Obviously, South Korea does not only consist of Seoul. Although there is an incredible amount to do in the capital, I would definitely recommend taking a few day trips from Seoul at least. Or even better: an entire South Korea tour. Because honestly, what do we actually know about South Korea? Samsung, the conflict between North and South Korea… And maybe K-Pop rings a bell? In this article I give you tips about South Korea; for fun day trips from Seoul and what to see during a South Korea tour.
In this article
Looking for tips specifically about Seoul? Check out the previously published article Seoul mini guide: 15 fun things to do.
Day trips from Seoul
You can make all kinds of fun day trips from Seoul. It’s a shame to just hang around in the city alone; go out and have fun! You can do this independently by public transport or rental car, but also in a group accompanied by a local professional tour guide. However you prefer.
One of the most popular day trips from Seoul is to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border area with North Korea. During these DMZ day tours, the War Memorial of Korea is usually visited. Sometimes a day trip from Seoul to DMZ is also combined with a visit to the Battleship Park and Ropeway.
In addition, you can visit as a day trip from Seoul the border villages of Imjingak Park and Paju Provence Village – from where you can catch a glimpse of North Korea. By the way, North Korea is one of the countries around the world that I do not want to visit because of ethical concerns.
2. Hwaseong Fortress
Hwaseong in Suwon is a stone fortress from the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897), which surrounds the city center. A bit like the city wall of Dubrovnik for example. The fortress wall is about 5.7 km long and listed by UNESCO. As a day trip from Seoul Station, you can reach Hwaseong Fortress by public transportation in about an hour. Or join a group tour to Hwaseoung, so that the guide can tell you more about the history of the fortress and city.
There are also a few other UNESCO sights not far outside of Seoul:
- Donggureong Royal Tombs
For locations, please see the map in the last part of this article.
Everland is South Korea’s largest amusement park. It is a 1.5-hour public transport ride from Seoul Station, located south of Seoul. The park was opened in 1976 but is very modern. About 6 million people visit Everland every year. The adult entrance fee is approximately EUR 40 or USD 42 (KRW 56,000). There are at least five roller coasters, a zoo, water park, etc. Everland is owned by Samsung.
4. Nami Island
Nami Island is a popular day trip destination from Seoul. It is a famous movie location. Nami is an abbreviation of Namiseom, located in the Han River. This island, north of Seoul, is a green oasis surrounded by water. You can do all kinds of activities on Nami Island, such as hiking, cycling, zip lining, boat trip, visit the botanical garden, etc.
Day trips from Seoul to Nami Island are usually offered in combination with several nearby places, such as:
5. Mt. Seorak & surroundings
This mountain is the third highest mountain in South Korea. Mt. Seorak is located on the northeast side of South Korea. That is quite a drive for a day trip from Seoul to be honest. You can visit Seorak during a tour, or stay in the area for at least one night? Otherwise it will be a very long day including the drive back and forth between the capital and the mountain.
A day trip from Seoul to Mt. Seorak is sometimes combined with a few other sights on the route. For exampe, there is Fort Gwongeumseong, which can be visited by cable car. And Sinheungsa Temple is known for it’s impressive large bronze Buddha statue.
The more sporty folks may like the 10-hour Dinosaur Hiking Trail, which winds around the peaks of Mt. Seorak.
6: More day trips from Seoul
And there are even more day trips possible from Seoul. Some other popular day trips from Seoul include:
The tours mentioned above are part (the most popular) of the total range of day trips from Seoul. There are a number of well-known, reliable websites where you can easily book tours, tickets and activities directly online. For Seoul and South Korea I can recommend the following websites for this:
South Korea tour
Do you have limited time in South Korea, but would you rather travel with a group and guide for a few days in a row? Make it easy on yourself and book this 5-day city trip from Seoul, for example. This English-language group tour includes a visit to Gonju, Busan, Yeosu, etc.
If you have more time, at least 10 days to 3 to 4 weeks, you can explore South Korea independently by train or possibly rental car. For rental car tips see the lower part of this article. Or, if you rather join a group, check out the South Korea tours of Intrepid or G Adventures for example.
Busan is one of the nicest cities in South Korea, located on the southern coastline. In Busan, you can easily combine city, culture, beach and nature. SPA LAND, Songdo Cloud Trails – Sky Walk, beaches… Busan will keep you entertained for at least a couple of days, if not longer.
Be sure to check out BIFF Square, the lively Jagalchi Fish Market and Gamcheon Culture Village. Busan’s fish market reminds me a bit of Hanoi, with all those little red plastic stools on the street.
B. Jeju Island
Jeju is a volcanic island, affectionately known by the Koreans as Honeymoon Island. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Stay on Jeju island for at least a few days to a week, for example in Seogwipo. South of the city you will find the Jeongbang waterfall, the only one in Asia that plunges directly into the sea.
Public transport goes from Seogwipo to all corners of the island, buses run several times a day. They only will not stop when you want to take a picture of, for example, a road where the trees merge into each other… Jeju Olle Trail is a series of hiking trails along the coast of the island.
