Taste the best of this fascinating country with our luxury Classic South Korea itinerary. Enjoy nine experience-packed days while you explore Gyeongju, Busan, Jeju and even a touch of Gangnam style in Seoul! Go on a shopping spree in Seoul, explore the lush countryside and marvel at the panorama of brand new skyscrapers built alongside ancient herbal medicine shops.
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Arrive in South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul, and check in to one of our two recommended luxury hotels, either the Conrad Seoul or the Ritz Carlton Seoul. Visit the Gyeongbok palace, the largest and grandest of the city’s famous Five Grand Palaces. Gyeongbok translates to “greatly blessed by heaven,” and when you set eyes on its splendor, it’s easy to see why. Built in 1394 and restored after a war with Japan, this palace is in its original style. A beautiful collection of both modern and ancient art is housed at the Leeum Samsung Museum. New and old are positioned to create a sense of harmony in the museum. The trip won’t be complete without a perusal of the traditional Korean Bangsan Market. Be sure to pick up some of the intricate pressed wrapping paper.
Today is focused around exploring a mix of new and old. Join the youth of Seoul in the Hongdae district, an area known for its contemporary art and independent music culture. Wander through some of the small, modern art galleries before you experience a more ancient culture during your visit to the Jinkwansa nun’s temple. At this monastery for Buddhist nuns you can enjoy handcrafted, delicious and traditional temple foods. Don’t forget Seoul’s own Jazz Club! The day wouldn’t be completely hip without it. Return to your luxury hotel for the night.
This morning, set off to see the DMZ, or Korea’s Demilitarized Zone, which functions as a buffer between North Korea and South Korea. The line is drawn at the 38th parallel north and runs for 250 km. This border barrier has kept the peace since the end of the Korean War in 1953. During your visit to the site, you’ll also get the opportunity to see Korea’s Freedom Bridge, which runs next to, but not over, the Imjingak River. Explore the underground tunnels and learn how each side has developed strategies to defend their territory as well as prepare themselves in the event of the need for offensive force.
Today, you’re off to Gyeongju, a coastal city with a picturesque landscape. Check into your room at the luxurious Hyundai Hotel. Nestled on the slopes of Mount Toham, the Bulguksa Temple is a must-see during your stay in Gyeongju. Wander the Seokguram grottos, and enjoy what are considered some of the best Buddhist sculptures in the entire world. Continue to the National Museum to take a look at their large collection of art and cultural relics. Take a stroll around the Anapji pond, part of Gyeongju National Park and host to over 730 artifacts. Relish the final hours of daylight while you explore South Korea's only historical national park.
Breathe in the fresh air as you hike Namsan Park, and get some exercise while you view the wonder of South Korea’s exotic natural landscape. Next, meander through the Haeinsa Temple, one of the three jewel temples of Korea. This temple is notable for its Tripitaka Koreana, an incredibly impressive collection of more than 81,000 wooden blocks inscribed with the Buddhist scripture. Go on to visit the Andong Hahoe Folk Village to see how the villagers have lived and continue to live in Korea.
This morning, head to Busan, the country’s second-largest metropolis, and check into your room at the Westin Chosun. Once settled in, take some time to get acquainted with the city. Start by reveling in architectural wonder at the Beomeo-sa Temple. Located at the bottom of the iconic Geumjeong-gu Mountain, this temple was created by a monk in the 7th century. Relax at the Dongnae Hot Spring Spa and continue the peaceful pampering whilst lying on Haeundae Beach. Feel like a local at a kimchi-making class. This traditional dish is both sweet and sour and an integral part of Korea’s culinary culture.
Tucked away on the northeastern side of Busan Mountain, the Yonggungsa Temple is one of the few Buddhist temples located on the coast. Savor freshly-caught fish from the Jagalchi Fish Market. The market is Korea’s largest fish market and offers an astounding selection of seafood. Look for exotic birds along the Nakdong River, South Korea’s longest river.
After breakfast, you’ll be on your way to Jeju today. Jeju is an island province situated in the Korea Strait and is blessed with a temperate climate. Break out into the mountain air and stretch your legs as you climb Mount Halla. The ancient shield volcano provides incredible panoramas of the surrounding national park. Put on your hard hat as you discover the Manjanggul Lava Tube Caves. The tube is just under 25,000 feet long, one of the longest in the world. See ancient island living at it’s finest as you visit the traditional village before calling it a full day. Return to your luxury hotel, we recommend the Hyatt Regency Jeju.
For your final day of your Classic South Korea itinerary, you’ll visit a 590-foot-high volcanic crater. The Ilchulbong volcanic crater presents an incredible view and isn’t a difficult hike to the top. End your trip with one final glance of Korean culture at the Jeju Chusa Exhibition Hall. Say goodbye to South Korea as your check out of your hotel and check in for your international flight to your onwards destination.
The five-star Conrad Seoul is located in the Yeouido financial district with fantastic views overlooking the Han River and city. The hotel offers a huge year-round indoor swimming pool, spa, well-equipped gym, a rooftop garden and even a golf driving range. The spacious executive lounge outshines other five-star lounges with comfortable seating and a generous happy hour promotion. There are 434 spacious rooms with air-conditioning, a deep bathtub, rainfall showerhead, double sink, luxury aromatherapy toiletries, Apple entertainment systems, a Nespresso coffee machine and complimentary newspapers. The hotel is within 5 minutes walking distance from Yeouido Subway Station (Line 5) and reasonably close to Seoul's airports. There is a choice of restaurants including Zest offering international dishes, Atrio that plates up Italian cuisine, a bar and grill on the 37th floor with a 360-degree view of the city and Flames a lobby bar offering wines, cocktails, local and international beers. The hotel also has direct access to the large international-style IFC shopping mall.
Located in the heart of the Seoul business district, the Ritz Carlton Seoul offer luxury accommodations near all of Seoul's attractions. Each of the 375 recently renovated rooms and suites come with Italian bed linens, marble bathroom, high-speed Internet access, and a 32 or 42-inch LCD television. The Ritz Carlton offers six dining options, such as Chee Hong that serves fine Cantonese cuisine and Hanazono for the freshest Japanese sushis. Other facilities include boutique shops, business and conference halls, a state-of-the-art fitness center with a Japanese sauna and an indoor swimming pool. The Ritz Carlton is approximately 70-90 minutes from Incheon International Airport.