SPECIAL INTEREST

Cultural Expedition 14 days

Tour Highlights


Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Insa-dong Gwangjang Market Gyeongdong Herb Market Ganghwa History Museum Ganghwa Dolmen Anglican Church Goryeo Palace Site Ginseng Market Jeondeungsa Chojijin Fortress Hwaseong Fortress Oeammaeul Village Gongju National Museum Songsanri Tombs Buyeo Culture Complex Gungnamji Pond Jeongrimsa Pagoda Buyeo National Museum Busosan Fortress Gwanchoksa Jeonju Hanok Village Tapsa Gwanghallu Pavilion Hwaeomsa Songgwangsa Nagan Fortress Village Namhae Drive POW Camp Jagalchi Fish Market Gukjesijang Busan Modern History Museum Bokcheon Museum Tongdosa Tomb of King Munmu Gameunsa Pagodas Seokguram Bulguksa Gwaereung Tomb Gyeongju National Museum Cheomseongdae Tumuli Park Yangdongmaeul Village Goryeong Tumuli Museum Daegaya Museum Haeinsa Beopjusa Hahoemaeul Village Hanji Paper Workshop Andong Folk Museum Dosan Seowon Hwanseongul Cave Jeongdongjin North Korean Submarine Seoraksan National Park Unification Observatory Kim Ilsung Villa Hwaseong Fotress


Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -)60km
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.

Day 2 Seoul (B)/,br> You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

SEnjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in the early morning of 8 October 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro. The assassins killed three court women suspected of being Empress Myeongseong. When they confirmed that one of them was the Empress, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion.

Then learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.

You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure. Explore Gwangjang Market, one of few markets retaining traditional Korean atmosphere. From the entrance of the market, you can smell the mouth-watering flavors of fried snacks. Along the alley, the street stalls selling simple and cheap treats line up, clouds of smoke billow out from the boiling pans and diverse types of pancakes sizzle on hot iron grills. See a side of regular Seoul life and try out some sorts of Korean snacks. There are roadside vendors hawking everything from food, fruits, vegetables to seafood, as well as new buildings offering designer fashion, accessories, colorful silks and so much more.

Day 3 Seoul - Ganghwado - Asan (B) 240km
Excursion to Ganghwado, a fascinating island that is often called a microcosm of Korean history. But, due to its strategic location, Ganghwado has historically been one of the first targets of many foreign attacks particularly in the late 19th century when Korea unsuccessfully sought to maintain its status as a "Hermit Kingdom".
Visit Ganghwa History Museum displaying historical records of the entire spectrum of Korean existence, from the mythical foundation of Korea to the opening port to the outside World marked by Ganghwado Treaty signed in February 1876.

On the nearby ground sits a huge Ganghwa Jiseokmyo Dolmen. This 53-ton capstone of 6.4 meters long, 5.2 meters wide and 1 meter thick rests on two sturdy supporting prop stones. This prehistoric dolmen including many others in Gochang and Hwasun has been registered by UNESCO in December 2002 as a World Heritage for their archaeological value. Next, Korea's first Anglican Church, which is a notably unusual church with Western, Korean, Christian, Buddhist and Confucian influences, and Goryeo Palace site where several Goryeo kings resided (1232-1270) during their tenacious 39-year resistance against Mongol invaders.

Stop off at Ginseng market which has a good smell, better than it tastes. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. Apart from the ginseng, you will enjoy a typical example of local market where many elderly women selling fishes, home-grown vegetables and grains on the roadsides nearby.

Tour Jeondeungsa, an active Buddhist temple dating back to 381 providing a glimpse into Buddhist culture. The temple came into prominence during the late Goryeo period (918-1392) when King Gojong commissioned the famous Tripitaka Koreana wood blocks to be carved there which are now preserved in Haeinsa temple. Within the main worship, you will see Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the left by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Wisdom, and on the right by Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassionate Action. As you approach the hall, look carefully way up in the eaves at the corners of the roof, and there you can just see tiny human figures, one at each corner. One version says that the forsaken carpenter carved his two-timing girl up in the rafters, eternally bearing the burden of her deceitfulness. It is also worth noting a dharma bell dating back to 1097. It is the only Chinese bell designated a Korean treasure.

After a short ride from the temple, you will see one of Ganghwa fortresses, Chojijin that speaks to the battles against foreign powers. In 1866 the Korean court came to blows with the French campaign led by Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze in retaliation for the earlier execution by Korea's Joseon dynasty of French Catholic priests proselytizing in Korea. In 1871 the United States expedition, the Sinmiyangyo, was the first American military action in Korea to avenge the General Sherman incident near Pyeongyang. The expedition consisted of about 650 men, over 500 sailors and 100 marines, as well as five warships. On board the Colorado was Rear Admiral John Rodgers, also Frederick F. Low, the United States Ambassador to China. And in 1875 the collision with the Japanese ship Unyomaru.

Day 4 Asan - Gongju - Buyeo - Nonsan - Jeonju (B) 180km
Explore Oeammaeul, one of the traditional clan villages exuding old and rustic charm. The village entrance is marked by stone bridge, pine forest and totem poles. This village with more than 400 years of history has about 70 traditional houses, and is highlighted by 6km-long stonewall paths ringing the village and the amazing artificial water system that goes through the entire village for gardens and agriculture. As you stroll along the pathway, you will see thatched cottages and tile roof houses representing typical village layout of central Korea and at the same time feel the rural ambience and peaceful atmosphere. Of the entertaining features of the village is Korean rice cake. The steamed glutinous rice prepared in advance is placed on the board, and the visitors are delightfully welcomed to pound hard on the white rice in turn with a mallet doing the same. When the pounding is done, you will get to cut it with the rim of a plate and is fully coated with finely powdered dried beans - the delicious does not seem to come so easy. Activities including traditional straw crafting, classical music performances, and house thatching demonstrations are some of the treats of the late October.

Next up is Gongju, a charming city once served as the Baekje's capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Visit Gongju National Museum and see a fascinating archeological artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong (501-524), one of the last rulers to reign in the capital of Gongju. Of those, 12 have been designated National Treasures. Next, Songsanri Tombs. It is a group of Baekje-period royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. Of the most important tomb is number 7, which belongs to King Muryeong (462-523) and his wife, the queen. The tomb was found completely intact since it was sealed in the early 6th century. The actual tomb was permanently closed, but you will see an excellent, albeit miniature duplicate. Travel in to Buyeo, a melting pot of Baekje (BC18-AD660) culture and often regarded as the most artistically sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms. Visit Baekje Culture Complex and see Sabigung palace, the example of the palace from the three kingdom era and an elegant 5 story wooden pagoda. It is a history theme park with a fascinating museum where you may observe the history and culture of the glorisous kingdom.

Explore the Korea's oldest artificial pond Gungnamji dating back to 634. Built as a pleasure garden for the Baekje royal family, this circular pond ringed by bare-branched weeping willow trees create a colorful spectacle with its stock of water lotuses in summer. In the center of town, a stone Buddha image sitting on a stone pedestal and a five-storied stone pagoda standing tall on the ancient temple site of Jeongrimsa with the ruins of the lotus pond remain to recall the glory.

Day 5 Jeonju - Jinan - Namwon - Gurye - Nagan - Suncheon (B) 270km
Jinan is better known as Tapsa. You will explore an unusual temple surrounded by over mysterious 80 conical stone pagodas. In 1885, a lone Buddhist hermit layman Yi Gapyong (1860-1957), at the age 25, came to Maisan to meditate and cultivate himself living on such as raw pine needles. Over the next 30 years he constructed, single handed, as many as 108 conical natural stone pagodas, all without mortar. It is quite a trek to reach, but you will be rewarded with unusual and quiet different style pagodas from that of the stone pagodas seen in other temples. Stop off at Namwon, a charming city with many historical sites and tourist attractions. It is also famous as the home of Chunhyang, the faithful maiden whose story has been often compared to the Romeo and Juliet. At the center of the town is a park, in which stands Gwanghallu pavilion where Chunhyang and her lover are said to have first met, and there is a bridge built on a pond that is supposed to ensure connubial bliss to any couple that steps on it.

Then, on to Gurye and visit the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the Virocana Buddha, the cosmic head of the Hwaeom trinity. First, One-Pillar Gate standing at the lower part greets you and leads you up to the second and the third gate - from the secular world into the spiritual world. On the second level, there is the Bojeru, the Save All Beings Hall, beside which stands bell and drum tower and two magnificent 5-story stone pagodas from Silla period. Gakhwangjeon has a double storied roof, and houses seven figures on its altar. Sakyamuni Buddha sits in the middle attended by Amitabha and Prabhytaratna, as well as Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Ksitigarbha.

En route stop off at Songgwangsa, representing Buddha's followers, monks and laity. In the Main Hall, the three main statues are the past Buddha, Dipankara, the present day Buddha Sakyamuni, and the future Buddha, Maitreya. Two bridges span a picturesque stream that flows in front of the temple entrance, the architecturally unusual. It is quite a trek to reach, but you will be rewarded with both a fabulous view.

Next, Nagan fortress village featuring fully functioning 230 traditional thatched roofed houses with simple stone walls. Today, you will explore only village of its kind left in Korea. It is not a village of the aristocracy, but one of the common people. The 1,410-meter long fortress was built into a mud rampart in the 14th century to repel Japanese pirate raids, a frequent occurrence during the late Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) and later in the 16th century, it was reinforced with stones, subsequently becoming a castle. Part of the fortress wall arches over the hill and you will take in a great view of the entire village. You will see an entertaining part of the village with Dongheon and its prison. Dongheon was the main office in which governors, magistrates, and military commanding officers conducted their respective local administrative and judiciary affairs. Near the village's east gate is a Confucian Academy and Shrine, and smack dab in the village center is a monument to General Lim Kyeongeop (1594-1646), constructed in recognition of his outstanding service as county chief.

Day 6 Suncheon - Namhae - Tongyeong - Geoje - Busan (B) 240km
Today's journey takes you along one of the most stunningly picturesque drives in Korea. The southern boundary of Korea is a sunken coastline which has created an irregular pattern of bays and inlets. Namhae has long been popular with travelers. The mountains are high and rugged while the scenery is picturesquely rural, offering a pastoral view. The island, comprising 68 both large and small islets, features natural wonders, lovely beaches, ancient temples and historical sites. At the southern tip of the island is one of Korea's most attractive beaches situated below the rugged spires of mountain. There are several little villages placed side by side on the rather steep mountain slopes dropping into the sea. En route, make a top at Gacheon village clinging to the slope. The village is more famous for its terraced rice paddies and mysterious phallic symbols. Drive past German Village set in the beautiful surroundings and inhibited by Korean-Germans who had gone to Germany in the 1960s seeking work and later had returned. Drive past Tongyeong, a traditional seaport of great charm and historical interests. The city is also famous for lacquer ware, pearl, mother of pearl artwork, and mask dance. Local markets offer the sights, sounds and smells of a fishing port. Then, head on to a shipbuilding Mecca of Geoje featuring several natural harbors. Geoje was the final port of call of the SS Meredith Victory at Christmas 1950. It is best known for evacuating more than 14,000 refugees in a single mission and the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship during the Korean War. Visit POW Camp. Founded in early 1951 by U.N. troops, it once held around 170,000 prisoners in 28 facilities until an armistice was concluded in 1953. The former camp has been reborn as a historic park with various exhibition halls that help visitors comprehend the actual situation at the time and gives visitors an up close lesson on the devastating consequences of the war. POW camp accommodated 150,000 North Korean soldiers and 20,000 Chinese soldiers. Approximately 300 of the prisoners were female.

From August 5 to September 6, 1953, under the name Operation Big Switch and Operation Big Swap, both side prisoners were repatriated, at their free choice of destination, at Panmunjeom. The U.N.C. returned 75,823 POWs (70,183 Koreans, 5,640 Chinese); the Communists repatriated 12,773 U.N.C. POWs (7,862 Koreans, 3,597 Americans, 946 British). The vast majority of the 22,600 enemy non-repatriates were Chinese, most of them former Chinese Nationalist veterans. Only 137 Chinese agreed to return to their homeland before the expiration of the ninety-day period stipulated in the armistice agreement. Only 357 U.N.C. prisoners indicated a desire to remain with the Communists (333 Koreans, 23 Americans, one Briton), and of these, two Americans and eight Koreans chose to return within the allotted time for the changing of one's mind. The U.N.C. released all remaining former POWs thereafter, the Communists following suit in a few days later. Enjoy journey to Busan through a 8.2km-long Geoga bridge, a combination of a 4.5km cable-stayed bridge and a 3.7km undersea tunnel, which is the world's deepest immersed roadway tube tunnel constructed 48m below mean water level on the open sea. Busan is Korea's second largest city surrounded by the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. Its deep harbor and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest port in Korea and the fifth largest in the world. It is also a center of industry and commerce, a thriving metropolis formed unusually long in shape along its coastal line.

Day 7 Busan - Yangsan - Gampo - Gyeongju (B) 150km
Explore fascinating Jagalchi fish market. Located on the downtown docks, this bustling market offers a wide variety of fish including sea bream, sea bass, snapper, saury, pollack, halibut, corvina, cutlass fish, mackerel, octopus, sea squirt, cuttlefish, frogfish, flounder, abalone, crab, shells, to name just a few, and a flexible pricing system, which makes it a big draw among locals and visitors alike. There are also many restaurants selling sliced raw fish at reasonable prices. Trying them here in the market is really a visual and culinary treat. Neighboring block is BIFF square, packed with trendy shops movie theaters and even a walk of fame where famous stars and directors have pressed their handprints into the sidewalk. A little further on is Gukjesijang where thousands of shops spill out into the busiest districts of Busan and a variety of items, including folk art, bags, clothes, food, kitchen utensils, and more are available at very reasonable prices. Discover all that local merchants have to offer, while enjoying the ambience of this massive market. Nearby Busan Modern History Museum is worth a visit. The building which houses the Busan Modern History Museum, built in 1929, was once used by the Japanese Oriental Development Company to implement Japanese economic policies that dominated Korea. After Korea's liberation it was used as U.S. Army barracks and later, the US Information Service. The museum portrays the history of Busan from the late 19th century to modern-day including the opening of the port in 1876, Japans' exploitation of Busan under Colonial Rule, Busan's transformation into a modern city, and the relationship between Korea and the U.S. The museum also contains photographs of Korean life of the past century.

Bokcheon museum is also included. The museum features extraordinary burial mounds built along the top of a ridge that overlooks the city. The actual site of the tomb is currently marked with bushes. Here, you will see fascinating archaeological relics such as bowls made of earth, metal tools, ornaments, horse saddles, and armor. There is one glass dome structure in the middle of the open pavilion to showcase the tomb and you will see how toms are constructed. Next, Tongdosa temple, literally meaning 'pass through to enlightenment'. The approach to the temple is completely entrancing. Magnificently set by a lane of pine trees dancing in the wind and beside which a mountain stream sings a babbling song, a distinctive and exalting place. Tongdosa was founded in AD 646 and is comprised of 35 buildings. The main hall is unique in that it does not contain a statue of the Buddha, but rather a window looking out onto the Diamond Precepts Altar. This altar leads up to a platform with a bell-shaped stupa that contains the cremated remains of the Buddha himself, thus earning a name the Temple of the Buddha. The Diamond Precept Altar is a unique and elaborately-built artifact. With time to visit, travel to Gampo. About 200 meter off the coast is an unusual underwater tomb of King Munmu (626-681). The king wished his body to be cremated and buried at sea so he can protect his kingdom even after his death as a spirit of the sea. In the center of the calm sea a large rock marks the king's burial site. About 20m long rocky islet has a small pond at the center and at the bottom is a granite stone of 3.6m long, 2.9m wide and 0.9m high. At low tide, the top of this oval rock is almost visible above the sea surface.

Day 8 Gyeongju (B)
Explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seokguram grotto and Bulguksa temple which were both built during the glorious period of the Silla kingdom (BC57-AD935). After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 10 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to Seokguram grotto, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas-reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.

