10. Jeonju Hanok Village
This traditional village is famous for streets lined with food vendors and restaurants serving local dishes, such as Jeonju bibimbap, which as a dish that consists of rice served with sautéed vegetables, chili paste, soy sauce, a raw (or fried) egg and sliced meat (usually beef). Jeonju is also replete with hanoks, which are traditional Korean houses that were built with very special attention paid to where they were located. In an ideal world, a hanok would have a mountain behind it and a river in front of it.
9. Gamcheon Culture Village
Prior to 2009, this picturesque seaside village was actually a slum primarily containing refugees of the Korean War, but that all changed following a government decision to redevelop it into a tourist attraction and artistic hub. Funds were allocated to Gamcheon for its beautification, and the picture you see above is the result. Artists love the place and flocked to it in droves after the project was completed. Gamcheon is best enjoyed simply by walking through its colorful streets.
8. Boryeong Mud Festival
Make sure you’re dressed in your worst clothes if you plan to attend this one! This festival takes place annually on Daecheon Beach, and truckloads of mud are shipped in from the nearby Boryeong mud flats so that the literal mud-slinging can get underway. Over the course of two weeks, this festival attracts millions of visitors from South Korea and far, far beyond. Notable highlights include the Mud Prison, mud skiing, and mud wrestling.
7. Boseong Tea Fields
These tea fields are the only ones of their kind open to the public in the whole of South Korea, and they make for a spectacular sight when viewed from above. They can be explored via many walking trails and viewing points, and you’ll undoubtedly see highly-skilled workers choosing only the very best tea leaves for harvesting. This beautiful tea can be enjoyed in a traditional Korean tea ceremony, which will also serve as an amazing entry point to Korean culture for you. Remember to check out the beautiful bamboo forest on the outskirts of the fields before you leave the area.
6. Hallasan National Park
Located on Jeju Island, just off the coast of South Korea, this stunning national park is home to Hallasan, the country’s highest mountain. Its original Korean name is Yeongjusan, which means “the mountain high enough to pull the galaxy”. Hiking trails abound in this picturesque landscape, and they’re suited to every fitness and experience level. Even the hike to the mountain’s summit is of only intermediate difficulty, and there’s a spectacular crater lake to enjoy once you reach it.
5. Hwaseong Fortress
Situated right in the middle of the city of Suwon, this wall was built between 1794 and 1796 on the order of King Jeongko to honor the remains of his executed father. The execution was actually ordered by his grandfather. The complex features an elaborate palace and various gate towers in addition to the walls themselves. Hwaseong Fortress is a dedicated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival, which takes place every fall.
4. Huwon Secret Garden
One of the most well-preserved royal palaces in all of South Korea can be found in the capital, Seoul. Changdeokgung Palace was the seat of many a powerful king and their families, but the gardens are arguably even more spectacular than the palace itself. Huwon Secret Garden features an incredible array of plants, trees, rivers, lotus ponds, pavilions and sitting areas. The garden gets its name from the fact that it was strictly off limits to anyone other than royals unless permission to enter was granted.
3. Namiseom Island
Highly distinct seasons are the key feature of Namiseom Island, thus making it an incredibly popular destination for domestic tourists. The half-moon-shaped island was formed as a result of the construction of the Cheongpyeong Dam, which separated the landmass from the rest of the river. The island gets its name from a famous general, who was buried in the area back in the 17th century. Be sure to try the pan-fried rice cake that the island is famous for when you’re there.
2. Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung lies in the heart of Seoul, and initial construction was completed all the way back in 1395, however several structures have been added over the course of the centuries. There are two museums to explore within the palace walls, namely the Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea. Restoration work on the palace is ongoing, which is not surprising considering the sheer scale of the place.
1. Demilitarized Zone
The Koreas (North and South) have technically been at war since 1953 after the Korean War Armistice was signed. This took place because neither side could claim outright victory in the Korean War, in which more than a million people perished. The heavily-guarded Demilitarized Zone marks the border between the two countries and offers a glimpse into the mysterious North. What’s more is that people visit the DMZ for a spot of self-reflection on the state of political systems and the freedoms (or lack thereof) that people enjoy in the world today. You can even take a guided tour of the DMZ when you’re there.