What To Expect
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After clearing immigration and customs, your gracious local tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and escort you to your hotel.
Your tour guide will take you on a tour of Korea's capital city and provide a detailed narrative on the sights as you take in the views of Seoul, historic sites and vibrant cosmopolitan life. You will pass by Seoul's new landmark, Gwanghwamun Plaza. The southwestern corner of this plaza is Korea's Zero Milestone Point, marking the distances to the major cities around the world including Seoul's antipode, Montevideo, Uruguay, 19,606Kms. You will begin with a visit to Changdeok palace (Palace of Prospering Virtue). Built in 1405, the palace was the home of royal families of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1592, the palace was totally burnt down by the Japanese invasion under Hideyoshi's leadership except the main gate Donhwamun, which naturally became the oldest surviving structure of the palace. The palace was rebuilt in 1610 with more color and with a slightly different style of architecture. From this date, 13 kings used it as their official residence until 1926, except for a limited period of time when the Gyeongbok palace was restored and used by King Gojong. The secret garden sits behind Changdeokgung palace. It is a private garden, filled with natural hillocks, woodland paths, lotus ponds, and pleasure pavilions. It was first landscaped in 1623 and served for centuries as a royal retreat. It includes 44 buildings in different size as well as several ponds, springs, and streams.
You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops of Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Explore Gwangjang Market, one of few markets retaining traditional Korean atmosphere. From the entrance of the market, you can smell the mouth-watering flavors of fried snacks. Near the market is Cheonggyecheon stream that tumbles gently through downtown Seoul. A block away from the market is Dongdaemun which once served as the east gate of Seoul. Later enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul over at N Tower observatory.
Travel to Suwon and explore UNESCO World Heritage site of Hwaseong Fortress from the 18th century, and learn some of Korea's long history, see beautiful natural surroundings, and get a lot of exercise all at the same time. Continue on to Haemi, and learn about the holy place for the Catholics. Next, Sudeoksa temple from the 6th century.
Explore Oeammaeul Village, one of the traditional clan villages exuding old and rustic charm. The village entrance is marked by stone bridge, pine forest and totem poles.
Then, onto Hyeonchungsa shrine keeping the spirit of Korea's greatest naval hero, Yi Sun-sin. Stop off at Gongju, a charming city that once served as the Baekje capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Visit Gongju National Museum to see fascinating archeological artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong. Songsanri Tombs are group of Baekje-period royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. Of the most important tomb is number 7, which belongs to King Muryeong and his wife, the queen.
Travel in to Buyeo, a melting pot of Baekje (BC18-AD660) culture and often regarded as the most artistically sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms, and see the Korea's oldest artificial pond Gungnamji dating back to 634. In the center of town, a stone Buddha image sitting on a stone pedestal and a five-storied stone pagoda standing tall on the ancient temple site of Jeongrimsa with the ruins of the lotus pond remain to recall the glory. Visit Buyeo National Museum exhibiting a precious collection of cultural artefacts from the Baekje Kingdom, and you will marvel at the beautiful gilt bronze incense burner.
Stroll up paths to Busosan to explore Baekje fortification. At the foot of the hill stands a small shrine called Samchungsa dedicated to Baekje's three loyal subjects: Gyebaek, Seongchung and Heungsu. At the top of the hill sits Yeongullu pavilion where the Baekje king once came to watch the sun rise over his kingdom.
En route, stop at Ganggyeong. Visiting Ganggyeong is like stepping back into the past. Ganggyeong's famous for its salted seafood market. On to Gwanchoksa to see the Korea's largest free-standing stone Buddha image from the 10th century.
Next, Geumsan ginseng market with its nearly 200 shops permanently established all year round. Jinan is better known as Tapsa. You will explore an unusual temple surrounded by over mysterious 80 conical stone pagodas. Jeonju boasts a time-honored tradition as well as significant cultural and artistic heritage. You will explore Jeonju Hankok village, a Korean House complex retaining much of their structure intact.
Travel to Gimje to see a magnificent Geumsansa temple. It was the main temple for practicing the Maitreya faith during the Silla period. Next, Naesosa temple. At Naesosa entrance, fir trees stand tall providing a tunnel under which you will walk into the main gate of the Buddha's world.
