Selected departures available in September and October 2020
Welcome to the Land Of The Morning Calm. On this tour of South Korea, explore historic landmarks, lush green landscapes and learn about ancient traditions from the welcoming locals. In contrast, discover the bustling modern cities of Seoul and Busan, as well as embracing the culinary delicacies of the region. Korea has a middle latitude temperate climate with four distinct seasons; we visit during spring, early summer and autumn.
We first head to the capital and modern powerhouse of Seoul. With a population of more than 10 million; Seoul has been the nation’s capital for more than 600 years. Although a fast-changing and trendy city, Seoul has well preserved its precious history of the Joseon Dynasty when it was once called ‘Hanyang’.
The DMZ, known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone, cuts through the middle of the Korean peninsula, famously dividing North and South Korea. When the 1953 armistice was signed, a truce line was set from the mouth of the Imjingang river on the west coast to Goseong-gun, in the Gangwon-do Province on the east coast. DMZ is a zone over a mile away from the truce line both northward and southward and military presence or deployment of arsenals is prohibited in the zone. Along the truce line, a demilitarized zone on the Yellow Sea was formed, thus taking up 350 square miles of land area that accounts for just a mere 0.5% of the Korean Peninsula. Although a highly guarded region for more than 65 years, it boasts one of the finest, unspoiled ecosystems. DMZ is a symbol of peace, communication and coexistence and its clean and pristine nature is proof that there is hope.
Our journey takes us to the scenic north east of Seoraksan and south to the historic Gyeongju. For almost 1000 years, Gyeongju held power over the Korean Penisula as the capital of the Silla Kingdom (57BC-935AD), and along with Baekje and Goguryeo formed the three kingdoms of Korea. This area is filled with cultural relics and assets that were influential in the development of Korean architecture and Buddhism at the time. An incredible five districts of Gyeongju have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Korea is actually home to a total of thirteen UNESCO World Heritage sites, of which we visit a selection of them on this captivating tour.
These sites demonstrate the country’s unique culture and distinct beauty. Traces of Korea’s 5000-year history and heritage can be seen throughout the country; including the serene Buddhist mountain monasteries, Dosan Seowan Neo-Confucian-shrine academy and the fascinating Hahoe village. From contemporary Seoul and the thought-provoking DMZ to the ancient history and calming Buddhist culture, this tour of South Korea really is an sensory adventure for the mind, body and soul.
On the other hand is the ancient village of Hahoe, hugged by the Nakdonggang River, which is listed as a historical relic in its own right. Founded in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910), Hahoe is one of the most representative historic clan villages in Korea; with thatched roof houses, houses of the upper class and charming pavilions. Confucian academies and other traditional structures in the village are of great cultural and historic value.
You should arrive at the airport to take your overnight direct flight to Seoul.
This afternoon we arrive in South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, where we will stay four nights at the four-star Koreana Hotel, with breakfast.
After breakfast, we take our time to see the sights of Seoul. Highlights include the lively Insa-dong, a pedestrianised area known for its antique shops, art galleries and bustling café life. We’ll get a real taste of daily life in Seoul at the famed Namdaemun market, the largest in the country, full of shops and street vendors selling just about every product imaginable! The architectural symbol of Korea is perhaps the Gyeongbok Palace, originally built in 1394, this vast complex, often compared with the Forbidden City in Beijing, was the main residence of the Korean royal family. We’ll watch the impressive changing of the Royal Guard ceremony.
This morning we travel north of Seoul, to visit the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ, which since 1953 has separated South from North Korea. This includes the Joint Security Area, where North and South Korean forces stand face-to-face and where President Trump recently met Kim Jong Un. As this is a highly politically sensitive area, in case we are unable to visit as planned, we will see other sections of the DMZ, which stretches right across the Korean Peninsula, a distance of 250 kilometres. Lunch is included on this fascinating guided tour. Alternative areas to the JSA include the third tunnel tour, freedom bridge in Imjingak, the Dora Observatory, Dorsan Station as well as the Third Tunnel. For this day, you are required to bring your passport and adhere to the dress code of covered shoulder and knees.
Today is free for you to explore Seoul at your pace. Visit one of Seoul’s many museums, such as the War Memorial of Korea or the free-to-enter National Museum of Korea established in 1945. Take in the stunning city views from the Namsan Seoul Tower Observatory at a height of 236 metres. Another fascinating experience is to wander along the Cheongycheon stream which meanders 10 kms through the city centre and is easily walkable from our hotel. The stream has been part of a huge and successful urban renewal project, providing locals with a pleasant place to walk, rest and enjoy the calming sounds of running water. It’s a great place to watch Koreans relaxing and the ideal spot to meet some of them, who are always keen to practise their English language skills! Perhaps head to one of the vast underground shopping centres full of the latest fashions and gadgets, or take the subway to the famous Gangnam Station and take a photo in front of the ‘Gangman Style’ sculpture in front of the COEX Mall.
Alternatively, you may join one of our two optional pre-bookable guided trips to experience temple life or visit the World Heritage site of the Suwon Hwasong fortress.
We leave the bright lights of Seoul and journey north east through the dramatic and rugged scenery of the mountainous province of Gangwon-Do. We arrive at the most northerly observatory in South Korea, the Goseong Unification Observatory, with a picnic lunch included. Providing we have good weather, we’ll enjoy the striking views of the granite Geumgangsan (Diamond) Mountain, surrounded by incredible rock formations, waterfalls and deep gorges. Next, we head to the Goseong DMZ Museum, within the civilian control line. We also explore the busy fishing port of Geojin.
