Travel information for a visit to South Korea
South Korea, “Land of the Clear Morning”, is not a well-known tourist destination, but the country is beautiful and rich with destinations: immense cities, scenic mountains, hiking, ski resorts, cruising, beaches and resorts, national parks, Buddhist temples, as well as renowned film festivals and fashion events.
INTRODUCTION to South Korea
South Korea is located in East Asia and bordered to the Yellow Sea in the West, the East Sea (Sea of Japan) in the East and the Tsushima Waterway in the South. It is mostly surrounded by water and has 2,413 km of coast line along three seas. It is surrounded by some 3000 islands. Korea’s islands are one of the travel world’s best-kept secrets. These volcanic islands offer a wide variety of outdoor activities like hiking and biking, while maintaining a romantic aura that’s perfect for newlyweds. Top it all off with a similar climate to the Hawaiian islands, and you have a must-visit location next time you are in Asia.
SAA has the only direct flights from South African to South Korea – otherwise via Bangkok, via Hong Kong, via Dubai, via Doha or via Singapore. Reachable by sea from China and Japan.
WHEN TO GO to South Korea
Korea has four very distinct seasons, Spring from mid-March to end of May, summer from June to August, (temperatures rising to 30 degrees Celsius or more and Monsoon season begins in late June), Autumn from September to November and winter from December to mid-March.
GETTING AROUND in South Korea
South Korea is a public-transport dream come true with everything reasonably priced. Planes, trains and express buses link major cities, intercity buses link cities and towns large and small, while local buses provide a surprisingly good service to national and provincial parks and villages in outlying rural areas. Car ferries ply numerous routes to offshore islands. Local urban buses, subways and taxis make getting around cities and towns easy.
ROAD: Thousands of long-distance buses whiz to every nook and cranny of the country, every 15 minutes between major cities and towns, and at least hourly to small towns, villages, temples and national and provincial parks.
TRAIN: South Korea has an excellent but not comprehensive train network operated by Korea National Railroad, connecting most major cities and the towns along the way. Trains are clean, comfortable and punctual, and just about every station has a sign in Korean and English. Trains are the best option for long-distance travel. The High Speed Bullet train runs from Seoul, via Daejeon, via Daegu, to Pusan.
WATER: Korea has a very extensive network of ferries that connects hundreds of offshore islands to each other and to the mainland. The large southern island of Jeju can be reached by ferry from Mokpo or Wando in Jeollanam-do or on longer boat trips from Busan and Incheon, although most people fly these days.
TOP 5 – DON’T MISS these sights when visiting South Korea
From the megalopolis of Seoul to the forested mountains of Seoraksan, the Ten Thousand Islands off the southwest coast, atmospheric temples, folk villages and much more – South Korea has a lot to offer.
- Seoul (capital)
- Jeju Island (the Hawai of Korea)
- Hallyeo Marine National Park, Songnisan National Park and Seorak Mountain National Park
- Beaches (Busan is the best beach spot)
- Skiing (17 resorts) & Cruising (calling at Yeosu, Mokpo, Busan, Incheon, and Jeju)
- Visit the DMZ – the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, which is ironically the most heavily militarized border in the world (scariest place on earth)
- Have an authentic Korean dinner at someone’s house
- Visit Jeju Island and hike Hallasan, the highest mountain in South Korea
- Go to a makgeolli brewery (Busan) makgeolli is a traditional alcoholic Korean beverage : milky rice wine!
- Visit Lotteworld in Seoul (world’s largest indoor theme park)
- Visit Everland – South Korea’s biggest theme and amusement park
- View the celabrated cherry blossoms near Pusan (Spring)
- Eat Kimchi – a Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage
- Visit Seoul Olympic Park
- Do a walking tour in Seoul
MEETING THE REAL PEOPLE and festivals in Soutth Korea
JANUARY – Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival in Gangwon-do
FEBRUARY – Jeju Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival in Jeju
MARCH – Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival in Cheongdo-gun APRIL – Jeju Cherry Blossom Festival MAY – Chuncheon International Mime Festival in Chuncheon
JUNE – Muju Firefly Festival in Jeollabuk-do JULY – Boryeong Mud Festival in Boryeong
AUGUST – Nangye Traditional Music Festival in Yeongdong-gun
SEPTEMBER – Chungju World Martial Arts Festival in Chungju-si
OCTOBER – Gwangju Kimchi Festival in Gwangju-si
NOVEMBER – Jeju Orange Festival in Seogwipo-si on Jeju Island
DECEMBER – Seoul Independent Film Festival
TOP EAT & SLEEP SECRETS (SEOUL)
Hanok Homestay offers a chance to sleep in a traditional Korean house, interact with a Korean family and learn traditional culture firsthand. The program hosts activities for guests, including making kimchi, trying on hanbok (traditional Korean dress) and learning calligraphy or traditional instruments.
Si Wha Dam Restaurant
This modern Korean fine dining restaurant looks like an art gallery on the outside and a modern museum on the inside. Each course at this best of Seoul choice is served as if it were a work of art, with menus printed on handmade paper scrolls, food brought in on hand-crafted artisan plates and poems delivered alongside the food.