Welcome to 2012! If you’re like me, you’ve already started looking at the calendar and have asked yourself, “When can I get away next?” While most of us don’t have long stretches of time to travel, probably the greatest thing about traveling in and around Korea is that no destination is too far away. One can easily get from one side of the country to the other in just a few hours. So to help you get excited about the upcoming year of travel, I present a list of 10 places to visit – one from each province, Seoul, and Jeju.
Personally, I love the Jong-no district of Seoul. It’s where the Grand Palaces, Jongmyo Shrine, and Cheonggyecheon are located. For this reason, I recommend taking a day to walk the five Palaces. Not only is this good exercise, but also it offers one the chance to see why I find Seoul amazing – the close proximity of historic locations with giant skyscrapers. Taking this journey also allows visitors the opportunity to have some of the best food and coffee in Korea and stroll along the historic Cheonggyecheon following their journey.
Located in Suwon, is the Hwaseong Fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is probably one of my favorite places in Korea. It dates back to the later portion of the Joseon Dynasty. Today, visitors can see a pristine example of how fortresses were constructed. With its large structure, it’s like taking a step back in time. Located within the fortress walls is the Hwaseong Haenggung, or palace, with martial arts and cultural performances shown throughout the year.
Address: Gyeonggi-do Suwon-si Paldal-gu Ingye-dong Jangan-gu, Gwonseon-gu Area
Phone: +82-31-1330 (English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
Web: ehs.suwon.ne.kr (English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
Hours: Summer season 09:00-18:00; Winter season 09:00-17:00
Admission: Individual – Adults 1,000 won / Youth 700 won / Children 500 won; Group (over 30 people) – Adults 700 won / Youth 500 won / Children 300 won ※ Credit cards accepted
Directions: Suwon Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Take Bus 2, 7, 7-2, 8, or 13 and get off at Jongno 4-geori (intersection). Walk 5 minutes to fortress.
Loving hiking as much as I do, I can’t help but to recommend Seoraksan National Park. Located just outside Sokcho, this National Park is probably best experienced in the fall when the foliage comes to life. While many flock to this location to hike the summit, many will find the lower trails just as beautiful or opt to take the cable car to the peak. When exploring this province, this is a destination not to be missed.
Address: Gangwon-do Inje-gun Buk-myeon
Phone: +82-33-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Web: english.knps.or.kr (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese)
Mt. Songnisan National Park is comprised of Mt. Songnisan and the valleys of Hwayang, Seonyu, and Ssanggok. With sharp granite peaks and deep valleys of sedimentary rocks, the natural scenery is spectacular. If you love hiking, this is a definite must-see location on your travel list. One of Korea’s largest temples, Beopjusa, can also be found on Mt. Songnisan.
Address: Chungcheongbuk-do Boeun-gun Songnisan-myeon Sangpan-ri
Phone: +82-43-1330 (English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
Web: english.knps.or.kr/Knp/Songnisan/ (English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese)
Located just outside the city of Andong, is the Hahoe Folk Village. It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace to Korea’s Ryu clan and several Joseon era scholars. The village was founded on this site because the Nakdong River flows around the entire village, creating magnificent sandy beaches. Buyongdae Cliff overlooks Hahoe and provides a great panoramic view of the settlement. A lush, pine forest dots the landscape creating a tranquil environment. Should one like to experience rustic life, several minbaks are available.
Address: Gyeongsangbuk-do Andong-si Pungcheon-myeon Hahoe-ri
Phone: +82-54-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Web: www.hahoe.or.kr (Korean, English, Japanese)
Hours: March-October: 09:00-19:00; November-February: 09:00-18:00
Directions: Take bus 46 from Andong Terminal (06:20, 08:40, 10:30, 11:25, 14:05, 14:40, 16:00, 18:10/ 40min-ride)
When looking for summer fun, Daecheon is the place to be. Specifically, the Boryeong Mud Festival held each July attracts millions of visitors annually. The black mud is said to help protect the skin, but most visitors could care less about that. What they’re there for is the weeklong party. Several mud-themed events take place ranging from photo contests to mud sliding.
Address: Daecheon Beach in Sinheuk-dong, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do
Phone: Department of Culture and Tourism, Boryeong City Hall Tel: +82-41-930-3542
Web: http://www.mudfestival.or.kr/english/ (Eng,Kor,Chn,Jpn)
Jeonju was the birthplace of the Joseon Dynasty. Located in the city center is the Hanok Village. While there are several located in Seoul, what makes Jeonju’s Hanok Village a must-see stop on any tour around Korea is its proximity to several other historical sites… and not to mention the ability to sample its famous bibimbap.
A trip to Korea is certainly a magical experience, and if traveling during the spring, one can actually see magic take place. The place to go is Jindo, where the sea parts creating a 3km road, 60m wide for about an hour. Nearly 50,000 visit this festival site every year, and it’s truly something special to see and experience.
Location: Jeollanam-do Jindo-gun Gogun-myeon Hoedong-ri ~ Uisin-myeon Modo-ri Gagye Beach
Phone: Korea Travel Phone +82-61-1330
Transportation: From Seoul’s Central City Terminal, take an express bus headed towards Jindo (4 buses daily at 7:35am, 9:00am, 3:30pm, 4:35pm / est. travel time of 5hrs 20min) and get off at the Jindo Bus Terminal. From the terminal, take a city bus (towards Hoedong-ri in Gogun-myeon) or a taxi (est. travel time of 30-40 minutes) to the festival location.
The seaside city of Tongyeon isn’t flashy by any standards, but that’s its draw. This quiet area of Korea has some of the best food you’ll find as well as a great hiking course. In addition, several nearby islands are accessible by ferries and appear more European than Korea in style. It makes a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of Busan.
Jeju is often referred to as “Korea’s Hawaii” and has just been named one of the New 7 Wonders of the world. With so many natural wonders present, it might be hard to single out just where to travel. However, for me, the ideal part of the island is located in and around its southern city, Seogwipo. Here you’ll find magnificent waterfalls, towering lava formations, and warm weather year round. It really is fantastic.
So there you have it – ten places to explore in the up coming year. Pack your bags and set off on your own adventure!