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 edged by 365 meter long streamlets having its eastern waterway engraved with major historical events from 1392. The first thing that you?will notice is the statue of Admiral 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). He is also credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. A little further behind is a statue of King Sejong who promulgated Korean Alphabet in the 15th century, which is nowadays commonly referred to as Hangeul. It is neither based on ancient written languages nor an imitation of another set of characters, but an alphabet unique to Korea. 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 Gyeongbok palace with its magnificent gates, graceful architecture and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.
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.
See 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. You surely won't 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 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 in peace and quiet.
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, 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.
You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques.
Drive past Dongdaemun. It once served as the east gate of Seoul. Explore Gyeongdong herb market, one of the largest herbal medicine markets in Korea.
Travel to Chuncheon, a city of scenic lakes, making it one of the most beautiful cities in Korea, and visit Soyang multipurpose dam, whose bank measures123 meters high and 530 meters long, keeping 3 billion cubic meters of water and producing an annual electricity output of 350 million KWs. The word of the afternoon is cycling. The trails are not for professional races or intense competition. More suited for relaxed biking than racing. From urban skylines to beautiful river vistas, the river valleys have something for everyone, and the bikeway is a dedicated bike and walkway with no vehicular traffic. The route winds offering camping sites, picnic facilities, sports grounds, wide areas of natural parkland and over gently rolling terrain. It is a perfect match for the runner, skater or bicyclists.
Journey across the picturesque countryside to Inje for a rafting on the Naerincheon River. Then, travel to the most northern tip of the east coast. Less convenient to get to, the route offers much more pleasant countryside scenery and remote tranquility. Visit the Unification Observatory.
Stop at 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.
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, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year.
The word of the day is hiking, exploring Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple. The trail on the left of the temple leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m).
One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play here while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. Hikers will follow the path along this valley which is most well known for its breathtaking view. On a 3Km point, a halfway between Sogongwon and Yangpok, is Biseondae where Janggunbong rises majestically above the valley. High among the crags of Janggunbong is Geumgang cave.
The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of Janggunbong, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for about half a kilometer. 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 mountain's rocky face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley. Another trail to the right of the temple is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century.
In front of the hermitage on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi which is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Your adventure begins by climbing steep Ulsan Bawi, a two kilometer-long ridge of naked, gray stone jutting nearly a kilometer into the sky from the park's floor. Biryong waterfall trail is relatively easy for anyone to try, 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 trekking trails from Sogongwon or park entrance are as follows. The given times are based on round trip with a normal trekking pace starting and ending at Sogongwon.
Biryong waterfall (310m) (4.8km): 2 hours - Easy
Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours - Easy
Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 3 hours and 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 6 hours and 30 minutes - Easy
Heundeulbawi (797m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Easy
Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810m) (7.6km): 4 hours 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
Visit Woljeongsa. 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.
Drive past 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.
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.
Explore 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.
The tour continues to 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.
Visit Dosan Seowon, a Confucian-shrine academy. Set by the lake in its front and dense pine forests to the rear, it was where a revered philosopher and scholar, Yi Hwang (1501-1570) after his officialdom in 1549, built lecture hall to educate the students and study Neo-Confucianism for himself.
Stop at 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.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a bend of the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
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 famous 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 ancient Goryeo dynasty (918-1392).
Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rise 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.
Stop off at a traditional paper-making workshop to get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing - a painstaking process which hasn't changed much from ancient times.
Journey onward to the Songnisan national park, weaving through the countryside with its rural vistas. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". The tour passes through Maltijae, a 12 hairpin turn, and shortly thereafter leads you to a 600-year-old pine tree. Shaped like an open umbrella, it is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters.
See Beopjusa temple dating back to 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. 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.
Hiking is planned. The tour of the day is a mix of easy and challenging 6 hour course, Saesimjeong - Jungsajaam - Munjangdae (1,054m) - Sinseondae - Gyeongeopdae - Saesimjeong - parking, taking some 6 hours.
The first leg of trekking to Saesimjeong is flat and very easy of 3.4km, thereafter the trail changes abruptly tough, narrow and rocky. There are iron guardrails, and trails are often challenging until you reach Munjangdae, where a huge flat rock magnificently occupies the top, providing a panoramic view of the park.
Trekking continues eastward over the ridge for some 2km, you will come across Sinseondae and turn right down into the valley leading to Gyeongeopdae, Saesimjeong, Beopjusa and finally to the parking.
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.
National Folklore Museum
Gyeongdong Herb Market
Kim Ilsung Villa
Geojin Fishing Village
Seoraksan National Park
North Korean Submarine
Hanji Paper Workshop
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
Optional activity costs
Tips and gratuities
German, French, Spanish or Russian speaking guides are available at an additional cost
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4 hours and 30 minutes
2 days / 1 night