A short ride from the grotto is Bulguksa temple. Following the one-pillared gate and the four guardian's gate, you will reach two double level arched stone staircases - the symbolic bridges, leaving the world of sufferings behind and to enter Buddha's land. Up from the bridges on the terraced main courtyard stands the Hall of Great Enlightenment. The hall houses Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the right by Kasyapa and Maitreya Bodhisattva and on the left by Dipankara and Ananda. Before this hall stands a stone carved lantern and two stone pagodas. Three-storied Seokgatap with its calm simplicity of lines and minimal decoration and Dabotap with highly ornate and the noted complexity of the universe stands blending well into the architectural harmony. The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East. Stop off at Gwaereung, the tomb of the King Wonseong, which dates 798. The tomb is a 7.7m high circular ground mound made of piled-up soil with a bottom diameter of 21.9m. The stone fence and 12 animals of the zodiac carved around its base are excellent condition. What makes this tomb really significant and unique are the statues carved from granite along the promenades leading up to it - a two sets of lions, a couple of scholars, and a pair of military guards who in particular is a favorite among visitors because it appears to be a person of Arabic or Persian descent, much like the merchants who came to Silla in ancient times.

Day 9 Gyeongju - Goryeong - Gayasan - Songnisan (B) 300km
Then, travel through a scenic countryside to Gayasan national park to see a magnificent Haeinsa temple from the 9th century, housing world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras. Haeinsa is one of the most important temples in Korea. They are Tongdosa, Heinsa, and Songgwansa, each of which represents Buddha, Dharma, and the community of followers or "sangha". The gate to the entrance is the Iljumun Gate which means "single pillar gate". It is the first gate to the Buddha's world temple. The gate symbolizes a true path of enlightenment which leads to the world of Buddha. One has to climb 108 stairs to the last building in the compound from the Iljumun gate. On each step one can renounce each of 108 worldly desires of the mind. Following the stairs up, you will reach the main hall courtyard in the middle of which stands stone carved lantern and weathered stone pagoda. Within the main worship hall (Hall of Great Peace and Light), you will see Vairocana Buddha who is flanked on the left by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Wisdom, and on the right by Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassionate Action, along with other Bodhisattvas including Avalokitesvara, Virocana, Ksitigarbha and Dharmogata. Behind the statues are highly detailed and rather unusual wall paintings of the Buddha's life. And on the outside walls are a fair number of paintings portraying Buddhist stories.

At the back of this hall, another flight of steps will lead you up to a group of four depositories from the 15th century or Janggyeong Panjeon housing 81,258 wood-blocks of Tripitaka Koreana, an offering to the Buddha for national protection from the looming Mongol forces. The printing blocks are some 70cm wide, 24cm long and 2.8cm thick on the average. Each block has 23 lines of text, each with 14 characters, on each side. Each block thus has a total of 644 characters on both sides. Some 30 men carved the total of 52,382,960 characters in the clean and simple style. The characters are perfectly carved as if from the same hand. They were completed in 1251 after 16 years of work in Jeondeungsa temple on Ganghwado and were transported here for safekeeping. Two long depositories are designed to have natural ventilation by facing different size windows in the front and rear of the building. Then continue on to the Songnisan national park, weaving through the countryside with its rural vistas. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". The tour passes through Maltijae, a 12 hairpin turn, and shortly thereafter leads you to a 600-year-old pine tree. Shaped like an open umbrella, it is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters. This tree was granted a ministerial title when it reportedly lifted its branches in order to let king's palanquin pass in the mid 15th century. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful.

Day 10 Songnisan - Andong (B) 130km
Travel to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects, and visit Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a small bend in the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. Unlike most Korean villages where all the houses face south, the dwellings in this community face in all directions each capturing a unique aspect. Graced by raised gates representing the power and social status of the clan, the tile roofed Yangban houses stand serenely and impressively in the central part of the village. The two most significant structures are Yangjindang, the head house of the Ryu clan and Chunghyodang, the home to descendants of Ryu Seongryong who was a 16th-century scholar and prime minister. In contrast, the thatched roof huts of the common people encircle them. You cannot possibly miss an old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for traditional festival, Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392).

Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rise 64-meters. It is where at one time the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting as a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above the river. The village has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their cultural value. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this village on April 21, 1999. You will stop off at a traditional paper-making workshop get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing - a painstaking process which hasn't changed much from ancient times. Start with bark from the mulberry tree, then separate the bark from the fibers that would eventually be transformed into paper. After straining the pulp, adding some glue, drying the paper, and cutting or coloring according to need, they get a quality paper that is unique to Andong.

Day 11 Andong - Dosan - Jeongdongjin - Gangneung - Seoraksan (B) 290km
Visit Dosan Seowon, a Confucian-shrine academy. Set by the lake in its front and dense pine forests to the rear, it was where a revered philosopher and scholar, Yi Hwang (1501-1570) after his officialdom in 1549, built lecture hall to educate the students and study Neo-Confucianism for himself. Dosan Seowon was established in 1574 to commemorate his scholarship and virtue by some of his disciples and other Confucian authorities. Later, it became the center of the Confucianism in the region when it was granted the status of court-sponsored academy in 1575. The facility is composed of 16 buildings most of which were built in a simple and concise style. About hundreds of Seowon were functioning by the early 1800s, but then most of them were destroyed around 1870 by the court order. Dosan Seowon is among some of the few survived academies. Although the educational function of the facility has long since ceased, the commemorative ceremonies have been and are still held twice a year.

Explore Hwanseongul Cave. The legend has it that long time ago, a monk came to this cave to meditate but no one ever saw him came out. People thought that he became a hermit, thus it was named Hwanseongul. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office, you will come to a cave entrance of overwhelming size in the middle of the mountain. The cave itself is super massive and it would take well over one hour to explore. Be prepared for wet walkways, maneuvered up a narrow corridor with a rapidly flowing creek below it and hung off the side of the cave's walls above the creek. In the stream near the entrance, many salamanders are living. The walls spout water from innumerable cracks and seeps, which join to make good-sized streams, waterfalls and pools. Several tributary streams merge into one that flows out through the entrance. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor; this cave is truly a high-energy cave. Only 1.6km open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. The main sights are various speleothems, popcorn calcite, calcite crystals, royal throne, waterfalls, flowstones, and curtains. Along the walls of the cave often time a phenomenon known as cave coral, and pockets up on the ceilings could be spotted. One of the most popular sights in the cave is this hollowed out rock formation shaped like a heart. Then, follow a rope suspension bridge over an extremely deep chasm, leading you to the second main chamber. Later down one of the side chambers is an unusual rock formation that looks like the Virgin Mary. And, on a side trail, you will go around a rock formation known as the Great Wall. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or shopping in the store for souvenirs. Drive past North Korean submarine. This submarine was wrecked in the nearby coastal waters on the 18th of September, 1996. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land while the others were on standby in the submarine. The leader of the three gave a signal to the colleagues in the submarine and then ordered them to closer to the seashore. While approaching, it was washed away by the waves and driven on to the rock. Eventually, they abandoned any attempt to find their way back. They set a fire inside the submarine in order for destruction of evidence such as confidential information and documents, and escaped from it. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and all guerrillas were mopped out; one was captured alive, 13 spies were shot and 11 were murdered by their colleagues. The salvaged submarine is on display together with retired Korean navy ship.

Journey past by Gisamun beach, in the middle of which runs the 38th parallel north latitude that divided the country in 1945. Tucked away in a small village, the beach is rather unpopular to casual vacationers while popular among surfers, being one of the best five winter surfing spots in Korea. The water runs deep and the beach has high waves that approach the shore in a straight line without breaking up into small waves. By crossing the line, travel in to the land once occupied by North Korea and on to Soeraksan national park. The rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the best scenery on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year. The spring brings full of blooms and the summer creates lush green slopes and crystal clear streams tumbling over the cataracts. Fall changes foliage into brilliant colors and even in the winter, the snow blankets the hushed landscape, bringing serenity and a quiet beauty.

Day 12 Seoraksan (B)
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Entering park and past one-pillared gate, you will see a huge Unification Buddha that was built to symbolize the Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. The statue sits on a lotus pedestal, which is flanked with 16 inscribed panels describing the entire path of Buddha's enlightenment. A little further on is Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple that sits at a fork in the scenic trails. Signs are well established and there is a constant flow of people coming and going from the hiking trails. Following the left fork leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. You will follow the path along this valley which is most well-known for its breathtaking view.

Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang Cave with a tiny temple inside. The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of this peak, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for 600m. Even though there are stairs with guardrail the climb up can still be steep and exhausting. You can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley. The right fork is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century in front of which on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Next, your adventure begins by climbing a steep metal stairs that angle up Ulsan Bawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky from the rock's base.

Day 13 Seoraksan - Goseong - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Suwon - Seoul (B) 340km
Travel to the most northern tip of the east coast to visit the Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, you continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps sat on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country. These structures will interlock and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. Once there, you will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched side by side ahead across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands. Head on to Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and see Kim Ilsung villa. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South. The villa displays photos of Kim Ilsung and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. The visit is not to glorify him but to know Korea's complicated modern history.

Your tour continues through Geojin where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. As you stroll down the fishing port, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, fishermen tending their nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle. Travel to Suwon to explore Hwaseong Fortress which was built in the 18th century and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its architectural and historical significance. It encloses both flatland and hilly terrain with well over 30 buildings including gates, watchtowers, command posts, arrow-launchers, fire bastions and beacon tower. A temporary palace where the king sought refuge during war and found rest during times of peace sits inside the wall. The fortress is parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates. Seobuk Gongsimdon watch tower is the most distinctive structures among all facilities of the fortress. It is a 3-story stone brick structure built on the side of the fortress wall. The holes in the wall allowed sentries to keep an eye out for the events outside the walls and, also, to shoot guns from. Overall one hour walking tour starts at the Paldalmun Gate, which is located in the middle of the main road through the complex. Just past the sentry post perched on the edge of the turret sits the beacon tower, which possesses five chimneys to create different smoke signals. The smoke from one chimney indicates that all is well, while the smoke from two chimneys indicates that the enemy has been spotted. Three chimneys are used when the enemy is approaching, and a fourth fire is stoked if the enemy has made their way into the city. The fifth fire is lit when active combat with the enemy has begun. The tour covers sentry posts, a crossbow platform, a gate guard platform, an observation tower and secret gates leading down to the dark labyrinths. An exquisite pavilion is located on a hill that overlooks a lotus pond surrounded by beautiful willow trees. Below the pavilion sits northern floodgate, a stone bridge with seven arched sluices topped by an elegant open pavilion and brick-built parapet.

Day 14 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.

Hot Spa 8 days

Tour Highlights


Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Jogyesa Insa-dong Namdaemun Market Haegang Ceramic Museum Yeongneung Tomb Silleuksa Dodam Sambong Gosu Cave Ginseng Market Sosu Seowon Hahoemaeul Village Jebiwon Buddha Beopjusa Gungnamji Pond Jeongrimsa Pagoda Buyeo National Museum Busosan Fortress Buyeo Culture Complex Gongju Naitonal Museum Songsanri Tombs Oeammaeul Village Hyeonchungsa Hwaseong Fortress

Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -) 60km

Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.

Day 2 Seoul (B)
You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza. Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Drive past Cheonggyecheon stream that tumbles gently through downtown Seoul. Restoration work began in 2003 to free the stream from the layers of concrete and roadways that had covered it since 1958. Opened in 2005, a 5.8km-long serene stream with nearly two dozen overhead bridges provides a much needed source of peace and relaxation for the citizens. At the head of the stream stands a colorful spiral sculpture created by Coosje Van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.

Day 3 Seoul - Inchon - Yeoju (B) 100km
Travel to Icheon and marvel at the beautiful art works at Haegang Ceramic Museum. Opened in 1990, it also offers ceramic production courses where participants can get hands-on experience in the ceramic-making process, devoting to researching and exhibiting Korean ceramics. The first floor features ceramic culture which helps you understand the history of ceramic art in Korea. Historical documents and visual aids demonstrate the various processes used to create the various types of porcelain. On the second floor, you will see ceramic items dating from the 9th century onward. Antique ceramic artifacts such as celadon porcelain, and other items can be found here. Haegang's own masterpieces are on display in the Haegang Memorial room.

With time to visit, you will get soaked in the hot spa, the first ever German-style spa in Asia, modeled after the "badehaus" or bathhouses of Germany. Then head to Yeoju and visit UNESCO World Heritage site of Yeongneung. It is one of 119 royal tombs of Joseon dynasty. The tombs have different names of 42 Neung, 13 Won and 64 Myo, which were given based on the status of their owner. Yeongneung is a tomb of royal couple of King Sejong, who promulgated Korean Alphabet in the 15th century. This tomb is the first one to have separated rooms for each coffin inside. First, you will enjoy seeing the celestial globes, equilibrium sundial, armillary sphere, water clock, gnomon, rain gauge, and many other inventions by the king including a fascinating museum that features his life. The entrance to this tomb is phenomenal. You enter through an avenue of trees and climb up to the tomb. Near the tomb and all around it are life-sized statues of warriors and horses, put here to protect the King. UNESCO bestowed the honor to the 40 Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs in Korea as World Heritage sites.

You will have time to explore Silleuksa temple from the Silla dynasty (BC 57-AD 935). Most Korean temples were built high in the mountains to avoid worldly noise and trouble. But, it is a rare temple that is perched on a riverbank amid an attractive waterfront whose cove forms a snug and cosy enclosure for this ancient sanctuary. Incense burning in the temple and sights and smells mixed offer visitors a really magical experience. The temple houses Amitabha Buddha, Samantavhadra, the Boddhisattva of Practice, and Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Enshrined in the Judgement hall are Ksitigarbha and the ten kings of the Hell. Attending the kings are various servants and behind them are the pictures of the different hells with their tortures. To the east of the monastery is a hill on which a seven-story brick pagoda stands. It is a 9.4 meters high and is the only existing Goryeo brick pagoda (918-1392).

Day 4 Yeoju - Danyang - Punggi - Andong (B) 220km
On to Damyang and see Dodam Sambong rocks representing the typical love triangle of ancient Korea: a husband, his wife and his mistress followed by Gosu cave, known as the most beautiful limestone cave in Korea, formed about 400 million years ago. The cave is filled with intriguing shapes of stalactites and stalagmites formed by large quantity of flowing underground water and the consequent erosions. It is virtually an integrated exhibition hall of all imaginable cave resources.

Then journey onward to Punggi and see ginseng market. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. There are also many shops along the street leading out from the painfully quiet train station. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. All these features mixed offer a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.

Tour the Sosu Seowon. It is the first private institute established in Korea, and was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars. It was established by Ju Se-bung in 1543 and named Baekundong Seowon. The compound itself is composed of two sections; academic studies and research, and memorial service. There are several old buildings where scholars learned and studied loyalty, filial piety, manners and knowledge. The institute has a Shrine, which was built to enshrine An Yang, An Bo, An Chuk and Je Se-bung, where a memorial service takes place twice a year on the first day of the third and ninth months by the lunar calendar.

Day 5 Andong - Mungyeong - Songnisan (B) 160km
Tour Ichon-dong Stone Buddha or Jebiwon Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years, in the southeastern foothills of Cheondeung-san. The 2.43-meter-high head of granite Meitreya Buddha rests on top of a 9.95-meter-high and 7.72-meter-wide stone outcropping engraved with the Buddha's body. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff. It is now cared-for by a small temple tucked below and behind it.

En route, stop at Mungyeong and enjoy hot spa. Then journey continues to the Songnisan national park. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". See Beopjusa temple dating back to AD 553. The temple boasts of three national treasures and numerous cultural assets. Palsangjeon that houses eight paintings of different stages of the Buddha's life is the five story wooden pagoda constructed in early 17th century, and is a very rare and unique Buddhist architectural structure. Gazing down at the Palsangjeon is a 33m high and 160 ton Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future. The giant iron pot whose diameter is 2.7 meters that may well had been used to feed 3,000 priests in the early 12th century is on display in the temple courtyard. A stone carved lantern supported by twin lions standing face to face is a rare example of the magnificent Silla sculptures. A stone water cistern shaped like an open lotus flower is unique for beauty and design. This stone lotus blossom from the 8th century is supported by a round short stone carved like a mushroom. Nearby are two stone pillars which once held the temple banner pole. An excellent carved relief called Maaebul also can be seen.

Hiking is recommendable as many scenic trails available leading to numerous hermitages and eventually the peak of Songnisan. The temple holds a Dharma bell striking ceremony at sunset. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong. Hearing it reverberating through the universe, you will reflect upon the profound symbolism of the instruments. It is a great vow to save, or enlighten the creatures in the universe including those on land, in the sea, in the air and in hell.

