SEMI-INDEPENDENT TOUR: Discover the main highlights of South Korea on this 10-day group tour. Enjoy panoramic views of Seoul from N Tower, see Gyeongbokgung Palace and visit the Demilitarized Zone to meet a North Korean defector. Cycle the ancient streets of Gyeongju, sip tea at a 300-year-old teahouse and spend a night at a working Buddhist temple. Join a spiritual meditation class, learn to cook delicious local food with a cooking class, explore Busan and hike the Jeju Olle Trail on Jeju Island, rounded off with a beach BBQ!
Welcome to Seoul! Make your way to our start hotel via public transport or private transfer - we can book an airport transfer for you if you wish. Freshen up at the hotel or head out to explore independently before our welcome meeting at 17:00. We then enjoy an included group dinner. Get to know the rest of the group and sample your first Korean cuisine before we ride the cable car to the top of Namsan Mountain and head to the top of N Tower to enjoy the panoramic views of the city you will be exploring over the next few days.
We begin today with a relaxing stroll along the Cheonggyecheon stream, which flows through downtown Seoul. Then we head to Gyeongbokgung Palace, an impressive 14th century royal palace. Here we can enjoy the Changing of the Guard Ceremony and we see the Blue House before heading to Bukchon Hanok, a traditional Korean village located within the city. You can try on a traditional Hanbok and we visit Insadong Art Street before spending the rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Tonight you can relax or join an optional activity. We embrace Korea's K-Pop scene, which has spread around the world with popular bands such as BTS. It's karaoke time!
Overnight: Seoul | Lunch
Today we have a fascinating if sobering visit to the DMZ - the Demilitarized Zone. Officially, the Korean War is still ongoing, although the fighting largely ended in 1953. An uneasy peace has ensued since, maintained largely by the 4km wide DMZ, which stretches across the entire Korean Peninsula, separating the South from the North.
During our visit we will be able to peek into the secretive North from the Observatory and can see the tunnels built under the DMZ as part of a plan by the North to invade. You will also have the once in a lifetime opportunity to chat to a defector from North Korea, to find out what life is really like in the country.
After our trip to the DMZ, we return to Seoul. We enjoy a wander around the cultural Hongdae area before enjoying an acrobatic Nanta Show in the Myeongdong district this evening. Afterwards, for those who wish to enjoy a drink or two, we will take you to some of the best bars in the city.
Seoul - Gyeongju. Leaving Seoul behind, we head south to Gyeongju, former capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom. There's an included cycle ride around the city this afternoon, stopping at many sights including ancient tombs and lush forests. We also enjoy tea at a 300-year-old tea house.
This evening we enjoy a group dinner at a traditional Hanok house and enjoy the night-time views of Anapji Pond, constructed in 674 CE by King Munmu of the powerful Silla Kingdom. The night is spent in our simple hanok, a truly Korean experience!
Overnight: Gyeongju | Dinner
Golgulsa Temple Stay
Gyeongju - Golgulsa Temple. Today we head into the mountains and our destination, Golgulsa Temple. We'll immerse ourselves in temple life, joining prayer and enjoying a meditation session. We can also have a go at archery and watch a Sunmudo martial arts demonstration, with time to hike in the lush surroundings of the temple too.
We enjoy simple but wholesome food at the temple, including a traditional dinner. We then spend a night sleeping in the temple.
Overnight: Golgulsa Temple stay | Lunch, Dinner
Golgulsa Temple - Busan. We enjoy a spiritual morning, joining a meditation class and taking breakfast with a Buddhist monk. Then it's on to Busan, South Korea's second city. We travel by bullet train.
We enjoy an included Korean cooking class with an expert local chef, and you'll be able to taste your creation and enjoy some local rice wine. After the class, we visit Gamcheon village, known for its colorful houses and artistic murals. We also ride the cable car over Busan for panoramic views of the city and the coast.
This evening we head to BIFF Square, which hosts the annual Busan International Film Festival - it's Korea's answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Overnight: Busan | Breakfast, Lunch
This morning we visit the seaside Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. It is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in South Korea, dating back to the year 1376. There's free time this afternoon. You could relax in a traditional jjimjilbang bath house, hit the beach or sample some of the local delicacy - hotteoks. These filled pancakes are a popular street food snack in Busan.
This evening there's an included boat party off the coast, and our guide takes us out for dinner in the Haeundae area of the city (dinner not included).
Busan - Jeju Island. There's an included flight to Jeju Island today, known as the 'Hawaii of Korea'! There's included yacht sailing and fishing on arrival, as well as plenty of free time this afternoon. Head to the Olle market to try some seafood, relax at Jungmu Beach or perhaps visit the cascading Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, one of many natural landmarks on Jeju.
