Korea Bucket List – 15 Must See Places in Korea

I reached out to my travel blogger friends to see who had been to South Korea and what amazing place or experience they think should be on everyone’s “Korea Bucket List.” I’m really happy with the responses and I think they made a pretty good list.


WheresSharon.com This information is by Sharon from Where’s Sharon? (and Joshua, Soraya and Isaac), a blog originally about Sharon’s journeys around the world, but now about exploring the world with two little ones in tow – the good, the bad and the (hopefully not too) ugly.  You can also find them on Facebook.

DMZ WheresSharon.com

Looking across the border to North Korea. The line on the ground between the two blue UN buildings is the border.

A day trip to the DMZ is like nothing else in this world. The DMZ stretches for two kilometers on either side of the border between North and South Korea.  It is the most heavily armed border in the world and visits are only possible on a day tour from Seoul.  You can visit a military base, observation posts, infiltration tunnels built by the North Koreans and the joint security area smack bang on the border.  This is by far the highlight.  Tension is high as you actually enter a UN negotiation building straddling the border.  When I was there, there were North Korean soldiers staring at us through the windows.  It was an amazing experience in a very unsettling way and one of the top travel experiences I have had.  Definitely a must-see attraction!!


elizabeth

One Day I’ll Fly Away is written by an American expat currently living in Bangkok, Thailand teaching kindergarten. Lover of kimchi, kpop, beaches, instaphotography and bum guns next to the toilet. Might end up being an Asian lifer, check out her blog to find out! …or follow along on facebook or instagram.
Muuido Island

Muui-do Island, near Seoul

Muui-do is a small island near Seoul that is easy enough to get to on a 3-day weekend and tropical enough to almost make you think you are somewhere else (in the summer/spring anyway…) Abundant with fresh seafood restaurants and day tripping Koreans sharing snacks in the shade, you can rent a tiny bungalow right on the beach, just big enough to sleep and light a fire right on the beach while you sip away at your makgeolli or soju. The perfect retreat from the city, grab a few friends ad enjoy the island life, Korean style!

Travel_Addicts._Avatar

Lance is one-half of the team at Travel Addicts.  Along with his wife Laura, they write about achievable adventure and realizing the best mix of value, comfort and convenience.  They show others how to support their travel habits, packing in as much adventure as the “real world” allows.  Follow the adventures of Travel Addicts – or find them on Twitter and Facebook.
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion – Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul

The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the Joseon Dynasty royal palace in Seoul that traces its roots back to 1395.  While largely destroyed in the 1500s, the complex has been restored over the last 200 years.  Gyeongbokgung is quite simply the symbol of Korea and represents its national sovereignty since it was frequently destroyed by invading forces from Japan.  The South Korean government is in the middle of 40-year to restore and preserve this important site.  Within the Gyeongbokgung Palace complex, the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion (pictured), sits on an island in an artificial lake and is a favorite spot for both locals and visitors.  Stop and smell the flowers!

AnywhereButHome.comNaomi is a 20-something nomad who left home in 2010 to make travel a full-time lifestyle. Since then, she’s been shot at with live fireworks in Taiwan, spotted pygmy elephants in Borneo, worked with mummies in Peru, and impulsively dropped all plans to move to Georgia (the country, not the state). Follow the adventures at Anywhere But Home!
Cheonghak-dong Village

Cheonghak-dong Village

Believe it or not, but Korea has its own version of the Amish. In the village of Cheonghak-dong, just outside of Hadong, you can still see a very traditional lifestyle: people wear every-day hanbok, keep their hair uncut, live in hanok houses, and keep up a massive, winding stone shrine called Samseong-gung, which is neither Buddhist, Daoist or Christian, but dedicated to the mythical deities of Korean shamanism. It’s a deep look into the past, in a country that’s so focused on speeding towards the future.