Day 6 Songnisan - Buyeo - Gongju - Asan (B) 230km
The tour stops at a 600-year-old pine tree. Shaped like an open umbrella, it is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters. This tree was granted a ministerial title when it reportedly lifted its branches in order to let king's palanquin pass in the mid 15th century. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful.

Then head on to Buyeo, a melting pot of Baekje (BC18-AD660) culture. Bueyo is often regarded as the most artistically sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms. Today, you will explore historical sites and see fascinating archaeological articles from Baekje (BC18-AD660) era. Visit Baekje Culture Complex and see Sabigung palace, the example of the palace from the three kingdom era and an elegant 5 story wooden pagoda. It is a history theme park with a fascinating museum where you may observe the history and culture of the glorious kingdom.

In the center of town, there are two treasured remains; a 5.62m-high Buddha images is sitting on a stone pedestal and a five-storied stone pagoda still stands tall on the ancient temple site of Jeongrimsa. These stone masterpieces remain to recall the glory. Near pagoda is Buyeo national museum housing a huge collection of relics of this glorious kingdom, and you cannot definitely miss the magnificent gilt-bronze incense burner, which measures 11.8Kg and 64cm high.

Next, stroll up paths to Busosan, a hill where once stood Baekje fortification and royal palace. At the foot of the hill stnds a small shrine called Samchungsa dedicated to Baekje's three loyal subjects; Gyebaek, Seongchung and Heungsu. At the top of the hill sits Yeongullu pavilion where the Baekje king once came to watch the sun rise over his kingdom. A little further down the trail, you will see a pavilion called Baekhwajeong perched at the top of the rock. It was built in memory of the women of Baekje who jumped off the cliff on the last day of kingdom beside which locates Nakhwaam, literally meaning Falling Flower Rock, on a bluff overlooking the Geum River at the bend called Baekma. As enemies swarmed into the capital, the court ladies flung themselves into the water from this bluff rather than suffer the shame of submitting to atrocities of the conquering enemy armies.

Then proceed to Gongju, an ancient capital city of Basekje. It once served as the Baekje's capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Visit Gongju National Museum and see a fascinating archeological artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong (501-524), one of the last rulers to reign in the capital of Gongju. Of those, 12 have been designated National Treasures. Nearby Songsanri Tombs is a group of Baekje-period royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. Of the most important tomb is number 7, which belongs to King Muryeong (462-523) and his wife, the queen. The tomb was found completely intact since it was sealed in the early 6th century. The actual tomb was permanently closed, but you will see an excellent, albeit miniature duplicate. Hot spa in Asan.

Day 7 Asan - Suwon - Seoul (B) 130km
Explore Oeammaeul, one of the traditional clan villages exuding old and rustic charm. The village entrance is marked by stone bridge, pine forest and totem poles. This village with more than 400 years of history has about 70 traditional houses, and is highlighted by 6km-long stonewall paths ringing the village and the amazing artificial water system that goes through the entire village for gardens and agriculture. As you stroll along the pathway, you will see thatched cottages and tile roof houses representing typical village layout of central Korea and at the same time feel the rural ambience and peaceful atmosphere.

Next, Hyeonchungsa keeping the spirit of Korea's greatest naval hero, Yi Sun-sin. He had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). He is also credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. The shrine features the house where the admiral grew up, an archery range where he practiced, a museum containing a pictorial story of his life and an example of his famous "turtle ship." The museum also contains his war diary and sword he carried. You will also visit Onyang folklore museum that features an excellent Korean folklore including traditional livelihood, industry, culture, folk paintings and artworks.

Then, on to Suwon to explore Hwaseong Fortress which was built in the 18th century and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its architectural and historical significance. It encloses both flatland and hilly terrain with well over 30 buildings including gates, watchtowers, command posts, arrow-launchers, fire bastions and beacon tower. A temporary palace where the king sought refuge during war and found rest during times of peace sits inside the wall. The fortress is parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates. Seobuk Gongsimdon watch tower is the most distinctive structures among all facilities of the fortress. It is a 3-story stone brick structure built on the side of the fortress wall. The holes in the wall allowed sentries to keep an eye out for the events outside the walls and, also, to shoot guns from.

Overall one hour walking tour starts at the Paldalmun Gate, which is located in the middle of the main road through the complex. Just past the sentry post perched on the edge of the turret sits the beacon tower, which possesses five chimneys to create different smoke signals. The smoke from one chimney indicates that all is well, while the smoke from two chimneys indicates that the enemy has been spotted. Three chimneys are used when the enemy is approaching, and a fourth fire is stoked if the enemy has made their way into the city. The fifth fire is lit when active combat with the enemy has begun. The tour covers sentry posts, a crossbow platform, a gate guard platform, an observation tower and secret gates leading down to the dark labyrinths. An exquisite pavilion is located on a hill that overlooks a lotus pond surrounded by beautiful willow trees. Below the pavilion sits northern floodgate, a stone bridge with seven arched sluices topped by an elegant open pavilion and brick-built parapet.

Day 8 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.

Soft Adventure 10 days

Tour Highlights
Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Insa-dong Gyeongdong Herb Market Soyang Dam Biking Rafting Unification Observatory Kim Ilsung Villa Geojin Fishing Village Seoraksan National Park Woljeongsa North Korean Submarine Jeongdongjin Hwanseongul Cave Coal Museum Dosan Seowon Jebiwon Biddha Hahoemaeul Village Hanji Paper Workshop Beopjusa Songnisan Trekking


The tour operates from May through October. A combination adventures to unique locations around Korea. Offering tours and soft adventure activities from temple visits to seafood market tours rafting and mountain hikes, it is an itinerary for just about anyone wishing to get as much out of Korea as possible.

Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -) 60km
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.

Day 2 Seoul (B)
You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in the early morning of 8 October 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro. The assassins killed three court women suspected of being Empress Myeongseong. When they confirmed that one of them was the Empress, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion.

Then learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.

You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure.

Drive past Dongdaemun. It once served as the east gate of Seoul. Originally built in 1398 and called Heunginjimun literally Gate of Uplifting Mercy, it sits in a low and flat region of Seoul in that the gate was an easy target for invaders. To compensate for this topographic weakness, a semicircular fortress which extends beyond the arched gateway was constructed, providing a narrow entranceway to the gate.

Explore Gyeongdong herb market, one of the largest herbal medicine markets in Korea. There are more than one thousand pharmaceutical stores, oriental health clinics and herbal drugstores selling various Asian medicines, ginseng, spices, herbs and roots. All sorts of things with medicinal value are laid out, including herbs, flowers, mushrooms, roots, berries, chili, and seeds. You can also find licorice, mugwort, and ginger. Here, you will learn how Korean traditional market merchants live in their own way. What's more, there are lots of things that may not be familiar to the eyes of foreigners, but most of them can be sampled. The atmosphere is filled with the rich fragrance of raw medicinal products. Stroll down the market and take a deep breath, you will immediately feel more rejuvenated and relaxed.


3 Seoul - Chuncheon (B) 110km
Travel to Chuncheon, a city of scenic lakes, making it one of the most beautiful cities in Korea, and visit Soyang dam, whose bank measures123 meters high and 530 meters long, keeping 3 billion cubic meters of water and producing an annual electricity output of 350 million KWs. The word of the afternoon is cycling. The trails are not for professional races or intense competition. More suited for relaxed biking than racing. From urban skylines to beautiful river vistas, the river valleys have something for everyone, and the bikeway is a dedicated bike and walkway with no vehicular traffic. The route winds offering camping sites, picnic facilities, sports grounds, wide areas of natural parkland and over gently rolling terrain. It is a perfect match for the runner, skater or bicyclists. Chuncheon tour includes a hustle bustle Mydongdong, a busy downtown street filled with numerous shops and Dakgalbi restaurants. Chuncheon's specialty, Dakgalibi is a stir-frying marinated chunk of chicken in a red pepper paste sauce with sliced cabbage, sweet potato, onion and long, thin rice cake on a hot plate. The sizzling sound and spicy aroma stimulate your appetite.

Day 4 Chunchon - Inje - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Seoraksan (B) 200km
A pleasant journey across the picturesque countryside to Inje for a rafting on the Naerincheon River. The river, screened by chains of high mountains, has some rapids yet still enough for beginners to enjoy. Situated in one of Korea's most pristine valleys, the rapids are novice class, with participants guided down the river by expert raft guides. This is a perfect trip for anyone wanting to see some natural scenery from an incredible vantage point. A road winds over the cliffy mountain pass and the scenery is marvelous.

Then, travel to the most northern tip of the east coast. Less convenient to get to, the route offers much more pleasant countryside scenery and remote tranquility. Visit the Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, you continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps sat on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country. These structures will interlock and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. Here, you will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched side by side ahead across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands.

Stop at Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and see Kim Ilsung villa. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South. The villa displays photos of Kim Ilsung and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. The visit is not to glorify him but to know Korea's complicated modern history.

Your tour continues through Geojin where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. As you stroll down the fishing port, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, fishermen tending their nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle.


Then, travel in to Seoraksan national park. The rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the best scenery on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year. The spring brings full of blooms and the summer creates lush green slopes and crystal clear streams tumbling over the cataracts. Fall changes foliage into brilliant colors and even in the winter, the snow blankets the hushed landscape, bringing serenity and a quiet beauty.

Day 5 Seoraksan (B)
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Entering park and past one-pillared gate, you will see a huge Unification Buddha that was built to symbolize the Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. The statue sits on a lotus pedestal, which is flanked with 16 inscribed panels describing the entire path of Buddha's enlightenment. A little further on is Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple that sits at a fork in the scenic trails.

Signs are well established and there is a constant flow of people coming and going from the hiking trails. Following the left fork leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. You will follow the path along this valley which is most well-known for its breathtaking view.

Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang Cave with a tiny temple inside. The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of this peak, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for 600m. Even though there are stairs with guardrail the climb up can still be steep and exhausting. You can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley.

The right fork is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century in front of which on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Next, your adventure begins by climbing a steep metal stairs that angle up Ulsan Bawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky from the rock's base.

Biryong waterfall trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will see a very pretty waterfall at the end that is fairly unusual, long and thin. And for non hikers, there is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong while enjoying the panoramic view of the entire valley. The peak is surrounded by cavernous drop-off cliffs, cloaked in more towering rocky summits. Definitely, you stand in awe on the top: sweeping panoramic views of the park around you, the Pacific Ocean, and the small beachside town of Sokcho. Be careful as always as there is not much room to move about and people constantly going up and down and moving around.

Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230m) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
1. Biryong waterfall (310m) (4.8km): 2 hours - Easy
2. Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours - Easy
3. Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 3 hours and 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
4. Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 6 hours and 30 minutes - Easy
5. Heundeulbawi (797m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Easy
6. Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810m) (7.6km): 4 hours 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
7. Gwongeumseong (800m) Cable car (3.4km): 1 hour (roughly four minutes each up and down)

Day 6 Seoraksan - Pyeongchang - Gangneung - Samcheok (B) 240km
Visit Woljeongsa. You are treated to a scenic drive along the Jingogae road creating wonderful colors as the season changes - Pink azaleas decorating the valleys, the thick forest and crystal clear stream water cooling off the summer heat, the fantastic autumn foliage putting on a brilliant show of color and the snow creating a sublime scenery. Enshrined in the Main Hall is a statue of Sakyamuni, but the more important statue is a Bodhisattva, 1.8 meters high, probably a Medicine Bodhisattva. Said to have been found in the Diamond Pond to the south of the temple, the statue is offering something. The head is covered with a hat, the face is long and the ears are slightly hidden by long hair. Around the neck there are three lines which are so beautifully carved hat they look like necklaces. The elbow is resting on the head of a young boy. Next to the Bodhisattva is an octagonal nine-story pagoda which stands 15.2 meters high and is representative of the many-angled, many-storied stupas of the Goryeo Period. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter road arched by 1,700 tall fir trees. You will stroll the path listening to the trickles of stream and smelling the fresh yet musky fir trees.

Drive past North Korean submarine. This submarine was wrecked in the nearby coastal waters on the 18th of September, 1996. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land while the others were on standby in the submarine. The leader of the three gave a signal to the colleagues in the submarine and then ordered them to closer to the seashore. While approaching, it was washed away by the waves and driven on to the rock. Eventually, they abandoned any attempt to find their way back. They set a fire inside the submarine in order for destruction of evidence such as confidential information and documents, and escaped from it. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and all guerrillas were mopped out; one was captured alive, 13 spies were shot and 11 were murdered by their colleagues. The salvaged submarine is on display together with retired Korean navy ship.

Enjoy a stop at Jeongdongjin, a tiny fishing village located by the ocean directly east of Seoul and where you find a quaint railway station of being the closest to the ocean anywhere in the world, a huge hour-glass that measures a full year and a very surreal cruise liner hotel on top of a cliff.

Explore Hwanseongul Cave. The legend has it that long time ago, a monk came to this cave to meditate but no one ever saw him came out. People thought that he became a hermit, thus it was named Hwanseongul. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office, you will come to a cave entrance of overwhelming size in the middle of the mountain. The cave itself is super massive and it would take well over one hour to explore. Be prepared for wet walkways, maneuvered up a narrow corridor with a rapidly flowing creek below it and hung off the side of the cave's walls above the creek. In the stream near the entrance, many salamanders are living. The walls spout water from innumerable cracks and seeps, which join to make good-sized streams, waterfalls and pools. Several tributary streams merge into one that flows out through the entrance. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor; this cave is truly a high-energy cave. Only 1.6km open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. The main sights are various speleothems, popcorn calcite, calcite crystals, royal throne, waterfalls, flowstones, and curtains. Along the walls of the cave often time a phenomenon known as cave coral, and pockets up on the ceilings could be spotted. One of the most popular sights in the cave is this hollowed out rock formation shaped like a heart. Then, follow a rope suspension bridge over an extremely deep chasm, leading you to the second main chamber. Later down one of the side chambers is an unusual rock formation that looks like the Virgin Mary. And, on a side trail, you will go around a rock formation known as the Great Wall. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or shopping in the store for souvenirs.

Day 7 Samchoek - Taebaek - Dosan - Andong (B) 190km
The tour continues to Taebaek, a highland town once boomed with coal mining until the early 1980s. Taebaek coal museum is an excellent facility that provides visitors with rich information about Korea's coal mining. The museum displays well over 8,000 items including rocks such as silver, ore, fossils, and mining equipments and documents. You will also explore a mine simulation modeled closely after real mine showing how the mining work was like.

Visit Dosan Seowon, a Confucian-shrine academy. Set by the lake in its front and dense pine forests to the rear, it was where a revered philosopher and scholar, Yi Hwang (1501-1570) after his officialdom in 1549, built lecture hall to educate the students and study Neo-Confucianism for himself. Dosan Seowon was established in 1574 to commemorate his scholarship and virtue by some of his disciples and other Confucian authorities. Later, it became the center of the Confucianism in the region when it was granted the status of court-sponsored academy in 1575.

The facility is composed of 16 buildings most of which were built in a simple and concise style. About hundreds of Seowon were functioning by the early 1800s, but then most of them were destroyed around 1870 by the court order. Dosan Seowon is among some of the few survived academies. Although the educational function of the facility has long since ceased, the commemorative ceremonies have been and are still held twice a year.

Stop at Ichon-dong Stone Buddha or Jebiwon Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years, in the southeastern foothills of Cheondeung-san. The 2.43-meter-high head of granite Meitreya Buddha rests on top of a 9.95-meter-high and 7.72-meter-wide stone outcropping engraved with the Buddha's body. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff. It is now cared-for by a small temple tucked below and behind it. After the tour, head to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects.

Day 8 Andong - Songnisan (B) 140km
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a bend of the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It is one of the few remaining examples of a classical Confucian village layout and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. Unlike many Korean villages where all the houses face south, the dwellings in this community are oriented in all four cardinal directions each capturing a unique aspect of the theatre beyond.

Graced by raised gates representing the power and social status of the clan, the tile roofed Yangban houses stand serenely and impressively in the central part of the village. In contrast, the thatched roof huts of the common people encircle them. You cannot possibly miss an old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for famous Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the ancient Goryeo dynasty (918-1392).

Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rise 64-meters. It is where at one time the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting as a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above the river. The village has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their cultural  value. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this village on April 21, 1999.


