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Explore the land of the morning calm, a dynamic country steeped in culture, tradition, and history, which offers vibrant cities, rich landscapes, friendly locals and staggering nature. During this tour, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in bustling Seoul's contemporary culture, meditate, and spend the night in an ancient temple, visit a three-tiered waterfall, and explore colorful markets. Combine food and traveling and enjoy some of the most underrated cuisines in the world.
The maximum participants in the group is 6.
During the tour, guests will be provided with 9 nights accommodation at comfortable 3 to 4-star hotels, 3 in traditional guesthouses, and 1 night temple stay. All rooms are en suite except for the temple. Traditional guesthouses are more basic than hotels but offer a wonderful insight into Korean culture. The temple stay will be your unique way to learn about Buddhist culture.
Arrive Seoul and transfer to hotel. This evening, you will visit Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest food markets in Seoul, where locals meet after work to enjoy traditional food and liquor. The market also sells vintage clothing and textiles during the day, but comes alive in the evenings, when unique foods such as bindaetteok (a popular pancake with makkolli) and the traditional Korean rice wine, are served.
Enjoy a walking tour of Seoul, including Insa-dong, Jogyesa Temple and Gyeongbokgung Palace. Head towards the Cheonggyecheon, an old canal in downtown Seoul that was filled with concrete in the 1960 decade but reopened in 2005 in its original state. Continue to Tapgol Park, the central point of the Korean independence movement in 1919. From there, continue on to Insa-dong, the artisan neighborhood, where traditional teahouses and souvenir shops are lined up in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Then a visit to Jogyesa Temple, one of the most beautiful temple complexes in the heart of Seoul. At Gwanghwamoon, you can admire the impressive statues of Admiral Yi and King Sejong, men who played vital roles in Korean history. Your final stop for the day is at Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built by the Joseon Dynasty, in 1394, this immense complex was the centre of power up to Japanese occupation at the start of the last century. At the Palace you may see the changing of guards. From the Palace back gate you will see the Cheongwadae (the presidential palace), and the Cheongwadae Museum.
Visit the DMZ and Panmunjom to learn how Korea was divided. Have an excursion to Panmunjeom, the only place on the peninsula where North and South Koreans can meet face to face, where the peace treaty was signed in 1953, and where both parties agreed on a Joint Security Area (JSA) in the middle of the border between the two countries, also known as DMZ (demilitarized zone). After a short briefing by US army personnel, you will enter the JSA, where you will visit Freedom House, the blue barracks sharing a conference room for talks between both North and South Korea, the visitor's observation post and the bridge of no return. En-route you will enjoy a traditional lunch of bulgogi.
Transfer to Gangneung in the afternoon for a Korean cooking class. Begin the day with a private transfer to Gangneung (approximately 3 hours). In the heart of Gangwon Province, you will visit one of Koreas most picturesque culinary bases, where all the food is produced and processed naturally and according to centuries-old recipes. Fermented food, such as kimchi, red pepper paste, doenjang (bean paste) and fish sauce is stored and aged in clay vessels, sometimes for over 5 years. Herbs are grown and harvested from gardens and wild herbs collected from the mountains surrounding the area. Here, you will take a cooking class where you will make bibimbab, a traditional dish of rice with vegetables, herbs, meat, and several side dishes. You will then dine your own freshly-cooked healthy food.
Enjoy a day hiking in Seoraksan N.P. Situated on the beautiful east coast, the Seorak Mountains are the most famous in Korea. At the foot on the mountains, you will find an enormous Buddha statue and from this point you will follow a variety of different trails, between 2 and 10 kilometers. A more leisurely option is to take a cable car to one of the mountaintops to enjoy the fantastic views.
Transfer to Andong; visit the Andong Hahoe Folk Museum. Start the day with a private transfer from Gangneung to Andong (approximately 4 hours). Visit the Andong Hahoe Village, where ancient traditions, influenced by the teachings of Confucius, are still practiced. The inhabitants live in the same way their ancestors did: in simple houses for the common farmers and in richly decorated houses for the Yangban aristocrats.
Take the train to Gyeongju, free afternoon to relax or explore the town. Transfer from Andong to Gyeongju by train is approximately 5 hours. You will have the afternoon at leisure to explore the beautiful town or to relax.
Full day sightseeing, including Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple. Seokguram Grotto, which you will visit in the morning, is now a UNESCO world heritage site and was discovered by a postman sheltering from the rain. Inside the man-made cave he found an astonishing beautiful statue of Buddha, constructed during the Shilla Dynasty. From there, you will visit Bulguksa Temple, constructed in the same period. Then follow on to the Ceramic Village and visit a workshop, where they make ceramics the same way as almost 2,000 years ago. In the afternoon, visit Tumuli Park with its royal tombs dating back to the Shilla Dynasty. The numerous artifacts found in these tombs show the remarkable technological and cultural advancement of that period (600-900 A.D.). Cheomseongdae, which you will visit, is a great representation of this, as the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia. Your day will end with a stop at Anapji Pond, an artificial pond constructed in the royal palace grounds, before exploring Gyeongju food market.
Take part in a Buddhist ceremony at Haeinsa Temple. This morning you will transfer from Gyeongju to Haeinsa Temple (approximately 3 hours). Haeinsa Temple is one of the oldest structures in Korea. You will experience a strict Buddhist lifestyle and meet the monks, who dedicate their lives to prayer and meditation. On entering the temple you exchange your own clothes for simple monks clothing. After the initial introduction and opening ceremony, you will have the opportunity to walk around the beautiful temple complex. After the vegetarian Buddhist dinner you will partake in a tea ceremony. Lights out at 21:00 this evening, ready for your early morning wake-up.
