Top tourist attractions in South Korea
A staggering 19 million tourists made their way to South Korea last year, and with good reason. The southern half of this Asian territory is home to 12 UNESCO Heritage sites, a wealth of ancient history, urban grit and even a tropical island.
Its unique culture fuses east and west traditions, plus it’s world-leading in technology, clubbing and female golfers - 38 of the top 100 are from Korea. Whose interest isn’t piqued by that?
Of the broad range of attractions, the Flexicover team has narrowed down the very best to give a flavour of South Korea’s delights - though if it’s actual flavour you’re looking for, ignore this and make a beeline for their delicious street food….
The Demilitarised Zone
Established after the Korean War to provide a buffer between South Korea and communist North Korea, the four kilometre-wide zone remains an area of political tension, though civilians in the South are allowed to visit with a military escort. Depending on the chosen tour, you’ll use binoculars to look over to the northern side, uncover some of North Korea’s secret tunnels, or visit the Joint Security Area, where you can physically stand in North Korea and take pictures for posterity. It makes for an interesting afternoon, to say the least.
Nestled within the Sobaek Mountains, Guinsa’s peaceful surroundings help explain why it’s the head temple of the Cheontae tradition of Buddhism. Though the original temple was destroyed in the Korean War, it was rebuilt in 1966 in more than its former glory, tucked in a valley with incredible views. It’s a literal trek to get there, but it’s worth the effort, especially as they offer temple stays twice a month, which give visitors a taste of Buddhist life. The stay includes a tour of the grounds, Buddhist activities and lessons – but only four hours of sleep a night, so no heavy parties beforehand.
Seoraksan National Park
As far as National Parks go, Seoraksan is up there with the world’s best. The trails in the 63 sq m UNESCO site range from family-friendly ambles to three-day mountain climbing hikes, and all are well-marked. Across the park, everything a nature-lover could want can be found: a wide range of flora and fauna, animals from bears to otters, hot springs, a mountain view on one side, the Sea of Japan on the other, and sprinkles of Korean culture like Buddhist statues and isolated temples. We’d recommend an autumn visit to see the incredible colours as winter approaches, but any time of year is good – although be aware that in winter they’ll close trails if it’s too snowy to be safe.
Known as ‘the museum without walls’, Gyeongju City marks Korea’s rich and ancient past. Among the modern-day amenities, tombs, relics and artefacts are found in this protected site. The City needs at least a couple of days to uncover its delights, like the Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto and Anapji Pond for starters. Daereungwon Tomb Complex is worthy of a day alone: its 23 large tombs from the ancient kingdom of Silla are a compelling insight into how Korean society functioned over a thousand years ago. As Gyeongju is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the country, it’s not difficult to find organised tours to make the most of your stay.
If South Korea wasn’t blessed enough with a forward-thinking culture, incredible food, a rich history and many nature sites, it also has its own holiday island: Jeju, found 85km off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. Both domestic and international holidaymakers flock to the island in summer, making the Seoul to Jeju flight route the highest trafficked in the world. In addition to incredible weather, the island boasts white, sandy beaches and electric-blue seas, plus lava caves, a folk village and photogenic botanical gardens, with accommodation options ranging from low-budget to high-end luxury. For an island experience more off the beaten track, explore the 3,000 West Sea Islands around South Korea’s western coast instead.
Just from this short run down it’s clear that South Korea offers an abundance of stunning sights and a fascinating culture which are just waiting to be explored. So whether you choose to spend your downtime this year heading there, or elsewhere on our beautiful planet, it’s good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day while away.