Visit Gochang Dolmen Museum providing a comprehensive information about Dolmen with its theme park featuring a life-size village replica. Near the museum is UNESCO World Heritage stie of Dolmen Park, the largest concentration of dolmens perhaps anywhere in the world.
Stop at Gochang Fortress, which has a total perimeter of 1.7km. Built during the middle Joseon dynasty, it is a good example of Korea's fortress architecture. Damyang was once the home of Salim, the elite of the society and politics. They chose this area as a retreat for their tranquil lives, when they found no place to realize their aspiration under the absurdity and contradiction of the political realities. They made a companion with nature and wrote verse and prose, while disciplining themselves and teaching their disciples. One such example is Soswaewon, a Korean traditional garden from the 16th century. Its name implies a clean and transparent garden where the righteous enjoy the life of being content and taking pleasure of simple and honest life. Small valleys and natural stream have in them an ideal harmony between nature and man.
Travel to Hwasun, a small town dominated by 9th century Unjusa temple. Unjusa has a large number of rather crude stone Buddhas from about 1,200 years ago. Boseong is better known as the home of tea, hemp clothes and Sori or a Korean traditional genre of singing. As you make your way, you will see number of tea plantations where the carefully trimmed tea trees stretch endlessly over steep mountain slopes - a lush green carpet that is a sight to behold. There is a tea plantation delightfully accommodating visitors. A short walk along the path lined with cedar trees that had been planted to block the wind leads you to the tea plantation.
Explore Nagan fortress village,surrounded by 1,410-meter long fortress which was built into a mud rampart in the 14th century to repel Japanese pirate raids.
Yeosu itself is nothing special to look at but the natural surroundings offer some spectacular sights along the jagged coastline. Dolsan Park in the city will offer views to remember. Yeosu is definitely a hidden gem when it comes to scenery. You may stop off at the Hamel Park. Visit Songgwangsa temple, representing Buddha's followers, monks and laity. Sanggwansa is another temple, famous for being one of the three most important temples in Korea.
Later visit the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the Virocana Buddha, the cosmic head of the Hwaeom trinity. First, One-Pillar Gate standing at the lower part greets you and leads you up to the second and the third gate - from the secular world into the spiritual world.
Today's journey takes you along one of the most stunningly picturesque drives in Korea. Enjoy an exotic journey to Hadong, exploring natural wonders and traditional villages. En route, visit the 8th century Ssanggyesa literally meaning Twin-Streams Monastery. Make a stop at Hwagae Market offering a colorful bazaar of produce. The market is full of excitement. The cheerful rhythm of the drum attracts the ears and eyes of many, creating an exciting atmosphere.
Make a stop at Hwagae Market offering a colorful bazaar of produce. The market is full of excitement. The cheerful rhythm of the drum attracts the ears and eyes of many, creating an exciting atmosphere. The southern boundary of Korea is a sunken coastline which has created an irregular pattern of bays and inlets. Namhae has long been popular with travelers. One of the villages you stop off at the Gacheon village, clinging to the slope dropping into the sea, which is famous for its terraced rice paddies and mysterious phallic symbols. Drive past German village inhibited by Korean-Germans who had gone to Germany in the 1960s seeking work and later had returned.
Tongyeong is a traditional seaport of great charm and historical interests. The city is also famous for lacquer ware, pearl, mother of pearl artwork, and mask dance. Local market offers the sights, sounds and smells of a fishing port. Tongyeong folk and history museum is an excellent facility offering an introduction of the city's history and culture. Then journey onward to Geoje, a shipbuilding Mecca featuring several natural harbors.
Visit P.O.W Camp POW Camp. Founded in early 1951 by U.N. troops, it once held around 170,000 prisoners in 28 facilities until an armistice was concluded in 1953.
Enjoy journey to Busan through a 8.2km-long Geoga bridge, a combination of a 4.5km cable-stayed bridge and a 3.7km undersea tunnel, which is the world's deepest immersed roadway tube tunnel constructed 48m below mean water level on the open sea. Your Busan city tour will begin with a visit to the UN memorial cemetery where 2,300 deceased soldiers from sixteen Korean War allies rest in honored serenity.
