A surprising nation in many senses, South Korea is a joy to explore for travellers with a keen interest in both ancient and modern history, culture and cuisine. With ten World Heritage Sites and a climate that creates beautiful colours in the spring and autumn, the country has many similarities with its neighbour, Japan. This is a great value option for those who want to experience something a little different.

• Seoul: 3 nights

• Gyeongju: 1 night

• Busan: 1 night

• Seoul: 2 nights

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour

A surprising nation in many senses, South Korea is a joy to explore for travellers with a keen interest in both ancient and modern history, culture and unusual cuisine. Thanks to the turbulent tensions with the North beginning to show signs of easing, this nation of contrasts is gaining in popularity thanks to its spectacular scenery, futuristic cities and a food culture that's taking off around the world. Home to ten World Heritage sites and a climate that creates beautiful colours in the spring and autumn, this tour is the perfect choice if you're looking to experience something a little different in Asia.

• Seoul: 3 nights

• Busan: 2 nights

• Seoul: 2 nights

8nights Escorted Small Group Tour
 
 
ITINERARY

Day 1: UK to Seoul Depart the UK on your overnight flight to Seoul.

Day 2: Seoul On arrival, transfer to your hotel where you have a guaranteed early check-in. The rest of the day is free to relax following your journey. You’ll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers this evening for dinner at a local restaurant. During the return to your hotel, you’ll drive up to Naksan Park and witness far-reaching views out over the city at night. Stay: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (or similar). D.

Day 3: Seoul Today begins with a photo stop at the Blue House, the official residence of the President of the Republic of Korea. Next is a walking tour of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, a reconstruction of the main 14th-Century royal palace of the Kingdom of Joseon. While here, you’ll have the opportunity to see a re-enactment of the changing of the guard ceremony and visit the National Folk Museum. Continue onwards to the neighbourhood of Insa-dong where you will take part in a cooking class. You’ll be taught how to cook the national dish of kimchi – a stewed vegetable side dish – or the grilled marinated beef dish bulgogi. You’ll then get to sample your creations at lunch. Take a stroll down Insa-dong Antique Shop Alley and visit one of the teahouses for a traditional tea tasting. Continue on to the Bukchon Hanok Village, once home to the nobility and government officials during the Joseon Dynasty. Today, it’s very much the trendy part of town. From here you’ll head to another of Seoul’s alleys before visiting the Buddhist temple of Jogyesa and the modern Gwanghwamun Plaza. The last couple of stops of the day include the pretty Cheonggyecheon stream and the observatory floor of the N. Seoul Tower. Stay: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (or similar). B, L.

Day 4: Seoul Today’s adventure takes you to Suwon and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. Built in the 18th Century, the fortress’ wall stretches for approximately three miles and there are four gates and various artillery towers and bastions along its length. You can try your hand at Korean archery before continuing on to a local restaurant for some traditional Chimaek – basically fried chicken and beer! The last stop of the day is the Korea Folk Village, a living museum in Yongin. Stay: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (or similar). B, L.

Day 5: Seoul to Gyeongju Transfer to the train station and board the highspeed KTX train. Your destination is the beautiful and historic city of Gyeongju. On arrival head to the traditional Korean restaurant of Yoseokgung where lunch will be served. Then set out on a tour of the city which has been described as a ‘museum without walls’. There’ll be visits to the Tumuli Park, home to a dozen or so burial mounds surrounded by tranquil parklands, and the Gyeongju National Museum where you can learn more about the Silla period. The day ends with an evening visit to the pretty Anapji pond. Approx. journey time: 2 hours. Stay: Gyeongju Suite Hotel (or similar). B, L.

Day 6: Gyeongju to Busan The day begins with a half-mile walk up to the Bulguksa Temple which sits to the south of the city. Nearby, on the peak of Mount Toham, is the 8th-Century stone Seokguram Grotto that was built to protect statues of Buddha and his disciples. Following your visit here, continue on to the port city of Busan. Visit the modern Nurimaru APEC House and the UN Memorial Cemetery, a sobering spot that is dedicated to soldiers of the United Nations that lost their life during the Korean War. Later you’ll head down to the coast to take a walk over the water on the Songdo Skywalk. Approx. journey time: 1 hour. Stay: Commodore Hotel (or similar). B, L, D.

