The 20 best places to visit in South Korea

 

Built in 2002, in the north east of the country, overlooking the Sea Of Japan is the Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht, a hotel built in the style of a ship, giving the impression that it has run aground. Built at the top of steep cliffs in the town of Jeongdongjin, it makes for a wonderful vantage point in a town known for its famous views of the sunrise and sunsets over the Sea Of Japan. The first of its kind in the world, its unusual design makes this hotel an attraction in itself.

20. Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht

 

On the eastern coast, in the small town of Sinnam is a park known for a large number of phallic statues, the Haesindang Park, also known as the Penis Park. Created by Korean artists, the penis sculptures vary in appearance, colour and size, with some measuring up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length. The park was created after the tragic legend known as the Legend Of Auebawi And Haesindang. According to the legend, a woman was once left by her man on a rock in the sea as he worked. Due to a storm the woman was stranded and later drowned. After this the local villagers were unable to catch fish, blaming it on the dead woman. One day, a fisherman urinated into the water, after which he was able to catch fish. It was thought that exposing male genitals to the deceased woman pleased her, so the villagers made penis sculptures and created a twice yearly religious ceremony in her honour.

19. Haesindang Park

 

Built in 2013,  located in the seldom visited Yangpyeong County to the east of the capital, Seoul, is the Dreamy Camera Cafe, a picturesque cafe in the shape of a high end Rolleiflex camera. This picture perfect roadside attraction turns a simple cafe into a great photo opportunity.

18. Dreamy Camera Cafe

 

In the east of the country, in North Gyeongsang Province, covering some 107 square kilometres (41 square miles) is the Juwangsan National Park, encompassing part of the Taebaek Mountain Range. Home to more than 900 animal species including the Eurasian flying squirrel, the terrain is one of impressive limestone pinnacles, wonderful gorges, waterfalls, cliffs and forests. Highlights of the park include the Daejeonsa Temple, Jusanji Lake and the Dalgi Waterfall in a wonderful natural surround.

17. Juwangsan National Park

 

In the south east of the country, west from the city of Busan is the city of Changwon, the capital of Gyeongsangnam-do, most famous for its annual Jinhae-gu Cherry Blossom Festival. Each spring the city hosts a ten day festival, where over one million Koreans crowd into the town to view the substantial cherry blossoms, watch street performers, visit carnival stalls and commemorate the victory of Admiral Yi Sun Shin over a thwarted Japanese invasion attempt.

16. Jinhae

 

Built in the late 18th century in the city of Suwon, directly south from the capital, Seoul, is the Hwaesong Fortress, a strong defensive fortress from the Joseon Dynasty. Enclosing most of central Suwon, much of the structure and its features remain intact along its 5.7 kilometre (3.5 mile) length. A masterpiece of the Joseon Dynasty, the Fortress along with King Jeongjo's Haenggung Palace were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

15. Hwaseong Palace

 

In the southern centre of the country, covering a small area of some 232 square kilometres (89 square miles) is the Deogyusan National Park, encompassing part of the Baekdudaegan mountain range. Named after Mount Deogyusan, standing at 1,164 metres (5295 ft) above sea level, the park is made up of steep vegetated mountains, home to 13 species of reptile and 33 species of mammal. Highlights of the park include the Chiryeon Waterfall and the historical Cheoksan Mountain Fortress.

14. Deogyusan National Park

 

In the north east of the country, directly east from the capital, Seoul, covering some 304 square kilometres (117 square miles) is the Odaesan National Park, named after the 1,563 metre (5,128 ft) Mount Odaesan, meaning 'Five Plains Mountains'. Home to 12 reptile species and 28 mammal species, this landscape of mountains, forests and sheer cliffs is a favourite among hikers with its easy access walking paths that criss-cross the park.

13. Odaesan National Park

 

In the almost exact centre of the country, within the 275 square kilometre (106 square mile) Songnisan National Park, on the slopes of the 1,058 metre (3,472 ft) Mount Songnisan is the Beopjusa Temple, a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. First constructed in 553 AD, it was burned to the ground in the Japanese invasion of Korea, with all the structures rebuilt after 1624 AD. The site holds 60 buildings and 70 hermitages, including the highest wooden pagoda in Korea, the Palsangjeon, meaning Hall Of Eight Pictures. With so many individually remarkable structures specific to Korea, the Beopjusa Temple, as one of the seven temples from the 7th to 9th centuries has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

12. Beopjusa Temple

 

In the south east of the country, north from the city of Busan is the historical city of Gyeongju, the former capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, during the 7th to 9th centuries it was the fourth largest city on Earth. Home to a vast number of archaeological sites and cultural properties from the period, the city is often referred to as the Museum Without Walls. Among the historical treasures are ruins, temples, palaces, pagodas, the Seokguram Grotto, the traditional Yangdong Folk Village and the Bulguksa Temple, meaning Temple Of The Buddha Land, a head temple of the Jogye Order of South Korea. First built in the 8th century, burnt to the ground in the 16th and rebuilt in the 18th, it is considered a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in the Sila Kingdom. One of the most visited locations in the country, the historic city of Gyeongju has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. Gyeongju

 

Around 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the Korean Peninsula in the Sea Of Japan is the island of Ulleungdo, a volcanic and rocky steep sided island that forms the top of a large stratovolcano, rising from the sea floor to 984 metres (3,228 ft) above sea level. A major tourist destination thanks to easy accessibility via boats from the mainland, this rugged island is a favourite for visitors who enjoy hiking, fishing or taking boat tours for views of the incredible and steep coastal cliffs.

