Known as the land of the morning calm
South Korea, also known as the land of the morning calm, is becoming ever more popular with travellers, yet still retains its authentic charm and guarantees many unique and truly memorable experiences - from its ancient temples to its tasty cuisine.
Our South Korean adventure begins with an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Seoul the South Korean capital, where we'll spend the next two nights. We are welcomed on our first evening with a Korean style BBQ dinner, a traditional and popular way of dining in this part of the world.
Today includes a full-day's guided city tour that takes us to attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we'll see the ceremonial changing of the guards. A colourful event, each guard wears time-honoured robes and carries a ceremonial blade. There is also customary Korean folk music to accompany this ancient and symbolic ceremony.
Next up is Insadong Antique Alley. A creative hub in the 1930s, today Antique Alley retains its traditional atmosphere, selling, as you may have guessed, Korean antiques as well as catering for those looking to stop for a drink or snack with its array of authentic tea-houses and restaurants, many of which are tucked away down the secret alleyways that join together, forming a veritable rabbits warren of discovery. It's easy to pass an hour or two here, getting lost amidst the street vendors and enticing food stalls.
Following a group lunch we make our way to Namsangol Hanok Village set in the quaint neighbourhood of Pil-dong, just outside central Seoul. With a site here since the days of the Joseon Dynasty and a shrine dating back to the 15th century, its setting has long been considered one of the most scenic in the area, and was once a well-known summer resort for the most privileged in Korean society. Back then it went by the name of Jeonghakdong which translates as 'the land of the fairies for the blue crane where the Jeonugak Pavilion stands along the stream in the valley.'
There will be a taekwondo demonstration*, a martial art form that initiated in Korea, after which we attend a delicious kimchi (famous Korean fermented cabbage) making class. *May-October departures only
This morning we head south by coach to Jeonju, making a stop along the way at a ginseng market where we get to try a local delicacy - fried ginseng.
On arrival in Jeonju we stop at the Hanji Museum to try our hand at making customary Korean paper. Afterwards, we visit Hanok village, a heritage area made up of over 900 houses that date back to the Joseon Dynasty, and which is home to the 15th-century Gyeonggijeon Shrine. Dinner tonight is served at a nearby restaurant.
We continue by coach to Gyeongju today, a destination on the south-eastern coast of Korea celebrated for its historical remains. Here we make visits to Bulguksa Temple, located on the slops of Mount Toham. As the main temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism, it is home to no less than seven of South Korea's national treasures including two stone pagodas and the blue cloud bridge. We also make a stop at Seokguram Grotto and Tumuli Park, an alternate name for which is the Daereungwon Tomb Complex, where earth-covered mounds litter the landscape to honour the dead, the largest being reserved for members of the aristocracy and royalty. Our last port of call for the day is Cheomseongdae Observatory - the oldest stargazing tower in Asia, possibly even the world - then, following some free time this afternoon, we meet up in the evening for an excursion to Donggung and Wolji Pond. Once part of the palace complex of ancient Silla (built in the 7th century), after nightfall it is beautifully illuminated.
Day 6 takes us to Busan, a beach-side location where we ascend Busan Tower for panoramic views over the city and the Sea of Japan before experiencing a local fish market amongst other activities which include; Orukdo Skywalk, a glass-bottomed pier allowing for unique views of the ocean below, the UN Memorial Cemetery, final resting place for 2,300 United Nations Command casualties and the only burial ground of its kind anywhere in the world, as well as various other local markets.
We catch the high-speed train, allowing us to criss-cross the country in under three hours, returning to the capital today for free time at Namdaekun Market. The largest in the city, it sells plenty of genuine Korean trinkets and specialities, perfect for souvenirs or mementos of your trip. Vibrantly decorated and a bustling spot for locals and visitors alike, everyone can pick up a bargain here and the appetising food stalls give you yet another chance to sample the acclaimed flavours of South Korea.
Day 8 includes an unusual excursion to a site not many people in the world can say they've experienced; the demilitarised zone that acts as a buffer between North and South Korea. A surreal area, a visit here allows you a glimpse into the 'hermit kingdom', something that really brings home the decades of tension that has existed between these two nations and our explorations include Imjingak Park, the Bridge of Freedom, a former pathway between North and South Korea that was once used by repatriated soldiers and prisoners of war, but which now stands poignantly empty, the third infiltration tunnel, and the Dora observatory, the point closest to North Korea in the whole country.
On Day 9 we head to the airport for our direct flight back to London.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
Known as the land of the morning calm