Dutchmen Trails 14 days
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Folk Museum of Korea
- Insa-dong Antique Shop Street
- Gwangjang Market
- N Seoul Tower
- Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum
- Samseonghyeol Shrine
- Hallim Park
- Sanbangsan Tholoid
- Hamel Monument
- Dutch Ship
- Jisatgae Columnar Joint
- Oedolgae Rock
- Cheonjiyeon Waterfall
- Sangumburi Crater
- Seongeup Folk Village
- Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone
- Haenyeo Museum
- Manjang Cave
- Byeongyeong Fortress
- Soswaewon Garden
- Gwanghallu Pavilion
- Hwaeomsa Temple
- Nagan Fortress Village
- Dolsan Park
- Hamel Park
- Yeosu Fish Market
- Namhae Drive
- Jungang Market
- Lacquerware Museum
- POW Camp
- Beomeosa Temple
- UN Memorial Cemetery
- Yongdusan Park
- Jagalchi Fish Market
- Gamcheon Village
- Tongdosa Temple
- Tomb of King Munmu
- Gameunsa Pagoda
- Seokguram Grotto
- Bulguksa Temple
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Tumuli Park
- Yangdongmaeul Village
Dutch ship was wrecked at the coast of Jeju in 1653, and the crew members were detained for 13 years. They appealed to the King to release them but their appeals were always rejected as the King apparently did not want the world know about his country. This program traces some of the sites related to their adventure and other tour highlights.
Click on the days to access the programs quick
|Days||Visits and Activities||Distance|
|Day 1||Arrive Seoul||60km|
|Day 3||Seoul - Jeju||480km|
|Day 6||Jeju - Wando - Haenam - Gangjin||170km|
|Day 7||Gangjin - Byeongyeong - Yeongam - Naju - Gwangju||100km|
|Day 8||Gwangju - Damyang - Namwon - Gurye - Nagan - Yeosu||210km|
|Day 9||Yeosu - Namhae - Tongyeongn - Geoje - Busan||260km|
|Day 11||Busan - Yangsan - Gampo - Gyeongju||150km|
|Day 13||Gyeongju - Seoul||390km|
Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -)
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)
Your exploration this morning begins with a driving tour of Seoul, featuring sites such as Seoul Plaza, City Hall, Cheonggye Square and pedestrian-friendly Gwanghwamun Plaza that is hemmed in on both sides by rushing traffic and office buildings. The plaza is lined on each side with 365m long streamlets, two centimeters deep and one meter across, the stone bed of the plaza's east side waterway engraved with important events in chronological order from 1392 to 2008.
Standing high on a stone pillar is a statue of Yi Sunsin who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is also honored with prominent statue. On August 16, 2014, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in this plaza to beatify 124 Korean martyrs. Near the southwest corner of the plaza is Korea's Kilometer Zero, marking the distances to 64 cities around the world, including Seoul's antipode, Montevideo, Uruguay, 19,606km.
Step back in time to when life was gracefully slow and discover Gyeongbokgung Palace, a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history. Depending on timing, you may witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony featuring parade, password verification, duty shift and patrolling the gate. Accompanied by a court band with its colorful costumes and royal flags, the ceremony is performed daily basis at 10:00 and 14:00 except Tuesdays, although it is cancelled in case of rain or extremely hot or cold weather.
Up from the gates is a spacious stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters, and at the center of which runs three footpaths through two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall.
Standing majestically on top of a two-tiered stone platform that is lined with detailed balustrades is Geunjeongjeon Hall, where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, presided over large official functions, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors. Check out the royal throne and a large painting, depicting sun, moon, five peaks, streams and pine trees, which was the crucial signifier of the king. And up in the center of the ceiling, the bright golden dragons in bold relief indicate the presence of the king.
At the back of the throne hall is a group of court offices. Displayed in front of the King's official quarters is sundial, conceived in order to catch the shadow of the sun, which tells time and 24 periods of seasonal change from the winter solstice to the summer solstice.
Sitting on the island in the rectangular lake is Gyeonghoeru. Supported by 48 square and cylindrical massive stone pillars representing the idea of Yin and Yang, this magnificent pavilion was used for many purposes ranging from receptions to national examinations.
