Fully vaccinated tourists can visit South Korea without quarantine. This is indeed a wonderful news for globetrotters who have been waiting patiently to explore this part of the world. Indian travellers will have to wait a little more but it is expected that the restrictions will be over soon as soon as situation improves and Indian made vaccines are approved globally. But that shouldn’t be much of a hurdle when it comes to learning and knowing about another culture. During this pandemic imposed ‘stay at home’, I chance to learn about Korean culture through the Korean dramas and I quite enjoyed some of them. I even love the Korean cartoons and animated shows. Recently, I also had an opportunity of attending a destination learning webinar organized by Korea Tourism Organization. The overview was very helpful and it fueled my interest to learn more about the country and visit it someday. Ever since, I have been researching and gathering more information. And finally I decided to blog about it to help everyone who is looking forward to South Korea itinerary planning.
Where is Korea and what makes Seoul so special?
Look at the map and spot the Korean Peninsula in Northeast Asia. Here, you will see two sovereign states, North and South Korea. South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), shares border with the Yellow Sea to the west, the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east and the Korea Strait to the south. It is located close to Japan. While North Korea prefers to keep only to itself, Republic of South Korea has always been popular choice for international travellers in the pre-pandemic era. Currently, just like all the countries, evem Korea is contemplating staggered re-opening of tourism.
After reading quite a bit on South Korea, I feel its best to start the trip from Seoul. Personally, I always like to explore the capital city before the rest of the country. In South Korea too, I would like to do the same. Seoul has a soul and is filled with culture, history, food and incredible art. 2-3 days in Seoul dint seem right even during my research. If I could have my choice, I would like to indulge in its vibrant culture and be there for atleast five days. Also keep a spare day or two for hiking around. I hear there are really good and easy hiking spots and they are high on the list of seasoned travellers.
While I was working on my ‘South Korea Itinerary Planning’, I stumbled on some interesting bits which will be handy whenever any of us plans to be there. Do check out my 12 days Korean itinerary in the next blog. Jeju, the wonder island, traditional villages of Korea and Busan are all part of it.
1.There are six districts in Seoul – Myeongdong, Gangnam, Itaewon, Hongdae, Gwanghwamun, and Insadong. One must dedicate atleast half a day to each of them. Thus, minimum 3 days in Seoul would be good to make the first impression of the country.
2. There are 5 palaces in Seoul. Art and culture lover may visit all of them or minimum three.
3. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the most popular one. There is free entrance to the palace with the discover Seoul pass or if you are wearing the traditional dress- Hanbok.
4. Changdeokgung is another of the “Five Grand Palaces”. It is a UNESCO heritage site. The palace is particularly stunning when the cherry blossoms bloom in March and April.
5. Cultural district of Insa-dong is a must-have on the itinerary.
6. We all know that Taekwondo is Korea’s national sport and it means “The way of the foot and fist”. One can visit the Muju Taekwondowong, International Kumgang Taekwondo Center and Namsangol Hanok Village to learn more about it.
7. Jogyesa Buddhist Temple and Gwanghwamum square are near Insa-Dong.
8. Indulge in the beauty of traditional Hanok houses in Bukchon Hanok Village and bring home some amazing Instagram worthy pictures. A walk around the Cheonggyecheon stream in the evening is refreshing.
9. If you like street food, dinner can be planned while keeping in mind the pop-up food stalls at Myeongdong.
10. Though located 60 kilometers from Seoul, DMZ area is one of the must-do things. This one requires a guided tour and must be pre-booked.
11. Explore the border area and be in North Korea for a few minutes while taking a tour of the Joint Security Area.
12. If you love history, Namhansanseong Fortress – one of South Korea’s most unique fortresses and if you love nature, we will check out Bukhansan National Park.
13. The views of Seoul from Bukhansan National Park are great.
14. Check out Namsan Seoul Tower and the Namdaemun Sungnyemun gate in the evening.
15. I am a street art lover and if you love it too, we can include Ihwa Mural Village in Ihwa-dong.
16.Do you remember PSY’s song ‘Gangnam Style’, you can shake a leg right at the place after which it was named, Gangnam district.
17. For the culture lovers, Nanta show of Korea is a must do. This must be included for some drama, comedy, magic and also some acrobatics. It is absolutely non-verbal, but promises lot of fun in the kitchen setup.
18. Tech and wifi lovers would love the country for its fastest internet and gadget love. Seoul leads in speed and 4G network availability.
19. Did you know that South Korea has a park which is called ‘Penis Park’? Haesindang Park is very popular. It is home to a wide range of sculptured animated penises. Enjoy the quirkiness.
20. Jeju Island is pure gold and no less than heaven. It has Halla Mountain, at 1,940m above sea level, is South Korea’s highest peak. One must visit to find out why Jejudo was named among the “New7Wonders of Nature”
21. 1,819 foot Lotte World Tower, is an architectural marvel. I read a lot aboit Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul as well.
22. The natural and green coverage of Korea is very impressive. While researching, I learned that South Korea boasts of 64 percent natural coverage and that is the reason behind the exhaustive number of national parks. Nature lovers will be happiest.
23. The Korean Wave (hallyu) is a must know and do thing.
24. An old adage but always works – Do like the locals do. Hang out with them. Walking around and checking small and big, upcoming neighborhoods is the best way to explore the Korean cities. That also gives a chance to be with the locals and see their way of life.
25. Buying local sim can be pricey but most of the travellers have shared that Wifi is available almost everywhere without much hassle. For those who need a sim, must pre-order ancd collect it at the airport itself.
Do add your helpful tips if you have been there. It is always good to know more. South Korea Itinerary Planning continues….
If you are Indian traveller and looking forward to keeping a tab on Korean travel updates, check this https://www.instagram.com/kto_india/?hl=en