SeoulLocated along the Hangang River, Seoul has grown into a teeming metropolis with a population of more than 10 million. Over the years, the capital city has greatly expanded in the process of urbanization and industrialization and continues to grow as the thriving center of the country's political, economic, cultural and educational activities.
Seoul is the world's 10th-largest city. Its past and present coexist in a fascinating way: centuries-old palaces, city gates, shrines, gardens and priceless art collections attest to the city's illustrious past, while the glistening facades of soaring skyscrapers and the bustling traffic represent its vibrant present.
The old city was encircled by four inner mountains and four outer mountains. Bugaksan in the north, Naksan in the east, Inwangsan in the west, and Namsan in the south are "the inner mountains" as all were originally inside the old city walls of the Joseon capital. The four outer mountains are Bukhansan in the north, Yongmasan in the east, Deogyangsan in the west, and Gwanaksan in the south. Each mountain has a unique beauty of its own while boasting natural scenic landscapes and spectacular views overlooking the city of Seoul. There are also numerous mountain springs that freely provide clean, clear water to refresh weary hikers.
One of the most popular areas for tourists in the old center of Seoul is Insa-dong. A place that beckons both casual shoppers and serious collectors, it is lined with antique shops, art galleries, traditional teahouses, and restaurants and bookstores.
Other attractions highly recommended for visitors include the National Museum of Korea, the National Gugak Center, the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, the Ho-Am Art Hall and Korea House. The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, a southern satellite town, also deserves a visit.
At Namsan Park, in the heart of Seoul, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city from N Seoul Tower and look around a reconstructed Hanok village below. Visitors can relax, walk, or rent bicycles in numerous Seoul parks, such as Olympic Park, Seoul Grand Park, Seoul Forest, and the Hangang River Trail. These parks are among the hidden treasures of Seoul, enjoyed by residents but often missed by tourists.
Of course, Korean cuisine is also a must during a trip to the peninsula, either at a modern or traditional restaurant. Excellent Chinese and Japanese food is also available, as well as French, Italian, Thai, Pakistani and many other ethnic cuisines.
Seoul has an active nightlife with clubs, cafes, and roof-top lounges. A fantastic view of the city at night can be seen from the Seoul City Tour Bus or from along the Hangang River as a cruise boat slowly meanders through a valley flanked by high-rises.
Seoul Vicinity & Gyeonggi-do ProvinceGyeonggi-do Province is located in the western central region of the Korean Peninsula, with the Hangang running through its center. The river divides the province into a mountainous northern area and open fields to the south. While Seoul keeps its visitors busy with so many intriguing and enticing things to see and do, this area outside of Seoul can provide a refreshing and invigorating break.
Within a 50-minute drive to the south of Seoul is the Korean Folk Village. In this traditional village everyday Korean life of days gone by is reenacted. The Korean Folk Village opened in 1973 and now includes aspects of almost everything traditionally Korean.
Ganghwado is situated in the estuary of the Hangang River north of Incheon Port. This island, Korea's fifth-largest, is rich in history and natural beauty. Major historic monuments here include an altar said to have been erected by Dangun, the legendary founder of Korea, along with fortresses, ancient walls, a celadon kiln dating back to the 13th century Goryeo Dynasty, and Jeondeungsa Temple.
Walking through the 1km2 village, visitors can experience over 270 traditional houses representing different regions in a natural atmosphere.
Eastern RegionGangwon-do Province is located in the central eastern region of the Korean Peninsula. Most of the land is covered with thick forests, providing an abundance of scenic vistas with fewer residential areas than in other provinces. Both its remote wooded mountains and ravines as well as small coastal towns are rich in scenic splendor.
With these natural conditions, Gangwon-do served as an ideal site for the 4th Asian Winter Games in January 1999. The International Travel Exposition (ITE) '99 was also held here from September 11 through October 30, 1999. Over 2 million visitors from overseas and around the country participated in these events. Under the theme, "Man, Nature and Life of the Future," the ITE offered an array of performances and events in addition to a number of fascinating exhibitions and useful information to visitors.
Ski resorts have fine snow conditions and are equipped with advanced facilities for ski enthusiasts. (Photo courtesy of Yongpyong Resort)
Mt. Seoraksan, part of the Mt. Geumgangsan Range, draws visitors with its magnificent splendor. It is impressive and colorful all year round and is home to the Asiatic black bear, the symbol of Gangwon-do Province and one of the most endangered species in the world.
Located in the East Sea, 90 kilometers to the Southeast of Ulleungdo, Dokdo Islet is part of Ulleungdo. It consists of Dongdo (East Islet) and Seodo (West Islet) and is surrounded by 36 tinier rock islets. Dongdo and Seodo face each other at a distance of 150 m and the average depth of the water between the two islets is about 10 m. Dokdo has a number of sea caves such as Hyeongjegul and Cheonjanggul. Cold and warm currents converge in the surrounding sea, creating an ideal environment for an abundance of marine life to come and thrive. There are also many birds like the Swinhoe's fork-tailed petrel, streaked shearwater, and black-tailed gull.
One of the most popular mountain tourist destinations for its beautiful scenery and rare species.
To get to Dokdo, visitors must first travel to Ulleungdo. Ferries for Ulleungdo leave from Mukho Port in Gangwon-do Province or Pohang in Gyeongsangbuk-do Province. The ports are about 161 km and 217 km away from Ulleungdo, with traveling time on the ferry about 2 hours and 20 minutes and 3 hours, respectively.