Day 7: Busan to Seoul This morning visit Busan Tower before continuing to the Jagalchi Fishery Market and the Gukje Market, real highlights for foodies. You’ll have the chance to sample some typical dishes such as eomuk (fishcakes) and hotteok (sweet pancakes). Following the market visits transfer to the train station for your journey back to Seoul. This evening enjoy a showing of Nanta – a unique show that debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Stay: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (or similar). B, L.

Day 8: Seoul Your final full day in South Korea is a real highlight of the tour. From Seoul, the group will transfer to Paju, a city in the far north of South Korea. It is from here that you will embark on your tour of the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). This two-and-a-half-mile wide and 155-mile-long buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea was established following the 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War and a visit here is a truly surreal, yet captivating experience. The first stop is Imjingak village where you’ll visit a park that’s home to several Korean War memorials. The village is adjacent to The Bridge of Freedom which spans the Imjin River and was the route home for many released prisoners following the end of the war. You’ll be able to view the bridge from an observation platform. Within the zone, visit the Tongilchon Unification Village, a small agricultural community, and the ultra-modern Dorasan train station that’s served by trains from Seoul that can proceed no further north. The bus then heads up to the peak of Mount Dora. From here you’ll be overlooking North Korea and the fascinating ‘settlement’ of Kijong-dong, referred to as ‘propaganda village’. You’ll also have the opportunity to travel down into the Third Infiltration Tunnel, one of the four known tunnels which passes under the border that was dug up by the North Koreans. Depending on the schedule and availability, you may join a United Nations tour into the Joint Security Area (JSA) and to Panmunjeom. This is a part of the border, or military demarcation line, where negotiations between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) occasionally take place. A visit here provides an incredible opportunity to actually step foot over the border into North Korea. In event of no Panmunjeom tour being available, the group will return to Seoul and visit the War Memorial of Korea and the neighbourhood of Itaewon. Stay: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun (or similar). B, D.

Day 9: Seoul Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. B.


Stay longer

Highlights of South Korea can be easily combined with our Essential Japan itinerary which takes in the country’s iconic sights and spectacular scenery.

Day 1: UK to Seoul Depart the UK on your overnight flight to Seoul.

Day 2: Seoul On arrival, transfer to your hotel where you're guaranteed an early check-in. Freshen up and spend the rest of the day at leisure. You’ll meet your group and tour leader  this evening for dinner at a local restaurant. During the return to your hotel, you’ll make a brief stop at Naksan Park; famous for its far-reaching night-time views of the city. Stay: Grand Ambassador (or similar). D.

Day 3: Seoul It’s a full day tour of the city today, starting with a photo stop at the Blue House, the official residence of the President of the Republic of Korea. Continue with a walking tour at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, a reconstruction of the main 14th-Century royal palace of the Kingdom of Joseon. While here, you’ll have the chance to see a re-enactment of the changing of the guard ceremony and you’ll also visit the National Folk Museum to learn all about the history and culture of the Korean people. Carry on the tour in the Insa-dong neighbourhood, where you’ll have your first introduction to traditional Korean cuisine. Get hands on in a cooking class to learn how to make Kimchi – a national stewed vegetable dish – or try the barbecued beef dish Bulgogi. Have your creations for lunch ahead of a leisurely stroll down Insa-dong Antique Shop Alley. Stop at a teahouse for a traditional tea tasting before continuing to Bukchon Hanok Village; a trendy part of town that was once home to the nobility and government officials in the Joseon Dynasty. Alongside the hundreds of traditional Korean homes still around, today it’s full of craft shops, restaurants and cool bars and cafés. Visit ‘rice cake alley’ to taste Tteok, one of the most popular street foods in South Korea, and pay a visit to the beautiful Buddhist temple of Jogyesa. Your penultimate stops include two of the city’s environmental renovation projects; the open public square of Gwanghwamun Plaza and the tranquil Cheonggyecheon Stream that runs through downtown Seoul. End the day at the observation deck of North Seoul Tower – a landmark that looks over panoramic views of the city. Stay: Grand Ambassador (or similar). B, L.

