Finally, it’s time for another adventure. South Korea is a journey that was planned a few months in advance of the departure. While planning our trip, we were focusing not only on the travel plan itself but also, we have learned the culture, history and customs of the country we were going to visit.
South Korea is not yet very popular in terms of mass tourism, but more and more often chosen by individual tourists. It’s time to visit this place and see by ourselves how Korea tastes, how it smells and what will impress us the most in this country.
Below I present “South Korea – tailor-made travel plan”. This sightseeing plan was fully created by me and has been tailored to meet our needs and expectations. After returning from South Korea – the travel plan has been verified based on our real travel schedule and personal experiences. In the below-mentioned travel plan, there are a few days planned for sightseeing in the two biggest cities: Seoul and Busan. It is also scheduled to have a proper amount of time for close contact with nature, architecture, culture, history and of course local cuisine. An additional attraction during our trip is going to be the “Lotus” Lantern Festival, which takes place in Korea only once a year.
Below you can find a short table of contents. If you are interested only in one specific subject, please click the link and go there directly.
So, let’s go there together!
Day 1. South Korea. Seoul – travel day
We are flying to Seoul directly from Warsaw with LOT – Polish Airlines, which inaugurated a direct flight connection with South Korea last year (2018). Flying time is less than 10 hours.
Day 2. Arrival to Seoul
We are arriving in Seoul in the morning. Picking up our pocket Wi-Fi, buying and loading T-money cards for public transport, and getting to the AREX train station take about 30 minutes. Travelling by train to the city centre (Seoul station) takes one hour.
- In the afternoon, Namsan Park – the largest park in Seoul, in the heart of which there is the N-Seoul Tower.
- In the evening walk over the Cheonggyecheon stream. This stream is 11 km long and is a very popular tourist attraction in Seoul. This is a magical place, where lanterns that are hanging over the stream are already turned on a week before the Lantern Festival, so it’s worth checking out this place.
Day 3. Seoul. Gyeongbokung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village
- In the morning Gyeongbokung Palace is considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Seoul. At 10.00 a.m. at the inner Heungnyemun gate, starts a ceremonial change of guard. The show lasts about 25 minutes. It is worth planning a min. 3 hours to visit the palace. There is also a royal pavilion to see and two museums: The National Museum and The Folklore Museum.
- In the afternoon Bukchon Hanok Village, where there are traditional, old Korean houses. It’s worth planning a few hours for this stroll, because besides the magnificent architecture – there are many places where you can eat tastily.
- In the evening visit Gwangjang Market, where until 11.00 p.m. there are stalls with street food. A visit to such a place is an attraction in itself and is a very interesting experience.
Day 4. Seoul. Jogye-sa Temple, Seoullo 7017 and Gangnam district
- In the morning, the Jogye-sa temple which is the recognised symbol of Korean Buddhism. During the preparations for the Buddha’s birthday celebration, the temple is covered with colourful paper lanterns that completely change its look. This is my favourite place in Seoul ♥. I recommend you visit this place also after sunset when lantern lights are switched on.
- Next is the Deoksugung castle, which served as the seat of the authorities of the Korean Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The palace combines the traditional Korean style with neoclassicism. There are also fountains and a small pond.
- Before lunchtime – visit to the Seoul station, where you can enter the footbridge connecting the east and west sides of the station – called Seoullo 7017. The footbridge is over 1km long and there are 17 different sections, including themed gardens, fountains, a “Foot Spa” and a tourist information centre. It is a popular meeting place among local youth and tourists.
- During lunch – Myeong-dong district. On the way, there is a National Treasure of Korea – the Sungnyemum Gate and the Namdaemum Market, where there are numerous stands with amazing street food.
- In the afternoon, the Gangnam district is known for its strong concentration of wealth and high standard of living. It is one of the main academic centres of the capital and the entire state. Known throughout the world through the song “Gangnam Style” performed by PSY. Worth seeing: M-Stage, Samsung’s headquarters “Samsung d’light” and COEX shopping centre, which houses the largest underground aquarium in Korea.
Bongeunsa Temple and royal tombs
- The most important tourist attractions of this place are the Royal Tombs “Seonjeongneung” (inscribed on the UNESCO list) and the beautiful Buddhist temple Bongeunsa♥. In this temple, there is one of the most recognizable Korean statues of Buddha, which is 23 meters high. Although the Bongeunsa is located in the heart of the Gangnam district, all temple buildings are surrounded by forest. From the hill, where the Buddha statue is located, there is a beautiful view of the modern city. This is my next favourite place in Seoul♥. It’s worth coming here just before the sunset.
