There are 2 kinds of travelers: Those who prefer the convenience of organized tours, and those who prefer the freedom of D.I.Y. travel. If you are the latter, then KEEP READING! Don’t worry, we know you’ve been searching on google now for about a zillion years; your search ends here.
In this article we gathered 10 of South Korea’s most beautiful but lesser-known tour destinations for your next D.I.Y. Korea adventure.
1. Manjanggul Cave on Jeju Island – The 12th Longest Lava Tube in the World
What is Manjanggul Cave?
Manjanggul Cave is part of a 300-thousand-year-old series of lava tubes that stretch nearly 13km long from end to end, making it the 12th longest lava tube in the world, as well as a national monument. Even though only 1km of the cave is open for public viewing, it still features amazing geological structures such as Lava columns, flowstones, and Stalac/Stalagmites.
If you choose to go, the Cave is usually dripping wet so make sure to waterproof all your valuables; especially your phone, wallet, and camera. The cave floor will also be wet so bring shoes with good grip, preferably your standard trekking shoes. Some sources also tell you to bring your own flashlight, but the cave is well lit with many illuminated signages, so navigation won’t be an issue. Lastly, temperatures near the cave entrance and inside the cave can drop to 15 degrees Celsius so bring a jacket (preferably waterproof).
For more info, visit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264236
2. Baekje Cultural Land in Chungnam– Cultural theme park of the Baekje Kingdom
What to expect in Baekje Cultural Land?
Picture standing in the middle of an ancient Korean building complex, as if frozen in time since 19BC. The Baekje Cultural Land was painstakingly built over the course of 17 years to preserve the history and culture of the Baekje Kingdom – one of Korea’s 3 Major Kingdoms. The cultural theme park is spread over a whopping 3200 square kilometers! Needless to say, ITS HUGE! Within the complex, you’ll find many museums, cultural performances, gardens, and full-scale replicas of Baekje architecture. Regardless if you’re a history buff or not, Baekje Cultural Land offers an experience that more popular historical sites like Gyeongbokgung Palace just can’t offer.
We recommend going earlier in the morning as people tend to come a little later in the day. If you’re lucky you might even get some shots without pesky photobombers!
As mentioned before, the place is HUGE! You might consider renting a bike to be able to explore the place more efficiently. Lastly, the weather in Korea is arguably best during the spring months, so if you plan on walking a lot, go between the months of March and June.
For more info, visit: https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_2_4.jsp?cid=1105880&ne arBy=accom&
3. Seongsan Mountain – Extinct Volcano & UNESCO World Heritage Site
More than just a hike!
When hiking on Jeju Island, most people gravitate towards Mt. Hallasan because of its status as the country’s tallest mountain. Which is why Seongsan Mountain is sometimes overlooked.
Seongsan Mountain, also known as sunrise peak, is an extinct volcano that formed more than 100 thousand years ago. Hikers can enjoy a seaside view of Jeju Island along its winding trails. The Trail itself is very established with concrete and wooden stairs all along the trail. Trail signs help hikers navigate to the top where hikers and nature-lovers alike can view the iconic concave shape of the crater, and landscape views of Jeju Island.
Many local senior citizens can be seen hiking on the trail but do not be fooled! The Hike can still pose a challenge to some. Bring some water and food just in case, and where appropriate clothing for the season. At the ticketing office before you start your trek, there is a place for you to store your luggage. Restrooms are available at the base.
4. Daehan Dawon Plantation – Green Tea and Matcha farm with Forest walks
Green Tea and Matcha Paradise
Daehan Dawon Plantation or Boseong Green Tea Fields is South Korea’s largest green tea and match farm producing roughly 40% of all South Korea’s green tea! The tea fields are estimated to have around 5.8 million plants, all of which produce the Yubi – cha variety of tea. The farm is composed of seemingly endless rows of tea hedges, and many walking paths that pass-through groves of bamboo and cedar trees.
Aside from exploring the farm and forests, you can also visit Dawon restaurant and sample their varieties of green tea, green tea ice cream, and many more green tea products. You’ll be doing a fair bit of walking so be sure to pack your basic trekking essentials like water, towel, change of clothes, and a bag to hold your valuables. Another thing to note is that because the place doesn’t get as many English-speaking tourists as other more popular places, English signages are minimal and rare so be prepared to ask around or bring a translation device.