You will stop off at a traditional paper-making workshop to get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing - a painstaking process which hasn't changed much from ancient times. Start with bark from the mulberry tree, then separate the bark from the fibers that would eventually be transformed into paper. After straining the pulp, adding some glue, drying the paper, and cutting or coloring according to need, they get a quality paper that is unique to Andong.

Journey onward to the Songnisan national park, weaving through the countryside with its rural vistas. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". The tour passes through Maltijae, a 12 hairpin turn, and shortly thereafter leads you to a 600-year-old pine tree. Shaped like an open umbrella, it is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters. This tree was granted a ministerial title when it reportedly lifted its branches in order to let king's palanquin pass in the mid 15th century. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful.

See Beopjusa temple dating back to AD 553. The temple boasts of three national treasures and numerous cultural assets. Palsangjeon that houses eight paintings of different stages of the Buddha's life is the five story wooden pagoda constructed in early 17th century, and is a very rare and unique Buddhist architectural structure. Gazing down at the Palsangjeon is a 33m high and 160 ton Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future. The giant iron pot whose diameter is 2.7 meters that may well had been used to feed 3,000 priests in the early 12th century is on display in the temple courtyard. A stone carved lantern supported by twin lions standing face to face is a rare example of the magnificent Silla sculptures. A stone water cistern shaped like an open lotus flower is considered unique for beauty and design. This stone lotus blossom from the 8th century is supported by a round short stone carved like a mushroom. Nearby are two stone pillars which once held the temple banner pole. An excellent carved relief called Maaebul also can be seen.

The temple holds a
dharma bell striking ceremony at sunset. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong. Hearing it reverberating through the universe, you will reflect upon the profound symbolism of the instruments. It is a great vow to save, or enlighten, the creatures in the universe including those on land, in the sea, in the air and in hell.


Day 9 Songnisan - Seoul (B) 190

Hiking is planned. The tour of the day is a mix of easy and challenging 6 hour course, Saesimjeong - Jungsajaam - Munjangdae (1,054m) - Sinseondae - Gyeongeopdae - Saesimjeong - parking, taking some 6 hours. The first leg of trekking to Saesimjeong is flat and very easy of 3.4km, thereafter the trail changes abruptly tough, narrow and rocky. There are iron guardrails, and trails are often challenging until you reach Munjangdae, where a huge flat rock magnificently occupies the top, providing a panoramic view of the park. Trekking continues eastward over the ridge for some 2km, you will come across Sinseondae and turn right down into the valley leading to Gyeongeopdae, Saesimjeong, Beopjusa and finally to the parking.

Day 10 Departure (B) 60km

After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.

Trekking (B) 14 days

Tour Highlights
Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Insa-dong Namdaemun Market N Tower Beopjusa Haeinsa Hwaeomsa Nagan Fortress Village Hyangilam Hermitage Dolsan Park Hamel Park Yeosu Fish Market Namhae Drive POW Camp Jagalchi Fish Market Gukjesijang Seokguram Bulguksa Gyeongju National Museum Anapji Pond Banwolseong Fortress Seokbinggo Cheomseongdae Tumuli Park Poseokjeong Bower Bunhwangsa Hahoemaeul Village Hanji Paper Workshop Andong Folk Museum Jebiwon Buddha Ginseng Market Sosu Seowon Dodam Sambong Woljeongsa Seoraksan National Park Geojin Fishing Village Kim Ilsung Villa Unification Observatory



Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -) 60km
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.


Day 2 Seoul (B)
You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in the early morning of 8 October 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro. The assassins killed three court women suspected of being Empress Myeongseong. When they confirmed that one of them was the Empress, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion.

Then learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.

You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure.

Explore Gwangjang Market, one of few markets retaining traditional Korean atmosphere. From the entrance of the market, you can smell the mouth-watering flavors of fried snacks. Along the alley, the street stalls selling simple and cheap treats line up, clouds of smoke billow out from the boiling pans and diverse types of pancakes sizzle on hot iron grills. See a side of regular Seoul life and try out some sorts of Korean snacks. There are roadside vendors hawking everything from food, fruits, vegetables to seafood, as well as new buildings offering designer fashion, accessories, colorful silks and so much more.

Near the market is Cheonggyecheon stream that tumbles gently through downtown Seoul. Restoration work began in 2003 to free the stream from the layers of concrete and roadways that had covered it since 1958. Opened in 2005, a 5.8km-long serene stream with nearly two dozen overhead bridges provides a much needed source of peace and relaxation for the citizens.

And a bolck away from the market is Dongdaemun which once served as the east gate of Seoul. Originally built in 1398 and called Heunginjimun literally Gate of Uplifting Mercy, it sits in a low and flat region of Seoul in that the gate was an easy target for invaders. To compensate for this topographic weakness, a semicircular fortress which extends beyond the arched gateway was constructed, providing a narrow entranceway to the gate.

Later enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul over at N Tower observatory. Perched on top of Namsan Mountain at 243m high, the tower measures 236.7m in height from the base and tops out at 479.7m above sea level. It is the absolute best place to enjoy the most enthralling vistas of Seoul. Near the tower base, you cannot possibly miss the couple locks to symbolize that their love for each other is forever and a time capsule that is scheduled to be opened five hundred years later in 2485.

Day 3 Seoul - Songnisan (B) 180km
Travel early morning to Songnisan national park. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". Today, you will hike one of the most favored trails in Songnisan, starting at Hwabuk Information Center and ending at Beopjusa temple, taking well over 5 hours. This scenic trail extends 9.3km allowing you to explore small cascades, Munjangdae peak (1,054m), hermitage, and later Beopjusa temple. Founded in AD 553, the temple boasts of three national treasures and numerous cultural assets. Palsangjeon that houses eight paintings of different stages of the Buddha's life is the five story wooden pagoda constructed in early 17th century, and is a very rare and unique Buddhist architectural structure. Gazing down at the Palsangjon is a 33 meter high and 160 ton Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future. The giant iron pot whose diameter is 2.7 meters that may well had been used to feed 3,000 priests in the early 12th century is on display in the temple courtyard. A stone carved lantern supported by twin stone lions standing face to face is a rare example of the magnificent Silla sculptures. A stone water cistern shaped like an open lotus flower is considered unique for beauty and design. This stone lotus blossom from the 8th century is supported by a round short stone carved like a mushroom. Nearby are two stone pillars which once held the temple banner pole. An excellent carved relief called Maaebul also can be seen.

The temple holds a Dharma bell striking ceremony at sunset. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong. Hearing it reverberating through the universe, you will reflect upon the profound symbolism of the instruments. It is a great vow to save, or enlighten the creatures in the universe including those on land, in the sea, in the air and in hell.

Day 4 Songnisan - Gayasan - Gurye (B) 300km
Near the park entrance stands a 600-year-old pine tree, shaped like an open umbrella that is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters. This tree was granted a ministerial title when it reportedly lifted its branches in order to let king's palanquin pass in the mid 15th century. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful.

The tour continues through a scenic countryside to Gayasan national park to see a magnificent Haeinsa temple from the 9th century, housing world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras. Haeinsa is one of the most important temples in Korea. They are Tongdosa, Heinsa, and Songgwansa, each of which represents Buddha, Dharma, and the community of followers or "sangha".
The gate to the entrance is the Iljumun Gate which means "single pillar gate". It is the first gate to the Buddha's world temple. The gate symbolizes a true path of enlightenment which leads to the world of Buddha. One has to climb 108 stairs to the last building in the compound from the Iljumun gate. On each step one can renounce each of 108 worldly desires of the mind.

Following the stairs up, you will reach the main hall courtyard in the middle of which stands stone carved lantern and weathered stone pagoda. Within the main worship hall (Hall of Great Peace and Light), you will see Vairocana Buddha who is flanked on the left by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Wisdom, and on the right by Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassionate Action, along with other Bodhisattvas including Avalokitesvara, Virocana, Ksitigarbha and Dharmogata. Behind the statues are highly detailed and rather unusual wall paintings of the Buddha's life. And on the outside walls are a fair number of paintings portraying Buddhist stories.

At the back of this hall is another flight of steps that lead you up to a group of four depositories or Janggyeong Panjeon from the 15th century. The depositories house 81,258 wood-blocks of Tripitaka Koreana, an offering to the Buddha for national protection from the looming Mongol forces. The printing blocks are some 70cm wide, 24cm long and 2.8cm thick on the average. Each block has 23 lines of text, each with 14 characters, on each side. Each block thus has a total of 644 characters on both sides. Some 30 men carved the total of 52,382,960 characters in the clean and simple style. The characters are perfectly carved as if from the same hand. They were completed in 1251 after 16 years of work in Jeondeungsa temple on Ganghwado and were transported here for safekeeping. Two long depositories are designed to have natural ventilation by facing different size windows in the front and rear of the building.

The Mongol forces eventually took over the Goryeo Dynasty but the wooden blocks remain preserved today having survived other invasions, wars and fire. Even more amazing aspect is that neither birds built nests nor spiders make webs on these buildings. Tripitaka Koreana and Janggyeong Panjeon have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their artistic as well as religious value.

In order to control the temperature and humidity within the depositories and protect the Janggyeon Panjeon and woodblocks from fire, full-time security guards and a 24-hour surveillance system are in place. In addition, Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea decided to limit the public access to the whole Janggyeong Panjeon complex for 4 years from January 1, 2013 till December 31, 2016.

After visiting this sacred temple, the tour continues to the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the Virocana Buddha, the cosmic head of the Hwaeom trinity. First, One-Pillar Gate standing at the lower part greets you and leads you up to the second and the third gate - from the secular world into the spiritual world. On the second level, there is the Bojeru, the Save All Beings Hall, beside which stands bell and drum tower and two magnificent 5-story stone pagodas from Silla period. Gakhwangjeon has a double storied roof, and houses seven figures on its altar. Sakyamuni Buddha sits in the middle attended by Amitabha and Prabhytaratna, as well as Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Ksitigarbha.

A magnificent stone lantern and an impressive stone pagoda supported by four fierce looking lions adorn this hall. On the hill behind Gakhwangjeon stands the most uniquely designed three-story stone pagoda supported by four lions each of which represents the four primary human emotions: love, sorrow, anger, and joy. Here, you will enjoy the intricacies of this masterpiece as there are numerous other designs etched onto the pagoda.

Day 5 Gurye - Nagan - Suncheon - Yeosu (B) 130km
Explore Nagan fortress village, surrounded by 1,410-meter long fortress which was built into a mud rampart in the 14th century to repel Japanese pirate raids. The village features nearly 280 traditional thatched roof houses which are still fully functioning and a peculiar townscape in harmony with the rectangular stone rampart. One unusual aspect of the town is that it was inhabited by a number of different clans rather than having one dominant one. Part of the fortress wall arches over the hill and you will take in a great view of the entire village. You will see an entertaining part of the village with Dongheon which was the main office in which governors, magistrates, and military commanding officers conducted their respective local administrative and judiciary affairs.

Travel on to the southern tip of the Dolsan Island to visit Hyangilam hermitage from the 7th century. Prched on a gigantic pile of boulders on the eastern tip of Geumosan, the hermitage become more popular for the Korean folk-spirtual custom of praying for good-fortune or wisdom while watching the sunrise-especially on New Year's dawn regardless of Solar or Lunar. It is a bit long journey to get there! - but well-worthwhile.

Yeosu itself is nothing special to look at but the natural surroundings offer some spectacular sights along the jagged coastline. Dolsan Park in the city will offer views to remember. Yeosu is definitely a hidden gem when it comes to scenery. You may stop off at the Hamel Park. Dutch sailor Hamel and his seven crew members made their escape from Yeosu after 13 years and 28 days detention on September 4. 1666. Hamel Lighthouse stands tall in a small port and a bit further from the lighthouse is a statue of Hamel. At the fish market, you cannot but help notice the region's abundant resources in terms of seafood and fish resources.

Day 6 Yeosu - Namhae - Tongyeong - Geoje (B) 230km
Enjoy an exotic coastal drive to Busan, exploring natural wonders and traditional villages. The southern boundary of Korea is a sunken coastline which has created an irregular pattern of bays and inlets. The mountains are high and rugged while the scenery is picturesquely rural, offering a pastoral view.

At the southern tip of the island is one of Korea's most attractive beaches situated below the rugged spires of mountain. There are several little villages placed side by side on the rather steep slope of a mountain dropping into the sea. On Namhae island, you will hike 4 hours of 8km trail covering two neighboring peaks of Eungbongsan (472m) and Seolheulsan (481m). The hike starts at Seogu village and past rocky ridge of Eungbongsan and Seolheulsan, enjoying a spectacular view spreading below. At the trekking end is a famous Gacheon village which is more famous for its terraced rice paddies and mysterious stone phallic symbols.

Drive past German Village set in the beautiful surroundings and inhibited by Korean-Germans who had gone to Germany in the 1960s seeking work and later had returned. Then, on to Tongyeong, a traditional seaport of great charm and historical interests. The city is also famous for lacquer ware, pearl, mother of pearl artwork, and mask dance. Local markets offer the sights, sounds and smells of a fishing port.

Then, continue on to a shipbuilding Mecca of Geoje featuring several natural harbors. Geoje was the final port of call of the SS Meredith Victory at Christmas 1950. It is best known for evacuating more than 14,000 refugees in a single mission and the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship during the Korean War.

Day 7 Geoje - Busan - Gyeongju (B) 200km
Visit POW campFounded in early 1951 by U.N. troops, it once held around 170,000 prisoners in 28 facilities until an armistice was concluded in 1953. The former camp has been reborn as a historic park with various exhibition halls that help visitors comprehend the actual situation at the time and gives visitors an up close lesson on the devastating consequences of the war. POW camp accommodated 150,000 North Korean soldiers and 20,000 Chinese soldiers. Approximately 300 of the prisoners were female.

From August 5 to September 6, 1953, under the name Operation Big Switch and Operation Big Swap, both side prisoners were repatriated, at their free choice of destination, at Panmunjeom. The U.N.C. returned 75,823 POWs (70,183 Koreans, 5,640 Chinese); the Communists repatriated 12,773 U.N.C. POWs (7,862 Koreans, 3,597 Americans, 946 British). The vast majority of the 22,600 enemy non-repatriates were Chinese, most of them former Chinese Nationalist veterans. Only 137 Chinese agreed to return to their homeland before the expiration of the ninety-day period stipulated in the armistice agreement. Only 357 U.N.C. prisoners indicated a desire to remain with the Communists (333 Koreans, 23 Americans, one Briton), and of these, two Americans and eight Koreans chose to return within the allotted time for the changing of one's mind. The U.N.C. released all remaining former POWs thereafter, the Communists following suit in a few days later.

Enjoy your ride to Busan through a 8.2km-long Geoga bridge, a combination of a 4.5km cable-stayed bridge and a 3.7km undersea tunnel, which is the world's deepest immersed roadway tube tunnel constructed 48m below mean water level on the open sea.

Busan is Korea's second largest city surrounded by the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. Its deep harbor and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest port in Korea and the fifth largest in the world. It is also a center of industry and commerce, a thriving metropolis formed unusually long in shape along its coastal line.

Explore fascinating Jagalchi fish market. Located on the downtown docks, this bustling market offers a wide variety of fish including sea bream, sea bass, snapper, saury, pollack, halibut, corvina, cutlass fish, mackerel, octopus, sea squirt, cuttlefish, frogfish, flounder, abalone, crab, shells, to name just a few, and a flexible pricing system, which makes it a big draw among locals and visitors alike. There are also many restaurants selling sliced raw fish at reasonable prices. Trying them here in the market is really a visual and culinary treat.

Neighboring block is BIFF square, packed with trendy shops movie theaters and even a walk of fame where famous stars and directors have pressed their handprints into the sidewalk. A little further on is Gukjesijang where thousands of shops spill out into the busiest districts of Busan and a variety of items, including folk art, bags, clothes, food, kitchen utensils, and more are available at very reasonable prices. Discover all that local merchants have to offer, while enjoying the ambience of this massive market.


Travel to Gyeongju, an ancient capital of Silla (BC57-AD935), often dubbed as Museum without Walls. Today, you are treated to one of the ten most historically significant sites in the world with ancient temples, weathered stone pagodas, royal tombs, Buddhist bas-reliefs, and fortress ruins.

