Located in the heart of East Asia and offering a unique combination of cultural, historical and nature-based attractions, there are countless reasons why South Korea should be first on your bucket list as the world opens up again. We’ve picked out the top five to help you discover YOUR Korea…
A visit to Korea’s capital, Seoul, is like a journey through time – from the soaring skyscrapers and futuristic technology of the present to the carefully preserved royal palaces, hanok villages and traditional markets that offer a glimpse into the country’s fascinating history.
Immerse yourself in the past with a trip to Gyeongju, the “museum without walls”, where you’ll find “more tombs, temples, rock carvings, pagodas, Buddhist statuary and palace ruins” than anywhere else in Korea (Lonely Planet). And you can’t miss out on a day trip to the DMZ between North and South Korea to gain unique insight into the Korean War, one of the foremost events of the 20th century.
Kimchi – a side dish of spicy fermented vegetables - is the latest food trend to go global, and for a reason – it’s both addictive and nutritious in equal measure, like most of Korea’s cuisine.
For an authentic sit-down meal, you can’t go wrong with bibimbap, a dish that often comes in a sizzling stone bowl and consists of rice topped with meat, vegetables and a fried egg – all mixed together with gochujang red chilli paste. Or head to a traditional market to explore the vast array of street food, from tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes, a favourite with students) to hotteok pancakes filled with cinnamon, brown sugar and peanuts.
While Korean barbecue and KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) are firm favourites among tourists, there are also plenty of meat-free and vegan options. Buddhist temple food in particular – inherited from more than 1700 years of cooking tradition - utilises natural, plant-based ingredients from the mountains to create nutritious yet flavoursome variations on Korean cuisine. You can try this at temple food restaurant in the capital, or participate in a full templestay for a truly unique cultural experience.
If you’re staying more than a few days in Korea there is ample opportunity to escape the buzz of the cities and walk or cycle around the diverse natural attractions that lie just off the beaten track – from peaceful bamboo and cypress forests to the volcanic lava caves of Jeju Island.
About 70% of Korea is mountainous, and Koreans’ love for hiking means there is no shortage of stunning trails for all abilities – majestic Seoraksan National Park is a must-visit but if you have less time, Bukhansan near Seoul offers some breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings.
And if it’s pure relaxation you’re looking for, you’ll never be far away from the healing experience of a Korean spa or wellness resort, many of which make use of traditional Korean medicine and meditation practices to rejuvenate the mind and body.
Fancy participating in the Squid Game? Maybe not – but the record-breaking Netflix drama is a great example of the “Korean Wave” (Hallyu) of pop culture exports that has swept the globe and drawn attention to the creativity and innovation inherent in Korean society.
Home to catchy hit Gangnam Style, BTS (the world’s biggest boyband), Oscar-winning Parasite and more, Korea is a holiday destination you’ll want to brag about to your friends. And there are many ways to experience Hallyu in Korea, from attending a K-Pop concert or “K-Beauty” make-over to visiting the shooting locations of your favourite films and dramas.
Throughout the pandemic, Korea has proved itself a destination that puts safety first – from being an early adopter of effective track and trace measures to carrying out a swift vaccine rollout last year.
A low crime rate keeps the streets safe for tourists, and it couldn’t be more convenient to get around; an efficient (and inexpensive) subway system transports you easily around Seoul, while high-speed trains facilitate fast intercity travel (Seoul to Busan, the length of the country, takes just 2.5 hours). Signs and announcements in English, friendly locals, and an abundance of public Wi-Fi zones mean you are very unlikely to get lost – and if all else fails you can call 1330 (the Korea Travel Hotline) for 24/7 information and translation services.
And finally, if you’re planning a multi-stop tour, Korea is the perfect hub from which to explore the rest of East and Southeast Asia. A flight to Beijing or Tokyo from Seoul takes about 2 hours, and airports such as Incheon International, Gimhae (in Seoul) and Jeju operate regular flights to all major cities in the region.
Getting to Korea
As of February 2022, all international arrivals to Korea are required to quarantine in a hotel for seven days to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This restriction is being reviewed regularly and we hope to welcome visitors soon.
Korean Air and Asiana Airlines both currently operate direct flights from London Heathrow to Seoul (Incheon) three times a week; this is a reduced schedule due to Covid-19 and is expected to increase again once the quarantine restrictions are lifted.
For more information, contact:
Ruby James, Marketing Coordinator
Korea Tourism Organisation London Office
firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0)207 321 2535 (ext. 201)
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Photos: Korea Tourism Organisation