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, you will be met by a gracious tour guide and escorted to the hotel.
Day 2 Seoul - Breakfast
You will 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 (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.
Visit Gyeongbok palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.
Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwadmun, 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. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. 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. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.
Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a man-made 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 in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the Japanese. Upon exiting the Sinmumun gate, you will take a few minutes to take some pictures in front of the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of the president of Korea.
Onto the National Folklore Museum showcasing cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation - life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio-cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.
Visit Jogyesa, the head temple of Jogyejong the principal sect of Korean Buddhism. It emphasizes the Zen orthodox, meditation tradition and maintains the purity of monastic celibacy. The temple does not give off the solemn and traditional air of the other temples located deep in the mountains, but when you enter the temple the frenzy of the city start disappearing letting you explore the main worship hall, pagodas and bell tower. The Main Worship Hall holds triad Buddhas, Sakyamuni, Amitabha and Bhaisajyaraja. The figure in the center is Sakyamuni Buddha who has overcome greed, hatred and delusion. While here it is worth noting the 500 year old lacebark pine and 400 year old locust tree that still grace the property.
Next, Insa-dong. It is the center of traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and alleys are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure.
Drive past Cheonggyecheon, a 5.8 kilometer long creek that flows through downtown and under 22 little bridges. At the head of the stream stands a sculpture created by world-renowned artist Coosje Van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.
Lastly, visit the centuries-old Namdaemun market where well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. Widely acknowledged as one of the Seoul's best tourist attractions, the market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. One of the most colorful aspects of the market is an endless sprawl of street-vendor stalls that setup in the alleys and walkways between the buildings. As you stroll through the market, you can haggle over the price to get the best deal on something you want or simply admire the vibrancy of this massive market.
Day 3 Seoul - Yongdae - Goseong - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Seorkaksan - Breakfast
You will enjoy a pleasant journey across the picturesque countryside to Yongdae. Less convenient to get to, the route offers much more pleasant countryside scenery and remote tranquility. Visit 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. Due its isolated location in the deep of the inner Seorak, the temple became a popular retreat devoted to Buddhist Meditation practice. Walking on the bridge, decorated with Lotus lanterns, you are taking a step from the stressful world to the serenity of nature and Buddhism.
Then, on to the most northern tip of the east coast. Once there in Ganseong, you'll find the scenic road along the edge of the coast to be one of - if not the best - courses to drive in the country. Visit the 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, you continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps sat 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. These structures will interlock and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. Here, you will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched ahead across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands.
Stop off at Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and visit Kim Ilsung villa. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South. The villa displays photos of Kim Ilsung and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. The museum is not to glorify him but to show Korea's complicated modern history.
As you stroll down the fishing village, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, skillful hands repairing fishing nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle.
Then, head on to the 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 spring brings full of blooms and the summer creates lush green slopes and crystal clear streams tumbling over the cataracts. Fall changes foliage into brilliant colors and even in the winter, the snow blankets the hushed landscape, bringing serenity and a quiet beauty.
Day 4 Seoraksan - Breakfast
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. The statue sits on a lotus pedestal, which is flanked with 16 inscribed panels describing the entire path of Buddha's enlightenment. A little further on is Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple that sits at a fork in the scenic trails. As your approach, you can hardly miss trail signs.
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 (1,708 meters). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. You will follow the path along this valley which is most well-known for its breathtaking view.
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 600 meters. Even though there are stairs with guardrail the climb up can still be steep and exhausting. You can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley.
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. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Next, your adventure begins by climbing a steep metal stairs that angle up Ulsan Bawi, a 2.8 kilometer long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873 meters into the sky from the rock's base.
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. The peak is surrounded by cavernous drop-off cliffs, cloaked in more towering rocky summits. Definitely, you stand in awe on the top: sweeping panoramic views of the park around you, the Pacific Ocean, and the small beachside town of Sokcho. Be careful as always as there is not much room to move about and people constantly going up and down and moving around.
Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230 meters) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
Biryong waterfall (310 meters) (4.8 kilometers): 2 hours - Easy
Biseondae (334 meters) (6 kilometers): 2 hours - Easy
Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495 meters) (7.2 kilometers): 3 hours and 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
Biseondae + Yangpok (715 meters) (13.2 kilometers): 6 hours and 30 minutes - Easy
Heundeulbawi (797 meters) (6.6 kilometers): 3 hours - Easy
Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810 meters) (7.6 kilometers): 4 hours 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
After trekking, you will explore Daepohang. It becomes a great attraction when this small alley lit up. You will see a wide variety of fresh seafood harvested from the nearby sea and a number of small restaurants serving sliced raw fish. You will find something to enjoy, from simply feeling the ambiance of this small fishing port to taking picture.
Day 5 Seoraksan - Pyeongchang - Gangneung - Samcheok - Breakfast
Journey to Pyeongchang for a visit of the 7th century Woljeongsa temple. You are treated to 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. 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. The head is covered with a hat, the face is long and the ears are slightly hidden by long hair. Around the neck there are three lines which are so beautifully carved hat they look like necklaces. The elbow is resting on the head of a young boy. Next to the Bodhisattva is an octagonal nine-story pagoda which stands 15.2 meters high and is representative of the many-angled, many-storied stupas of the Goryeo Period. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter road arched by 1,700 tall fir trees. You will stroll the path listening to the trickles of stream and smelling the fresh yet musky fir trees.
Next, North Korean submarine. This submarine 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. The leader of the three gave a signal to the colleagues in the submarine and then ordered them to closer to the seashore. While approaching, it was washed away by the waves and driven on to the rock. Eventually, they abandoned any attempt to find their way back. They set a fire inside the submarine in order for destruction of evidence such as confidential information and documents, and escaped from it. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and all guerrillas were mopped out; one was captured alive, 13 spies were shot and 11 were murdered by their colleagues. The salvaged submarine is on display together with retired Korean navy ship.
Drive past 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. 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. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office, you will come to a cave entrance of overwhelming size in the middle of the mountain. The cave itself is super massive and it would take well over one hour to explore. Be prepared for wet walkways, maneuvered up a narrow corridor with a rapidly flowing creek below it and hung off the side of the cave's walls above the creek. In the stream near the entrance, many salamanders are living. The walls spout water from innumerable cracks and seeps, which join to make good-sized streams, waterfalls and pools. Several tributary streams merge into one that flows out through the entrance. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor; this cave is truly a high-energy cave. Only 1.6 kilometers open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. The main sights are various speleothems, popcorn calcite, calcite crystals, royal throne, waterfalls, flowstones, and curtains. Along the walls of the cave often time a phenomenon known as cave coral, and pockets up on the ceilings could be spotted. One of the most popular sights in the cave is this hollowed out rock formation shaped like a heart. Then, follow a rope suspension bridge over an extremely deep chasm, leading you to the second main chamber. Later down one of the side chambers is an unusual rock formation that looks like the Virgin Mary. And, on a side trail, you will go around a rock formation known as the Great Wall. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or shopping in the store for souvenirs.
Day 6 Samcheok - Taebaek - Buseok - Punggi - Andong - Breakfast
En route , stop off at Taebaek, a highland town once boomed with coal mining until the early 1980s. Taebaek coal museum is an excellent facility that provides visitors with rich information about Korea's coal mining. The museum displays well over 8,000 items including rocks such as silver, ore, fossils, and mining equipment and documents. You will also explore a mine simulation modeled closely after real mine showing how the mining work was like.
