South Korea is an ideal location to travel as a couple, a family or even on your own. When visiting South Korea, you will discover it is a very safe location for tourists. Visiting South Korea will open your eyes to this country full of Asian culture and traditions yet holding onto modern and western beliefs. The relatively small country has reminders of home so you will not feel lost when discovering the many places to see in South Korea, even more so are the reasons for traveling to South Korea. Come to South Korea and discover for yourself why you should travel to South Korea while reading our insightful list of 21 reasons for visiting South Korea.
This is the ultimate guide with 21 reasons for visiting South Korea.
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Visit the UNESCO-listed sites.
Amazingly for such a small country, South Korea hosts 11 UNESCO-listed sites with 10 cultural and 1 natural attraction. When traveling to South Korea visitors are strongly advised to include visits on their itinerary to include the Changdeokgung Palace Complex, Gyeongju Historic Areas, Hwaseong Fortress, the ancient villages of Hahoe and Yangdong,Jeju Island, the Jongmyo Shrine, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Bulguksa Temple and Namhansanseong.
Have a walk while discovering South Korean Culture.
The Korean peninsula has over several centuries developed its own distinct and unique culture. The last few decades has seen a massive transformation of South Korea into the combination of ancient history combined with modern cutting-edge technology. These qualities, combining ancient and modern are a tremendous pull for overseas visitors traveling to South Korea.
Discover the western influences.
While Koreans love their traditions such as folklore, music, language and art, they also enjoy the influences of western countries. North and South Korea split into two very separate countries as a result of the 1950-53 Korean War, until then the peninsula was heavily influenced by China. In the South Korea of today, many of its citizens prefer to eat western food over traditional Korean dishes. While western food options are plentiful, some visitors to South Korea may be surprised to find traditions remain, such as removing your shoes before entering someone’s home.
Taste the delightful, yet spicy kimchi.
Made from fermented cabbage, kimchi is popular traditional food of South Korea. Visitors to South Korea will find this spicy accompaniment available at most meals, or as an ingredient in some dishes. Most Koreans will consume around 40 pounds of kimchi every year. It is considered an essential skill to test a Korean housewife’s culinary ability, in the art of making this dish. It is still seen as normal behavior to sit on the floor when eating, meals are usually eaten with chopsticks or a spoon.
Drinking the national drink.
The national drink enjoyed by most adults in South Korea is called soju. Soju is similar to vodka, in taste and clarity. When drinking socially with friends in South Korea the traditional greeting or toast is ‘geonbae’.
Listening to Korean music.
K-pop is a very popular style of music listened to all across South Korea and much of Asia. Visitors traveling to South Korea for the first time may not be aware of the popularity of this style of music, several bands have huge followings particularly among teenagers. K-pop is a huge business in South Korea, the most popular include the Bangtan Boys, Red Velvet, Brown Eyed Girls along with Korean hip hop led by Drunken Tiger and GDragon.
Visit the Grand Palace.
Changdeokgung is one of the Joseon Dynasty’s Five Grand Palaces. The palace is set within Jongno-gu, a large park, all of which is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is located in Gyeongbok and is a must visit location for anyone traveling to South Korea. Changdeokgung is also known as the East Palace and was the favored palace of several kings during the period known as Three Kingdoms of Korea. At more than 600 years old the palace is a historical site and one of Seoul’s truly historic gems that is open for all visitors to South Korea to explore, be sure to include a stroll of the peaceful gardens during your visit.
Enjoy Korea’s answer to Disney Land.
Disney Land has so far nor arrived into South Korea, however you can still enjoy a fun filled day out at its closest equivalent, Everland. Located on the outer fringes of Seoul, Everland is a massive theme park and a perfect day trip for visitors to South Korea traveling with kids. The dozens of rides range from the heart stopping to very sedate and include roller coasters built inside buildings as those riding them race along oblivious to the weather conditions.
Learn through a museum visit.
The National Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea are both located at Gyeongbokgung, another of the Five Grand Palaces located in Seoul. The palace complex was first built by Lee Seong-Gye in 1395, he founded the Joseon Dynasty and his vision led to Seoul becoming the capital of Korea. Also high on any wish list of visitors to South Korea are the royal apartments, gardens featuring lotus ponds and of course, the staterooms. On arriving here you may feel the outline of the palace is familiar, it is featured on the South Korean 10,000 Won note. The palace complex, under continual restoration, is one of the top tourist attractions to be found in Seoul.
Discover the amazing history of South Korea.
Another of South Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be discovered at Hwaseong Fortress. Located at Suwon, it is south of Seoul but remains within the area of the city. Hwaseong Fortress was built in 1796 to protect the area from Japanese invaders, the surrounding wall extends for three and a half miles (5.7km) and weaves its way around the modern city.
When traveling to South Korea, visitors will enjoy climbing the walls of this fortress and gaze admiringly at the architecture surrounding them. Included in the fortress complex are 41 watchtowers and several gates, if walking is thirsty work visitors can stop at one of the many teahouses located here for a nice refreshing drink of iced tea.
Take a ferry to Jeju Island.
One of the most popular destinations for vacationing South Koreans, Jeju Island is within east reach of Busan by ferry. Located off the southern tip of the peninsula, the island offers warm weather most of the year. The main attractions of the island include its beaches, several museums, interesting natural wonders such as caves and waterfalls, hiking trails, scuba diving and hot spring resorts. There is so much to attract visitors to South Korea here, you will never be bored during your stay which is enhanced by the range of hotel options, restaurants and local delicacies including live squid and wild boar.
