SEMI INDEPENDENT TOUR: Take in the highlights of South Korea on this 12-day group tour which starts in Seoul and ends on Jeju island. Meet a North Korean defector at the Demilitarized Zone, see the Blue House and Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul and explore South Korea's second city, Busan. Discover Seoraksan National Park, stay at a traditional Buddhist temple and end your trip with a hike to Sunrise Peak and a beach BBQ on Jeju island.
Welcome to Seoul! On arrival in South Korea's capital, make your own way to our starting hostel. We can also book an arrival transfer for you. There's a pre-departure Welcome Meeting at 14:00 before we head out for a Taekwondo class with professional instruction.
After the class, we head to Myeongdong by public transport for an optional group dinner. We then ride the cable car to the top of Namsan Mountain, where we can enjoy incredible views of Seoul illuminated at night. For an even better view, you may wish to head to the top of the N Seoul Tower, which is the second highest point in the city. We then return to our hostel where the rest of the evening is at leisure.
Please note: The pre-departure welcome meeting is at 14:00. Please ensure that you arrive in Seoul in plenty of time so that you don't miss the tour. We can arrange pre-tour accommodation for you.
Exploring the DMZ
Today we enjoy an excursion to the Demilitarized Zone, which is a 2.5 mile wide buffer zone between the hostile states of North and South Korea. Our bus journey to the DMZ takes around three hours and we stop at Dorasan Station en route. The train station was built with the intention of connecting the two Koreas, in times when relations were better.
Arriving at the DMZ, we visit the Dora Observatory where you can peek into reclusive North Korea and perhaps catch a glimpse of some North Korean villagers in the streets. We then descend into the Third Tunnel of Aggression, which was built by the North as a means of infiltrating South Korea.
After our visit to the DMZ, we board the bus to return to Seoul. We'll be joined onboard by a North Korean defector. You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak with someone who has experienced life in the closed off country of North Korea. Arriving back in Seoul, the rest of the day is at leisure and there is an included K-pop dance class for those who wish to join.
Today we enjoy a morning of exploring Seoul. We'll ride on the metro to the grand Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was once the main residence of the Joseon Dynasty. Watch the Changing of the Guard here before we enter the palace grounds where you can rent traditional Korean clothes to wear. We also see the Blue House, which is the equivalent of America's White House for South Korea.
The afternoon is free. Suggested activities are a visit to Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong Art Street or you could rent bicycles for a cycle along the Han River.
Seoul - Sokcho. This morning we head out of Seoul to Sokcho, in the north east of the country. Arriving in Seoraksan National Park, there are several options for exploring. You can visit Sinheungsa Temple or hike up to Ulsanbawi Rock for incredible views over the national park. You can also pay to ride the Seoraksan Cable Car or explore some of the local cave networks - the choice is yours!
After exploring the national park, we take the bus to Sokcho town and cross the river by cable-pulley boat to Abai, a small village of North Korean refugees. Explore the historic village and climb to the Lighthouse Observatory for amazing views of the surrounding area. There's an optional dinner at the Manseok fish market and some traditional liquor tasting (the drinking age in Korea is 19).
Sokcho - Gyeongju. Say goodbye to Sokcho as we travel to the city of Gyeongju, stopping en route at the popular BTS Bus Stop on the beach. This bus stop was on the album cover for "You Never Walk Alone", an album by the band. BTS are South Korea's most famous boyband, their music now popular around the world.
This afternoon we head out on a bicycle tour of the city. Ride to numerous highlights including the Cheonmachong Silla tomb in Tumuli Park. We then make our way to Cheomseongdae, the oldest surviving astronomical observatory in East Asia. We also explore Gyerim Forest and the Hyanggyo Confucius School.
Rise early this morning for an optional visit to the UNESCO-listed Bulguksa Temple, on the slopes of Mt Toham. We then transfer by bus to Golgulsa Temple, where we will be staying tonight. There's an included meditation class and you can opt to join archery or horse-riding classes.
Later, we watch a thrilling traditional arts performance and Sunmudo demonstration. Sunmudo is a Korean Buddhist martial art. After the demonstration, you may wish to lend a hand with the temple's communal work and chores before we enjoy a simple Buddhist dinner of vegetables, rice and fruit with the other temple visitors and members. There's an evening chanting service and you can learn the basics of Sunmudo yourself.
Overnight: Golgulsa Temple | Breakfast, Dinner
Gyeongju - Busan. Join the morning chanting service and meditation, then tuck in to
a traditional breakfast. Afterwards, we meet a Buddhist monk and enjoy a relaxed chat over some tea. There's a final chance to practice your Sunmudo skills before we return to Gyeongju and make our way by bus to Busan.
On arrival, check-in to our accommodation and enjoy an included visit to Gamcheon Village, known for its colorful houses and murals. We also ride the Songdo Marine Cable Car over the city, and visit BIFF Square - South Korea's answer to Hollywood's Walk of Fame! Spend your first night in bustling Busan at leisure - perhaps head to the Haeundae beachfront to make the most of the city's thriving nightlife.
Overnight: Busan | Breakfast
This morning we visit the Buddhist Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which is nestled amongst the cliffs on the coast and dates back to the year 1376.
There is time in the afternoon to further explore at leisure. You could visit Spa Land in Centum City, one of Busan's largest shopping complexes. Here you can enjoy a bathe in a jjimjiibang bathhouse and relax in a steamy sauna. In the evening, take the metro to Gwangan Beach for dinner, and enjoy the optional Gwangan Bridge light show after dark.
Busan - Jeju. Today is free to relax or further explore Busan as you please. Optional activities available include a Korean cooking class, a visit to the observatory of the second-tallest building in Korea or a hike along the scenic Igidae Coastal Walk.
2023 departures:This afternoon we transfer to the airport and fly to Jeju, the small volcanic island dominated by the towering volcano of Hallasan. Upon arrival transfer to our hotel and spend the evening at leisure.
2024 departures:If the ferry from Busan to Jeju is operating again in 2024 we will travel by overnight ferry to Jeju. There is no restaurant onboard, but a small kiosk will be selling noodles - we recommend stocking up on snacks!
Overnight: Jeju Island
This morning we enjoy an included hike to the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong, better known as Sunrise Peak. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this cylindrical hill was formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions and is Jeju's most famous landmark. There is also an included yacht sailing tour before the afternoon is free to explore the area at leisure.
Overnight: Jeju Island
We spend our final full day in South Korea exploring Jeju further, beginning at Jeongbang Waterfall, which flows directly into the ocean. From this incredible natural wonder, we enjoy a trek along the Jeju Olle Trail, which winds through incredible scenery of volcanic cliffs and bright yellow fields of canola. See the towering column of Oedolgae Rock, which emerges dramatically from the waves. There's time after the trek to relax on the beach or try your hand at surfing or paddle boarding.
To celebrate our final evening, there's an included BBQ party on the beach tonight. Relax and enjoy delicious food as we watch the sun go down.
Overnight: Jeju Island | Dinner
Today our South Korean adventure comes to an end. We can book an optional flight back to Seoul for you, in which case there is an included group transfer to the airport. If you make your own arrangements then the transfer is not included.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates noted with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departure dates are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. Prices shown are per person travelling and the Dorm prices shown are based on mixed dormitory rooms. There is also a Twin / Double Room Upgrade and a Single Room upgrade for solo travellers. Twin / Double room upgrades are based on two people travelling together and are subject to availability.