This evening, we check into the three-star Kensington Star Hotel on the edge of Seoraksan National Park, for two nights with breakfast.
This morning you can choose to take a gentle hike through the forest or pick up the (seasonal) cable car for breath-taking views of Seoraksan Mountain. This afternoon, we visit the surrounding areas of Sokcho City. Alternatively, take the afternoon to further explore the delightful hiking trails of Seoraksan.
Today we drive south and visit the vast 3.8-mile-long limestone Hwanseongul Cave, one of the largest in Asia and formed over 500 million years ago. Accessed by a 7-minute monorail ride we take the 1.6km trail through the cave, which even has a swing bridge! After a picnic lunch en route, we step back in time on a visit to Dosan Seowon. Established in 1574, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a Neo-Confucian shrineacademy, immersed in a tranquil forest setting. Later, sitting on the warm floor in a local restaurant we’ll experience a traditional Korean dinner, a speciality of the Andong area, before heading to the three-star Andong Grand Hotel where we stay for one night with breakfast.
This morning we explore another incredible UNESCO World Heritage site, the village of Hahoe. Surrounded by verdant hills and rice paddies, and built on the bend of a river, this extraordinary village harks back to Korea’s pre-industrial age. Considered the best-preserved 15th-century clan village in the country, this is a living-Museum, with around 480 still-inhabited traditional thatched-roof houses, aristocratic mansions, Confucian academies and other traditional structures, portraying life during the Joseon Dynasty. We experience the tradition of a mulberry paper-making workshop, subject to the season, before continuing our journey to the historic coastal city of Gyeongju. Here we stay two nights at the three-star Gyeongju Commodore Hotel, with breakfast.
Today we explore the world heritage district of Gyeongju, Korea’s ‘museum without walls’, gaining insight into its 9th century history, when the region was part of the ancient Silla kingdom. We also stop at Cheomseongdae, believed to be one of the oldest astronomical observatories in Asia, as well as Tumuli Park, Donggng Palace and Wolji pond. This evening we discover the secrets of Korean cuisine with an authentic cookery class. Here we prepare our own dinner of bulgogi (barbecue beef served with rice), soup, kimchi (a famous Korean cabbage dish), japchae (Korean noodles), jeon (pancakes), with a fruit dessert and traditional Korean tea.
We rise early and head to the slopes of Mount Toham where we visit the temple of Seokguram Grotto. We continue to the nearby Temple of Bulguksa, built in the 8th century, with remarkable craftsmanship and beautifully showcasing the rich Buddhist culture of the Silla period. Our journey continues to Busan for a city orientation tour, including a view of one of the world’s largest department stores, as well as the venue of the famed Asian International film festival of Busan. En route we make a stop in Ulsan to see one of the world’s largest motor plants. Covering an area equivalent to 700 football pitches, this Hyundai plant builds more cars per year than any other car factory in the world. Tonight, we will stay the night at the three-star Busan Commodore Hotel, with breakfast.
This morning we visit the UN Memorial Cemetery. Created in 1951, this is the only cemetery in the world dedicated to the United Nation troops of the 21 member nations that participated in the Korean War. We will arrive in time to see the daily UN flag ceremony. We take a short drive to Yongdusan Park and take in the panoramic city and ocean views from the observatory at the top of Busan Tower, before hopping on the KTX high-speed train to Seoul in the afternoon, where we once again stay at the four-star Koreana Hotel, with breakfast.
Transfer to the airport for your direct flight to London Heathrow, arriving early evening the same day.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a room. Single rooms are subject to availability, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Not included: hotel and train porterage services in South Korea are not customary and will not be available throughout your journey.
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress - from £75 per person
Venture south of Seoul for the morning to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Suwon Hwaseong Fortress with a Korean archery experience.
Temple Life Experience - from £125 per person
Experience a calming day of meditation, prayer bead making, a temple lunch and tea with a Monk at Jeondeungsa Temple on Ganghwa Island.
Please contact us to add either of these experiences to your booking.
UK Citizens do not require a visa to enter South Korea however must have a valid passport. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
Good to Know
On Day 11 of our itinerary, a hand luggage-sized case will be needed per person for one night stay, as our larger cases will be travelling separately to meet us at the hotel in Gyeongju
During our journey on the KTX high-speed train from Busan to Seoul, we take carry-on/hand luggage only. Our main luggage to be transported by a separate vehicle from our hotel in Busan to our hotel in Seoul.
During our visit to the DMZ, please take your passport with you for this day and dress conservatively making sure your shoulders and knees are covered. The DMZ is United Nations controlled and as such the security is high. The DMZ (demilitarized zone) area visited is to Panmunjeom and the JSA (joint security area); if for reasons beyond control this area is not possible to visit then the DMZ visit it to the 3rd Tunnel which includes the area of Imjingak (Freedom bridge), Dora Observatory, and Dorasan Station.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Incheon International Airport||Seoul||1 hr 15 mins||Seoul||Incheon International Airport||1 hr 15 mins|
This was a very well organized tour. Although there were some long coach journeys our tour guide used the time to inform us about the places we were visiting and give us more general information about the country. Our accommodat...
Mr. & Mrs. M. Taylor
Our recent holiday to Aix-en-Provence was our first organised by Riviera Travel and we found that from start to finish, the organisation of it was excellent. It was to an area that we had never been before and found it very beauti...