Day 8 Gyeongju (B)
Explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seokguram grotto and Bulguksa temple which were both built during the glorious period of the Silla kingdom (BC57-AD935). After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 10 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to Seokguram grotto, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas-reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.

A short ride from the grotto is
Bulguksa temple. Following the one-pillared gate and the four guardian's gate, you will reach two double level arched stone staircases - the symbolic bridges, leaving the world of sufferings behind and to enter Buddha's land. Up from the bridges on the terraced main courtyard stands the Hall of Great Enlightenment. The hall houses Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the right by Kasyapa and Maitreya Bodhisattva and on the left by Dipankara and Ananda. Before this hall stands a stone carved lantern and two stone pagodas. Three-storied Seokgatap with its calm simplicity of lines and minimal decoration and Dabotap with highly ornate and the noted complexity of the universe stands blending well into the architectural harmony.

Currently, the Seokgatap pagoda is closed to the public as is under restoration. Unlike partial restorations that were carried out in 1024 and 1038, and more recently in 1966, it is the first full disassembly since the construction of the 8.2m pagoda in 742. Having started in September 2012, the restoration project will be completed by the end of 2014.

The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East.

Next, you will marvel at the priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, and clay figures as well as a royal barge in Gyeongju National Museum. A gigantic Emille Bell from the eighth century is on display and you must certainly stand in awe before the bell with such artistic beauty of design.

Enjoy a tour of Anapji, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, followed by a relaxed walking tour covering the ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress where Silla palace and eight fortress gates stood. There is a Seokbinggo, a freezer made of stones. Half of the structure is underground while the other half is above ground with three air vents on top. You can feel the cold oozing out of this simple structure. Near fortress is Gyerim, literally meaning Rooster Forest. It is a sacred woodland area where progenitor of the Gyeongju Kim family, Kim Alji, was supposed to have been born.

Then head to the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Each stone used in the observatory bears symbolic meaning; the same number of the days of the year by lunar calendar, the number of the major stars, the months of the year and the numbers of the seasonal divisions. Nearby Tumuli Park encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, is opened to the public and you can go inside and see how the tombs were made and replicas of the treasures excavated in 1973.

You will make a stop at Poseokjeong. It was a summer pavilion where the later kings of Silla often forgot their loyal duties and spent most of their time banqueting. All that can be seen now is the abalone-shaped stone channel through which at one time a cool stream of water was directed into the palace. The elm, in large trunk and gnarled with age that may have witnessed the final day of Silla.

Near Gyeongju train station is a covered market, a classic example of the Korean market with lots of fresh vegetables, seafood, food stands and some textiles. You may also have a chance to see it.

Timer permitting, visit Bunhwangsa temple with 10m-high three-storied rectangular pagoda, the main worship hall with Buddha of Medicine, and legendary well that is said to have saved the kingdom. The nearby open field was once occupied by Silla's largest temple Hwangyongsa. The 67m tall nine-storied pagoda made entirely of wood stood here until it was destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1238.

Day 9 Gyeongju - Andong (B) 160km
Journey continues to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects. You will visit Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a small bend in the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. Unlike most Korean villages where all the houses face south, the dwellings in this community face in all directions each capturing a unique aspect.

Graced by raised gates representing the power and social status of the clan, the tile roofed Yangban houses stand serenely and impressively in the central part of the village. The two most significant structures are Yangjindang, the head house of the Ryu clan and Chunghyodang, the home to descendants of Ryu Seongryong who was a 16th-century scholar and prime minister. In contrast, the thatched roof huts of the common people encircle them. You cannot possibly miss an old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for traditional festival, Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rise 64-meters. It is where at one time the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting as a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above the river. The village has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their cultural  value. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this village on April 21, 1999.

You will stop off at a traditional paper-making workshop to get a glimpse into the world of hand-made paper manufacturing - a painstaking process which hasn't changed much from ancient times. Start with bark from the mulberry tree, then, separate the bark from the fibers that would eventually be transformed into paper. After straining the pulp, adding some glue, drying the paper, and cutting or coloring according to need, they get a quality paper that is unique to Andong.

Time permitting, visit Andong Folk Museum offering in-depth information of traditional life and illustrating traditional Confucian culture. The museum exhibits a variety of legacies relating mainly to four cardinal ceremonies, coming of an age, wedding, funeral, ancestral memorial service, as well as dozens of pieces of pottery, utensils, clothing, farming tools and traditional folk games in small models.

Day 10 Andong - Punggi - Danyang - Cheongpung (B) 130km
Stop at Ichon-dong Stone Buddha called Jebiwon Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years, in the southeastern foothills of Cheondeung-san. The 2.43-meter-high head of granite Meitreya Buddha rests on top of a 9.95-meter-high and 7.72-meter-wide stone outcropping engraved with the Buddha's body. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff. It is now cared-for by a small temple tucked below and behind it.

While in Punggi, see ginseng market. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. There are also many shops along the street leading out from the painfully quiet train station. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. All these features mixed offer a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.

Tour the Sosu Seowon. It is the first private institute established in Korea, and was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars. It was established by Ju Se-bung in 1543 and named Baekundong Seowon. The compound itself is composed of two sections; academic studies and research, and memorial service. There are several old buildings where scholars learned and studied loyalty, filial piety, manners and knowledge. The institute has a Shrine, which was built to enshrine An Yang, An Bo, An Chuk and Je Se-bung, where a memorial service takes place twice a year on the first day of the third and ninth months by the lunar calendar.

About 5 hours trekking from Samga-ri to Euigok-ri. In fall, chipmunks are busy collecting pines. After the steep path overgrown with trees and royal azaleas, there is a signpost "1,000m above the sea level" and then Yangbanbawi Rock on the right. After a while, you will reach the last tough path of the course that leads you to Birobong Peak (1,439m). The course is also part of the Baekdu Daegan (referring to a continuous mountain-range ridge-line from Baekdusan Mountain in the north down to Jirisan Mountain in the south). Then, on a bus to Danyang, a small town set in the beautiful surroundings.

Time permitting, stop at Dodam Sambong Rocks. According to the most widely known story, these rocks represent the typical love triangle of ancient Korea: a husband, his wife and his mistress.

Day 11 Cheongpoung - Pyeongchang - Seoraksan (B) 250km
On the way to Seoraksan national park, stop off at Pyeongchang for a visit of the 7th century Woljeongsa temple. Enshrined in the Main Hall is a statue of Sakyamuni, but the more important statue is a Bodhisattva, 1.8 meters high, probably a Medicine Bodhisattva. Said to have been found in the Diamond Pond to the south of the temple, the statue is offering something. The head is covered with a hat, the face is long and the ears are slightly hidden by long hair. Around the neck there are three lines which are so beautifully carved hat they look like necklaces. The elbow is resting on the head of a young boy. Next to the Bodhisattva is an octagonal nine-story pagoda which stands 15.2 meters high and is representative of the many-angled, many-storied stupas of the Goryeo Period. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter road arched by 1,700 tall fir trees. You will stroll the path listening to the trickles of stream and smelling the fresh yet musky fir trees. You are treated to a scenic drive along the Jingogae road creating wonderful colors as the season changes - Pink azaleas decorating the valleys, the thick forest and crystal clear stream water cooling off the summer heat, the fantastic autumn foliage putting on a brilliant show of color and the snow creating a sublime scenery.

Drive past Gisamun beach, in the middle of which runs the 38th parallel north latitude that divided the country in 1945. Tucked away in a small village, the beach is rather unpopular to casual vacationers while popular among surfers, being one of the best five winter surfing spots in Korea. The water runs deep and the beach has high waves that approach the shore in a straight line without breaking up into small waves.

Seoraksan national park with its rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the best scenery on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year. The spring brings full of blooms and the summer creates lush green slopes and crystal clear streams tumbling over the cataracts. Fall changes foliage into brilliant colors and even in the winter, the snow blankets the hushed landscape, bringing serenity and a quiet beauty.

Day 12 Seoraksan (B)
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Entering park and past one-pillared gate, you will see a huge Unification Buddha that was built to symbolize the Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. The statue sits on a lotus pedestal, which is flanked with 16 inscribed panels describing the entire path of Buddha's enlightenment. A little further on is Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple that sits at a fork in the scenic trails.

Signs are well established and there is a constant flow of people coming and going from the hiking trails. Following the left fork leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. You will follow the path along this valley which is most well-known for its breathtaking view.

Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang Cave with a tinytemple inside. The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of this peak, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for 600m. Even though there are stairs with guardrail the climb up can still be steep and exhausting. You can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley.

The right fork is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century in front of which on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Next, your adventure begins by climbing a steep metal stairs that angle up Ulsan Bawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky from the rock's base.

Biryong waterfall trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will see a very pretty waterfall at the end that is fairly unusual, long and thin. And for non hikers, there is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong while enjoying the panoramic view of the entire valley. The peak is surrounded by cavernous drop-off cliffs, cloaked in more towering rocky summits. Definitely, you stand in awe on the top: sweeping panoramic views of the park around you, the Pacific Ocean, and the small beachside town of Sokcho. Be careful as always as there is not much room to move about and people constantly going up and down and moving around.

Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230m) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
1. Biryong waterfall (310m) (4.8km): 2 hours - Easy
2. Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours - Easy
3. Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 3 hours and 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
4. Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 6 hours and 30 minutes - Easy
5. Heundeulbawi (797m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Easy
6. Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810m) (7.6km): 4 hours 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
7. Gwongeumseong (800m) Cable car (3.4km): 1 hour (roughly four minutes each up and down)

Day 13 Seoraksan - Geojin - Hwajinpo - Goseong - Seoul (B) 320km
On the way to Seoul, stop at Geojin where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. As you stroll down the fishing port, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, fishermen tending their nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle.

Head on to Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and see Kim Ilsung villa. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South. The villa displays photos of Kim Ilsung and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. The visit is not to glorify him but to know Korea's complicated modern history.

Travel in to the northern tip of the east coast to see Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps comprising large lumps of concrete set on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country. These structures will interlock and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. Once there, you will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched side by side ahead across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands.


Day 14 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.

Drive Korea (A) 18 days

Tour Highlights
Gyeongbokgung Palace National Folklore Museum Insa-dong Gwangjang Market N Tower Hwaseong Fortress Yeongneung Tomb Silleuksa Seoraksan National Park Unification Observatory Kim Ilsung Village Geojin Fishing Village Naksansa Gangneung Museum Gyeongpodae Beach Chamsori Museum North Korean Submarine Jeongdongjin Hwanseongul Cave Coal Museum Buseoksa Sosu Seowon Ginseng Market Jebiwon Buddha Andong Folk Museum Hahoemaeul Village Beopjusa Gongju National Museum Songsanri Tombs Gungnamji Pond Jeongrimsa Pagoda Buyeo National Museum Busosan Fortress Nakhwaam Gwanchoksa Ganggyeong Jeonju Hanok Village Geumsansa Naejangsa Soswaewon Unjusa Tea Plantation Songgwangsa Hwaeomsa Gwanghallu Haeinsa Goryeong Tumuli Museum Daegaya Museum Seokguram Bulguksa Gyeongju National Museum Anapji Pond Banwolseong Fortress Seokbingo Cheomseongdae Tumuli Park Yangdongmaeul Village Homigot Promontory Lighthouse Museum Gameunsa Pagodas Tomb of King Munmu Tongdosa UN Memorial Cemetery Jagalchi Fish Market Gukjesijang Busan Modern History Museum Gwandeokjeong Dongmun Market Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum Samseonghyeol Hyeopje Beach Hallim Park Sanbangsan Cheonjeyeon Waterfall Jisatgae Oedolgae Cheonjiyeon Waterfall Manjang Cave Haenyeo Museum Seongsan Ilchulbong Seongeup Folk Village Sangumburi Crater Stone Park



Driving in Korea (Right hand traffic)

It is indeed an exciting yet frustrating experience driving yourself. All roads are paved and well maintained. They are marked in both Korean and English, so it is not so difficult as it could be to find your destination. One key to successful driving in Korea is to have a map and navigation.

Please keep the followings in mind while driving in Korea
- You must be over 21 years of age
- Always carry your international driver license
- Children often raise their hands in the air as they cross the street. They would cause automobile to stop
- Whenever space is provided, they often cut in which is most frustrating
- Do not drive on the lane permanently marked in blue paint. It is reserved for public buses
- Some drivers seldom yield the right-of-way, much less of giving way to traffic already in a circle, and are in their inimitable aggressive style and have little or no respect for lane markings The given distances and time of travel are estimated figures for your guideline purpose

Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -) 60km
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.

Day 2 Seoul (B)
You will explore Korea's capital city that is full of rich heritage, culture, history and tourist attractions. Your exploration will begin with a driving tour of the city featuring sites such as the Gwanghwamun Plaza and a statue of Yi Sunsin, who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles against Japan and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). The statue of King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is honored with prominent statue in this plaza.

Enjoy a city tour with such highlight as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness and see its magnificent gates, graceful architectures and lovely gardens, all directly inherited from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Built in 1395, the palace is a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history.

Standing majestically in the whirl of city traffic is Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the palace. Following two other gates up, you will get to the Geungeongjeon, a throne hall where the king granted audiences to his officials, presided over large official functions and met foreign envoys. The two-tier edifice stands on a high platform reached by stone steps. At the center of the stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters is lined with two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall and where the court officials are to stand. At the back of this hall is a group of three offices; Manchunjeon, Sajeongjeon, and Cheonchujeon where the king used to meet with his top officials. Gyeonghoeru literally Pavilion of Joyous Meeting, supported by 48 stone pillars set in a lotus pond, was a favored place for the King to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Gangnyeongjeon, a king's main residing quarters with its fourteen chambers, rests on top of a tall stone foundation while Gyotaejeon, the queen's domain with ten chambers sits in the back of the king's quarters. The noted feature of these buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge. You cannot miss Amisan Garden landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks and decorative roof tiles, and artistic patterns of brick on the walls of queen's quarters which are seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall of Jagyeongjeon, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.

Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion and is one of the famous sites in the palace. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded in the early morning of 8 October 1895 when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro. The assassins killed three court women suspected of being Empress Myeongseong. When they confirmed that one of them was the Empress, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion.

Then learn about the cultural wealth of this friendly and picturesque nation at National Folklore Museum showcasing life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon Dynasty.

You will have time to stroll down the cobblestone walkways and admire upscale art galleries and antique shops in Insa-dong, which is a unique area of Seoul that truly represents the traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district are numerous shops dealing antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean arts of all types and styles. A number of galleries also vie for attention with their exhibitions of works by modern artists. Here, you will look for some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure.

Explore Gwangjang Market, one of few markets retaining traditional Korean atmosphere. From the entrance of the market, you can smell the mouth-watering flavors of fried snacks. Along the alley, the street stalls selling simple and cheap treats line up, clouds of smoke billow out from the boiling pans and diverse types of pancakes sizzle on hot iron grills. See a side of regular Seoul life and try out some sorts of Korean snacks. There are roadside vendors hawking everything from food, fruits, vegetables to seafood, as well as new buildings offering designer fashion, accessories, colorful silks and so much more.

Near the market is Cheonggyecheon stream that tumbles gently through downtown Seoul. Restoration work began in 2003 to free the stream from the layers of concrete and roadways that had covered it since 1958. Opened in 2005, a 5.8km-long serene stream with nearly two dozen overhead bridges provides a much needed source of peace and relaxation for the citizens.

And a block away from the market is Dongdaemun which once served as the east gate of Seoul. Originally built in 1398 and called Heunginjimun literally Gate of Uplifting Mercy, it sits in a low and flat region of Seoul in that the gate was an easy target for invaders. To compensate for this topographic weakness, a semicircular fortress which extends beyond the arched gateway was constructed, providing a narrow entranceway to the gate.

Later enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul over at N Tower observatory. Perched on top of Namsan Mountain at 243m high, the tower measures 236.7m in height from the base and tops out at 479.7m above sea level. It is the absolute best place to enjoy the most enthralling vistas of Seoul. Near the tower base, you cannot possibly miss time capsule. Buried in 1985 under 15m of the ground, it holds 466 relics representing contemporary Korean lifestyle and culture. The capsule is scheduled to open five hundred years later in 2485. There are thousands of Love Padlocks hanging from all sides, overwhelming the wire fence, without their keys to symbolize that their love for each other is forever. Furthermore, Love Trees made of hundreds of
locks are quite a sight to behold.