Gangnyeongjeon is the king's sleeping and living quarters while Gyotaejeon is the queen's domain containing a number of halls. The noted feature of these main buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge.
Amisan Garden, landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks, is seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall, 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. 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 in 1887 after 8 years of Thomas Edison's invention and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins in the early morning of 8 October 1895, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro.
Your visit to the National Folk Museum of Korea will familiarize you with wealthy culture of this friendly and picturesque nation. It is an excellent facility to illustrate the history of traditional life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon dynasty. The permanent exhibition features 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.
Insa-dong is known as the center of traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and alleys are numerous shops dealing in antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean art of all types and styles. Many scour the main street, but the back alleys do spring some unexpected surprises. Here, you may want to buy some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure admiring upscale art galleries, antique shops and cultural ambience.
Enjoy a brief visit to Gwangjang market. It is one of few markets retaining traditional Korean atmosphere. Established in 1905, the market today has 5,000 independent shops. On the market's ground level, the floor space is dominated by scores of small snack stalls selling rustic delicacies and cheap treats. Clouds of smoke billow out from the boiling pans, diverse types of pancakes sizzle on hot iron grills and the smell from the eateries filling the air. The roadside vendors hawking everything from food, fruits, vegetables to seafood and an entire upper level dedicated to high quality silk, satin, and linen. Try out some sorts of Korean snacks and see a side of regular Seoul life.
Near the market stands Dongdaemun which once served as the east gate of Seoul and a block away is DDP of a distinctively neofuturistic design. Characterized by the "powerful, curving forms of elongated structures", it ramains as a major urban development landmark of Seoul.
Before you end the day's sightseeing, you will enjoy a panoramic view of Seoul over at N Seoul Tower observatory. Perched on top of Namsan Mountain, the tower tops out at 479.7m above sea level. It was constructed in 1975 as Korea's first integrated communication tower, transmitting TV and FM radio signals to the city and has now become a symbolic landmark of the capital. 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. You will also witness 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. And Love Trees made of hundreds of locks are quite a sight to behold.
Day 3 Seoul - Jeju (B) 480km
An hour flight places you in the most famous of the 3,300 islands of Korea. Towering over the island is Korea's highest peak, Mt. Halla, an extinct volcano topped by a huge crater. Jejudo was once a place of exile for those who fell out of favor with the Korean court, but it has today become the most popular tourist destination.
Visit 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 only found on Jeju. 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.
Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum is an excellent facility providing a fascinating insight into the tenacious and independent lifestyle of Jeju islanders, the natural history of geological features and marine organisms, including plants, animals and minerals native to Jeju Island. Outdoor exhibition is highlighted by millstones, grave guards, tombstones and various stone tools used for daily living.
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. The descendants continue to uphold the traditions and still perform ritual ceremony 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 4 Jeju (B) 130km
Spend a full day exploring western half of the island, including many of the top attractions of Jeju. Hallim Park is a subtropical botanical garden that is strongly scented with exotic sentiment. Every turn brings new surprises. You cannot miss out two unusual caves, one has both stalactites and stalagmites in it while the other is the only spot in the world that is actually a cave within a cave.
Sanbangsan is up next and you will see a magnificent trachyte cone abruptly rising 395 meters by the sea that lacks crater on its summit. Access to the grotto is steep stairs up for 10 minutes. There is a 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 and weather permitting, explore Yongmeori Coast, a tuff ring outcropping into the sea showing the sedimentary structure of volcanic ash. The way to the coast is down a steep path with huge rocks. The rippled cliffs, appeared to undulate towards and away from you, and the fancy rock formations are well worth your time to visit. The Dutch trade ship The Sperwer was wrecked nearby coastal waters on August 16, 1653 and of the 64 crewmembers only 36 survived. A duplicate of the ship with its rare exhibits is on display on the dry land, that provides insight into an exciting moment in history.
Jisatgae columnar joint forms an extraordinary and striking cliff face. A spectacular 1km stretch of coastline with hexagonal rock columns, bizarre formations resulted from rapid cooling and contraction of lava, is definitely one of the more mysterious and beautiful spots on the island. The surging ocean smashing against the rocks are remarkably refreshing.
