Fortunately for you, not many people have discovered what a great place Korea is to travel. Not even the Koreans. Many foreigners in Korea spend their vacations checking out the great Asian sites outside of the country without realizing what a jewel they live in. But it is true; Korea doesn’t have a Great Wall like China or the pristine beaches of Thailand. For now it is raw Asia, not a country geared toward milking the tourists of all their currency.
Koreans are often surprised and happy to see someone foreign traveling their country. It is more likely you will have a meal paid for by a local than a dollar scammed off of you. Plus Korea is easily accessible by a great public transportation system.
No major sites? No problem. Most of ancient Korea was razed by the thousands of invasions carried out by the Chinese, Mongols and Japanese, making an original building a rare site. But Korea has made an effort to rebuild some of these historical buildings. Nevertheless, going to towns rich in history still leaves tourists satisfied. These rebuilt buildings are still beautiful and interesting.
Take a walk in the woods. Being stuck in the city all week makes trips out into nature all the more special. Though Korea is famous for its concrete-filled cities, it also has as many mountains as it does apartment buildings. You can go for a hike up your local mountain or go check out a mountain somewhere else in the country. If you are an avid hiker you can plan a trip through some national parks where you can hike all day and sleep in a shelter at night with other hikers. Korea’s mountains are absolutely stunning and Korean hikers might just be the most fun and friendly people in the country.
Go to the beach. Because Korea is a tiny peninsula, you are never too far from a beach. The most interesting thing about beaches in Korea is that they aren’t used the same way they are used back home. Most of the coastline is used for its resources. Fishing boats and seaweed nets are just off every shore. Korea has more than 3,000 islands, most of which are absolutely stunning and usually deserted (especially if you avoid the beach months of July and August). Short ferries take you to these beautiful mountainous islands complete with quaint places to stay or flat areas where you can pitch a tent.
Go to the city. Prepare yourself for sensory overload if you are coming from small town Korea. Cities are bright, busy and energetic. Korean cities accommodate almost any kind of person. Want to hike? No problem. Almost all the cities have great hiking trails not far from downtown. Want to drink? You have come to the right place. Bars, noraebangs, soju rooms and convenient stores with tables outside for drinking are around every corner. Looking for peace and quiet? You can find that in certain places in cities. Even Seoul has some great quiet nooks tucked away in the center of town.
Be a monk. Overnight stays at Buddhist temples are a popular weekend getaway for many foreigners and Koreans alike. Some temples can be extremely laid back, while others give you a realistic taste of monk life. Expect to sleep in single-sex quarters, rise at 4 a.m., mediate before the sunrises and sleep on the floor. Don’t be scared though, these temples are unbelievably serene and often found on beautiful mountainsides. It’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed in Korea.
Eye North Korea. It is almost unavoidable that you will find yourself at the DMZ sometime during your stay in Korea. A day or a morning in the most heavily militarized border in the world is usually worth the visit. You get to walk in tunnels dug by North Koreans in order to attack Seoul, look out onto North Korean soil from an observation tower and walk around the last train station in South Korea before the train enters the North. The mood is hopeful at the DMZ that the two Koreas will unite again. Seeing how this area feels and operates is worth the visit alone.
For ideas on where to go in Korea, visit the Korean tourism website, a great resource for planning your next weekend excursion around Korea!