South Korea is a country far off most tourist’s radar. The Korean peninsula is a tale of two halves, a brutal communist dictatorship in the north, and a fast-paced, technological democracy in the south. Korea has a lot and colourful history, and has been deeply influenced by its large neighbour China. Whether you like modern, booming metropolises, or sleepy villages and remote temples in pristine mountains, South Korea will have something for you.
The capital of South Korea, Seoul is both a both a booming metropolis, and an ancient historic city. Whether your thing is booming nightlife and neon lights, or whether its sipping tea in a traditional wooden house outside a Buddhist temple, Seoul is the place to be.
The mountain of Jirisan and the nearby town of Hadong is probably my favourite region in South Korea. The mountain, Jirisan, is a very important site in the history of Korean Buddhism, as well as being the site where tea was first introduced from China and it is still cultivated here today. The town at the base of the mountain, Hadong, is known for producing wild tea, which is said to the best tea in Korea, and every year there is a large tea festival held here. If you like pristine nature, quiet trails in the forested mountains, and peaceful temples, then you should definitely visit here.
Kyeongju is the ancient capital of the Shilla kingdom, and Korean people typically call the city “the open museum”, due to the amount of history there. One of the main features is the fact that almost all houses there are built in traditional style, and there are hundreds of grassy mounds – tombs of ancient kings. Some of the best food (and rice wine) I’ve had in Korea was here.
Jeonju is another of those historical old towns. While I don’t think it is as interesting a place as Kyeongju, there is a lot of culture to be seen here. Hand made paper, traditional clothing, and traditional cuisine are all very popular here.
The demilitarised zone, or DMZ, is the border between North and South Korea. A day trip from Seoul, this is a really fascinating place to visit.