A Visitor’s Guide To South Korea
South Korea is a beautiful country of contrasts, with some sensational mountain scenery in many areas contrasting with the thriving cities and densely packed industrial areas. Manufacturing is one of the driving forces of the South Korean economy, and it is the sixth largest exporting nation in the world, and many of its residents feel a rivalry with their neighbor Japan because both countries specialize in producing similar types of goods. The country itself was formed by the civil war which saw Korea split into North and South Korea in 1953, following the involvement of the United States government.
Generally a visit to South Korea is a safe and interesting one, although it is worth paying attention to the relationship with North Korea and the changing tensions between the two countries, particularly if you are planning to travel close to the border.
The Best Visitor Attractions In South Korea
Gyeongju – As one of the oldest cities in South Korea, this city served as the capital of the ancient Silla kingdom from the first century BC onwards, and combines the archaeological sites of the Silla kingdom with the stunning pagodas and amazing historic sculptures.
Jeju Island – Situated off the south coast of mainland South Korea, this beautiful island is one of the most attractive parts of the country, with some good beaches and sensational waterfalls on the interior of the island, as well as a culture that is distinct from the rest of the country.
The Historic Center Of Seoul – The capital of South Korea is today surrounded by high rise buildings, but the historic center of the city enjoys the stunning ‘Five Grand Palaces’ that were built in the Joseon dynasty period, along with several other historic buildings.
The Gochang Dolmens – In the south west of South Korea is an area which enjoyed a significant culture of using stone dolmens as grave markers, and the landscape in this area is dotted with these giant stones marking the burial sites of important people from the period.
Seoraksan National Park – Located in the north east of the country, this national park is a thriving natural habitat for over a thousand plant species and also enjoys some spectacular mountain scenery which offers a very different perspective on the country.
Guinsa Buddhist School – In the central highlands of South Korea can be found the Guinsa Buddhist School, a series of stunning buildings nestled in the forested hilltops where many monks study Buddhism, and provides the home to the leadership of Cheontae Buddhism.
Hahoe Folk Village – This sixteenth century village is one of the gems of the culture of the country, dating from the Joseon dynasty and offers a superb insight into the architecture and clan based culture that was in place during this period.
Busan – The largest port in the country is home to many of the city’s industries, but is of interest to visitors because of the range of temples and shrines located around the city, and the great beaches that are so close to the city center
Lotte World – Famous for being the world’s largest indoor amusement park, this is a highlight of a family visit to Seoul, with a range of rides and attractions that offer a good variety for younger children and adults alike.
The Demilitarized Zone – Tours of the South Korean fortifications on the border with North Korea are surprisingly popular, and offers views over the two and a half mile wide strip of land between the two countries, and the territory of North Korea beyond.
Where To Stay In South Korea
Fraser Place Namdaemun – A luxurious tower hotel in the heart of Seoul, the well appointed rooms are spacious enough to relax and enjoy the city views, while its location is convenient for the shopping areas and transport links to outlying areas of the city.
Hotel Aropa – This hotel offers very good value for a hotel in a major city, and the rooms are comfortable enough and don’t feel too cramped, while features such as wi-fi internet and a cafe within the hotel are also very convenient for visitors.
Simple Life Hotel – While it doesn’t look particularly attractive from the dark concrete exterior, inside this is a beautifully appointed hotel that offers great accommodation at competitive prices, while being just a short walk away from the city’s parks and museums.
Commodore Chosun Hotel – This pleasant hotel has an impressive and imposing location within Gyeongju, and the welcoming rooms are comfortable and spacious, while the hotel also enjoys a large garden and an outdoor swimming pool.
K2 Motel – The welcoming and brightly colored rooms of the K2 Motel may be a little garish for more refined tastes, but this hotel offers excellent spacious rooms in a great location close to transport links and the major sights of the city.
Commodore Hotel – This imposing hotel gives the traditional tower hotel a Korean style makeover both in terms of exterior and interior, and has excellent leisure facilities such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a sauna.
Happy House Pension – Just a short distance from the beach, the Happy House Pension is a charming apartment hotel that enjoys well sized rooms that enjoy nice balconies and good views towards the sea.
Jejueco Suites – A great choice for those looking to minimize the environmental impact of their visit to Jeju, this small hotel offers welcoming accommodation and well designed suites within a beautifully landscaped part of the island.
Cuisine In South Korea
South Korean cuisine is quite distinctive from many other areas of Asia, and is noted for the use of seafood particularly because it is such a mountainous country with very little agricultural land. One food item that uses all the vegetables that grow throughout the country is Kimchi, where vegetables such as cucumbers, cabbages and radishes are fermented for many months, and the result is served with almost every meal. A very popular dish in the country is dakgalbi, a distinctive stir fry of chicken, rice cakes and vegetables in a chilli paste, which is a spicy dish that is well worth seeking out.
Currency And Visa
The currency in South Korea is the Korean Won, and while the rates are prone to fluctuation, visitors will currently receive around 1,100 Won per US Dollar, so a good grasp of arithmetic will be a big plus for any visitors. American visitors to the country will receive a visa upon arrival in South Korea for any trips shorter than ninety days, making it a convenient country to visit.