, Seoul is charming all the way. The National Museum and War Memorial take you through the history of the country, while the cool shopping district of Gangnam gives you a taste of the city’s ritzy side.
2. Jeju Island
This stunning island just 85Km off the coast is one of the most beautiful places in South Korea. Having been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the pristine beauty of Jeju-do will take your breath away. Surreal white sand beaches surrounded by pine forests, volcanic craters and lava caves, beautiful botanical gardens and a rich culture are some of the high-points of this natural paradise.
This second largest city of South Korea is known across the world for hosting Asia’s largest International film festival. Busan is an interesting amalgamation of skyscrapers, majestic mountains, beautiful beaches and magnificent Buddhist temples. Amongst the popular places to visit in Busan is the Haedong Yonggungsa temple along the coast and the interesting Jagalchi fish market. Foodies can relish the sea food spread at the numerous restaurants and enjoy local delicacies at the ubiquitous street food stalls.
4. Andong Hahoe Folk Village
Literally meaning ‘the village enveloped by water’ this charming traditional Korean village located in Andong is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entering the Hahoe village is like travelling back in time to the simple Korean village way of life displaying local traditions and culture. The beautiful setting alongside the Nakdong river is accentuated by the rural tile and thatched roof houses, sandy beaches and pine trees. The village is also a great place to try out traditional Korean delicacies and marvel at the mask dance performed by the locals.
The coastal city of Gyeongju, often called an open-air museum, is one of the best places to visit in South Korea to discover its traditional roots and rich heritage. The erstwhile capital of the ancient Silla kingdom, Gyeongju is a treasure trove of cultural and historical sites and ruins going back to a thousand years. With the UNESCO world heritage site, Bulguksa temple and the National Museum with its unparalleled collection of artefacts, this city gives you a glimpse into South Korea’s cultural roots.
6. Dadohaehaesang National Park
The largest National Park in Korea, this slice of paradise covers 1700 large and small islands and some rock structures. One of the most scenic and islands is the Cheongsando island considered one of the best places to visit in South Korea for it surreal landscapes and the slow city movement. Hongdo and Heuksando are the other popular islands where you can take a boat trip to admire the overwhelming natural sites.
7. Pyeongchang County
This is one of the best places in South Korea to experience tranquillity and awe-inspiring scenic beauty all around. Located in the Taebaek Mountains, this picturesque county 180 Kms away from Seoul hosted the prestigious Winter Olympics in February 2018. The Odaesan National Park is a hikers’ delight with trails going up the snow-peaked mountains, while the ski resorts Alpensia and Yongpyong are popular with skiers and snowboarders. The mountains are also home to many beautiful Buddhist shrines.
Capital of the Gyeonggi province bordering Seoul, Suwon is known for its unique Hwaseong Fortress with its imposing stone walls and impressive archways. Built by the Joseon dynasty the fortresses wall is a UNESCO world heritage site with four pagoda style gates, artillery towers and observation decks. Another magnificent structure at the site is the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. With many more exciting things to do, Suwon is one of the top places to visit in South Korea.
9. Seoraksan National Park
The vivid strokes of nature will greet you every step of the way in the UNESCO protected Seoraksan National Park. Literally meaning the Snowy Crag Mountains, the Seoraksan range with its snow-covered peaks forms a majestic backdrop to the park temples. It is a great place to hike the myriad trails including the formidable Ulsan Rock or simply enjoy the gondola ride up the mountain for some spectacular views. As you stroll through the 400000 sq km biosphere protection site, prepare to be awestruck by the giant Buddha statue on your path.
10. Changgyeonggung Palace
Once a residential palace for queens and concubines of the Joseon dynasty, Changgyeonggung Palace is an ideal place to explore the history of Korea and get an up-close look at the country’s traditional architecture. Furthermore, it’s also one of the best spots in Seoul to enjoy the spring blooms. An assortment of cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, Korean bush cherry, Korean dogwood flowers, apricot blossoms, and royal azaleas blossom among ancient buildings, making for a picturesque photo op. If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a delicate shower of cherry blossom petals “snowing” over the palace’s Okcheongyo Bridge.