What To Expect
Touching down at the ultramodern Incheon International Airport places us at the heart of Korea which is known as the Land of Morning Calm. After clearing immigration and customs, we will be met by gracious tour guide and escorted to the hotel.
Explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion.
Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty. Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices: Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.
Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax peacefully.
Learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, education and more. Stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, and drive past Cheonggyecheon stream.
Later explore centuries-old Namdaemun Market where well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. At the western entrance of the market in the middle of a traffic circle stands Namdaemun, officially known as the Sungnyemun Gate.
Depart early this morning to arrive in Seoraksan national park. Enjoy a pleasant journey across the picturesque countryside to Goseong. At the northern tip of the east coast sits Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps comprising large lumps of concrete set on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country.
Head on to Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and see Kim Ilsung villa. Your tour continues through Geojin where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. Then travel in to Seoraksan national park. The rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the best scenery on the Korean peninsula.
The world of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Entering park and past one-pillared gate, you will see a huge Unification Buddha that was built to symbolize the Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. Signs are well established and there is a constant flow of people coming and going from the hiking trails. Following the left fork leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan.
Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang Cave with a tiny temple inside. The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of this peak, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for 600m. The right fork is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century in front of which on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi.
Biryong waterfall trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will see a very pretty waterfall at the end that is fairly unusual, long and thin. And for non hikers, there is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong while enjoying the panoramic view of the entire valley.
Recommended trails from Sogongwon or park entrance:
Biryong waterfall (310m) (4.8km): 2 hours
Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours
Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 3 hours and 30 minutes
Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 6 hours and 30 minutes
Heundeulbawi (797m) (6.6km): 3 hours
Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810m) (7.6km): 4 hours 30 minutes
Enjoy a scenic drive along the Jingogae road creating wonderful colors as the season changes - Pink azaleas decorating the valleys, the thick forest and crystal clear stream water cooling off the summer heat, the fantastic autumn foliage putting on a brilliant show of color and the snow creating a sublime scenery. Visit Woljeongsa temple. Enshrined in the Main Hall is a statue of Sakyamuni, but the more important statue is a Bodhisattva, 1.8 meters high, probably a Medicine Bodhisattva.
Drive past North Korean submarine and stop at Jeongdongjin, a tiny fishing village located by the ocean directly east of Seoul and where you find a quaint railway station of being the closest to the ocean anywhere in the world, a huge hour-glass that measures a full year and a very surreal cruise liner hotel on top of a cliff.
On to Hwanseongul Cave. The legend has it that long time ago, a monk came to this cave to meditate but no one ever saw him came out. People thought that he became a hermit, thus it was named Hwanseongul.
En route, stop off at Taebaek, a highland town once boomed with coal mining until the early 1980s, to see Taebaek coal museum. Next, Dosan Seowon, a Confucian-shrine academy.
Later visit Ichon-dong Stone Buddha or Jebiwon Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years, in the southeastern foothills of Cheondeung-san.
Explore Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a small bend in the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty. Stop at a traditional paper-making workshop to get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing, then we will tour Homigot, a cape jutting out into the Sea and one of the easternmost points on the Korean peninsula.
Near the sculptures sits Light House Museum, featuring 3,500 items used in the early days of Korea's lighthouse history, along with numerous tourist shops, seafood restaurants, peddler tents and the likes. Head on to Gampo. About 200 meter off the coast is an unusual underwater tomb of King Munmu. On the nearby open temple site stands twin pagodas of Gameunsa dedicated to the Dragon Spirit of King Munmu.
Explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seokguram grotto and Bulguksa temple which were both built during the glorious period of the Silla kingdom. After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 10 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to Seokguram grotto. A short ride from the grotto is Bulguksa temple.
Stop at Gwaereung, the tomb of the King Wonseong, which dates 798. Next, marvel at the priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, and clay figures as well as a royal barge in Gyeongju National Museum.
Then head to the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Nearby Tumuli Park encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. Visit Bunhwangsa temple with 10m-high three-storied rectangular pagoda, the main worship hall with Buddha of Medicine, and legendary well that is said to have saved the kingdom.
En route to Haeinsa, visit Goryeong Tumuli Museum located below the group of ancient tombs. Here, you will see a perfect replica of the Jisan-dong Tomb No. 44 itself, a large-scale living burial to be first discovered in Korea. Next, Daegaya Museum that exhibits a huge collection of artifacts excavated in Goryeong.
Journey Haeinsa temple from the 9th century, housing world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras. Haeinsa is one of the most important temples in Korea. They are Tongdosa, Heinsa, and Songgwansa, each of which represents Buddha, Dharma, and the community of followers or "sangha".
Visit the Songnisan national park, weaving through the countryside with its rural vistas. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". See Beopjusa temple. Founded in AD 553, the temple boasts of three national treasures and numerous cultural assets. Palsangjeon that houses eight paintings of different stages of the Buddha's life is the five story wooden pagoda constructed in early 17th century, and is a very rare and unique Buddhist architectural structure. The temple holds a dharma bell striking ceremony at sunset.
Travel to Suwon and explore UNESCO World Heritage site of Hwaseong Fortress from the 18th century, learn Korea's history and see beautiful natural surroundings.
Walk through the whole fortress, parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates. Begin your tour at Paldalmun gate, an imposing two-storey wooden pavilion standing on top of a stone structure with an arched entrance, which is shielded by a semicircular chemise built of brick and flanked by gate guard platforms on either side. As you make your way to the north, you will see sentry post perched on the edge of the turret, beacon tower which possesses five chimneys to create different smoke signals, Changryongmun gate where builders names carved into the walls are evident, command post, secret gate, and an exquisite pavilion located on a hill that overlooks a lotus pond surrounded by beautiful willow trees. Below the pavilion sits northern floodgate, a stone bridge with seven arched sluices topped by an elegant open pavilion and brick-built parapet, and a little further on is the Korea's largest Janganmun Gate.
With time to reflect on our surprise in our experience of Korea, transfer to the airport for our onward flight.
National Folklore Museum
Kim Ilsung Villa
Geojin Fishing Village
Seoraksan National Park
North Korean Submarine
Hanji Paper Workshop
Tomb of King Munmu
Gyeongju National Museum
Goryeong Tumuli Museum
Full coverage of accommodation based on 2 people sharing standard twin rooms in 4 star combination hotel
Meals as per itinerary
Full coverage of transfers and transportation as per itinerary
English speaking guide
Optional activity costs
Tips and gratuities
German, French, Spanish or Russian speaking guides are available at an additional cost.
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