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South Korea

Vibrant temples and neon cities

South Korea tailor-made holidays

Introduction

Long overshadowed by its headline-grabbing neighbours, South Korea is unfairly overlooked. But, those that do make the journey to the Land of the Morning Calm are richly rewarded with neon megacities, mountain-top temples and a truly unique cuisine that’s only just getting the attention it deserves.

Introductions are invariably made in Seoul, the country’s capital. This is where Korea pulled itself out of wartime collapse and into G20 prosperity in just 50 short years – an economic phenomenon termed the “Miracle on the Han River”. Having leapfrogged the likes of Russia and Australia, Seoul wears its riches on its sleeve, with great skyscrapers, glitzy neon streets and fine-dining restaurants all competing for your attention. It’s hard to imagine that the Demilitarized Zone with North Korea is just a daytrip away.

Yet, Korea hasn’t lost its roots. Even in the centre of Seoul, you’ll quickly stumble across bustling markets, Confucianist shrines and great palaces, all intricate carvings and beautiful colours. However, it’s perhaps Korean cuisine where tradition has lingered longest. Simply, there’s nowhere else in the world that does food like Korea, whether that’s the spicy tang of fermented kimchi, the impossible fluffy delight of seafood pancakes or the convivial joy of a night at a barbecue joint. It’s all washed down with gallons of soju liquor – the world’s most popular brand of booze. Koreans really do like to drink.

You would, however, be doing yourself a disservice if you limited yourself to Seoul. Second-city Busan impresses with golden beaches and waterside temples, Gyeongju is world-famous for its cherry blossom and ancient palace complex, and the country’s interior is ripe for hikes to forgotten mountain temples. However, for the true Korean holiday experience, get yourself to Jeju – a volcanic island where pristine sands front gorgeous countryside and seafood is caught by haeneyo free divers.

At a glance

Flying time from UK
11½ hours

Time zone
GMT +9

Currency
Won (W)

Language
Korean

Travel advice
None

Top itineraries in South Korea

Essential South Korea

9-day tailor-made journey from £2,715 pp incl. flights

Contrast South Korea’s neon futurism with its ancient past on this independent tour, linking Seoul’s palaces, Busan’s water temples and Gyeongju’s ancient-capital heritage with private touring and transfers throughout.

Best of South Korea

14-day tailor-made independent tour from £5,235 pp incl. flights

This is the ultimate introduction to South Korea, moving between shrine-studded national parks and Jeju Island’s tropical paradise to Gyeongju’s ancient temples and the neon of Seoul and Busan. It’s all complemented by private touring and transfers throughout.

Top places to stay in South Korea

Park Hyatt, Seoul, South Korea

Accommodation

For a luxury break in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the South Korean capital, venture into the Park Hyatt Seoul.

Where to go in South Korea

Seoraksan National Park

The word Seoraksan translates roughly as ‘snow-cragged mountains', and this protected area of pine forests and bony rock formations criss-crossed with hiking trails is, quite rightly, viewed as the country's most beautiful national park.

Jeju Island

Numerous beaches, tumbling waterfalls, volcanic crags and a warmer climate than the mainland have all helped to make Jeju Island the country's most popular holiday spot, particularly among Korean honeymooners.

Gyeongsang Province

The Gyeongsang region is made up of two provinces: Gyeongsanbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do. It was one the eight regions of Korea during the Confucian Joseon Dynasty, is full of the treasures of the Silla Kingdom's Buddhist culture, and has played a significant role in Korea's recent history.

Seoul

Seoul is divided in two by the Han River, the southern half known for its business district, the northern half as a focal point for culture and history.

See all places

South Korea articles

Just back from: South Korea

Wexas travel specialist Dave Ward reports from a recent trip to South Korea and shows you how to carve a path through this culturally rich, complex country.

Meet our South Korea experts

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Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

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