steve miller - qiranger iconSteve Miller, The QiRanger, is a radio, television, and Internet news/travel personality based out of Seoul, South Korea. Millions around the globe have viewed his travel videos and he appears regularly on international radio stations talking about travel, Korean culture, and East Asian news. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Fortresses, palaces, temples, and great food are the makings of a grand adventure. Many times, this requires traveling to distant corners of the peninsula. But what if there was a place where you could DO IT ALL? The Suwon Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Ste that boasts some of the best traditional architecture in the nation. It also has its own palace, martial arts show, traditional music and dance performances, street food market, and temple. If there is one place to visit while in Korea, this is it. In a single day you can see AND experience more Korean history and culture than anywhere else.

Everyday KoreaEveryday Korea features information for all of your tour, culture, and news in Korea. Through readers’ comments, Everyday Korea would like to interact with the expat community along with tourists of Korea. Please visit their site www.everydaykorea.com for more information. Also, become their fan on Facebook.
Danyang

Danyang

Danyang (단양) is surrounded by mountain ranges that are made of gigantic rocks. Danyang feature many cave sites. The market streets of Danyang are bustling all day. In the evening, the market is filled with events and shows that the citizens of Danyang participate in as their entertainment means. The market meets the Han River. The riverside features amazing light decorations that are great for pictures. Along the river are many small privately owned cafes for you to enjoy while meditating under the sparkling night sky.

ChrisinSouthKorea.com
Chris Backe is the blogger behind Chris in South Korea, Chris in Thailand, and the author of four books. His most recent, Weird and Wonderful Korea, covers over 100 of Korea’s most unusual destinations, offering directions and dozens of itineraries for easier traveling. He’s currently in Thailand working on a similar book. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.
Osu Dog Park

Osu Faithful Dog Park – Osu-myeon, Jeollabuk-do

The Osu Faithful Dog Park – combines a bit of Korean mythology with a fun story. Long story short: old Korean guy, gets drunk, passes out. A fire rages through the field. The dog gets himself wet, runs back to the owner, shakes himself off to keep his owner wet, runs back to the water and repeats the cycle. The owner is saved, but the dog dies in the process… As for what the owner does next, well, you’ll just have to visit to find out!

waegook tom

After teaching English in South Korea for 3 years and consuming way too much fatty pork and soju, Tom started his round-the-world adventures in March 2013 and blogs about unexpected discoveries and cultural quirks mixed in with a whole lot of foodporn. Follow Tom on his blog, Facebook and Twitter.
Uponeup (우포늪)

Uponeup (우포늪)

Located just outside the sleepy town of Changnyeong, Uponeup (우포늪) is one of only two wetland areas in South Korea, the other being Suncheon Bay. I headed there in winter, when the water was frozen, and the ice blues and faded browns and greens of the reed fields provided a gorgeous setting for the hundreds of geese and swans to do their honking in. Although not a good idea to visit in summer (one word: mosquitoes), Uponeup is definitely worth heading to to see the natural beauty that lies not far from the concrete jungles of the all-too-often identikit Korean cities.

american_burdNot A Scottish Lass is written by a well traveled academic, this blog chronicles American Burd’s world travels and is devoted to discussing travel, love (both lost and found) and how to adapt to living life within and well outside our comfort zones. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter. Mokpo Jeollan-am do is an often overlooked province in the Southwest corner of South Korea, bordered by the Yellow. The province is known primarily for its agriculture, but full of natural beauty and well known for its food. There are many picturesque locations in Jeollanam-do, but for the traveler with time constraints, I would recommend a trip to Yudal Mountain in Mokpo. Mokpo is a port city and the views from Yudal Mountain are simply amazing. The path is well maintained; much of it consisting of paved steps and provides beautiful views of Mokpo city, its harbours and the surrounding islands.

john steele photoJohn Steele has lived and worked in Korea since 2002. He is a full time blue-collar photographer, and in his free time he works in the English Language and Literature department at Chungang University in Seoul. His blog details his travels around Korea through pictures and stories. You can also find him on Facebook.
Pohang Sunrise

