Encounter a thrilling mix of old and new in South Korea. While neon signs and high-tech industries may abound in its cities, this nation promises more than just hustle and bustle, with sleepy coastal fishing villages and grand temples to explore here too.
Established in 1948, South Korea, or the Republic of Korea as it is officially known, composes the southern half of the Korean peninsula, along with thousands of outlying islands. The capital city, Seoul, is a buzzing metropolis at the heart of the country’s technology scene. For the best bird’s-eye view of Seoul, head to the observatory at the N Seoul Tower, which offers a 360-degree view of the cityscape and the summit of Mount Namsan.
Back on the ground, visit Deoksugung Palace, a modern palace flanked by a traditional gate, and watch the daily Changing of the Royal Guard. In the evening, attend a traditional Korean performance at the Jeongdong Theater.
For a complete change of pace, venture to the white-sand Haeundae Beach in Busan. Stretching around 1 mile (2 kilometers) long, this beach offers a relaxing break from the buzz of city life.
Find Bulguksa Temple on the slopes of Mount Toham on the southeastern coast. This Buddhist temple complex features unique Silla-era pagodas and a monumental sea-facing statue of Buddha.
South Korean food is flavorful and spicy. Be sure to try kimchi, spicy fermented cabbage, often used as an accompaniment to main dishes; bibimbap, a mixed rice and vegetable dish, often topped with egg and meat; and bulgogi, barbecued marinated beef.
The largest airport in South Korea is Incheon International Airport, located in Seoul. Each of the country’s major cities has their own subway system, with signs written in both English and Korean, and journeys paid for using rechargeable money cards. Taxis are abundant and inexpensive, and ferries run regularly from the mainland to the hundreds of outlying islands. Visit South Korea during spring, and you’ll likely be blessed with warm temperatures and little rainfall.
See where ancient and modern collide in this fascinating East Asian nation.