Day 3 Seoul - Suwon - Yeoju - Ganseong - Seoraksan (B) 280km
Pick up your car by signing a rental car agreement. Drive to Suwon to see Hwaseong Fortress from the 18th century. Although relatively small in scale, from the 18th century. Although relatively small in scale, 5.74km in length and the fortress wall averages 9m high, its bulwark of stone and brick is considered the masterpiece of Korean fortress construction. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its unique value, the fortress is parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates, lofty observation towers, command posts, floodgates, sentry posts, gate guard platforms, crossbow platforms, beacon tower, and secret gates leading down to the dark labyrinths. The two remaining observation tower named Gongsimdon, meaning "tower with empty interior", are among the most distinctive structures among all facilities of the fortress. A walk through the whole fortress could take several hours but it is well worth making a short walking tour to enjoy the splendor of the fortress.

On to Yeoju to see Yeongneung. It is one of 119 royal tombs of Joseon dynasty. The tombs have different names of 42 Neung, 13 Won and 64 Myo, which were given based on the status of their owner. Yeongneung is a tomb of royal couple of King Sejong, who promulgated Korean Alphabet in the 15th century. This tomb is the first one to have separated rooms for each coffin inside. First, you will enjoy seeing the celestial globes, equilibrium sundial, armillary sphere, water clock, gnomon, rain gauge, and many other inventions by the king including a fascinating museum that features his life. The entrance to this tomb is phenomenal. You enter through an avenue of trees and climb up to the tomb. Near the tomb and all around it are life-sized statues of warriors and horses, put here to protect the King. UNESCO bestowed the honor to the 40 Joseon Dynasty Royal Tombs in Korea as World Heritage sites.


Stop at Silleuksa Temple from the Silla dynasty (BC 57-AD 935). Most Korean temples were built high in the mountains to avoid worldly noise and trouble. But, it is a rare temple that is perched on a riverbank amid an attractive waterfront whose cove forms a snug and cosy enclosure for this ancient sanctuary. Incense burning in the temple and sights and smells mixed offer visitors a really magical experience. The temple houses Amitabha Buddha, Samantavhadra, the Boddhisattva of Practice, and Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Enshrined in the Judgement hall are Ksitigarbha and the ten kings of the Hell. Attending the kings are various servants and behind them are the pictures of the different hells with their tortures. To the east of the monastery is a hill on which a seven-story brick pagoda stands. It is a 9.4 meters high and is the only existing Goryeo brick pagoda (918-1392).

Then, head on to Seoraksan national park. The rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the best scenery on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year. The spring brings full of blooms and the summer creates lush green slopes and crystal clear streams tumbling over the cataracts. Fall changes foliage into brilliant colors and even in the winter, the snow blankets the hushed landscape, bringing serenity and a quiet beauty.

Day 4 Seoraksan - Goseong - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Seoraksan (B) 140km
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Entering park and past one-pillared gate, you will see a huge Unification Buddha that was built to symbolize the Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. The statue sits on a lotus pedestal, which is flanked with 16 inscribed panels describing the entire path of Buddha's enlightenment. A little further on is Sinheungsa which claims as the Korea's oldest Zen temple that sits at a fork in the scenic trails.

Signs are well established and there is a constant flow of people coming and going from the hiking trails. Following the left fork leads you to Cheonbuldong valley, the most impressive valley in the park, leading to Biseondae, Yangpok waterfalls and finally the peak of Seoraksan (1,708m). One hears many legends of the heavenly nymphs who come down to play at Biseondae while taking a bathe in the placid pools of the valleys that are hidden from the human eyes. You will follow the path along this valley which is most well-known for its breathtaking view.

Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang Cave with a tiny temple inside. The trail maintains a relatively gentle slope until reaching the base of this peak, where it immediately turns arduous as it heads up a very steep incline for 600m. Even though there are stairs with guardrail the climb up can still be steep and exhausting. You can scale only by carefully ascending the long, steep, metal stairs bolted onto the sheer cliff face. The hike, although hard, comes with a stunning view of numerous cliffy peaks and mountain valley.

The right fork is Ulsan Bawi trail. At the foot of the Ulsan Bawi sits Gyejoam hermitage from the 7th century in front of which on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeul Bawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Next, your adventure begins by climbing a steep metal stairs that angle up Ulsan Bawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky from the rock's base.

Biryong waterfall trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will see a very pretty waterfall at the end that is fairly unusual, long and thin. And for non hikers, there is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong while enjoying the panoramic view of the entire valley. The peak is surrounded by cavernous drop-off cliffs, cloaked in more towering rocky summits. Definitely, you stand in awe on the top: sweeping panoramic views of the park around you, the Pacific Ocean, and the small beachside town of Sokcho. Be careful as always as there is not much room to move about and people constantly going up and down and moving around.

Among the recommendable trails from Sogongwon or park entrance (230m) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
1. Biryong waterfall (310m) (4.8km): 2 hours - Easy
2. Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours - Easy
3. Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 3 hours and 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
4. Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 6 hours and 30 minutes - Easy
5. Heundeulbawi (797m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Easy
6. Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (base elevation 810m) (7.6km): 4 hours 30 minutes - Easy + Normal
7. Gwongeumseong (800m) Cable car (3.4km): 1 hour (roughly four minutes each up and down)

Afternoon, eursion to the most northern tip of the east coast, visit the Unification Observatory. It was established in 1983 to console pains of division, nostalgia and inscribe unification will. With the entry permit and sign to place in the vehicle window ready, you continue towards the north, driving past lots of tank traps sat on either side of the road, all a strange and eerie reminder of the tensions that exist between the two Koreas and the stark reality of the divided country. These structures will interlock and create a road block to prevent an advance of the North's tanks and artillery vehicles into the South. Here, you will get a glimpse of the much talked about border dividing the two Koreas and see the road and train track stretched side by side across the North Korea, and soldiers patrolling the beach as well as some nearby islands.

Head on to Hwajinpo, a charming coastal town located near the military demarcation line and by the scenic lagoon edged by sweetbriers and reeds, and see Kim Ilsung villa. Situated at the foot of a small mountain by the beach, it is where Kim Ilsung and his family spent their summer holidays until 1950. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South. The villa displays photos of Kim Ilsung and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. The visit is not to glorify him but to know Korea's complicated modern history.

Your tour continues through Geojin where the quaint charm of this coastal town captivates every visitor. As you stroll down the fishing port, you will take in the view of boats sailing in and off, drying fishes in the sun, fishermen tending their nets and, on the sleepy roadsides off the dock, elderly women selling fishes - a delightful treat to a rural lifestyle.

You may want see Daepohang. It becomes a great attraction when this small alley lit up. As you stroll, you will see a wide variety of fresh seafood harvested from the nearby sea and a number of small restaurants serving sliced raw fish. You will find something to enjoy, from simply feeling the ambiance of this small fishing port to taking picture.

Day 5 Seoraksan - Naksan - Pyeongchang - Gangneung - Jeongdongjin - Samcheok (B) 240km
The day is still pretty packed. A short drive leads you to the 7th century Naksansa temple. You will first notice an arched stone gate topped by an elegant wooden pavilion. In April 2005, the temple with all the surroundings was burned to the ground. Today, 12 temple buildings and facilities were restored. A main hall is a splendid tribute to Avalokitesvara. Exquisitely decorated, the hall is full of statues of the Bodhisattva in various poses, and you will see many forms that Avalokitesvara takes. You will also see a 6.2 meter-tall seven-story stone pagoda from the 15th century.

Built on the edge of the cliff, Hongryeonam is among the popular spots in the temple. There is a cap on the floor-open it for an unimaginable sight. You can see the surging waves constantly and mercilessly crushing against the cliff. The sound of waves crashing goes up into the temple and the fresh sea air also fills the temple. Near hermitage is Uisangdae pavilion perched on top of a cliff by the sea, where Uisang used to sit and meditate. Near the temple is Naksan beach which is more personal and less pretentious.

Your drive continues to Pyeongchang for a visit of the 7th century Woljeongsa temple.
You are treated to a scenic drive along the 35km long Jingogae road creating wonderful colors as the season changes - Pink azaleas decorating the valleys, the thick forest and crystal clear stream water cooling off the summer heat, the fantastic autumn foliage putting on a brilliant show of color and the snow creating a sublime scenery. Enshrined in the Main Hall is a statue of Sakyamuni, but the more important statue is a Bodhisattva, 1.8 meters high, probably a Medicine Bodhisattva. Said to have been found in the Diamond Pond to the south of the temple, the statue is offering something. The head is covered with a hat, the face is long and the ears are slightly hidden by long hair. Around the neck there are three lines which are so beautifully carved hat they look like necklaces. The elbow is resting on the head of a young boy. Next to the Bodhisattva is an octagonal nine-story pagoda which stands 15.2 meters high and is representative of the many-angled, many-storied stupas of the Goryeo Period. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter road arched by 1,700 tall fir trees. You will stroll the path listening to the trickles of stream and smelling the fresh yet musky fir trees.

Then, onto Gangneung, a charming coastal city and the home of the famous Confucian scholar Yi Yulgok (1536-1584), who emphasized the primacy of 'Ki' (vital force), claiming it was the controlling agent and prime mover of 'I' (reason). He said 'I' was generated by'Ki' and so 'Ki' was responsible for the generation, maintenance, and purification of the values of the mind. He lived with his mother, Sin Saimdang. Sin Saimdang was not only an ideal daughter, wife, and mother, but also a talented painter, calligrapher, and poet and as such, she is the most widely acclaimed woman of the Joseon Dynasty. Today, his home, Ojukheon, is the most popular landmark of Gangneung. The Gangneung Museum in the same precinct of Ojukheon is an excellent facility displaying 3,000 objects of prehistoric age and folk arts and Dano festival in diorama. Gyeongpodase is a charming beach loved by many. There is a Chamsori museum featuring 170 phonographs, some of which are invented by Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931) himself and several other antique items.

Drive on to North Korean submarine. This submarine was wrecked in the nearby coastal waters on the 18th of September, 1996. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land while the others were on standby in the submarine. The leader of the three gave a signal to the colleagues in the submarine and then ordered them to closer to the seashore. While approaching, it was washed away by the waves and driven on to the rock. Eventually, they abandoned any attempt to find their way back. They set a fire inside the submarine in order for destruction of evidence such as confidential information and documents, and escaped from it. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and all guerrillas were mopped out; one was captured alive, 13 spies were shot and 11 were murdered by their colleagues. The salvaged submarine is on display together with retired Korean navy ship.

Enjoy a stop at Jeongdongjin, a tiny fishing village located by the ocean directly east of Seoul and where you find a quaint railway station of being the closest to the ocean anywhere in the world, a huge hour-glass that measures a full year and a very surreal cruise liner hotel on top of a cliff.

Explore Hwanseongul Cave. The legend has it that long time ago, a monk came to this cave to meditate but no one ever saw him came out. People thought that he became a hermit, thus it was named Hwanseongul. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office, you will come to a cave entrance of overwhelming size in the middle of the mountain. The cave itself is super massive and it would take well over one hour to explore. Be prepared for wet walkways, maneuvered up a narrow corridor with a rapidly flowing creek below it and hung off the side of the cave's walls above the creek. In the stream near the entrance, many salamanders are living. The walls spout water from innumerable cracks and seeps, which join to make good-sized streams, waterfalls and pools. Several tributary streams merge into one that flows out through the entrance. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor; this cave is truly a high-energy cave. Only 1.6km open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. The main sights are various speleothems, popcorn calcite, calcite crystals, royal throne, waterfalls, flowstones, and curtains. Along the walls of the cave often time a phenomenon known as cave coral, and pockets up on the ceilings could be spotted. One of the most popular sights in the cave is this hollowed out rock formation shaped like a heart. Then, follow a rope suspension bridge over an extremely deep chasm, leading you to the second main chamber. Later down one of the side chambers is an unusual rock formation that looks like the Virgin Mary. And, on a side trail, you will go around a rock formation known as the Great Wall. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or shopping in the store for souvenirs.

Day 6 Samcheok - Taebaek - Buseok - Punggi - Andong (B) 240km
Stop off at Taebaek to see a Coal Museum followed by Buseoksa, the temple of the floating stone. It is a bit out of the way, but worth the trip. It was established in 676 by the monk Uisang after he had returned from China, bringing with him the teachings of Hwaeom Buddhism. 108 steps that symbolize 108 sufferings and evil passions lead visitors to the main hall - Muryangsujeon, the second-oldest wooden structure in Korea. Enshrined here is the 7th century Amitabha Buddha with the earth-touching and evil-expelling hand posture. A stone lantern made during Unified Silla period stands in the front and to the west of the hall, at the bottom of a steep bluff, there is a legendary floating stone. To the east is a three-story pagoda behind which is a pavilion dedicated to the Chinese girl who, in the form of a dragon, helped Master Uisang. In addition, the temple has many treasures, stone pagodas, the flagpole supports, the Goryeo wood-blocks, the stupa in which the remains of famous monks are kept, and some of the mural paintings which have survived Korea's turbulent history.

Visit Sosu Seowon. It is the first private institute established in Korea, and was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars. It was established by Ju Se-bung in 1543 and named Baekundong Seowon. The compound itself is composed of two sections; academic studies and research, and memorial service. There are several old buildings where scholars learned and studied loyalty, filial piety, manners and knowledge. The institute has a Shrine, which was built to enshrine An Yang, An Bo, An Chuk and Je Se-bung, where a memorial service takes place twice a year on the first day of the third and ninth months by the lunar calendar.

While in Punggi, see ginseng market. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. There are also many shops along the street leading out from the painfully quiet train station. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. All these features mixed offer a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.

You may also want to see Ichon-dong Stone Buddha or Jebiwon Buddha. The awe-inspiring Buddha statue stands guard over the northern entrance way to Andong for nearly 1000 years, in the southeastern foothills of Cheondeung-san. The 2.43-meter-high head of granite Meitreya Buddha rests on top of a 9.95-meter-high and 7.72-meter-wide stone outcropping engraved with the Buddha's body. It's a relief-carving of the body on a sheer boulder-side, under a 3D-carved head made from a natural stone found on top of that cliff. It is now cared-for by a small temple tucked below and behind it. After the tour, head to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects.

Day 7 Andong - Songnisan (B) 140km
The day's drive is relatively short, but a bit heavy indeed. A common way to get to Songnisan national park from Hahoe is Pungsan - Yecheon - Mungyeong - Sangju - Songnisan. First you take No. 34 to Mungyeong. Then, switch No. 45 expressway at Jeomchon Hamchang interchange and head on to Sangju or Masan direction till you get to Nakdong interchange. Here you take No. 30 experssway to Cheongwon direction. Your exit is Songnisan. The tour of the day could include Andong Folk Museum offering in-depth information of traditional life and illustrates traditional Confucian culture. The museum exhibits a variety of legacies relating mainly to four cardinal ceremonies, coming of an age, wedding, funeral, ancestral memorial service, as well as dozens of pieces of pottery, utensils, clothing, farming tools and traditional folk games in small models.

Then, onto Hahoemaeul from the 15th century and was a home of noblemen. Nestled in a small bend in the Naktong River, it is the best preserved traditional village portraying and spanning the life of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and some 480 Korean traditional houses, both large and small, are still fully functioning. Unlike most Korean villages where all the houses face south, the dwellings in this community face in all directions each capturing a unique aspect.

Graced by raised gates representing the power and social status of the clan, the tile roofed Yangban houses stand serenely and impressively in the central part of the village. The two most significant structures are Yangjindang, the head house of the Ryu clan and Chunghyodang, the home to descendants of Ryu Seongryong who was a 16th-century scholar and prime minister. In contrast, the thatched roof huts of the common people encircle them. You cannot possibly miss an old zelkova tree, the home to the village spirit. At the tree's base is where residents still make their wishes. The village is also known for traditional festival, Hahoe Mask Dance which gave common people the opportunity to mock those in authority, and in particular the Byeolsingut, a shaman ritual exorcising evil spirits, dating back to the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). Another striking topographical feature of the village is Buyongdae cliff that rise 64-meters. It is where at one time the ruling class would conduct a poetry meeting as a traditional fireworks display would pop and crack above the river. The village has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their cultural  value. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this village on April 21, 1999.