Tour moves to Buseoksa, the temple of the floating stone. It is a bit out of the way, but worth the trip. It was established in 676 by the monk Uisang after he had returned from China, bringing with him the teachings of Hwaeom Buddhism. 108 steps that symbolize 108 sufferings and evil passions lead visitors to the main hall - Muryangsujeon, the second-oldest wooden structure in Korea. Enshrined here is the 7th century Amitabha Buddha with the earth-touching and evil-expelling hand posture. A stone lantern made during Unified Silla period stands in the front and to the west of the hall, at the bottom of a steep bluff, lies the legendary floating stone. To the east is a three-story pagoda behind which is a pavilion dedicated to the Chinese girl who, in the form of a dragon, helped Master Uisang. In addition, the temple has many treasures, stone pagodas, the flagpole supports, the Goryeo wood-blocks, the stupa in which the remains of famous monks are kept, and some of the mural paintings which have survived Korea's turbulent history.
Next, visit Sosu Seowon, the first private Confucian-shrine academy established in Korea, and was a birthplace of Confucian education. Adjacent Seonbichon is the home to scholars called "Seonbi" during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). The village gives an idea about the everyday lives of the scholars, from both a physical and spiritual perspective, and their connection to Confucianism. It is also a great attraction to learn and experience their philosophy, mental and ethical values.
A short journey leads to Punggi, a small town which has been famous for quality ginseng and apples. Punggi ginseng market has a good smell, better than it tastes. This mysterious root is considered a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. 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. There are also many shops along the street leading out from the painfully quiet train station. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. All these features combined offer a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.
Time permitting, you may have a chance to 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. The 2.43 meter high head of granite Meitreya Buddha rests on top of a 9.95 meter high and 7.72 meter wide stone outcropping engraved with the Buddha's body. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff. It is now cared-for by a small temple tucked below and behind it. A short ride leads you to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects.
Day 7 Andong - Yeongdeok - Gyeongju - Breakfast
You will 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 (1392-1910) and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. Unlike most Korean villages where all the houses face south, the dwellings in this community face in all directions each capturing a unique aspect.
Graced by raised gates representing the power and social status of the clan, the tile roofed Yangban houses stand serenely and impressively in the central part of the village. The two most significant structures are Yangjindang, the head house of the Ryu clan and Chunghyodang, the home to descendants of Ryu Seongryong who was a 16th century scholar and prime minister. In contrast, the thatched roof huts of the common people encircle them. You cannot possibly miss an old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for traditional festival, Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392).
Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rises 64 meters. It is where at one time the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting as a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above the river. The village has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their cultural value. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this village on April 21, 1999.
You will stop off at the traditional workshop to get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing - a painstaking process which hasn't changed much from ancient times. Start with bark from the mulberry tree, then separate the bark from the fibers that would eventually be transformed into paper. After straining the pulp, adding some glue, drying the paper, and cutting or coloring according to need, they get a quality paper that is unique to Andong.
You are treated to another heritage site, Yangdongmaeul, a traditional village embracing a simple and unadorned natural beauty. Sheltered by forested mountains and facing out onto rivers and open agricultural fields, rustic tile-roof and thatch-roof homes line the hillsides and valleys in perfect harmony with the natural topography. Yangdong is a clan village which used to be a middle upper-class town during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). Over 150 small and large houses and two shrines which were built according to the harmonious theory of Yin and Yang have been handed down from generation to generation in their original and elegant forms. They include the residences of the head families, pavilions, study halls, Confucian academies for learning, and clusters of mud-walled, thatched-roofed houses, formerly for commoners. Most of the houses are still occupied by villagers but some are empty, making it more comfortable for you to examine them. A walk through Yangdong will help you imagine the life of noblemen during the Joseon dynasty
Gyeongju is an ancient capital of Silla (BC 57 - AD 935), often dubbed as Museum without Walls. Today, you are treated to one of the world's ten most historically significant sites with numerous relics of that era. Temple sites with weathered stone pagodas, royal tombs, Buddhist bas reliefs, and fortress ruins are scattered throughout this ancient city.
Day 8 Gyeongju - Breakfast
Today, you will explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seokguram grotto and Bulguksa temple which were both built during the glorious period of the Silla kingdom (BC 57 - AD 935). 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. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.
