A captivating mix of old traditions and new wave popular culture, South Korea is unveiling a new and exciting side to Asia. Classical beauty and deep-rooted history sit side by side with modern innovation and a fast-paced food scene, all encircled by a dramatic coastline that shifts from beach paradise to winter wonderland with the seasons. It’s true, a tailormade vacation in South Korea is full of the unexpected.
Seoul – South Korea’s booming, boisterous capital – remains one of the world’s most addictive and untouched hubs for nightlife, food, history and culture. This alone is one of the best reasons to travel to this famed East Asian country, poised between the future and its own storied past; ringed by hills, Seoul’s jubilant architecture ricochets from impossible glass skyscrapers to the tranquility of historic Bukchon Hanok Village, and will find you tucking in to piquant mouthfuls of kimchi and tempura on the bustling streets of Hongdae, or browsing walls of contemporary art at the city’s towering Leeum museum. It is generous, endless, and unrelentingly cool.
The best way to experience South Korea is by joining a guided tour through the full-metal flowering of Seoul’s electrifying streets. Sample tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes slathered in molten red gochujang sauce – where these distinctive silver trays line the bustling food stalls of Hongdae, or treat yourself to the warm embrace of Korean pajeon pancakes, stuffed with fresh leeks and green onions – their cakey texture rich with ink-black soy sauce. Your tour will take in the intimate physicality of Korea’s streetlife while remarking on the ways in which history has shaped this supercharged city – from laid-back artistic Insadong district to the bustling epicenter of South Korean baseball in Jamsil.
Gyeonjgu, the country’s historic capital, offers some of South Korea’s best and most enviable hotels and makes for a quite remarkable change of pace from shuttling Seoul. Here, in this ‘museum without walls,’ temples and historic ruins scrape the skyline, while bright sprays of cherry blossom thicken the city’s plentiful branches. From the startling architecture to the exquisite food, Gyeongju’s most arresting feature is Daereungwon park, where rolling ancient green tumuli – or burial mounds – flow across the manicured grounds.
As a country steeped in history, blessed with remarkable culture and scenery, and buffeted by its attention to service and detail, South Korea is fast becoming a favored destination for luxury honeymoons. In the southern tip of the country, Jeju Do is the country’s largest island, drawing crowds for its Hawaii-level beaches, luscious countryside, and glamorous seaside hotels. Find rest and relaxation here, after the fast cultural pace of Seoul, and the historic eye-candy of Gyeongju.
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