Day 5. Namiseon Island, Rail Bike and Little France. The one-day trip outside the city
We will spend the whole day on a trip organized by the Klook – Nami Island, Rail Bike and Little France*. The planned duration of the trip is about 10 hours.
- Nami Island is 63 km away from Seoul, on the Han River. The island has themed gardens, including Bonsai’s garden, ponds, fountains, numerous sculptures and many attractions for children. The entire island can be explored on foot (the whole distance is about 4 km) or you can pass her part by a tourist railway. For those who like adrenaline, there is a possibility of entering the Island with the zip-line for adults – Nami Skyline Zip Wire Zip Rider.
- The next attraction is the Rail Park. The entire route runs along the closed railway track along the Bukhangang River. It takes about 1 hour to cover the entire route. Very interesting experience, good for everyone despite their age – and I truly recommend it! For those who want to enjoy this attraction without an organized tour, they can purchase tickets on the site Gangchon Rail Bike*.
- At the end of the day, visit the theme park “Petit France*“, where there is a small museum dedicated to the memory of the French writer Saint-Exupery, the author of the novel Little Prince. “Petit France” is basically a small, lively French village with colourful buildings. There are several small exhibition rooms, colourful murals on the walls and numerous figurines and graphics depicting the character of the Little Prince.
Return to Seoul in the evening.
A separate post I wrote about this 1-day trip can be found here: Nami Island and Petit France
Day 6. Hwaseong Suwon and Golden “Building 63”
- In the morning Suwon fortress. “Hwaseong Suwon” is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is worth booking for this trip about 4-5 hours on the spot, plus an hour to get to and from the city in each direction. There is a fortress, an over 5 km long defensive wall, four main gates, a belfry and a museum. The real attraction of this place, however, is the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, which formerly served as a temporary royal residence.
- Before sunset, a visit to the Golden “63 Building“, which is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. It looks the best during morning sunrise when its whole surface is shining in gold. The skyscraper is over 260 m high, where, from the upper enclosed terrace you can see the northern part of the city and the N-Tower.
Day 7. Seoul. Digital Media City, Olimpic Park, Lotte Tower and Banpo Bridge
- In the morning Unhyeongung – the royal residence. This palace has a small museum and a charming tearoom.
- Then a visit to Digital Media City, which houses the headquarters of several film studios. An additional attraction of this district is interesting, contemporary architecture.
- In the afternoon, the Olympic Park, which once served as the main sports arena during the summer Olympic Games in 1988. In the park, obviously, there are objects and souvenirs associated with the Olympics itself. There is also a K-pop museum and a concert hall for K-pop music, which was created in the place of the former Olympic Gymnastics Arena.
- In the evening, the Lotte World Tower is the tallest building in Korea and the 5th highest building in the world. The building is over 550 m high and has 123 floors (including 3 underground floors, which house the largest aquarium in the city). The observation deck is located on the top floor of the tower. On the top floor, there is also a glass floor and an exterior viewing terrace.
- At the end of the day, the Banpo Bridge has a fountain installed, with 380 jets spraying water. The music fountain (called: Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain) and Floating Islands are worth visiting especially after sunset. The fountain show, which is a combination of light and sound, takes place twice: at 8.30 p.m. and at 9.00 p.m. and it takes 20 minutes.
Day 8. Seoul. City sightseeing and the “Lotus” Lantern Festival
In the morning visit the Jongmyo temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a complex of very modestly finished temple buildings. The main part of the temple is 101 m long and is the longest structure of this type in Korea and one of the longest in the world
- Then, visit Changdeokgung Palace♥. There is also a beautiful “Secret Garden“♥ called Huwon. You should reserve for visiting this place min. 3-4 hours. This is a beautiful palace, with interesting, traditional architecture surrounded by lush green nature. The Secret Garden is a magical place, one of the most beautiful in the city. Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon Garden are my strongest No. 1 on the list of places to see in Seoul. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- In the afternoon and evening ceremonies related to the Buddha’s birthday celebration and the colourful lantern parade that passes along Jongno Street. The parade is attended by several thousands of people, presenting dozens of large paper lanterns. After sunset, lit lanterns make an amazing impression. Attention! – the date of the celebrations, each year is different because it is connected with the phases of the moon. For the following years, it is best to look for the information on the official website of the organizer: Yeon Deung Hoe.
Day 9. Seoul. The Lotus Lantern festival continues
This is the day when picnics, street shows, dances and educational workshops for children are held in many places in the city. It is all related to the Lantern Festival and the celebrations of Buddha’s birthday. The main attraction centre and the big picnic area are located on the street leading to the Jogyes temple.
