The Winter Olympics have transmitted South Korea into our living rooms and conversations over the last few weeks, and this fascinating gem of a country is more than worthy of the attention.
This relatively unexplored slice of Asia seamlessly and attractively juxtaposes over 5,000 years of culture and history with the hyper-modern. With attractive, futuristic cities, beautiful varied scenery and an eerie Demilitarized Zone to explore, it’s a country rich in experiences.
As South Korea climbs our bucketlist for 2018, here are five reasons to visit.
Experiencing a country’s local cuisine is an essential part of travelling and this is certainly true of any trip to South Korea. Local delicacies like the pickled and fermented ‘kimchi’ have become global sensations, and this quintessential dish shouldn’t be missed. Visit the largest market in the country, Namdaemun, and try other dishes including: bibimbap, Sujebi (dough and shellfish soup), and kalguksu noodles.
Gyeongbokgung, the largest of Seoul’s five great palaces, was built by the Joseon Dynasty and to this day remains the grandest. With a backdrop of Mount Bugaksan shadowing the ornate architecture, this palace emits a truly majestic feel. It is steeped in history, first constructed in 1395, and gives a deep insight into the South Korean culture.
3.The Demilitarized Zone
The border between North and South Korea is a geo-political fault line that’s still raw for the people of Korea. Visit with Explore and be escorted by the military right into the DMZ and stand at the very edge - both sides literally staring at each other just metres apart. The area has over a million soldiers on high alert on either side of the divide, and the atmosphere of this unique spot is palpable.
Visit the Buyeongdae Viewpoint and see the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Hahoe, Seokguram Grotto and the Bulguksa Temple to get under the skin of South Korea.
Go off the beaten track and visit the Hahoe Folk Village to see its fascinating mask museum and spend time with a local guide wandering through the traditional houses of the early Joseon Dynasty village. Experience a tea ceremony, traditional games and a home-cooked dinner and homestay to get your fill of the Korean culture.
Seoul is a wonderfully modern city that provides a stark contrast to the ancient traditional surroundings of the rest of the country. One of the world’s fastest growing cities, this dynamic capital is a fascinating mix of glass towers, historic temples and inviting parks. Explore the sky garden at Seoullo 7017, where a carefully cultivated plant ‘village’ has been realised on a former inner city highway.