5. Jangsado Sea Park in Tongyeong – Secluded Island Park with Nature and Art Walks
Exclusive but worth it!
Jangsado is an island near Tongyeong city that is known for its elongated shape, nature walks, and art installations. The island’s most famous element is arguably the crimson camellia flowers that bloom during the winter months. The Island is being preserved as best it can, so access to the island is limited. Planning this segment of your trip well is highly recommended
To get to the Island you need to take a ferry from Geoje. Upon arrival, you will be given 2 hours to roam and explore the island, as you are required to take the same ferry going back to Geoje. During that time, you can admire the biodiversity, the art installations, the sea-side views, as well as visit some of the filming locations of popular K-Dramas like “My Love from the Stars,” “One Warm Word,” and “Uncontrollably Fond.”
Before you leave, make sure to check out the Ottchil Art Museum in the Jangsado Exhibition Hall.
6. Ikeseon Dong in Seoul – still unknown Hanok Village in the middle of the city
Where Old Meets New
Any list about Korea’s top destinations wouldn’t be complete without featuring a Hanok (traditional Korean house) village. Ikeseon Dong is one of the oldest villages in Seoul but only began to gain popularity after young artists and entrepreneurs began to open cafés, restaurants, and gift shops there. The narrow alleyways of this village are lined with them!
You’re sure to find something new and interesting around every corner Ikeseon Dong offers 100 years of Korean history mixed with all the latest trends in café dining; essentially all things you would expect from visiting a Hanok Village, with the bonus of smaller crowds, and newer establishments.
For more info, visit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=2495065
7. Bamdokkaebi Night Market – A New and Different kind of Night Market
Why this over Myeongdong?
Yet another essential element on a Korea travel itinerary. Night markets! Bamdokkaebi Night Market is a relatively new night market organized by the city of Seoul. This Night Market was added to this list because of its unique nature. The Night Market is spread over 4 different locations: Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Cheonggye Plaza, Cheonggye-Cheon and Banpo. This makes the night market more geographically accessible and less crowded.
The Night Market is usually only open during the weekend evenings, depending on each location, but everything from street food to hobby shops can be enjoyed during operating hours. Just line up at your preferred food cart and enjoy the city ambience.
For more info, visit: https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=2378097
8. Ggotji Beach in South Chungcheong – Beautiful Sand and Beautiful Sunset
Most beautiful Sunset of Korea
Ggotji Beach, sometimes spelled Kkotji, is a 3km stretch of sand in the southwestern end of the Korean peninsula. It is best known for its magnificent sunset views and its twin geological formations, affectionately called ‘Grandmother’ and ‘Grandfather’ Rock.
The beach is not very steep so there are no rip currents, making it safe to swim. The sand on the beach is also quite nice so kids will enjoy playing here. After hanging out in the beach, you can enjoy fresh seafood at port Bangpohang, with stunning views of the beach and the famous rocks
For more info, visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264576
9. Upo Marsh in Changnyeong – Wetland, cyber ecological park, UNESCO world heritage site
What to expect
The Upo Marshes are a complex of wetlands located near Nakdong river. It gets its name from its largest wetland, Upo. The area contains an abundance of both plant and animal life, which is why the marshes have become a popular stop-over for migrating birds. Be sure to bring your binoculars and zoom lenses!
You can opt to rent and bike around the wetland biking courses for 3000 won which will take you to the observatory, ecological hall, and the marshes. Alternatively, you can take the walking courses which will take you to the same places, as well as Somok village and forest exploration path.
For more info visit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=264206
10. Tapsa Temple in Jeollabuk-do – light hiking and unique mountain temple experience
The temple built by a single man
Tapsa Temple is unlike any other Buddhist temple in South Korea. In the early 1900s, a man named Lee Gap Yong came to the temple and spent some 30 years, single handedly building more than 100 stone pagodas around the temple. Many of the stone pagodas he built still stand today and can be seen when you walk around the trekking path and the temple grounds. A bronze statue of Lee Gap Yong was erected inside an artificial cave at the base of the mountain, in honor of his efforts. The beauty of the place is surreal, being surrounded by so many stone pillars. It is an experience worth the short 30 min hike.
Before arriving at the temple itself, you will be walking along a 1.5km stretch of road with many restaurants and souvenir shops for you to enjoy. So, you may be interested to time your visit for a meal afterwards.
For more info, visit: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_2_4.jsp cid=825958&nearBy=site