Next, visit 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. Up from the bridges on the terraced main courtyard stands the Hall of Great Enlightenment. The hall houses Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the right by Kasyapa and Maitreya Bodhisattva and on the left by Dipankara and Ananda. Before this hall stands a stone carved lantern and two stone pagodas. Three-storied Seokgatap with its calm simplicity of lines and minimal decoration and Dabotap with highly ornate and the noted complexity of the universe stands blending well into the architectural harmony. While here, it is worth noting the carved wood fish and cloud shaped gong hanging from the beams and a large dharma drum resting on the back of a turtle. Behind the main hall stands lecture hall, Museoljeon literally Hall of No Words. The hall gets its name from the belief that Buddha's teachings cannot be taught by mere words alone. At the back of this hall is a steep flight of steps leading you up to the Gwaneumjeon housing an image of the Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of perfect compassion, and stands at the highest point of the complex. Below the Gwaneumjeon sits Birojeon and houses a gilded statue of Vairocana with the gesture of the first wisdom, a combined hand mudra formed with both hands positioned in front of the heart, with the raised forefinger of the clenched or 'vajra-fist' right hand encircled by the closed 'vajra-fist' of the left hand. Enshrined in the Nahanjeon hall is Sakyamuni attended by two bodhisattvas, and sixteen figures of Buddha's disciples sitting in deep meditation. Hall of Supreme Bliss, standing near the main compound, houses the gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha, the ruler of the Western Paradise Sukhavati. You can hardly miss the boar in front of this hall where many are encouraged to hug and rub it. All sorts of pigs, for that matter, stand for good luck in Korean culture, as the chubbiness of the pig stood for prosperity. After all, only the rich could afford to eat and idle enough to get fat. The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East.
Stop off at Gwaereung, the tomb of the King Wonseong, which dates 798. The tomb is a 7.7 meters high circular ground mound made of piled-up soil with a bottom diameter of 21.9 meters. The stone fence and 12 animals of the zodiac carved around its base are excellent condition. What makes this tomb really significant and unique are the statues carved from granite along the promenades leading up to it - a two sets of lions, a couple of scholars, and a pair of military guards who are clearly Arabs in their clothing and the shape of their eyes.
Onto Gyeongju national museum featuring many thousands of priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid craftworks such as gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, clay figures, Buddha statues, tiles and a lot more. The Anapaji hall displays roughly 700 of the 30,000 artifacts dredged up from the Anapji pond including a royal barge. A gigantic Emille Bell from the eighth century is on display and you must certainly stand in awe before the bell with such artistic beauty of design.
You will see Cheomseongdae, known as the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory. Near sits Tumuli Park that encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, is opened to the public and you can go inside and see how the tombs were made and replicas of the treasures excavated in 1973.
Then, continue on to Poseok bower, a summer pavilion where the later kings of Silla often forgot their loyal duties and spent most of their time with royal banquets. All that can be seen now is the abalone-shaped stone channel through which at one time a cool stream of water was directed into the banquet. The 55th King Gyeongae of Silla killed himself at the party here in 927 when Gyeonhwon, the king of the Later Baekje attacked Gyeongju. The elm, in large trunk and gnarled with age, may have witnessed the final day of Silla.
The tour also covers 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. The nearby open field was once occupied by Silla's largest temple Hwangyongsa. The 67 meters tall nine-storied pagoda made entirely of wood stood here until it was destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1238.
Day 9 Gyeongju - Gampo - Yangsan - Busan - Breakfast
Travel to Busan, a Korea's second largest city surrounded by the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. Its deep harbor and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest port in Korea and the fifth largest in the world. It is also a center of industry and commerce, a thriving metropolis formed unusually long in shape along its coastal line.
En route, stop off at Gampo to see an unusual ancient tomb of King Munmu located about 200 meters off the coast. The king wished his body to be burned and buried at sea so he can protect his kingdom even after his death as a spirit of the sea. In the center of the calm sea a large rock marks the king's burial site. At low tide, the top of this oval rock is almost visible above the sea surface. And near the coast on the empty temple site stands the ancient twin pagodas of Gameunsa temple. The pagodas are dedicated to the Dragon Spirit of King Munmu, and the temple is one of the most unusual of all Silla temples. The immense pagodas are considered the largest 3 story pagoda in Korea.