Early morning ceremony and meditation. Transfer to Busan and afternoon city tour. Start your day early. Wake up at 03:30 to participate at the first ceremony and meditation. After breakfast, at 06:00, depart the temple and transfer to Busan (approximately 2 hours). From the impressive Gwangalli Bridge, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Busan shoreline. Learn the tragic history of the Korean War (1950-1953) at the United Nations War Cemetery and the Busan Museum. Continue the tour and visit the Nurimaru APEC House, a wonderful location with gorgeous views over the ocean. You will also discover Haeundai food market and Haeundai Beach, before heading back to Jagalchi fish market. This is one of the largest markets of its kind, selling a dazzling array of fish, often alive. Here you can taste the famous Korean sashimi before heading to the adjacent Kukjae Market, where you can shop for souvenirs, glasses and clothing. Finish with a visit to the Busan Tower for stunning night vistas.
Fly to Jeju island for an afternoon south and central island tour. This morning, you will take a short flight (approximately 1 hour) from Busan to Jeju Island. Take a tour starting at the Spirited Garden, an area that started as a wasteland and has become one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, with roughly 100 rare species of trees and a spectacular display of bonzai trees; some of them almost 300 years old. Explore the impressive Jusangjeolli lava coast, where you can see remains of ancient volcanic activities. Cross the Bridge of Seven Nymphs and descend to the Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls, a masterpiece of nature. Via the Yakcheonsa Temple, you will continue to the Oedolgae, a huge, lone rock rising out of the ocean, before your last stop in Seogwipo city.
Free day to explore Jeju Island. Today you may choose to relax on one of Jejus beaches, enjoy some self-guided exploration or take another island tour (bookable locally). Places of interest on Jeju island include Manjanggul Cave (the only horizontal lava tube in the world), the Haenyeo Museum and Ilchulbong Crater (an inactive volcanic crater that provides an amazing view of Jeju Island and Seopjikoji Rock on Phoenix Island, one of Koreas most scenic places). You might also like to visit the small neighboring island of Udo, famous not only for the black lava cliffs at Tolkani and the beautiful white coral sand of Hongjodangoe Haebin Beach, but also for the fisherwomen of the island, who are now an average age of 75 but continue to dive into the sea, catching sea urchins, shellfish, octopus and gathering seaweed.
Fly to Seoul. Free afternoon. This morning you will take a domestic flight back to Seoul (approximately 1 hour) and transfer to your hotel. Afternoon is free for some last-minute shopping or to perhaps visit the vibrant Hongdae university district. You may also like to spend your final evening in Seoul, exploring lively Itaewon neighborhoods nightlife.
Departure day. Farewell. Transfer to airport.
This tour will take place in and around Seoul, Gangneung, Andong, Gyeongju, Busan, and Jeju Island, South Korea.
During this tour of South Korea, guests will have the opportunity to indulge into unique local and traditional Korean dishes, such as bindaetteok, bulgogi, kimchi, doenjang, bibimbab, and much more. Korean food is generally healthy and based upon rice, vegetables, and meats. During the tour you will experience a wide variety of tasty meals including staple foods rice, porridge, soups, stews, barbequed or broiled meat, and fish along with a large selection of banchan (side dishes) and kimchi (fermented cabbage), which is served at almost every meal.
Please arrive Incheon International Airport (ICN). Exodus will transfer you to your hotel. Pick-up is included in the price.
"This trip really did tick all the boxes for me the standard of hotels was excellent especially Cinnamon Wild in Yalla. We were a small group, so our transport was a luxury people carrier, and our driver was great. The six safaris in Yalla were amazing and we saw just about everything this national park has to offer. The small fast boat used for our whale watching trips proved to be very successful as well as a lot of fun."
Exodus website, edited
"This is a different and wonderful country, which is very misunderstood. It has a lot to offer: from the busyness of Seoul and the beauty of the National Parks, to the amazing volcanic island of Jehu. I thought this country would be a mixture of Japan and China and it is quite different. Culture is fascinating: when they are into something (such as coffee shops, hiking), they are into it big time; the battle between tradition and western influence is fascinating to witness and observe in different areas of Seoul, as well as in the rest of the country. Each area specializes in a different type of food (Kimchi always included); this trip gives a great snapshot into different parts of South Korea, from the cities (Seoul and Busan) to the countryside (national park and folk villages)."
Exodus website, edited
"A great two week trip around South Korea. Fascinating places to visit, good food, transport, and accommodation will give you a glimpse into a country that is definitely worth visiting. The itinerary worked well (some timings need tweaking and trip notes altered slightly). The hotel we had in Seoul is far from some sites, but metro is nearby and always cheap to use. On arrival, there was no early check in booked or planned, so we explored the market that morning. The rest of the day was free. I went to the aquarium and saw an underwater sardine play; we had plenty to see in Seoul over the next few days. Cookery school, National Park, the idyllic guesthouse, Temple-stay (go with the flow), Busan (more time needed here), Jeju Island (optional trip well worth doing), then back to Seoul for a last afternoon and evening. Food was great, cheaper than the trip notes, and lots of it; we really enjoyed the BBQs. The autumnal colors were beautiful."
Exodus website, edited