Overnight: Jeju Island
This morning we hike along the Jeju Olle Trail, admiring the coastal views and waterfalls. We also see Oedolgae Rock, a towering column protruding from the ocean. You will also have time to hike to the top of Seongsan Ilchubong, Sunrise Peak. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was formed by volcanic eruptions around 5,000 years ago. After enjoying the view, we head next
After all that hiking, it's time for a rest. The afternoon is free to relax on the beach before our farewell BBQ at a local restaurant.
Overnight: Jeju Island | Dinner
Jeju Island - Seoul. Today there is an included flight back to Seoul where our tour comes to an end. We expect to arrive back in Seoul at around 13:00.
1 October 2023 departure!
Please note: For the trip departing Sunday 1st October 2023, please note that due to the National Foundation Day public holiday in South Korea, the DMZ is closed on October 3rd. As this intersects with our itinerary, please see the below adjustment.
The tour will stay in Seoul for 2 nights first (instead of 3 consecutive nights), and then continue the tour with Gyeongju on Day 3 (instead of Day 4 of the original itinerary).
The tour will fly from Jeju to Seoul on Day 9 (instead of original Day 10), to complete the third overnight stay at Seoul at the end of the tour. The DMZ tour will be on Day 10 (instead of the original Day 3) after which the trip will finish. Accommodation is not included after Day 10.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates marked with a 'G' are operating. All dates are guaranteed to operate when there are 2 persons booked on the tour. 'Twin Share' prices are per person when there are 2 people sharing a room. 'Single Room' prices are applicable to solo travellers or anyone wanting the privacy of a single room.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard.
L7 Myeongdong by LOTTE, Seoul
The L7 Myeongdong by Lotte is a stylish and modern hotel located in the heart of Seoul's vibrant Myeongdong district. With its convenient location, this hotel offers easy access to some of Seoul's most popular attractions such as Namsan Tower, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the famous Myeongdong shopping district. The hotel features 251 spacious and contemporary rooms, each designed with the utmost attention to detail to ensure a comfortable and relaxing stay. All rooms come with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and luxurious bedding to guarantee a good night's sleep. The onsite Butter Finger Pancakes restaurant serves up a range of international dishes, or head to the trendy rooftop bar to take in stunning views of the city while enjoying a cocktail or two.
Hwangnamkwan Hanok Guesthouse, Gyeongju
This traditional Korean guesthouse is located in the heart of Gyeongju, nestled among the city's ancient tombs and temples. Hwangnamkwan Hanok Guesthouse is housed in a beautifully restored 100-year-old traditional Korean hanok, complete with traditional wooden architecture and furnishings. It's a real insight into traditional Korean culture! At the guesthouse, you will sleep on the floor, with mattress, linen and pillows provided. Guests can enjoy a traditional Korean breakfast served daily in the cosy dining room, featuring homemade dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. In the evening, relax in the traditional Korean garden and courtyard, surrounded by the peaceful sounds of nature.
Golgulsa Temple Stay, Gyeongju
Spend a day experiencing traditional life at a working Buddhist temple in Gyeongju, and spend a night here. During your stay, you will follow the temple schedule, including meditation, chanting, Sunmudo martial arts demonstrations, and you will help out with temple chores. Food is basic and vegetarian but fresh and delicious! Accommodation is in gender-segregated rooms of 3-4 people, and you will be sleeping on the floor, although blankets, linen and pillows are provided.
Youngmu Parade Hotel, Busan
Recently opened in 2020, Youngmu Parade Hotel is an elegant hotel in the heart of Busan. Boasting a prime location in the bustling Seomyeon district, Youngmu Parade Hotel offers easy access to the beach, just a few hundred metres away. The 258 well-appointed rooms are equipped with balconies, flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, and complimentary Wi-Fi. There is an onsite spa and wellness centre, complete with a sauna and hot tub. The onsite buffet restaurant serves up a range of international cuisine and there is also a rooftop bar with sweeping city views.
LOTTE Hotel, Jeju Island
Situated in the heart of Seogwipo City, Lotte Hotel Jeju offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the majestic Hallasan Mountain. Rooms are luxurious and spacious, each designed with the utmost attention to detail to ensure a comfortable and relaxing stay. All rooms come equipped with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and premium bedding. Guests can indulge in a range of dining options, including The Canvas buffet restaurant, The Lounge bar and the onsite Delica-Hans bakery. For those looking to relax and rejuvenate, the hotel features a world-class rooftop spa, wellness centre, complete with an indoor swimming pool, sauna, and hot tub. Guests can also take advantage of the hotel's fitness centre and tennis courts. Lotte Hotel Jeju is ideally located within easy reach of some of Jeju's most popular attractions, including Oedolgae Rock and the picturesque Seogwipo Harbour.