Showing respect at a temple.
There are several temples that visitors to South Korea can leisurely explore, one of the oldest and most charming of these temples is Jogyesa. Jogyesa temple serves the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and has been in use since 1395, the temple is located in Jongno-gu in the center of South Korea’s capital. One highlight that visitors here can enjoy is the 500-year-old tree, the lace bark pine. Buddhist principles have been taught here for centuries and visitors are encouraged to interact with the monks and if you wish you can join one of their teaching programs.
Visit a shrine.
Jongmyo Shrine, another of South Korea’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is one of the country’s foremost cultural treasures. It is the world’s oldest Confucian shrine, dating from 1394 and travelers to South Korea can witness ceremonies, rituals or traditional dance performances during their trip here. South Korea’s official shrine of the Joseon Dynasty, Jongmyo Shrine contains a number of halls that contain memorials to over 40 former kings and queens of the country.
Visitors to South Korea will find that Jongmyo Shrine is located very close to Changdoekgung Palace and it is easily possible to walk between the two attractions making a combined sightseeing visit on the same day a viable option.
Take in the fresh air of a national park.
In the mountains of Seoraksan National Park, located in Gangwan Province, visitors to South Korea will discover a scenic setting inside a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The national park is home to the third highest mountain in South Korea, travelers to the country can choose to hike the many trails surrounding this mountain or take the less energetic route of a cable car.
The most favorable time to visit the mountain is during the fall season when the leaves are changing color to brown or gold before dropping from the trees. Seoraksan is easily reached from the east coast city of Sokcho, from there visitors can view over 2,000 species of animals in addition to countless varieties of flora.
Sample the Korean weather.
South Korea has a temperate climate, with four distinct seasons. The winters are very cold and dry with some snow in the north of the country. Summers in South Korea are generally very hot and humid, the majority of the annual rainfall occurs during the summer months from April until September. The best time of year for visitors to South Korea to enjoy the climate is the spring or fall, these seasons are relatively short with mild yet pleasant temperatures.
Experience South Korean traditions.
Travelers to South Korea will enjoy the many traditions that continue today, encompassing the durability and resilience of the culture evident throughout South Korea. Some of the most impressive features visitors will want to see for themselves include impressive stone or wooden spirit guardians that were carved over a thousand years ago to help offer protection to villages and travelers alike. Other traditions worth seeking out include South Korea’s national sport of wrestling known as Ssireum. Traditions that may also interest visitors to South Korea include traditional Korean wedding culture, food traditions and Jangseung culture including social customs and etiquette.
Relax at a festival.
The most important annual festival celebrated in South Korea is Chuseok celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, many Koreans will travel home for this festival and visit the graves of their ancestors, giving offerings of food and eating rice cakes known as songpyeon.
The next important festival is Seollal and is celebrated on the 3rd of February, it is a three-day national holiday and is considered to be as important as Christmas is to western countries.
Travelers to South Korea will enjoy the festival of Hansik, it is celebrated 105 days after the festival of Dongji which means ‘little new year,’ it is a cold food festival because on this day farmers begin sowing new seeds in addition to irrigating their fields with cold water.
Yudu is the year’s first harvest festival to the gods, Samjinnal marks the arrival of spring and Sawolchopail marks the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, these are all festivals when visitors can enjoy and immerse themselves into Korean culture.
Discover traditional Korean village life.
Hahoe and Yangdong are traditional Korean villages dating from the 14th or 15th centuries and are two historic clan villages included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The two villages are a must see attraction for visitors to South Korea as they offer a peaceful and distinctive feel of Confucian culture of village life from the Joseon Dynasty of 1392 until 1910. On show in the villages are residences of head families, timber framed houses, pavilions, Confucian learning academies, one storied mud-walled thatched roofed houses, all surrounded by mountains and picturesque streams.
Feel the sand on Korean beaches.
South Korea has several beaches with the best ones possibly located in the country’s second largest city of Busan. Busan is a port city and in addition to its beaches there are several hot springs and other attractions offering outdoor pursuits. Travelers to South Korea might like to visit Haeundae Beach or Taejongdae Park to get the feel for beach life South Korean style.
Experience the unique DMZ.
The demilitarized zone or DMZ truly is a unique place to visit forming the boundary between the two Koreas. Considered a ceasefire-zone, travelers to South Korea can visit this site although you need to be aware that not all the areas are safe. Only a small area is open to members of the public, this is known as the JSA or Joint Security Area, it is in this area where visitors can actually stand inside North Korea (visitors are inside a building that straddles the border and contains South Korean soldiers). Visitors to the DMZ can also buy stamps, wine and North Korean currency from the gift shop. The only way to visit the DMZ is through an authorized tour guide, individuals are not permitted to visit the DMZ.
Learn the Korean language.
In South Korea the official language spoken is Korean. Travelers to South Korea need to be aware that outside of the main tourist sites English is not widely spoken and should you wish to travel away from these areas then expect to encounter some language difficulties.
Even though South Korea is a relatively small country, any visitors to South Korea would face a mammoth task in trying to include the entire 21 reasons for visiting South Korea in a single visit. Travelers to South Korea will be able to enjoy the most interesting places to visit in South Korea including its palaces, temples and other landmarks. South Korea’s capital city of Seoul undoubtedly attracts the vast majority of the country’s tourist but visitors to the country should not neglect to visit other notable locations such as Busan or Jeju Island.