Day 4: Seoul After breakfast, depart the city for the historic walled city of Suwon (approx. 1¼ hours from Seoul). Explore the UNESCO-listed Suwon Heritage Fortress, one of Korea’s most important historic sites built in the 18th Century. The fortress’ wall stretches for approximately three miles, with four gates and various artillery towers and bastions along its length. Try your hand at Korean archery before continuing to a local restaurant to try traditional Chimaek – essentially a meal of fried chicken and beer! On the way back to Seoul, you’ll stop at the Korea Folk Village in Yongin; a living replica of a village from the Joseon period which showcases traditional life as it once was. Stay: Grand Ambassador (or similar). B, L.

Day 5: Seoul to Busan Transfer to the station where you’ll board the high-speed KTX train to Gyeongju – the ancient capital city of the Silla Kingdom. Head to Family Choi's House and try some Korean rice wine before continuing to Yoseokgung, one of the city's best restaurants for a traditional Korean lunch. This afternoon you'll set out on a guided tour of the city. Highlights include a visit to Tumuli Park – home to more than a dozen burial mounds of ancient kings – and the Anapji Pond, located in the grounds of an ancient palace complex in Gyeongju National Park. Carry on towards the historic Bulguksa Temple – a beautiful Buddhist UNESCO site on the slopes of Mount Toham. This evening head south to the port city of Busan where you'll stay two nights. Stay: Haeundae Grand Hotel (or similar). B, L.

Day 6: Busan Head out for a guided tour of the city, starting with a visit to the Haedong Yonggung Temple. Built in 1376, this ancient temple is a great photo spot thanks to its picturesque setting alongside a secluded rocky coastline. Continue to the modern Nurimaru APEC House – a memorial hall that overlooks superb views of the bay – and stop at the UN Memorial Cemetery, in remembrance to the soldiers of the United Nations who lost their lives during the Korean War. Before returning to the hotel, have a stroll along the Songo Skywalk; an impressive ocean walkway that offers spectacular views of the coastline. The rest of the day is free to spend at leisure – there are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance as well as the sun-baked golden sands of Haeundae Beach. Tonight, re-join the group for dinner at a local restaurant. Stay: Haeundae Grand Hotel (or similiar). B, L, D.

Day 7: Busan to Seoul This morning, visit Busan Tower before heading to the fish market of Jagalchi. Korea’s largest fish market is a real highlight for foodies; you’ll gain a fantastic insight into local Korean staples and have the chance to see a number of not so familiar delicacies fresh from the sea. Continue to nearby Gukje Market, originally formed by refugees from the Korean War. At this downtown market you’ll have the chance to taste some delicious local dishes like Eomuk (fishcakes) and Hotteok (sweet pancakes). Later, head to the station for your rail transfer back to Seoul. This evening sit down to watch a Nanta show – a unique non-verbal comedy show that debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Approx. journey time: 2¾ hours. Stay: Grand Ambassador (or similar). B, L.

Day 8: Seoul Your final day is a real highlight of the tour. From Seoul, the group will transfer to Paju, a city in the far north of South Korea. From here you'll embark on a tour of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a truly surreal yet captivating experience. This two-and-a-half-mile wide and 155-mile-long buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea was established following the 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War, and is today controlled by the United Nations. Your first stop is Imjingak Park, home to several Korean War memorials and even a tiny amusement park. From the park’s observation platform, you’ll be able to see the Bridge of Freedom; famously the route home for many released prisoners following the end of the war. The tour will continue by coach, passing through Unification Village – a small  village set up to maintain peace on the border – and past the ultra-modern Dorasan train station that’s served by trains from Seoul that can proceed no further north. The coach will then head up to the peak of Mount Dora. It's from here that you’ll overlook North Korea and the fascinating ‘settlement’ of Kijong-dong, referred to as ‘propaganda village’. If you want to, head underground to explore the Third Infiltration Tunnel, one of four known tunnels that pass under the border and which were dug up by the North Koreans to infiltrate an attack on the south. For those not afraid of enclosed spaces, you can descend even deeper into the tunnel to find the spot where the North and South meet. Depending on the schedule and availability, you may join a United Nations tour into the Joint Security Area (JSA) and to Panmunjeom. This is a part of the border, or military demarcation line, where negotiations between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) occasionally take place. A visit here provides an incredible opportunity to actually step foot over the border into North Korea. In the event of this tour not being available, you’ll return to Seoul where you’ll have some time at leisure. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner with the group. Stay: Grand Ambassador (or similar). B, D.