- In the afternoon Insa-dong street – one of the most popular places in Seoul, is willingly visited by both tourists and residents of the city. At weekends, the street is closed to cars, transforming into a large pedestrian path. It is worth entering the side streets, where there are small cafes and cosy restaurants serving specialities of the local cuisine.
- In the evening – the Changgyeonggung Palace♥. In the summer, the palace can be visited until 9.00 p.m., where after sunset the lights inside all buildings and along park paths are turned on. It’s an amazing experience and a beautiful adventure. It’s really worth seeing. Do not miss a visit to this place.
Day 10. Busan and Gamcheon Culture Village
Busan is the second-most-populous city in South Korea after Seoul. It is the economic, cultural and educational centre of southeastern Korea. There is a seaport that is Korea’s busiest and the fifth-busiest in the world.
- The morning train to Busan takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to the destination.
- In the afternoon the visit to Gamcheon Culture Village, called “the settlement of art”. Most places are open here until 6.00 p.m. It’s worth planning a few hours for this place. In this part of the city, you can find exciting murals, artistic urban installations, tiny art galleries and colourful sculptures. There are also several small restaurants and stands with street food.
- In the evening, visit the small Chinatown district, which is just opposite Busan Station. There are several interesting architectural references to Chinese culture and numerous Chinese and Russian restaurants. A real curiosity.
Day 11. Busan
- Early in the morning visit the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple♥, dating from 1376. The temple is built on coastal rock, on the one hand, surrounded by the ocean and on the other hand a dense forest. It is considered the most beautiful temple in Korea and no doubt – I do agree with this opinion. Definitely, this is one of the most beautiful places I visited during my stay in Korea. Due to its location, the temple looks the most beautiful during sunrise. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- Around noon, Oryukdo Skywalk – a footbridge with a glass floor built on the edge of a high cliff. We also visit a park on a hill on the other side of the street, from which there are beautiful views of the ocean and a small rocky Oryukdo Islands located just next to the shore. On one of them, there is a lighthouse.
- In the afternoon, the Igidae park. The park was founded on a steep cliff. It offers great views of the bay. There is a 2 km long path that connects mountains with the ocean. It’s worth visiting this place. It is worth booking min. 1 hour for this place.
- In the evening, the Busan Tower. Both – Busan Tower and Busan Citizens Bell standing next to it, are unquestionable symbols of Busan. At the top of the tower, there is an observatory, from which there is a view not only of the city but also of the bay. It is especially worth visiting this place after sunset.
Day 12. Gyeongyu and Gyeongsangbuk province
On this day, we take part in a full-day trip to Gyeongju inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Gyeongju for nearly 1000 years was the capital of the Silla kingdom, and in the province, the most valuable monuments from these ancient times have survived.
This trip named “Gyeongju Historical Daereungwon Royal Tomb*”, is organized by the Klook travel agency. The trip duration is 14 hours.
- The first point of the program is Gyeongju Yangdong Village, considered the largest inhabited museum in Korea, which is presenting the culture of the Joseon dynasty. There are about 160 old buildings, some of them are thatched.
- The next stop is at the Seokguram temple, where there is a grotto of a “Smiling Buddha“. It is a monument classified as the Cultural Heritage of Korea (No. 24) and is considered the oldest work of art in the country.
- Then a visit to the Bulguksa temple♥, from the eighth century. There are several priceless national treasures of Korea gathered. This is definitely the most interesting and important part of this trip. The Bulguska temple is a must-see temple. Do not miss a visit to this place!
- At the end of the day, we are visiting the National Park Gyeongju, which once held Donggung Palace and the pond Wolji. Currently, there is only a small fragment of old buildings, a small pagoda and an artificial pond Wolji to be seen. Donggung Palace was once part of the palace complex of the ancient kingdom of Silla. You can see it on the model mock-up in the park. We are staying there until sunset.
Return to Busan in the evening (around 9.00 p.m. at Busan station).
Day 13. Busan city
- In the morning – Beomeosa Temple♥. This temple is considered one of the three most important temples in the province of Gyeongsang. It is located in a forest surrounded by mountains. This is a beautiful place, with great views. There is silence around, lash green nature and amazing views. Do not miss a visit to this place! There are also several trekking routes, so you can also plan to walk in the mountains.
- At lunchtime – Haeundae Beach and the Haeundae Traditional market. The street food market is just a 5 minutes walking distance from the beach. There is a large selection of restaurants serving sushi, seafood and traditional Korean dishes.
- In the afternoon – BIFF Square (Busan International Film Festival), located near the Jagalchi market. There are many souvenirs related to the film industry, and stores with cosmetics and clothing.
