There’s so much to do in Korea, it’s easy to get overwhelmed on where to go next. Naturally, Seoul gets a lot of attention. If you have a few days to spare or are looking for a way to complete your Korean trip – a visit to these places in the South of the country is a must! After all, it’s a small country, you can definitely afford the time.
Depending on your destination, getting to this area from Seoul could take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours by train or bus. The high speed KTX runs to all the major centres and recently started running to Suncheon. You can look at their full English schedule on their site. They offer direct routes and will show you how to get to smaller cities via transfers. If you are looking to take a cheaper and more flexible option, bus travel is pretty luxurious in Korea. You can get to almost any sizeable city with buses that leave in here in English or Korean. You will have to buy the tickets in person at the station unless you have a Korean friend’s credit card and a lot of patience to borrow. Once you’re in the region, intercity buses and trains can help you get around, too. I took a train from Boseong to Suncheon on a whim and it was a piece of cake.
One place you must go is the Green Tea Planation in Boseong (보성녹차밭 대한다원). This stunning plantation grows green tea plants in rows that perfectly outline the topography of the underlying mountain. Everywhere you look is breathtaking – beautiful rolling hills, waterfalls and well cared-for gardens. My friends and I spent hours here walking through the rows and around the park grounds.
As well we tried every possible green tea dessert. That includes: green tea ice cream, a green tea smoothie, a green tea churro and even a green tea affagatto. Needless to say there is a lot of green tea infusion going on here.
About 20 minutes away is the southern coast at Yulpo beach (율보). At the time we went in early June, the beach was a bit dead and the tide was out, making for vast mud plains filled with squirming little mud creatures. This place has a waterpark and a Korean beachy feel to it. And the drive to get there offers one of the more beautiful scenic rides we’ve been on.
Suncheon is situated on the southern coast, and isn’t small – with more than 250,000 people. The most famous attraction here is the Suncheon Bay Ecological Park. It’s a vast wetland stretching between mountains out into the ocean. The marsh is so unbelievably green, and only enhanced by the rice paddies and forested mountains surrounding it. If you need a break from urbanized Korea, then you need to go here. Even if you aren’t an avid hiker, this park is easy to conquer and the views are well worth it.
Besides the bay, you should see the Suncheon Garden Expo Park. It’s a huge park with garden expositions from over a dozen nations, including French, German and Chinese gardens. Inside, you’ll find some incredibly modern looking parks. It’s hard to explain, so have a look at the photos above.
Connecting the Garden Park to the Ecological Bay Park is one of the world’s few PRTs (Personal Rapid Transit). This pod transports you to the Bay and back for ￦8,000. It’s a very cool concept that I wrote about in this blog post.
Lots has been written about Busan, and rightfully so. It’s a great beach city. If there is one more thing to recommend, it would be Seokbulsa temple just outside of the city. It was the most rewarding hike I’ve done. It leads to a stunning Buddhist temple seemingly carved out of a cliff. If you’re interested I have detailed instructions on how to get there, posted here. I won’t spend anymore time on Busan since there are 10,000 other resources.
Namhae Island is located almost as far south as one can go on mainland Korea. Connected to the mainland in 1973, Namhae island offer a nice getaway for a long weekend. It has a sleepy island feel to it, made up of many small agricultural and fishing villages. It’s famous bridge is worth seeing, and so are its sandy beaches like Songjeong Beach. There’s even a peculiar German-styled village on this island, made by a group of Koreans who lived in Germany during the 1960s. There’s lots more to do, and it’s one of the destinations on our Korean bucket list. You can read more about it here.
Gyeongju is an ancient city dating back more than 2,000 years. It was the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom; the first to unify the Korean peninsula. A trip to Gyeongju would be filled with historical sites. The attractions could really be split into 2 categories: those connected to its ancient history, and those connected to its tourist resort area. In the first category, you’ll find things like Anapji Pond, Cheomseongdae astrological tower, the Daereungwon tombs, Yangdong Folk Village, Bulguksa Temple and the Gyeongju National Museum.
The latter sites in Gyeongju include Gyeongju World Theme Park, Gyeongju Tower, Bomun Pavilion, and various resorts/themed museums. Be warned though, Gyeongju Tower didn’t have much going on around it besides the really cool looking building.