Then journey onward to the Songnisan national park, weaving through the countryside with its rural vistas. The Songni literally means an "escape from vulgar". The tour passes through Maltijae, a 12 hairpin turn, and shortly thereafter leads you to a 600-year-old pine tree. Shaped like an open umbrella, it is 15 meters high with a girth of 4.5 meters. This tree was granted a ministerial title when it reportedly lifted its branches in order to let king's palanquin pass in the mid 15th century. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful.

See Beopjusa temple. Founded in AD 553, the temple boasts of three national treasures and numerous cultural assets. Palsangjeon that houses eight paintings of different stages of the Buddha's life is the five story wooden pagoda constructed in early 17th century, and is a very rare and unique Buddhist architectural structure. Gazing down at the Palsangjon is a 33 meter high and 160 ton Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the Future. The giant iron pot whose diameter is 2.7 meters that may well had been used to feed 3,000 priests in the early 12th century is on display in the temple courtyard. A stone carved lantern supported by twin stone lions standing face to face is a rare example of the magnificent Silla sculptures. A stone water cistern shaped like an open lotus flower is considered unique for beauty and design. This stone lotus blossom from the 8th century is supported by a round short stone carved like a mushroom. Nearby are two stone pillars which once held the temple banner pole. An excellent carved relief called Maaebul also can be seen.

The temple holds a Dharma bell striking ceremony at sunset. The bell, which almost all Korean temples are equipped with, is one of the four Dharma instruments together with Dharma drum, wooden fish, and cloud-shaped gong. Hearing it reverberating through the universe, you will reflect upon the profound symbolism of the instruments. It is a great vow to save, or enlighten the creatures in the universe including those on land, in the sea, in the air and in hell.

Day 8 Songnisan - Cheongwon - Gongju - Buyeo - Nonsan - Ganggyeong - Jeonju (B) 220km
Stop off at Gongju, a charming city once served as the Baekje's capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Visit Gongju National Museum and see a fascinating archeological artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong (501-524), one of the last rulers to reign in the capital of Gongju. Of those, 12 have been designated National Treasures.

Nearby Songsanri Tombs is a group of Baekje-period royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. Of the most important tomb is number 7, which belongs to King Muryeong (462-523) and his wife, the queen. The tomb was found completely intact since it was sealed in the early 6th century. The actual tomb was permanently closed, but you will see an excellent, albeit miniature duplicate.


Travel in to Buyeo, a melting pot of Baekje (BC18-AD660) culture and often regarded as the most artistically sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms, and see the Korea's oldest artificial pond Gungnamji dating back to 634. Built as a pleasure garden for the Baekje royal family, this circular pond ringed by bare-branched weeping willow trees create a colorful spectacle with its stock of water lotuses in summer. In the center of town, a stone Buddha image sitting on a stone pedestal and a five-storied stone pagoda standing tall on the ancient temple site of Jeongrimsa with the ruins of the lotus pond remain to recall the glory.

Visit Buyeo National Museum exhibiting a precious collection of cultural artefacts from the Baekje Kingdom, and you will marvel at the beautiful gilt bronze incense burner which measures 11.8Kg and 61.8cm high.

The incense burner is categorized by lid, bowl and pedestal stand. The top of the lid is capped with a phoenix, which appears as if it is ready to fly away, is holding a cintamani ball and, on the cover, 42 animals such as the phoenix, tiger, deer, and others are hanging about in the spaces among 74 mountain peaks thinly cast in five layers reaching the top. The lid is also ventilated with 10 holes to release the scent of the incense.

The bowl of the burner is shaped in the form of a blossoming lotus. The petals of the lotus also contain 2 human figures and 27 animals on the lateral surface including fish, heavenly beasts, and birds. Some of the animals rest between the lotus petals, while others are top.

The pedestal stand is in the shape of a dragon surrounded by a blowing bronze motif of clouds with its mouth supporting the base of the bowl, and its own tail is arched, giving the base a sense of movement.

Stroll up paths to Busosan to explore Baekje fortification. At the foot of the hill stands a small shrine called Samchungsa dedicated to Baekje's three loyal subjects; Gyebaek, Seongchung and Heungsu. At the top of the hill sits Yeongullu pavilion where the Baekje king once came to watch the sun rise over his kingdom.

A little further down the trail, you will see a pavilion called Baekhwajeong perched at the top of the rock. It was built in memory of the women of Baekje who jumped off the cliff on the last day of kingdom beside which locates Nakhwaam, literally meaning Falling Flower Rock, on a bluff overlooking the Geum River at the bend called Baekma. As enemies swarmed into the capital, the court ladies flung themselves into the water from this bluff rather than suffer the shame of submitting to atrocities of the conquering enemy armies. Below the bluff is a small temple, Goransa, which takes its name from crypsinus hastatus having medicinal properties that grows behind this temple.

Next, make your way to Gwanchoksa to see the Korea's largest free-standing stone Buddha image from the 10th century. It is an extraordinary statue with a head disproportionately large in relation to the body, and wearing a lofty mortar board hat on top of its headpiece with wind chimes hanging from its four corners. The image features seem jolly and complacent, though perhaps not so intended. Travel to Jeonju, a time-honored tradition as well as significant cultural and artistic heritage.

You may want to make a short detour to Ganggyeong. Visiting Ganggyeong is like stepping back into the past. As a historical experience, it's even more profound than other towns in the region. Ganggyeong's fame is a traditional salted seafood market. The market stocks both fresh seafood and salted seafood, which has been fermented at low temperatures. Today, the market accounts for half of the nation's total sales of salted seafood. As you stroll through the old downtown area, you will see a number of shops selling salted seafood and some of the old buildings; electric company office, banks, custom tailor shop, clinics, school, and labor union office recalling the glory days. The drive continues to Jeonju, a city of time-honored tradition as well as significant cultural and artistic heritage.

Day 9 Jeonju - Gimje - Damyang - Gwangju (B) 130km
Jeonju boasts a time-honored tradition as well as significant cultural and artistic heritage. You will explore Jeonju Hankok village, a Korean House complex retaining much of their perfection intact. Near the entrance of the complex stands Gyeonggijeon that holds the portrait of founder king of Joseon dynasty, featuring him seated in a magnificent red chair with three gold-foiled dragons on his royal blue robes. And on its front is a beautiful Jeondong Catholic church of Byzantine and Romanesque architectural design. Completed in 1914, it is one of the oldest and largest Western-style buildings in the region. It was designed by master church builder Victor Lousi Poisnel, the Norman priest whose work in Korea includes Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul. Just west of the church is the stately Pungnammun gate, where three Catholics paid for their religion with martyrdom on December 8, 1791, marking the first time in Korea.

Then on to Gimje for a visit of Geumsansa temple. It was the main temple for practicing the Maitreya faith during the Silla period. The Maitreya Buddha Hall is a three story wooden structure, a unique among Korean Buddhist halls. The first floor is Great Compassion Hall, the second of Dragon Flower Meeting and the third of Maitreya Hall. Enshrined in the hall is a huge Maitreya Buddha who is attended by Dharma Flower Grove Bodhisattva on his left and Great Wonderful Aspect Bodhisattva on his right.

Drop by Naejangsa temple. Nestled on the foot of Naejangsan mountain rising over a vast area offering spectacular scenery around year. A drive through a tunnel of wood is a great treat. The mountain is blessed with fancy rock formations, imposing waterfalls, deep valleys and gorgeous maple trees.

You cannot go anywhere without realizing the significance of bamboo in Damyang, which has always been one of the most admired plants in Korea - its tall, hight stems often likened to the unyielding spirit of a true gentlemen. Juknokwon, located near the city centre, is a theme park landscaped with bamboo. You will enjoy a path through a high bamboo forest and refreshing air in the winds that blow through the bamboo grove.

Damyang was once the home of Salim, the elite of the society and politics. They chose this area as a retreat for their tranquil lives, when they found no place to realize their aspiration under the absurdity and contradiction of the political realities. They made a companion with nature and wrote verse and prose, while disciplining themselves and teaching their disciples. One such example is Soswaewon, a Korean traditional garden from the 16th century. Its name implies a clean and transparent garden where the righteous enjoy the life of being content and taking pleasure of simple and honest life. Small valleys and natural stream have in them an ideal harmony between nature and man.

Day 10 Gwangju - Hwasun - Suncheon - Boseong - Nagan - Gurye (B) 150km
Then on to Hwasun and visit the 9th century Unjusa temple. Unjusa has a large number of rather crude stone Buddhas from about 1,200 years ago. There once stood one thousand Buddha images and stone pagodas which are said to have built overnight by Silla monk. At present, remain 93 Buddha images ranging from few centimeters to 10 meters high and 21 pagodas of unique shapes. The statues are sculptured in unorthodox, idiosyncratic, and abstract ways. You will see a stone Buddha carved out of a large boulder in the ground, claiming the largest Lying Stone Statues of Buddha in Korea.

The local road No. 29 leads you to Boseong known as the home of tea, hemp clothes and Sori or a Korean traditional genre of singing. As you make your way, you will see number of tea plantations where the carefully trimmed tea trees stretch endlessly over steep mountain slopes - a lush green carpet that is a sight to behold. There is a tea plantation delightfully accommodating visitors. A short walk along the path lined with cedar trees that had been planted to block the wind leads you to the tea plantation. The tea bushes rising in regular curves are great. Here, you will freely roam the hills, walk between the rows of bushes and take pictures of each other at every bend. In Korea, tea leaves are picked from early April until late August and Ujeon tea, made by tea leaves picked during the first plucking season in April is considered the best quality.

Next, Nagan fortress village surrounded by 1,410-meter long fortress which was built into a mud rampart in the 14th century to repel Japanese pirate raids. The village features about 280 traditional thatched roof houses are still functioning, making a peculiar townscape in harmony with the rectangular stone rampart. Part of the fortress wall arches over the hill and you will take in a great view of the entire village. You will see an entertaining part of the village with Dongheon and its prison. Dongheon was the main office in which governors, magistrates, and military commanding officers conducted their respective local administrative and judiciary affairs.

Following a local road No. 58 and 18, visit famous Songgwangsa, representing Buddha's followers, monks and laity. Sanggwansa is another temple, famous for being one of the three most important temples in Korea. In the Main Hall, the three main statues are the past Buddha, Dipankara, the present day Buddha Sakyamuni, and the future Buddha, Maitreya. Two bridges span a picturesque stream that flows in front of the temple entrance, the architecturally unusual. It is quite a trek to reach, but you will be rewarded with both a fabulous view of the surrounding foliage and some brilliant red and gold murals representing a range of religious figures.

Then, on to Gurye and visit the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the Virocana Buddha, the cosmic head of the Hwaeom trinity. First, One-Pillar Gate standing at the lower part greets you and leads you up to the second and the third gate - from the secular world into the spiritual world. On the second level, there is the Bojeru, the Save All Beings Hall, beside which stands bell and drum tower and two magnificent 5-story stone pagodas from Silla period. Gakhwangjeon has a double storied roof, and houses seven figures on its altar. Sakyamuni Buddha sits in the middle attended by Amitabha and Prabhytaratna, as well as Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Ksitigarbha.

A magnificent stone lantern and an impressive stone pagoda supported by four fierce looking lions adorn this hall. On the hill behind Gakhwangjeon stands the most uniquely designed three-story stone pagoda supported by four lions each of which represents the four primary human emotions: love, sorrow, anger, and joy. Here, you will enjoy the intricacies of this masterpiece as there are numerous other designs etched onto the pagoda.


Day 11 Gurye - Namwon - Gayasan - Goryeong - Gyeongju (B) 300km
On the way to Gayasan national park, you will stop off at Namwon, a charming city with many historical sites and tourist attractions. It is also famous as the home of Chunhyang, the faithful maiden whose story has been often compared to the Romeo and Juliet. At the center of the town is a park, in which stands Gwanghallu pavilion where Chunhyang and her lover are said to have first met and there is a bridge built on a pond that is supposed to ensure connubial bliss to any couple that steps on it.

Travel through a scenic countryside to Gayasan national park to see a magnificent Haeinsa temple from the 9th century, housing world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras. Haeinsa is one of the most important temples in Korea. They are Tongdosa, Heinsa, and Songgwansa, each of which represents Buddha, Dharma, and the community of followers or "sangha". The gate to the entrance is the Iljumun Gate which means "single pillar gate". It is the first gate to the Buddha's world temple. The gate symbolizes a true path of enlightenment which leads to the world of Buddha. One has to climb 108 stairs to the last building in the compound from the Iljumun gate. On each step one can renounce each of 108 worldly desires of the mind.

Following the stairs up, you will reach the main hall courtyard in the middle of which stands stone carved lantern and weathered stone pagoda. Within the main worship hall (Hall of Great Peace and Light), you will see Vairocana Buddha who is flanked on the left by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Wisdom, and on the right by Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassionate Action, along with other Bodhisattvas including Avalokitesvara, Virocana, Ksitigarbha and Dharmogata. Behind the statues are highly detailed and rather unusual wall paintings of the Buddha's life. And on the outside walls are a fair number of paintings portraying Buddhist stories.

At the back of this hall is another flight of steps that lead you up to a group of four depositories or Janggyeong Panjeon from the 15th century. The depositories house 81,258 wood-blocks of Tripitaka Koreana, an offering to the Buddha for national protection from the looming Mongol forces. The printing blocks are some 70cm wide, 24cm long and 2.8cm thick on the average. Each block has 23 lines of text, each with 14 characters, on each side. Each block thus has a total of 644 characters on both sides. Some 30 men carved the total of 52,382,960 characters in the clean and simple style. The characters are perfectly carved as if from the same hand. They were completed in 1251 after 16 years of work in Jeondeungsa temple on Ganghwado and were transported here for safekeeping. Two long depositories are designed to have natural ventilation by facing different size windows in the front and rear of the building.

The Mongol forces eventually took over the Goryeo Dynasty but the wooden blocks remain preserved today having survived other invasions, wars and fire. Even more amazing aspect is that neither birds built nests nor spiders make webs on these buildings. Tripitaka Koreana and Janggyeong Panjeon have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage for their artistic as well as religious value.


In order to control the temperature and humidity within the depositories and protect the Janggyeon Panjeon and woodblocks from fire, full-time security guards and a 24-hour surveillance system are in place. In addition, Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea decided to limit the public access to the whole Janggyeong Panjeon complex for 4 years from January 1, 2013 till December 31, 2016.

Next up is Goryeong Tumuli Museum. Located below the group of ancient tombs, it is a perfect replica of the Jisan-dong Tomb No. 44 itself, a large-scale living burial to be first discovered in Korea. Nearby Daegaya Museum exhibits a huge collection of artifacts excavated in Goryeong.

Late Afternoon, travel to Gyeongju, an ancient capital of Silla (BC57-AD935), often dubbed as Museum without Walls. Today, you are treated to one of the ten most historically significant sites in the world with ancient temples, weathered stone pagodas, royal tombs, Buddhist bas-reliefs, and fortress ruins.

Day 12 Gyeongju (B)
Explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seokguram grotto and Bulguksa temple which were both built during the glorious period of the Silla kingdom (BC57-AD935). After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 10 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to Seokguram grotto, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas-reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.

A short ride from the grotto is
Bulguksa temple. Following the one-pillared gate and the four guardian's gate, you will reach two double level arched stone staircases - the symbolic bridges, leaving the world of sufferings behind and to enter Buddha's land. Up from the bridges on the terraced main courtyard stands the Hall of Great Enlightenment. The hall houses Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the right by Kasyapa and Maitreya Bodhisattva and on the left by Dipankara and Ananda. Before this hall stands a stone carved lantern and two stone pagodas. Three-storied Seokgatap with its calm simplicity of lines and minimal decoration and Dabotap with highly ornate and the noted complexity of the universe stands blending well into the architectural harmony.

Currently, the Seokgatap pagoda is closed to the public as is under restoration. Unlike partial restorations that were carried out in 1024 and 1038, and more recently in 1966, it is the first full disassembly since the construction of the 8.2m pagoda in 742. Having started in September 2012, the restoration project will be completed by the end of 2014.

The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East.

Next, you will marvel at the priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, and clay figures as well as a royal barge in Gyeongju National Museum. A gigantic Emille Bell from the eighth century is on display and you must certainly stand in awe before the bell with such artistic beauty of design.