- Then – Songdo Beach, where there is Songdo Skywalk. It is a footbridge with a length of 365 meters, built in a place where the beach meets the rocky shore of the ocean.
- Before sunset, we take a cable car that takes us to Amnam Park. The whole trip takes place over the water, along the ocean’s coastline. There is an outstanding view of the bay, bridges, port and the city. The journey time is about 3 minutes. It is worth buying a one-way ticket only
- In Amnam Park, we are walking back down the Coastal Skywalk ♥. It is a metal footbridge entirely suspended on the edge of the cliff, on the shore of the ocean. The entire route is 1.3 km long. It is worth booking for this route min. 1 hour, and it’s best to be there during sunset. Do not miss a visit to this place!
Day 14. Daejeon
Since 1980, Daejeon is one of South Korea’s administration hubs with the Daejeon Government Complex. It is the 5th largest metropolis in the country. Daejeon has earned its name as “Asia’s Silicon Valley” and “high technology city”, there are 18 universities. In 1994, there was the Expo Exhibition – Taejon Expo ’93.
- In the morning depart from Busan and travel by train to Daejeon. The journey takes 1 hour. and 40 min.
- In the afternoon visit the Yusong Foot Spa, where there are hot springs. The park has small paddling pools where you can soak your feet. Open 24/7, free admission.
- Then the botanical garden and garden of tropical plants – Hanbat Arboretum. A beautiful park, fragrant flowers, a small lake, a watermill, and a few themed gardens.
- At sunset, a walk to the river and a view of the Expo bridge, which in the evening shimmers with colours thanks to thousands of LED lights.
Day 15. Jeonju
- All day we spend in Jeonju Hanok Village, which in 2012 was classified by UNESCO as one of the “Creative City of Gastronomy” cities. Old, cobbled streets and stalls with traditional handicrafts and traditional food are waiting for tourists there. There is also a castle of King Toejo, a king’s portrait museum, a wine museum, a kimchi museum, a calligraphy museum and Mural City. The historic centre of the city has over 500 houses in the Hanok settlement.
- We are coming back to Daejeon in the evening. We are visiting Sky Road – a street that is famous for its suspended ceiling (at a height of 20 meters), covered entirely with LED screens at a length of 214 meters.
Day 16. Gongju
- In the morning, we are travelling to the Donghaksa Temple, located in the eastern valley of Gyeryongsan in Gongju. The temple is the first and oldest existing academic institute for women’s monks in Korea. Currently, it is home to about 150 nuns who study and practise Buddhism here. The temple is surrounded by low mountains and forests. There are also several interesting hiking trails.
- Return to Daejeon in the afternoon. In the evening we are visiting the nearby trade fairs and stalls. Some of them are located underground.
Day 17. Return to Seoul
- In the morning, return to Seoul. Travel time by train is 1 hour.
- At lunchtime return to Insa-dong, to buy the last Korean souvenirs
- In the afternoon visit the Namdaemum Market to have the last dinner bought from street stalls.
- In the evening, the Seuollo 7017 footbridge. It is worth looking at the city after sunset from this perspective.
Day 18. South Korea. Time to go back home
Flying back home took us 10 hours and 30 minutes. The 7 hours time difference, however, caused this day to have much more than 24 hours for us.
This is the end of our Korean adventure. Now we have unforgettable memories, a few thousand pictures, hundreds of videos and plenty of souvenir fridge magnets 😊
Now is the time to write about it all on my blog.
Polish materials that were used to collect information about South Korea and were helpful while writing this post:
- “Korea Południowa”, Aleksandra Nemś, PASCAL publishing house, 2018
- “Seul”, Aleksandra Nemś, publishing house Pascal Lajt, 2018
Korean materials that are perfectly translated into English have helped me to find answers on almost every topic: Visit Korea.
In addition, numerous own materials were collected and taken from visited places.
South Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA)
Are you travelling to South Korea and the Electronic Travel Authorization form is needed? Please check the paid service below. You will find there all answers and further directions.
Visit the South Korea application page to get your ETA right away!
The South Korea ETA is a mandatory travel document required by Korean immigration authorities for visitors whose nationality is exempted from a visa. It is part of the new travel measures implemented in May 2021, and it must be completed within 24 hours before the visitors arrive in the country. Otherwise, access will be denied. Once it is approved, you will have access to South Korea for over two years from the moment you receive it.