Visit famous Tongdosa temple, literally '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. Tongdosa was founded in AD 646 and it is comprised of 35 buildings. The main hall is unique in that it has no statue of the Buddha, only a window looking out onto the Diamond Precepts Altar which leads up to a platform containing the bell shaped stupa housing the cremated remains of the Buddha himself, thus earning a name the temple of the Buddha.
A short break at Haeundae, a world-class beach resort blessed by beautiful water. The soft sand stretches 1.5 kilometers along the beautifully curved coastline, which culminates in the summer. There is a Dongbaek Island off Haeundae. This tiny island became more popular after holding the 13th APEC summit conference here at Nurimaru in 2005. It offers a stunning view of ocean vista on one side and that of skyscrapers on the other. A scenic trail is well established around, making it a great venue for walking tour.
Then, onto the UN Memorial Cemetery where 2,300 deceased soldiers from sixteen Korean War allies rest in honored serenity. During the period of 1951-1954, remains of approximately 11,000 fallen of the UN Forces were buried here. Thereafter, most were repatriated to their home countries. It is the permanent home of war heroes of the following nations. Australia (281), Canada (378), France (44), Netherlands (117), New Zealand (34), Norway (1), South Africa (11), Republic of Korea (36), Turkey (462), United Kingdom (885), USA (36), Unknown soldiers (4), Non-belligerents (11).
Next, explore the fascinating and bustling Jagalchi fish market located right off the downtown docks. The market offers a wide variety of fish including sea bream, sea bass, snapper, saury, pollack, halibut, corvina, cutlass fish, mackerel, octopus, sea squirt, cuttlefish, frogfish, flounder, abalone, crab, shells, to name just a few. One big draw of this market is its flexible pricing system. Since a wide array of foods from the sea sold here do not have fixed prices, visitors are free to haggle over what they expect to pay. There are also many restaurants selling raw fish at reasonable prices. Trying them here in the market is really a visual and culinary treat.
Across the street from the market is BIFF square, packed with trendy shops movie theaters and even a walk of fame where famous stars and directors have pressed their handprints into the sidewalk. Neighboring block is Gukjesijang, the largest traditional market in Busan, where a variety of items that included cosmetics, accessories, folk art crafts, hats, belts, stationery, bags, clothes, food, kitchen utensils, and more are available at very reasonable and affordable prices. Here, you will discover all that local merchants have to offer, at the same time, enjoying the ambiance of this massive market with exceptional offerings.
Lastly, visit Yongdusan park located at the head of a steep slope that looks over the city and harbor in a breathtaking view. The most conspicuous is the 120 meters high Busan tower topped by an observatory dominating the most of the area of the city, and the harbor views spreading below are spectacular. And smack dab in the middle of the park stands the statue of Yi Sunsin, the Korea's greatest naval hero who is credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. In the park's octagonal pavilion, you cannot help but appreciate the collection of countless musical instruments from basically every part of the world: The instruments included the accordion, organ, guitar, viola, flute, violin, clarinet, drums, ivory horn, balafon, marimbas, and several others.
Day 10 Busan - Departure - Breakfast
Transfer to the Gimhae international airport or Busan International Ferry Terminal for onward destination.
National Folklore Museum
Antique Shop Street
Kim Ilsung Villa
Geojin Fishing Village
Seoraksan National Park
North Korean submarine
Hanji Paper Workshop
Gyeongju National Museum
Tomb of King Munmu
UN Memorial Cemetery
Jagalchi Fish Market
Full coverage of accommodation (sharing basis, 4* hotel)
Meals as per itinerary
Full coverage of transfers and transportation as per itinerary
Optional activity costs
Tips and gratuities
German, French, Spanish or Russian speaking guides are available at an additional cost.
All our card payments are protected by thawte to give you peace of mind.