Oedolgae needle rock holding a sad legend of old fisherman stands alone off the cliffy coast. Rising over 20 meters, it creates an awesome coastal views with its perfect backdrop of ocean and outlying islands. A great place to soak in the area's barely-touched nature amid fresh ocean breeze.
Tour also includes Cheonjiyeon waterfall cascading down a cliff 22m high and 12m wide into a pool inhabited by giant eels and surrounded by lush vegetation. The tour involves a short walk through a 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 - a peaceful way to spend some time with nature.
Day 5 Jeju (B) 110km
With another day of further exploration of the fascinating culture and natural wonders of Jeju. The day begins with a tour of Sangumburi, the only Maar in Korea. The access to the main viewing area is very easy. This spectacular crater is well over 2km in circumference, about 650m in diameter and 100m deep in that it could be easily mistaken for a circular stadium. The views in every direction with sprawling eulalia fields, stunning panoramas of the ocean, and volcanic cones dotting the island's landscape are absolutely breathtaking.
Experience the heritage of the Jeju people and soak up the local culture in Seongeup folk village where nearly 400 traditional thatched houses are still fully functioning. 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. While not overly exciting, the tour gives you a chance to get a glimpse into some of Jeju's unique culture.
You are treated to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site of Seongsan Ilchulbong. Known as Sunrise Peak, it is 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. A great for photos every step of the way!
Next up is Haenyeo Museum showcases the women diver's harsh work and life as well as their strong tenacity. The display includes the tools, diving outfits, as well as diving techniques and a full-size replica of a traditional women diver house including a primitive log raft that once used for fishing.
You will tour another UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, Manjang Cave. It is the world's longest lava tube which has a known length of 13.4km. 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.
Day 6 Jeju - Wando - Haenam - Gangjin (B) 170km
A three-hour cruise on a ferry to Wando, embracing a total of 201 islands, of which 141 are uninhabited and 60 are inhabited. The cruise to Wando is perhaps the same route that the Holland sailor Hamel and his 35 crewmates would have taken in the mid 17th century. In 1655, a Manchu envoy came to Seoul and a senior navigator and one sailor from the Hamel crew approached the Manchu envoy in an attempt to return to the Netherlands through China, but they were immediately caught and jailed. After this incident, the remaining thirty three Dutch sailors were transferred to Gangjin. They lived seven years in Gangjin and eleven of them died during that period. After three successive famines in 1660, 1661 and 1662, they were divided into three groups since Gangjin couldn't afford to support them. They were sent to Saesong (12 men), Suncheon (5 men) and Namwon (5 men).
Day 7 Gangjin - Byeongyeong - Yeongam - Naju - Gwangju (B) 100km
Byeongyeong is a notably unusual village with Dutch influence. There is a 1,500m-long fortress constructed on flat ground. It was a military base where Dutchman Hamel and his crews stayed 7 years from 1656 to 1663. The garrison is not there anymore, only remains of the old surrounding wall are the heritage of the ancient grandeur. In the village, you will find stonewalls, high enough to prevent mounted police guards from looking into the house. Stones comprising the walls were laid obliquely at about 15 degrees - the way of the building walls is Dutch style. Then follow the Dutch sailors route to Gwangju as we driver past Yeongam and Naju. Upon arrival in Gwangju, balance of the day at leisure.
Day 8 Gwangju - Damyang - Namwon - Gurye - Nagan - Yeosu (B) 210km
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.
Namwon is a time honored charming city dotted with many historical spots and visitors attractions. It is famous as the home of Chunhyang, the legendary faithful maiden whose story has been often compared to the Romeo and Juliet. There is a park in the center of the town in which stands the Gwanghallu pavilion where the lovers are said to have first met, and a bridge, built over a pond, that is supposed to ensure a connubial bliss to any couple that steps on it.
While in Gurye, visit the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the vairocana 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.
Explore Nagan Fortress Village which has survived time and modernization. Entering the village, you could feel as if you have gone back to the centuries past. 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 90 traditional thatched roof houses presenting 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 today take in a great view of the entire village as well as the traditional housings, cultural landscape, time old customs and rituals representing the agricultural society of Korea while strolling around the small alleyways within the village.
