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.
We will spend the morning sightseeing around Korea's capital city. Visit Gyeongbok palace and see its magnificent gates, graceful architecture and lovely gardens. The Gyeongbok Palace is a particularly charming tourist spot in Seoul that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history. A visit to the excellent facilities of the National Folklore Museum will help familiarize the visitors with the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation.
We drop by Insa-dong, which is a place known to be the center of traditional Korean art and antiques in Seoul. Clustered along the main street and alleys are numerous shops dealing in antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean art of all types and styles.
We proceed to a walking tour of Cheonggyecheon, a couple of blocks away from the antique alley. This lively commercial district filled with huge markets, arcades and commercial facilities. The town also boasts a variety of cultural events and performances staged by amateurs and street artists and shopping as well.
We visit the Namdaemun Market, which originally opened in 1414 as a government market, and discover the unique cornucopia of clothing, jewelry, appliances, dishes, folk arts, food and oriental medicine. It is widely acknowledged as one of the country's best tourist attractions.
In the afternoon, we drive to the 9th century Bogwangsa temple for an experience of the traditional monastic life. Upon arrival, we will be given time to change our clothes and have a brief temple stay orientation, followed by dinner.
Getting to observe and experience the ascetic Buddhist life in a temple is a rare opportunity to outsiders despite the many temples in the country. Some of the temples have just started opening their doors to foreign visitors for a short sojourn to give them the chance to see how monks practice their daily discipline from early morning prayers to evening rites. Visitors will get to study and experience the Korean tradition and culture, at the same time enjoying the surrounding nature.
Temple stay programs may vary depending on individual temple situation, but it basically includes morning and evening services, meditation, tea ceremony, garden walks, lantern making and much more. Our program will be as follows:
15:30 Arrival at the temple. Temple Stay orientation.
17:00 Dinner in the temple dining room.
18:00 Evening ceremony - Yebul
The evening Yebul, which takes place when the sun starts to set, is the last of 3 ceremonies of the day - the first of which takes place before dawn between 03:00-04:00 and the second beginning around 11:00. The ceremony is to pay respect to Sakyamuni Buddha and all his disciples. It is also provides individuals with a chance for a self-reflection.
As soon as we enter the Main Hall, we will bow three times to the altar of Buddha, the guardians and the memorial altar. After bowing, we sit quietly and ready our mind and body for the Yebul. Once Yebul starts, we will chant Yebulmun (prayer) together with other worshippers to the rhythm of the monk's Mocktak (wooden gong). If it is difficult to memorize the order of the procedure, simply follow the others. When the Yebul is finished, we bow three
times again and quietly leave the hall.
Meditation aims to shed greed, anger and foolishness off oneself and search for the true self. Meditation can be done sitting or walking slowly. When we practice meditation, we have to keep our body and mind comfortable and free of mundane thoughts. Talking is not allowed. Neither should we look around but keep our eyes half closed and remain still. Through continued meditation and concentration of the mind, we are able to get a deep insight into our mind by turning our outward-bound mind into inward-bound.
Korean traditional warm Ondol floors (heated from below) are clean and large enough to accommodate a small group of visitors. Rooms are sparsely furnished with mattress, quilt and pillow. This simple set-up is more than compensated by the tranquil and introspective atmosphere of the temple.
03:00 Wake up and morning Yebul.
Early-morning Buddhist Dharma Ceremony. Everyone in the temple will gather at the Main Buddha Hall and have the ceremony. This magnificent Dharma Ceremony will clear all dust from the mind and all stray thoughts from the head.
During the Yebul, we offer 108 prostrations to the Buddha, along with the monks. This ritual represents the Buddhists belief that the prostrations free you from 108 passions and delusions that disturb and pollute the body and mind.
06:00 Breakfast - Baru Gongyang
Baru Gongyang, or four-bowl meal, is a unique and special dietary arrangement of Buddhism. "Baru" means a bowl containing a moderate portion of food, indicative of the monks' eating style. With Baru, only rice and vegetables are served, following the Buddhist principle of respecting all sentient beings. This seemingly simple act of eating will allow one to reawaken his mind to the value of nature and all the life within. In Buddhism, eating is called "Gongyang" and is emblematic of the monk's dietary regimen and general lifestyle. Talking while eating is discouraged during the meal and guests are expected to wash their own dishes. The temple way of eating is available to laymen though, we will simply have our breakfast in the temple dining hall.