10. Ulleungdo

 

In the southern centre of the country, directly west from the city of Busan is the 472 square kilometre (182 square mile) Jirisan National Park, the first national park and the largest terrestrial national park in South Korea. Home to forests and mountains, the park includes the 1,915 metre (6,283 ft) high Jirisan from which the park takes its name, considered one of the three holy mountains on the Korean Peninsula. A treasure chest of nature, with warm temperate forests, Jirisan National Park offers some of the best hiking locations in the country.

9. Jirisan National Park

 

On the southern central coast, within the 546 square kilometre (211 square mile) protected landscape of the Hallyeohaesang National Park is the Boriam Hermitage, a temple that dates back to 683 AD. Located on the slopes of Mount Geumsan, visitors can take a shuttle bus or hike the 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) to the sprawling temple. From its vantage point it offers fantastic views of the surrounding rocky outcrops, over Sangju Beach, and to the many tiny islands just off the coast.

8. Boriam Hermitage

 

In the extreme south west of the country, covering a mere 57 square kilometres (22 square miles) is the Wolchulsan National Park, the smallest protected area in South Korea. Named after the 809 metre (2,654 ft) Mount Wolchul, the park is a landscape of rocky peaks, rugged cliffs and rolling green hills. Notable features in the park include the national treasure of Dogapsa Temple, an 8.6 metre (28 ft) high Seated Buddha statue, a sculpture park and the Cloud Bridge. At an elevation of 120 metres (390 ft) above the ground it offers visitors wonderful views of the surrounding mountainous terrain.

7. Wolchulsan National Park

 

In the south west of the country, directly south from the capital, Seoul, is the Jeonju Hanok Village, famous among South Koreans and foreign tourists for having over 800 traditional Korean houses known as Hanoks. Regarded as the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty and the capital of the Hubaekje Kingdom in the 10th century, the city is often called 'The Ground Of More Than 1,000 Years Of History'. In sharp contrast to the modern city around it, where traditional culture and nature blend in harmony, and with a wealth of interesting and historical landmarks, Jeonju has become one of the most visited locations in South Korea.

6. Jeonju Hanok Village

 

In the extreme south east of the country, with a population of 3.5 million and home to the fifth busiest shipping port in the world is the city of Busan, South Korea's second most populated city after the capital, Seoul. With its mix of majestic mountains, tropical beaches, hot springs and ancient Buddhist temples, including the popular Beomeosa Temple and the 14th century Haedong Yonggung Temple, its modern side hosts fine museums, restaurants and the largest department store in the world. For the best views in town, visitors should hike their way to the summit of Jangsan Mountain for an incredible vantage point over the city and its rocky coastline.

 

Pictured is the Haedong Yonggung Temple.

5. Busan

 

Approximately 130 kilometres (81 miles) from the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula is Jeju Island, the largest island and smallest province of South Korea. Volcanic in origin, the island is dominated by the 1,950 metre (6,398 ft) high Hallasan, an enormous shield volcano that is also the highest mountain in the country, surrounded by the 153 square kilometre (59 square mile) Hallasan National Park. Highlights of the island include the Manjanggul Lava Tube, the volcanic tuff cone and crater known as Seongsan Ulchulbong, or Sunrise Peak and Mount Hallasan. Jeju Volcanic Island and its Lava Tubes have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Pictured is the Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak).

4. Jeju Island

 

Just north from the capital, Seoul, covering a mere 80 square kilometres (31 square miles) is Bukhansan National Park, meaning 'Mountains North Of The Han River'. Made up of huge granite peaks and large forests, highlights of the park include a large number of mountain hiking trails and the early 18th century Bukhansanseong Fortress, covering a huge 6.2 square kilometres (2.4 square miles) it contains 120 rooms. Its proximity and easy access from Seoul has made Bukhansan National Park one of the most visited protected areas in South Korea.

3. Bukhansan National Park

 

In the north west of the country, home to nearly 10 million people is the capital and largest city in South Korea, the city of Seoul, with a history that stretches back some 2,000 years it remains to this day one of the most visited capitals on the planet. With its mix of cutting edge technology, amazing skyscrapers, nightlife districts, shopping malls, ancient temples and historical landmarks, it is also home to some of the finest cuisine in all of Asia. Top locations for tourists include the Gyeongbokgung and the 15th century Changdeokgung, with a handful of mountains for visiting hikers.

2. Seoul

 

In the far north east of the country, covering some 398 square kilometres (154 square miles) is Seoraksan National Park, the first designated protected area in South Korea. Composed of steep granite mountain peaks and large forests, the park is home to more than 1,500 animal species. For hikers, the highlight of the park is heading to Gwongeumseong Fortress, situated on a mountain top it offers incredible views of the breathtaking scenery. Cultural landmarks within the protected area of note include the Buddhist temple of Baekdamsa and the head temple of Sinheungsa, famous for its 18.9 metre (62 ft) high Great Unification Buddha Statue. Seoraksan National Park is considered by many to be the most beautiful natural terrain in South Korea.

1. Seoraksan National Park

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