Pohang

Pohang is a port/industrial city located on the east coast about an hour north of Gyeongju. When people think of Pohang, factories are what usually come to mind. While this is true (the headquarters of POSCO, the multinational steel-making company, is located in Pohang), there are many beautiful places for people to visit in and around the city. Because Pohang is located on the coast, beaches around Homigot are popular for tourists as well as Chilpo and Wolpo beaches, located just north along the coast. For photographers such as myself, Pohang is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise, as seen in the picture. The factories also make good subjects for photographers, especially at sunrise.

The Escapism ArtistNatalie Bauer is a traveller, lifestyle designer, and entrepreneur who blogs about her adventures in the world and on the web at TheEscapismArtist.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Gulgulsa Temple, Gyeongju

Gulgulsa Temple, Gyeongju

Near Gyeongju, the former capital of the Silla dynasty, up the winding roads that beckon travellers ever farther into the lush landscape is Golgulsa. The Buddhist temple is believed to have been started in the 6th century and is home to the magnificent Maya Tathagata Buddha. Carved into the side of a cliff the image lies at the top of a steep path of stone outcroppings. The experience is breathtaking, ducking into caves filled with statues, candles, and incense on the way to the top. And when you’ve reached the Buddha turn toward the valley to admire the beautiful views.


Aaron Nicholas PhotographyJill and Aaron Osteen spent over 4 years living in Busan, teaching English and traveling through Asia! Jill could usually be found with her Nikon D700, ready for the perfect opportunity to snap a photo for a new blog post!  In June 2013, Jill and Aaron moved to Charleston, South Carolina and opened their own wedding photography business, Aaron Nicholas Photography, and have been loving the adventure!

Gwanganli International Fireworks Festival 2012

Gwanganli International Fireworks Festival 2012

My husband and I are suckers for a good fireworks show, and being that we lived in Busan for 4 years, we were in luck, because we got to see one of the best firework displays in the world, 4 times!  The Busan International Fireworks Festival (in October) is a sight to behold!  It’s an hour long firework show, set to music, ON THE BEACH, overlooking the Gwangan Bridge! Romantic? YES!  Stunning? YES!  Fun? Yes!  Worth seeing? DEFINITELY!  In 2012, we hiked up to the top of a mountain to watch it from above, where my husband Aaron snapped this photograph!

Christine Kaaloa Grrrl TravelerGRRRL TRAVELER pens her imperfect adventures as a female solo traveler traveling in Asia/Southeast Asia. She left her freelance career in entertainment to take a gap year(s) teaching English in South Korea, but is currently back in the U.S., plotting her next adventure. Finding your GRRR is about empowering oneself as a traveler by navigating cultural diversity, while experiencing the bizarre, foreign, frightening and funny. Find your GRRR on Facebook and Twitter.

Loveland Jeju Korea

Loveland, Jeju Island

Sometimes, Korea can feel so beautiful and sanitized you just want to see a little naughty action, just to rile things up. On the risqué end, Korea has penis parks, but I enjoyed visiting Loveland. It’s like a museum park on the theme of sex and erotica and some of the artwork will make your eyes pop. From giant sculptures to cute miniatures, it’s all tastefully done, occasionally Korean-themed and even humorous, at times. This isn’t technically in Korea but on Jeju Island, a must-see island with jaw-dropping physical beauty and enough quirky museums to fill your dance card.

DaleDale is a British male, who after a surprise birthday trip to Venice decided “this is the life for me”. Since June 2012, Dale has been traveling full-time in search of the best Architecture, Art, Design & Music the world has to offer, along with his partner Franca Calabretta on the travel website Angloitalian. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
jjimjilbang

Korean jjimjilbang

Located in every town and city, the Jjimjilbang is one part bath house, the other part budget accommodation. Split into men and women, being the only foreigner amongst 100 other naked men enjoying the seven steaming hot baths is one surreal experience I’ll never forget and highly recommend for all but the shy and insecure traveller.