07:00 Tea ceremony
Korean temples' tea custom is almost a form of meditation and is not to be taken lightly. Monks will demonstrate proper etiquette and the act of preparing and serving the tea. It is a chance for us to familiarize ourselves with Korea's traditional tea culture by making a tea ourselves.
08:00 Temple tour.
We take a tour around the temple. Bogwangsa was one of the most significant temples in the Han River basin. Last renovated in 1622, the temple survived many disasters and was even destroyed during the Japanese invasion in the late 16th century.
After enough time to pack, we travel to Imjingak and visit the Mangbaedan memorial ritual altar which was established in 1985 for those who were separated from their families or displaced from home during the Korean War. It is a symbolic spot used to hold traditional memorial services for ancestors or to pray for separated family members living in the North and for reunification of the country.
We walk over the Freedom Bridge, the very locale where 12,773 Korean War prisoners walked to freedom to South Korea in 1953. Later, we view the giant Peace Bell and the Peace Stones, collected from 86 battlefields from 64 different countries that bear witness to the devastation of war.
We then board a tour bus that will take us to first to the 3rd infiltration tunnel dug up by North Koreans. Upon boarding the bus, picture taking is prohibited. On the 20-minute ride to the tunnel, we pass through the check points, military camps and mine fields. Mine warning signs and red flight panels are highly visible around.
Before going down to the tunnel, we will view a short video presentation and visit exhibition hall for more information on the divided Korea. A seven-minute tram ride through a narrow and steep interception tunnel leads us to the lower platform where we stand only 170 meters from the Military Demarcation Line.
Our next stop is the Dora Observatory where we can view the whole expanse of the Demilitarized Zone, North Korean propaganda village, Gijeong-dong, where the world's largest flag hangs on a 160 meter-tall flagpole, South Korea's northernmost village of Daeseong-dong and Panmunjom where the armistice that ended Korean War was signed.
Finally, we visit the functioning northernmost railway station Dorasanlocated only 700 meters from the Southern Limit Line of DMZ. Here, the mile marker "Seoul 56km/Pyeongyang (the North Korean capital) 205km" still stands tall for all to see.
Following breakfast, journey to Suwon for a visit to Hwaseong fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage. Though it is relatively small in scale, The Hwaseong is well acknowledged as the best structure of its kind ever built in Korea.
The four gates of Paldal, Jangan, Hwaseo, and Changnyong stand majestically at four directions. It encloses both flat land and hilly terrain with well over 30 buildings including gates, watchtowers, command posts, arrow-launchers, fire bastions and beacon towers. Of the most frequently visited points include: Seobuk Gongsimdon watch tower, boasting exceptional architectural beauty; Hwahong gate with a half-gabled and half-hipped roof and seven sluices at its base; the beacon tower; and Seojangdae, the command post overlooking the whole fortress.
A short ride from the fortress is the Korean folk village. It is an open-air real life museum that recreates the Korean life of several centuries ago, preserving some of the country's rich traditional and cultural heritage. The Korean Folk Village, peopled by real artisans and craftsmen dressed in traditional costumes, also offers performances on a daily basis. A traditional marketplace offers the exotic flavors of Korean cuisine from different regions. Shops stock a variety of traditional handicrafts and souvenirs.
With all these features combined, the tour offers a fascinating insight into the unique Korean lifestyle of the days gone by.
With time to reflect on your experience of Korea, transfer to the airport for our onward flight.
National Folklore Museum
Antique Shop Street
The 3rd Tunnel
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.
Rates for 20 pax and up are available. Please inquire.
Anyone who suffers from a weak heart, claustrophobia, or asthmatic symptoms is not allowed to enter into the 3rd tunnel.
Passport required on tour
Picture taking is prohibited upon boarding the bus to the 3rd infiltration tunnel
All our card payments are protected by thawte to give you peace of mind.
6 days / 5 nights
2 days / 1 night
4 days / 3 nights