Then explore fascinating Jagalchi fish market. Located on the downtown docks, this bustling market offers a wide variety of fish. Neighboring block is BIFF square, packed with trendy shops movie theaters and even a walk of fame where famous stars and directors have pressed their hand prints into the sidewalk.
Nearby Busan Modern History Museum is worth a visit. The building which houses the Busan Modern History Museum, built in 1929, was once used by the Japanese Oriental Development Company to implement Japanese economic policies that dominated Korea. Yongdusan park, located at the head of a steep slope that looks over the city and harbor in a breathtaking view, is also included.
Stop off at Tongdosa temple, literally meaning 'pass through to enlightenment'. The approach to the temple is completely entrancing. Magnificently set by a lane of pine trees dancing in the wind and beside which a mountain stream sings a babbling song, a distinctive and exalting place.
On the nearby open temple site stands twin pagodas of Gameunsa dedicated to the Dragon Spirit of King Munmu. The immense pagodas have a three-story body on a two-tier foundation. Stair step effects are seen under the eaves of the roof while the roof line has a gentle slope and is comparatively broad-brimmed. You will marvel at the true masterpieces of Korean architecture.
Enjoy driving tour to Homigot, a cape jutting out into the Sea and one of the easternmost points on the Korean peninsula. Near the sculptures sits lighthouse museum along with numerous tourist shops, seafood restaurants, peddler tents and the likes. Visit Light House Museum, featuring 3,500 items used in the early days of Korea's lighthouse history.
Then, on to Gyeongju, an ancient capital of Silla, often dubbed as Museum without Walls.
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, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. A short ride from the grotto is Bulguksa temple. Following the one-pillared gate and the four guardian's gate, you will reach two double level arched stone staircases - the symbolic bridges, leaving the world of sufferings behind and to enter Buddha's land.
Next, you will 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. Enjoy a tour of Anapji, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, followed by a relaxed walking tour covering the ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress where Silla palace and eight fortress gates stood.
Then head to the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Each stone used in the observatory bears symbolic meaning. You will make a stop at Poseokjeong. It was a summer pavilion where the later kings of Silla often forgot their loyal duties and spent most of their time banqueting. Tour includes 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.
Stop at Goryeong Tumuli Museum, located below the group of ancient tombs, a perfect replica of the Jisan-dong Tomb No. 44 itself, a large-scale living burial to be first discovered in Korea. Nearby Daegaya Museum exhibits a huge collection of artifacts excavated in Goryeong. Then, travel through a scenic countryside to Gayasan national park to see a magnificent Haeinsa temple from the 9th century, housing world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras.
Continue on to 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, the five story wooden pagoda was 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. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong.
Travel to Andong to 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 and get a glimpse of the world of hand-made paper manufacturing. See 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.
En route, stop at Punggi to see Ginseng Market. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. Tour the Sosu Seowon. It is the first private institute established in Korea, and was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars.
Visit Buseoksa from the 7th century, the temple of the floating stone. Tour includes 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.
Enjoy a 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. Drive past North Korean submarine that was wrecked in the nearby coastal waters on the 18th of September, 1996. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land while the others were on standby in the submarine.
Journey to Pyeongchang to see the 7th century 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. Said to have been found in the Diamond Pond to the south of the temple, the statue is offering something. Drive past Gisamun beach, in the middle of which runs the 38th parallel north latitude that divided the country in 1945.
Travel on to Naksansa temple from the 7th century, and onto 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, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year.
The word 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 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.
Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230m) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
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
Travel to the most northern tip of the east coast to visit the Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. Head on to Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, to see Kim Ilsung villa.
Tour includes Baekdamsa temple from the 7th century. The access to the temple is on a shuttle bus with other tourists. You will see the breathtaking vista of the Baekdam Valley and its crystal clear streams.
Orientation city tour covers Myeongdong. It is more popular with Dakgalbi, a city's specialty. The sizzling sound and spicy aroma stimulate your appetite and the busiest commercial center. Then, on to Gaypeong and visit Nami Island, the filming site of the popular Korean drama serial, "Winter Sonata".
Visit Gwangneung, the home of the National Arboretum. This area has one of the most diverse ecosystems in Korea. Since King Sejo was laid to rest in the area in 1468, the forest has been left untouched by humans for over 500 years.
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.
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2 days / 1 night