South Korea is one of the most up-and-coming countries to visit in Asia — and dare we say it, the world! From history to food, culture, K-dramas, and more, there is always something to see and do no matter which city you choose.
If you’re planning a long trip to South Korea, don’t forget the essentials: a South Korea visa for US citizens, a camera to capture these beautiful places, and your appetite!
Seoul is a bustling metropolis that was able to seamlessly combine the aesthetic of historical palaces and temples with modern skyscrapers and futuristic buildings.
One of the hallmarks of Seoul is its royal palaces. The most famous ones include Gyeongbokgung (see if you can spot the secret garden!) and Changdeokgung Palace, which is more secluded and incredibly beautiful in autumn.
To immerse yourself in history even further, you can rent a traditional hanbok (the national dress) and feel like a prince or princess for the day as you walk through Bukchon Hanok Village.
Busan is South Korea’s second-largest city and offers plenty of places that will make your jaw drop.
For example, in Gamcheon Culture Village, it feels as if someone spilled thousands of crayons to color the city in different hues! Gamcheon attracts thousands of photographers and visitors eager to take in its unusual beauty and flavor, as they stroll near colorful houses and narrow streets, painted walls, and amazing installations. Don’t forget to take a photo with the famous Little Prince statue or admire the colors of the city in a cozy cafe!
For those who prefer to be near the sea rather than inland, head out to Haedong Yonggung Temple. This Buddhist temple is the perfect blend of historic architecture and natural beauty, and is only a short drive from the center. Enjoy the sound of waves crashing against the rocks while the wind rustles through the nearby bamboo forest.
3. Seogwipo (Jeju Island)
After taking in South Korea’s historical and cultural attractions, it’s time to see the breathtaking beauty of Jeju Island. While most travelers stay in Jeju City, there are many places to see near Seogwipo in the southern part of Jeju Island.
For example, did you know you could visit Giant’s Causeway without buying a ticket to Ireland? The Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliffs were formed when ocean water and lava from an erupting volcano mixed thousands of years ago, resulting in these unique rock formations. There’s a special viewing platform near the cliffs to get a closer look (and take a photo!)
Although Seogwipo is famous for its epic waterfalls, Jeongbang Waterfall has taken a special place among locals and tourists alike. One unique feature of Jeongbang is that it is located right by the sea, and offers plenty of rocks to sit and enjoy a picnic. It’s especially popular during warm summer months, as the cool breeze from the waterfall gently splashes down and offers a refreshing respite from the heat.
4. Hahoe Folk Village (Andong)
Hahoe Folk Village, located in Andong, is like stepping into a time machine: as soon as you enter you will be transported back hundreds of years ago!
The village is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its historical houses with thatched roofs. There are still some locals that live in these houses, and will be happy to share their customs with guests (fun fact: Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 73rd birthday here with the locals).
Due to its large size, we recommend setting aside at least half a day to wander around and get acquainted with the village. However, if you really want to get into the spirit, there are traditional ‘choga’ inns where you can stay overnight.
Those visiting on the weekend are especially in luck, as that’s when the traditional mask dance performance takes place. The hour-long performance features a comedic skit complete with singing and dancing as it tells the story of local legends.
5. Nami Island
Ranked as one of the most romantic spots in South Korea, Nami Island offers beautiful nature and harmony. Visitors can start their adventure by walking along wide alleys surrounded by different trees, from rosy cherry blossoms to white birches, maple trees, and more (they change with the season!). Those short on time can rent a bike to see the whole island.
By the way, have we mentioned that Nami Island is a popular filming spot? More than a dozen K-Dramas were set on Nami Island, including the hit drama Winter Sonata — try to see if your favorite was filmed here!