Dongdo and Seodo face each other at a distance of 150 meters and the average depth of the water between the two islets is about 10 meters.
Central RegionChungcheongbuk-do and Chungcheongnam-do provinces lie in the western center of the peninsula. Chungcheongbuk-do is the country's only landlocked province, but with the completion of the Government Complex in its capital Daejeon and the newly opened international airport in Chungcheongbuk-do's capital Cheongju, the two provinces are being turned into a strategic heartland for the domestic economy.
Buyeo, the last capital of the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), features the Buyeo National Museum which houses a comprehensive collection of about 7,000 relics from the Baekje period.
Dotted between the many peaks and saddlebacks along the ridgeline of Mt. Sobaeksan are a wealth of national treasures and historical places. These include the seven-story stone pagoda of Yongdusa, the Palsangjeon wooden pagoda, Sangdangsanseong Fortress, and Admiral Yi Sun-sin's Chungnyeolsa Shrine.
Many other celebrated temples, hot springs, national parks and natural wonders are also waiting to be discovered here. Chungjuho Lake offers a variety of delightful water sports in central Korea. Cruise boats ply its waters between Chungju and Danyang, giving passengers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Gosudonggul Cave captivates visitors with its glistening stalactites in all shapes and sizes. Chungju orchards are one of the country's main sources of delicious apples. Yellow tobacco is also a specialty of this region, and the area's ginseng has gained a worldwide reputation.
Southwestern RegionKorea's southwestern region encompasses Jeollabuk-do and Jeollanam-do provinces. The region is relatively flat, containing broad stretches of rice paddies, and its jagged coastline creates many small harbors. It is a fertile and warm region sheltered by high mountains on the east and north and calm seas and many islands on the west and south. Because of the influence of both continental and ocean climates, the region very varied weather.
Jeonju Bibimbap is warm rice served with minced raw beef, bean sprouts, spinach, crown daisies, bracken, roots of Chinese bellflower, watercress, a raw egg and shiitake mushrooms. The contents are mixed with gochujang (hot pepper and soybean paste). This popular dish represents the cuisine of Jeolla-do with magnificent taste and color.
Namwon is the gateway to Jirisan National Park, as well as the famed home of Chunhyang, one of Korea's legendary heroines. Chunhyangga, a narrative epic song (pansori) about the faithfulness of her love, is one of the most favored performances in Korea. Mt. Jirisan has the second highest mountain peak in South Korea. The sub-range is vast and stretches across three provinces, Jeollanam-do, Jeollabuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do.
music, and azaleas are all together in harmony.
The Gwangju National Museum is home to a collection of Chinese ceramics recovered from a 700-year-old Chinese merchant ship that was wrecked in the seas off Sinan.
Damyang, 22 km north of Gwangju, is the center of bamboo cultivation and craftsmanship. The Damyang Bamboo Museum is the world's first museum devoted exclusively to bamboo.
On Jindo Island, which is some 350 kilometers south of Seoul, visitors can see the Korean version of the Moses Miracle. The sea between the coastal village of Hoedong-ri on Jindo and nearby Modo Islet actually parts for about an hour twice a year in March or April, and again in the middle of July, leaving a walkable path, 2.8 kilometers long and 40 meters wide. Jindo is also renowned for the indigenous Korean dog breed, Jindotgae, which is designated as Natural Monument No. 53.
Southeastern RegionKorea's southeastern region, encompassing Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do provinces, is an area rich in tourist attractions, cultural assets and historical places. Hallyeo Maritime National Park and the mountains of Jirisan and Gayasan are among this region's most outstanding natural resources. In addition, the entire city of Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935), is now an exceptional open-air museum. Royal tombs, temple sites with weathered stone pagodas and fortress ruins are scattered all around the city and have yielded many ancient treasures.
Not far from historic Gyeongju are the growing industrial cities of Pohang and Ulsan. Pohang is home to the POSCO steel mills, while Ulsan is the industrial base for Hyundai, one of Korea's leading conglomerates.
The three-story Seokgatap (Sakyamuni) Pagoda boasts its austere, yet elegant style.
Andong is one of the last living vestiges of old Korea, a treasure-trove of Confucian tradition. Hahoe, a small village near Andong, which was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2010, is famous for its unique traditional masks and the mask dance-drama, Hahoe-talchum. Dosan Seowon, a Confucian academy founded in the 16th century by one of Korea's most well-known scholars, Yi Hwang, is also nearby. Massive international tour and resort complexes were opened in 2006 in the western and northern areas, featuring ultramodern recreation and leisure facilities.
Jejudo Island and Southern Coastal RegionsWithin an hour's flight from Seoul, Busan or Daegu, travelers in Korea can reach a land of a completely different character. Recognized as the best-preserved area in the nation, Jejudo is Korea's only island province.
The island is Korea's most popular honeymoon destination. Known as 'Little Hawaii' for its volcanic landscape, picturesque subtropical scenery, sandy beaches, waterfalls and hiking trails, it is one of the world's top ten tourist attractions with over seven million visitors a year.
Closer to the mainland, more than 3,000 smaller islands line the winding southern and western coastlines. The completion of the Honam and Namhae expressways in 1973 made these picturesque coasts more accessible. The areas around Jinhae, Tongyeong, Jinju and Namhae are recommended highlights. The southern boundary of the Korean Peninsula is a jagged coastline which has created an irregular pattern of bays and inlets dotted with large and small islands.