Enjoy a tour of Anapji, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, followed by a relaxed walking tour covering the ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress where Silla palace and eight fortress gates stood. There is a Seokbinggo, a freezer made of stones. Half of the structure is underground while the other half is above ground with three air vents on top. You can feel the cold oozing out of this simple structure. Near fortress is Gyerim, literally meaning Rooster Forest. It is a sacred woodland area where progenitor of the Gyeongju Kim family, Kim Alji, was supposed to have been born.

Then head to the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Each stone used in the observatory bears symbolic meaning; the same number of the days of the year by lunar calendar, the number of the major stars, the months of the year and the numbers of the seasonal divisions. Nearby Tumuli Park encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, is opened to the public and you can go inside and see how the tombs were made and replicas of the treasures excavated in 1973.

Near Gyeongju train station is a covered market, a classic example of the Korean market with lots of fresh vegetables, seafood, food stands and some textiles. You may also have a chance to see it.

Day 13 Gyeongju - Yangdong - Homigot - Gampo - Yangsan - Busan (B) 230km
Explore UNESCO World Heritage site of Yangdongmaeul, a traditional clan village which embraces simple, unadorned natural beauty. Sheltered by forested mountains and facing calm rivers and open fields, the rustic tile and thatch-roofed homes of this village are in perfect harmony with the natural topography. During the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), this village housed mostly middle upper-class families and contained over 150 homes as well as two shrines. These homes and shrines were built according to the harmonious theory of Yin and Yang and have been handed down from generation to generation in their original elegant forms.

Then, enjoy drive to Homigot, a cape jutting out into the Sea and one of the easternmost points on the Korean peninsula. What makes this place more unique and famous is a massive bronze sculpture of a hand stretching up from the water in a small cove. One stands in the middle of the plaza and the other one is partway into the sea. The palms of the hands face each other, symbolizing harmony and coexistence. Homigot serves every year as a gathering place for thousands to greet Korea's first sunrise of the New Year.

Near the sculptures sits Light House Museum, featuring 3,500 items used in the early days of Korea's lighthouse history along with numerous tourist shops, seafood restaurants, peddler tents and the likes.

Head on to Gampo to see twin pagodas on ancient temple site of Gameunsa dedicated to the Dragon Spirit of King Munmu (626-681). The immense pagodas have a three-story body on a two-tier foundation. Stair step effects are seen under the eaves of the roof while the roof line has a gentle slope and is comparatively broad-brimmed. You will marvel at the true masterpieces of Korean architecture.

About 200 meter off the coast is an unusual underwater tomb of King Munmu. The king wished his body to be cremated and buried at sea so he can protect his kingdom even after his death as a spirit of the sea. In the center of the calm sea a large rock marks the king's burial site. About 20m long rocky islet has a small pond at the center and at the bottom is a granite stone of 3.6m long, 2.9m wide and 0.9m high. At low tide, the top of this oval rock is almost visible above the sea surface.

Stop at Tongdosa temple, literally meaning 'pass through to enlightenment'. The approach to the temple is completely entrancing. Magnificently set by a lane of pine trees dancing in the wind and beside which a mountain stream sings a babbling song, a distinctive and exalting place. Tongdosa was founded in AD 646 and is comprised of 35 buildings. The main hall is unique in that it does not contain a statue of the Buddha, but rather a window looking out onto the Diamond Precepts Altar. This altar leads up to a platform with a bell-shaped stupa that contains the cremated remains of the Buddha himself, thus earning a name the Temple of the Buddha. The Diamond Precept Altar is a unique and elaborately-built artifact.

With time to visit, head to Busan, Korea's second largest city surrounded by the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. Its deep harbor and gentle tides have allowed it to grow into the largest port in Korea and the fifth largest in the world. It is also a center of industry and commerce, a thriving metropolis formed unusually long in shape along its coastal line.

Your Busan city tour will begin with a visit to the UN memorial cemetery where 2,300 deceased soldiers from sixteen Korean War allies rest in honored serenity. Learn about the Korean War and pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives to the World Peace. During the period of 1951-1954, remains of approximately 11,000 fallen of the UN Forces were buried here. Thereafter, most were repatriated to their home countries. It is the permanent home of war heroes of the following nations. Australia (281), Canada (378), France (44), Netherlands (117), New Zealand (34), Norway (1), South Africa (11), Republic of Korea (36), Turkey (462), United Kingdom (885), USA (36), Unknown soldiers (4), Non-belligerents (11).

Then return your car upon check in and explore the city at own. The following attractions are centered on one complex and can be explored easily on foot.

Then explore fascinating Jagalchi fish market. Located on the downtown docks, this bustling market
offers a wide variety of fish including sea bream, sea bass, snapper, saury, pollack, halibut, corvina, cutlass fish, mackerel, octopus, sea squirt, cuttlefish, frogfish, flounder, abalone, crab, shells, to name just a few, and a flexible pricing system, which makes it a big draw among locals and visitors alike. There are also many restaurants selling sliced raw fish at reasonable prices. Trying them here in the market is really a visual and culinary treat.

Neighboring block is BIFF square, packed with trendy shops movie theaters and even a walk of fame where famous stars and directors have pressed their handprints into the sidewalk.
A little further on is Gukjesijang where thousands of shops spill out into the busiest districts of Busan and a variety of items, including folk art, bags, clothes, food, kitchen utensils, and more are available at very reasonable prices. Discover all that local merchants have to offer, while enjoying the ambience of this massive market.

Nearby Busan Modern History Museum is worth a visit. The building which houses the Busan Modern History Museum, built in 1929, was once used by the Japanese Oriental Development Company to implement Japanese economic policies that dominated Korea. After Korea's liberation it was used as U.S. Army barracks and later, the US Information Service. The museum portrays the history of Busan from the late 19th century to modern-day including the opening of the port in 1876, Japans' exploitation of Busan under Colonial Rule, Busan's transformation into a modern city, and the relationship between Korea and the U.S. The museum also contains photographs of Korean life of the past century.

You may wan
t to see Yongdusan park, located at the head of a steep slope that looks over the city and harbor in a breathtaking view. The most conspicuous is the 120m high Busan tower topped by an observatory dominating the most of the area of the city, and the harbor views spreading below are spectacular. And smack dab in the middle of the park stands the statue of Yi Sunsin, the Korea's greatest naval hero who is credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. In the park's octagonal pavilion, you cannot help but appreciate the collection of countless musical instruments from basically every part of the world: The instruments included the accordion, organ, guitar, viola, flute, violin, clarinet, drums, ivory horn, balafon, marimbas, and several others.

Day 14 Busan - Jeju (B) 340km
At own transfer to Gimhae domestic airport. An hour flight places you in the most famous of the 3,300 islands of Korea. Jejudo, once a place of exile for those who fell out of favor with the Korean Court, has today become the most popular tourist destination. The balance of the day at own pursuit. However the following option can be best explored.

Upon check in, explore the city at your own. Your walking tour may cover Gwandeokjeong, the oldest building in Jeju which was previously the site of government offices in the period of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). On its front stand two Dolharubang figures serving as fertility and protective totems. Both statues have protruding eyes, bulbous nose, tightly closed lips and a phallic symbol head under the brimmed hat. Both arms are bent at the elbow, hands resting above and below a rotund stomach. Many couples and visitors as well come here, each standing to either side, to have their pictures taken with their hands on its nose. A group of buildings in the neighborhood is a restored Mokgwana, which has been the hub of local administration since Tamna period, and you also explore them today.

Dongmunsijang, grown up in the old city center. It is a mix of a covered and an open-air bazaar that is full of cloths, souvenirs, food, distinct smells, and people. In addition, you will find mounds of colorful peppers and spices, enormous heads of grinning whole pigs' heads and an endless variety of fishes, and elderly women with machetes hacking at fresh fish and packaging it for customers.

Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum. At the entrance, you cannot possibly miss the fancy looking volcano bombs. The museum is an excellent facility featuring a significant collection of crafts, tools and equipment as well as geological features, marine organism, plants, animals and minerals native to Jeju Island - the perfect way to learn about the history and culture of Jeju. In the folklore exhibition hall, you can experience the traces of Jeju's ancestors with traditional thatched houses, boats, agricultural tools, and a variety of other implements used by women divers who live a hard life diving for seafood. Outdoor exhibition is highlighted by millstones, grave guards, tombstones and various stone tools used for daily living. With all these features combined, the tour gives you a fascinating insight into the tenacious and independent lifestyle of Jeju islanders.

A short walk from the museum is Samseonghyeol literally three clan hole, a very symbolic spot to the islanders. According to legend, it was here that three demigods emerged from the holes in the ground to become the founding fathers of Tamna and its people. There is an exhibition hall where you can trace the birth of Jeju. In 1526, an altar was built and wall was erected around the holes, and the descendants began offering spring and autumn memorial services. Since that time, they continue to uphold the traditions and still perform twice a year on the 10th of April and October. Even more amazing aspect is that moisture from rain and snow do not penetrate the holes and the surrounding old trees face them at an angle as if they are worshiping three founders.


Day 15 Jeju (B) 140km
Start your morning with a stop at Hyeopjae beach and view the jade-green color sea creating a location of picture-postcard beauty especially with the striking view of Biyangdo off the coast. Across the street from the beach, tour the Hallim Park to explplore subtropical botanical garden offering a variety of experiences. The park holds many exotic flowers and plants, as well as colorful cacti and fruit trees. Two mysterious caves located inside the park are among the few lava tubes in the world having stalagmites and stalactites.


Next up is Sanbangsan, a magnificent trachyte cone abruptly rising 395 meters by the sea that lacks crater on its summit. As you approach, you will enjoy a breathtaking view of sheer rock of this mysterious hump in the distance. There are lovely temples on the lower grounds with a golden Buddha statue and a series of prayer wheels. A short climb up the steep slopes of Sanbangsan brings you to the tiny cubbyhole of the 10 meter cave with a small pool and a stone Buddha surrounded by burning candles. The grotto's aura is enchanting with the welcoming scent of incense hanging heavily and the sound of water steadily dripping into the pool. The views from the grotto over the coastal fields, offshore islands, and the ocean are absolutely stunning.

Tide permitting, you may explore Yongmeori Coast, a tuff ring outcropping into the sea showing the sedimentary structure of volcanic ash that was formed from hydrovolcanic eruptions. Following a steep natural staircase down, you will come across the rippled cliffs of brown and gray stone appeared to undulate towards and away from you. The contours of the high cliffs are unique, and their appearance is also interesting. This rare cliff formation along the coastal line, taking a shape of a dragon with its head up plunging into the ocean, offers a fascinating view with its seaside promenade of soaring, weather-blown cliffs along with the sea caves, vertical joints, bluffs and hollows.

The Dutch ship was wrecked nearby coastal waters on August 16, 1653 and of the 64 crewmembers only 36 survived. A duplicate of Dutch East India Company VOC-ship, The Sperwer with its rare exhibits, is on display on the dry land and the Hendrick Hamel Monument was erected where he came ashore. He was the first Western to write about Korea "The Journal of Hendrick Hamel" the improbable adventures of the surviving crewmembers of The Sperwer, giving the first detailed description of Korea that was unknown land to Europe.

Stop at
Cheonjeyeon waterfall cascading in three different stages. The first waterfall cascades down a cliff 22 meters and plunges into a deep Cheonjeyeon pond from where water goes to the second waterfall and falls 30 meters and continues to the third waterfall. Up from Cheonjeyon Falls is a large arch bridge, having 7 fairies carved on the side, allowing visitors a spectacular view of the falls. During the winter months, this waterfall may be nothing more than a mere trickle, but the nature itself is still beautiful.


A short ride from the fall is Jisatgae, the spectacular 1km stretch of coastline with hexagonal rock columns, bizarre formations resulted from rapid cooling and contraction of lava. They are definitely one of the more mysterious and beautiful. The surging waves crashing into the rocks are remarkably refreshing. There is a spacious observation deck that is multileveled allowing different vantage points of the cliff. The park offers a rather relaxed atmosphere, and you may feel all of your frustration completely washed away by the wave.

Stop at Oedolgae, a needle rock standing alone off the cliffy coast holding a sad legend of old fisherman. The legend has it that a wife waited for her husband from fishing, but finally formed into the rock after a long waiting while the base of the rock is symbolic of her husband's body supposedly washed ashore. A group of pine trees and grasses inhabit the top of this needle rock, resembling human hair, gives impression that the old woman with sorrowful eyes and her open mouth still calls her husband.

Tour Cheonjiyeon waterfall cascading down a cliff 22m high and 12m wide into a pool inhabited by giant eels and surrounded by lush vegetation. Though they sound similar, they have two different scenic pictures to offer. The tour involves a short walk through subtropical woods, the home to more than 400 individual species of plants and animals. In fact, the diversified biosphere is one of the most unique on the island, making your walk so relaxing and enjoyable - peaceful way to spend some time with nature.

Day 16 Jeju (B) 140km
Experience a true natural wonder this morning as you visit the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site of Manjang Cave, the world's longest lava tube which has a known length of 13.4km. Be prepared for the damp and the difference in temperature. On entering the cave, you are likely to be greeted by a cold breeze oozing out of the lava tubes, and the cave's ceiling tends to drip at times. Although the floor is full of puddles and the lighting inside is dim, you can easily cover up to 1km by walk, exploring the weirdly shaped stalactites, stalagmites, flow ledges and finally lava stone pillar. One of the major attractions inside the cave is the Stone Turtle, which many believe is shaped like Jejudo.

En route, you learn about women diver's harsh work and life at Haenyeo Museum. Typically, they dive from September to May, and rest of the month work on their farms all while taking care of their children and domestic duties. The display includes the tools, diving outfits, as well as diving techniques, various implements used to collect seafood and a full-size replica of a traditional women diver house including a primitive log raft that once used for fishing.

Leaving the museum, you head to Seongsan Ilchulbong, another UNESCO site, known as Sunrise Peak. Marvel at
the island's largest tuff cone which is surrounded on three sides by the ocean rising 182 meters strait from the water. You may wish to climb this steep cone up to the spectacular crater surrounded by 99 basalt pinnacles which looks like crown from a distance and reflects marvelous scenery.

After the tour, see Seongeup folk village which was once a hub of local administration in the period of Goryeo dynasty (918-1392) and where nearly 400 traditional thatched houses are still fully functioning.
Standing tall near the entrance to the village are about 1,000-year-old Zelkova tree and 600-year-old hackberry trees that may well speak to the village history. Scattered among the village are many houses that you can enter yourself and look around. Jeongnang gates are some of good examples that represent a beautiful tradition and culture of this friendly people with No Thief, No Beggar, and No Gate. Water pots set in bamboo baskets, which were carried by women on their backs, and huge jars to keep the water from a distance are on display along with an idea of harvesting rainwater from the trees. Tongsi is a combination of a traditional outhouse privy, pigpen and manure factory. Although they have now disappeared, you will see a duplicate of Tongsi that was still used a few short decades ago. While not overly exciting, the tour gives you a chance to get a glimpse into some of Jeju's unique culture.

Then, head on to a spectacular Sangumburi to see the only Maar in Korea that is on flat ground, in which grows at least 420 species of sub-tropical, temperate and alpine zone plants. Before heading on to the crater, you will see Bangsatap, a stone tower constructed to protect islanders from evil, and on the nearby grounds, a group of low trapezoidal sturdy stone wall-enclosed graveyards in Jeju fashion that present an experience like no other. The crater measures well over 2km in circumference, about 650m in width and 100m in depth in that it could be easily mistaken for a circular stadium. The access to the main viewing area is very easy and the views in every direction are absolutely breathtaking with sprawling eulalia fields, stunning panoramas of the ocean, and volcanic cones dotting the island's landscape.

You may also wish to stop off at Stone Park. It is a type of ecological park preserving the island's cultural spirit and displaying some of Jeju's stone culture related to Jeju's formation and the life of its people. The park entrance is highlighted by the omnipresent Seolmundae Halmang, Jeju's legendary grandmother who is credited with creating Jeju Island. The paths lead you to many stone representations of the myth, the Sky Pond and the exhibition hall astounds with its wealth of geological formations. Stone figures peak out from lush vegetation all along the path, delighting the eye at every turn, and giving the trail a primitive feeling. Your driving adventure ends by returning your car.

Day 17 Jeju - Seoul (B) 480km

Morning flight to Seoul, and at own transfer to your hotel. The balance of the day at own pursuit. You can explore the city yourself or look for souvenirs.

Day 18 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.


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