Day 9: Seoul Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. B.


Stay longer

Highlights of South Korea can be easily combined with our Essential Japan itinerary which takes in the country’s iconic sights and spectacular scenery.

ABOUT THIS TOUR

Is this for you?

For those who wish to visit a lesser-visited part of Asia with an intriguing recent history, long-held traditions and a modern outlook on life.

Good to know

• For guests over 16 (unless travelling on a private journey)

• Average group size of 10 guests

• A maximum of 16 guests

• Tipping is not expected in South Korea.

What to expect

• If you have a special diet, including vegetarianism, you should notify us prior to travel

• The Panmunjeom tour at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Day 8 is subject to cancellation at short notice. In these cases a visit to Seoul’s war memorial museum and Itaewon Alley will be included instead.

Accommodation on tour

We have selected quality city hotels that are perfectly located for local exploration as well as offering a comfortable base for post-excursion relaxation. In Seoul, you’ll stay at the sleek Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun, which opened in mid 2016 and is located in Myeong-dong, the city’s main shopping district just a few minutes from two metro stations. In Gyeongju your hotel is located close to the pretty Bomun Lake on the outskirts of the city.

Single travellers

Single room supplement from £635

Is this for you?

With an intriguing recent history and long-held traditions, South Korea is perfect if you’re looking for something a little different in Asia.

Good to know

• For guests over 16 (unless travelling on a private journey, where the minimum age is 12)

• Average group size of 12 guests

• A maximum of 16 guests

• Journey times do not take into account stops or traffic conditions

• We recommend travelling with no more than one suitcase and one day bag

• A good level of fitness is required

• Tipping is not expected in South Korea.

What to expect

• Special diets, including vegetarianism and gluten free, are not widely understood and cannot be adequately provided for in South Korea

• There are no porters in South Korea so you will be expected to handle your own luggage on and off the trains

• Passports need to be taken on the tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

• Depending on current security conditions, tours of the DMZ can be subject to alterations or cancellations at short notice. The DMZ tour does not operate on Mondays or public holidays.

• This tour is not suitable for those with walking difficulties

• Please be aware that the DMZ tour includes a visit into the Third Infiltration Tunnel – this is not recommended for those with fears of confined and enclosed spaces.

Accommodation on tour

Having developed rapidly in recent years, hotels here tend to combine international standards with a touch of local character. We’ve selected quality hotels that offer plenty of facilities, but which are also conveniently accessible to the cities if you’re keen to experience more of the local culture. In Seoul, you’ll stay in the city’s main shopping district while in Busan, your hotel is located close to the golden sands of the city's famous Haeundae Beach.

Single travellers

Sole-use room from £3932

DATES AND INCLUSIONS

Tour dates

2019 Apr 11; May 02; Sep 19; Oct 24

Included in price

• Quality accommodation

• Insightful local tour leaders

• Hand-picked itineraries

• Flexible arrival times

• Small groups and a relaxed approach

• Porterage

• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner), or the freedom to explore local restaurants independently

• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice for a supplement from £1869 per person.

Tour dates

2020 Apr 03; May 01; Sep 25; Oct 23

Included in price

• Quality accommodation

• Insightful local tour leaders

• Hand-picked itineraries

• Flexible arrival times

• Small groups

• Meals where most convenient (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)

• All specified flights.

Upgrade your tour

Private tour Upgrade to a private tour with a local tour leader on the same itinerary, departing on the date of your choice from £5371 per person.

Kuoni highlights

This is a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight into an intriguing country that is somewhat off the beaten track. In just a week you will see South Korea’s main highlights – from its bustling capital and mouth-watering local dishes, to the ever-present reminders of the country’s recent history – and take part in unique experiences which you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the world.

Kuoni highlights

South Korea is unlike anywhere else in the world and with tensions easing, now is the time to see many of the nation’s iconic highlights. You’ll stay in its bustling capital and experience a trip into the DMZ, and you’ll visit a historic UNESCO-listed fortress. There’s also a real focus on the nation’s unique food scene; sample local delicacies in ‘rice cake alley’, join a hands-on cooking class in Seoul and try the Korean pastime of Chimaek in Suwon.