Be sure to try to climb the Jeju volcano; a tough undertaking, but the view is well worth it. The lava cave system is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Seongsan Ilchulbong is a unique, cratered peak formed by volcanic eruptions, resembling an ancient castle, in the east of the island.
Hallasan National Park is the nature reserve around Hall, the highest mountain in South Korea. The tea plantations and a visit to Udo are also recommended when you are on Jeju Island. You can reach those by boat.
C. Purple Islands
The inhabitants of Banwol and Bakji islands have painted their houses, roads and bridges in various shades of purple. Plants with purple flowers are also planned everywhere, such as lavender and asters. Even the residents like to wear purple clothes. As a result, this group of islands has been nicknamed ‘the Purple Islands’. What a co-incidence, purple is my favorite color!
D. Andong & Yangdong
These two places are hours apart, but both are important to Korean culture and history. Here the old tradition of clan-based villages is kept alive. Visit at least one of these two villages during a South Korea tour.
Andong, or Andong Hahoe Folk Village as it is nowadays known in full, is a beautiful traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). Andong is shaped like a lotus flower. The village has been registered (together with Yangdong) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010.
Yangdong Folk Village is also a traditional village from the same Joseon Dynasty. The village is well preserved and is located in a beautiful natural environment. Yangdong was home to the so-called aristocratic yangban, the nobility of the time, including highly educated civil servants and military officers.
E. See more on a South Korea tour
During South Korea tour I would definitely not skip the following places:
- NP Seoraksan
- Gayasan NP with the Haeinsa Temple
At the bottom of this article I have tried to map all relevant places that you can visit during a South Korea tour. Feel free to let me know via a comment below this article if something important is missing or has changed, I can always add it.
I recently discovered in the Dutch wine village of Groesbeek, that we actually also have a bicycle train back home in The Netherlands. I only knew about this phenomenon from South Korea, where it is a popular leisure activity. Families and couples take a rail bike together, sometimes with their dog and all, to enjoy the surroundings. Buy something delicious and get in!
Extra nice when the blossom trees bloom or the tree leaves get their autumn colors, for example. Gangchon and Gimyujeong are two of South Korea’s most famous Rail Parks. See the map at the bottom of this article for locations of several of these bicycle train parks outside of Seoul.
Car rental in South Korea
You can easily travel around South Korea by public transport. If you are with a family or want to visit rural, remote places, a rental car may be more convenient. Lotte Rent Car is said to be the largest rental company in South Korea, I have no experience with them myself. I do know that if you want the best deal with them, it’s best to join the Lotte Club first.
Avis does have rental cars available here too, at least from South Korea’s major airports:
- Incheon International Airport (ICN)
- Gimpo International Airport (GMP)
- Busan International Airport (PUS)
Seoul – Busan by public transport
The KTX high-speed train takes you from Seoul Station to Busan (325 km) in 2 hours and 15 minutes. The plane will take you there in app. 50 minutes (GMP-PUS). Plus to the airport, check-in, boarding, etc. There are about 75 trains per day and 40-50 flights per day on this route. Enough choice!
Please note: some trains take a lot longer (max. almost 6 hours) so check carefully which one to take. The bullet train KTX is the fastest. The slower Mugunghwa trains are about half the price. So what’s your highest priority; time or money? They do have an actual karaoke train unit on board. With a slower train, you do get to experience the environment you are going through a little bit more.
The KTX website refers to Ninja Rail, which site is very easy to use, but pricey. Ninja Rail comes with prices of EUR 70 one way for KTX and EUR 40 for Mugunghwa. Whereas on Letscorail the prices are a lot more favorable for foreign travelers, about EUR 43 for KTX and EUR 21 for Mugunghwa!
Buses also run between Seoul Gyeongbu bus station and Busan. Those buses are even cheaper than the Mugunghwa train. The bus takes about 4 hours to travel from Seoul to Busan, also depending on traffic.
Tips for your visit to Seoul
In my earlier, extensive article about Seoul you will find information and tips about, among other things:
- Sightseeing and accommodation in Seoul
- How to get from A to B in Seoul and from Incheon Airport
- Practical tips such as luggage storage, cash, T Money, visa, etc.
- SIM card and WiFi in Seoul & South Korea
- The weather in Seoul & South Korea
Map South Korea tour and day trips from Seoul
This map includes places and spots mentioned in this article (and more). This one is ‘smartphone friendly’; you can easily use it via the Google Maps app. Click the icon at the top left to open the menu and see the categories. To adapt the map to your own preferences and interests, (de)select a category. Via Google Drive you can copy the map to your own My Google Maps account.
I hope you found this article about South Korea interesting and inspiring. Feel free to share it on social media. Do you have plans to go to South Korea yourself? Were you looking for a fun day trip from Seoul? If you have any questions or perhaps an additional tip, feel free to leave a comment below. Have fun in South Korea!
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