And if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, you might want to think about checking out North Korea.

GlobalmouseGlobalmouse is making traveling the world with children fun! From UK days out to swimming in thermal pools in Iceland and from the best British beaches to why kids love Cuba. Globalmouse is full of tips, stories and adventures to inspire and enjoy. You can also follow Globalmouse on Facebook and Twitter.

North Korea Arirang Mass Games Opening

North Korea Arirang Mass Games Opening Ceremony

The Arirang Mass Games which are held annually in North Korea are the most amazing series of choreographed dances with over 100,000 participants. I had researched the Mass Games so much before my first ever experience of seeing it live and absolutely nothing could prepare me for the emotional pull of the spectacle – just the sound in the May Day Stadium, Pyongyang beats through you. Opposite the audience sit 30,000 children – like human pixels they hold boards which make up a whole picture which changes rapidly through the event. It’s definitely my Korea must see!

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52 thoughts on “Korea Bucket List – 15 Must See Places in Korea

  1. It’s great to find my tip amongst so many fantastic ideas, and the one I’m really gutted to have not ticked off my own personal list is Chris’s tip to visit Osu Faithful Dog Park. That’s right up my alley.

    • Inside the buildings is a joint-miliarty zone. On my DMZ tour, they told us that once North Korea opened the door when some people were inside and tried to drag one of them into the North. Crazy! So now they keep guards at the door when people are inside. The guards in intense. They have to be a certain height/weigh and also be a master in 2 different forms of martial arts.

    • While I agree that the DMZ is a must see, there are so many truly interesting and unique places in Korea that most tourists don’t get to see because they just hang around Seoul. There’s plenty to see in the north end, but the south is also pretty spectacular!

  2. Great post. I’ve been to South Korea but can’t help but feel we didn’t do it justice. I will book-mark your post for the next visit! A visit to North Korea for the Mass Games has been on list “to do” list for a while now … One day!

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  6. The idea of this post is GREAT! I had no idea Loveland existed and I’m actually pretty shocked that Korea has parks along these erotic lines! It seems so stifling and conservative at times that things like that (and the penis park haha) really are a breath of fresh air!

  7. Some of these I’ve visited and some still have eluded me. Great job compiling a list from different people! I love that. I can definitely vouch for the jimjilbangs, and that one in the photo looks like Dragon Hill next to Yongsan Station. Awesome place! Will be looking at this list when the next long weekend comes for sure.

    • The Cheonghak Village looks so fascinating. I had never heard of it before I compiled this post. It’s definitely high on my list as well. That’s the problem with Korea… There are so many amazing things to see that you can’t possibly fit them all in, even if you’ve lived here for a few years!

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  11. Ummm, Sorak-san in the fall. The spectacular beaches of Dong-hye near SokCho. The seafood on the boardwalk at Incheon. I’m getting homesick.

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  13. Who has any information on the best locations for Cherry blossom season in Seoul and surrounding area. I will be there April 2017!

    • I’m envious! Cherry blossom season in Korea is the best! I’m not extremely familiar with Seoul since I spent most of my time in Korea in the southeast, but I’ve asked some friends for help. Some recommendations in or around Seoul have been: Yeoido Island, Seoul Forest, Seoul National Cemetery, Seoraksan (Mountain), Nami Island, Seokchon Lake, N. Seoul Tower. Also, if you have time there’s some great places further south, such as Gyeongju or Jinhae. They both have a staggering number of cherry blossoms. Since cherry blossom bloom time is so hard to predict, remember they bloom in the south first and then work their way up north. If you are in Seoul and they haven’t bloomed yet then you may want to think about going south to see them. If they are in full bloom in Seoul then it’s likely you’ve missed peak season in the southern areas. If they don’t seem great in Seoul, check higher elevations. Good luck and I hope you have a wonderful time in Korea!

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