Travellers that hold a passport from Albania, Andorra, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Holy See, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Palau, San Marino, Slovenia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela are eligible to apply for the South Korea ETA
You can also apply for ETA using the official websites. To obtain the K-ETA, complete the form on the website: https://www.k-eta.go.kr or via the mobile application “K-ETA”. An application for a K-ETA must be submitted at least 24 hours prior to boarding an aircraft or vessel bound for Korea. The document is valid for 2 years from the date of its issue. In the event of a passport exchange, you must reapply for a new K-ETA.
Covid-19 South Korea the latest news
From the 1st of October’22, inbound travellers are no longer required to take a PCR test within a day of arrival. Although, those who want want to take a PCR test can still take it for free within three days of their arrival.
Also, be aware that the government can reinstate the PCR mandate at any time in the future if the number of COVID-19 infections rebounds.
COVID-19 Testing in South Korea
For those who seek travel overseas from Korea, selective medical clinics and Incheon Airport COVID-19 Testing Center are authorized for the COVID-19 test and issuance of the certificate.
Incheon Airport COVID-19 Testing Center
- Incheon Airport COVID-19 Testing Center provides COVID-19 tests and issues certificates for inbound and outbound passengers.
- There are 2 COVID-19 Testing Centers at the airport (East / West) at T1 and 1 COVID-19 Testing Center(West) at T2.
- The following tests are available: RT-PCR and Antigen/Antibody.
- Waiting time for the test results: RT-PCR test, about 4-6 hours, Antigen/Antibody Test – 1h max.
All testing centres offer the same type of tests at the same price. You must bring your passport to take the COVID-19 test and get the certificate.
*Cost of COVID-19 test is calculated based on National Health Insurance and includes issuing a certificate of negative test result charges
- Incheon Airport T1 COVID-19 Testing Center (East/West): 07:00 – 18:00
- Incheon Airport T2 COVID-19 Testing Center: 07:00 – 18:00
- Lunchtime break: 12:00~13:00
Designated screening clinics in South Korea
Screening clinics are where people who show symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing and fever, can seek and receive medical treatment before visiting a medical institution. The diagnosis of COVID-19 is carried out in a total of 118 clinics. All Covid tests are free of charge.
- Designated/Temporary Screening Clinics for COVID-19
- Quarantine Exemption For Fully Vaccinated Overseas Entrants
South Korea’s local transport
For the majority of foreign travellers in South Korea, it is hard to pre-book train or flight tickets in advance, as very often local ticketing systems accept Korean credit cards only. 12Go Portal has sorted it out for you by providing a convenient and easy-to-use reservation service between the most important cities in the country. I.e between Seoul and Incheon, Busan, Gwangju, Daegu, Jeju, Mokpo or Andong. Also, you can book some popular international routes from Seoul to Tokyo or from Seoul to Bangkok, as well as from Busan to Fukooka or to Osaka.
Are you wondering how to get from Seoul to Busan or from Seoul to Jeju? – check the below links. These are affiliate links, so if you click them and order anything, I will get a small commission without additional costs from your side.
- From Seoul to Andong
- From Seoul to Bangkok (Thailand)
- From Seoul to Busan
- From Seoul to Daegu
- From Seoul to Gwangju
- From Seoul to Incheon
- From Seoul to Jeju do
- From Seoul to Mokpo
- From Seoul to Tokyo (Japan)
- From Busan to Seoul
- From Busan to Incheon
- From Busan to Fukuoka (Japan)
- From Busan to Osaka (Japan)
Why use 12Go portal?
- 12Go search works from “City to City”, not “from Station to Station”.
- All travel services are on a single platform for comparison and interline ticketing.
- KoRail: E-ticket (QR-code), no need to print
South Korea’s Wi-fi and Prepaid SIM Card
South Korea 4G Prepaid SIM Card* (KR Airports Pick Up).
- Enjoy wide network coverage in Korea with reliable travel 4G SIM card
- Get guaranteed, reliable 4G data from one of the country’s popular network providers KT
- Easily pick up your SIM card at major airports
- You can now conveniently use your SIM card on your device
South Korea 4G Pocket WiFi* (KR Airports Pick Up)
- Enjoy high-speed internet access in South Korea on a pay-per-day basis with a reliable 4G WiFi device while you travel wherever your itinerary takes you
- Make your experience easier with the Data Unlimited pocket WiFi
- Connect 3 devices with just one pocket WiFi with up to 8 hours of battery life
- Decide to stay a little longer? Just pay for any extra days when you return the device
SOUTH KOREA – MY OTHER POSTS
I also encourage you to read my other posts about Seoul and South Korea:
- Busan – the summer capital of South Korea
- Gyeongju Historic Areas
- Nami Island and Petit France
- Seoul – the most important tourist attractions
- Suwon Fortress day trip from Seoul
*links to the offer from Klook are affiliate