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 will 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 9 Yeosu - Namhae - Tongyeongn - Geoje - Busan (B) 260km
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. Shaped like an hour-glass, 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.
You also tour the Gacheon village clinging to the slope dropping into the sea. The village is more famous for its terraced rice paddies and mysterious phallic symbols. And 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.
Tongyeong is a traditional seaport of great charm and historical interests. Tour the Dongpirang village where you will enjoy witty and delightful murals and sweeping view of Tongyeong harbor. This village was on the verge of being torn down, but what were once shabby houses now welcome visitors with radiant colors. On a long stretch of quay-side is Jungang market, and you will witness a lively atmosphere as vendors try to make a deal. Rows of seafood restaurants and local eateries offer anything that comes from the ocean, the sights, sounds and smells of a fishing port. At the nearby Gangguan port, you may want to step in to the replica turtle ship from the 16th century. Later, you will visit Lacquerware Museum and marvel at the sophisticated craftsmanship and nacre lacquerwares that have long been admired and sought after by collectors and aficionados worldwide.
Geoje is a shipbuilding Mecca featuring several natural harbors. And once 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 in the largest humanitarian rescue operation by a single ship during the Korean War.
There’s time to visit the POW Camp which at one time 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.
Today, you will experience the deepest highway on earth, Geoga bridge, a 8.2km-long bridge which is a combination of two cable-stayed bridges built on the open sea, a number of approach bridges and tunnels built on three islands in the middle and a 3.7km-long immersed tube constructed 48m below mean water level.
Continue 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.
Day 10 Busan (B)
You will tour the 7th century Beomeosa showcasing Korea’s traditional Buddhist architecture. Since it is built on a mountain slope, the temple buildings are arranged on three elevations, but the setting is very peaceful and serene. Passing One-Pillar Gate, Four Guardian's Gate, and the Gate of Non Duality gets you to get to the spiritual world of the Buddha. Learn about the Buddhist culture and temple’s history as you explore the compound, including halls, pagodas, stone lamps, and Brahma bell pavilion holding four dharma instruments. In the nearby valley is a mass of wild wisteria trees that have curled around each other, every year in late spring, their lavender blossoms create an extraordinary sight, unseen anywhere else in Korea.
Squeeze in a stop at World’s largest department store, Centum City, as listed in the Guinness Book World of Records. The 14 story department store is a high-end shopping center with luxury brands and also offers leisure and cultural facilities including a spa, a ice rink, a golf driving range and a multiplex theater.
Enjoy a short break at Haeundae, a world-class beach resort blessed by beautiful water and screened by skyscrapers along the beautifully curved coastline. Afterward, cross the Suyeong Bay over Gwangan Bridge, installed with over 10,000 colorful LED lights which sparkle brightly under the night skies.
Visit 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. In the cemetery, lie the remains of Korean War heroes from Australia(281), Canada(378), France(44), the Netherlands(117), New Zealand(34), Norway(1), South Africa(11), Turkey(462), the United Kingdom(885), the United States(36) and Republic of Korea(36) as well as of unknown allied soldiers(4) and non belligerents(11).
You will tour Yongdusan Park where people of all ages hang out for recreational activities. Sitting on top of the hillock of a steep slope is Busan tower topped by an observatory, overlooking the hilly terrain of this mountainous coastal city and the harbor in a breathtaking view. At the smack dab in the middle of the park stands the statue of Yi Sunsin, who is credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. You will also see a flower clock and a Busan citizen's bell that they ring on New Years' Day, March 1 and August 15.
Just off the park is Gwangbokro Street, full of shops selling everything from bargains to luxury items. Adjacent is a maze of small streets alive with color, sidewalks sprinkled with unique shops and local eateries. Enjoy the vibrant ambience as you leisurely make your way to the BIFF square, another area packed with trendy shops, movie theaters and food stalls. The square is Busan’s modern movie district which was originally little more than a pair of cinemas that were built over half a century ago. However, major renovations took place ahead of the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and the newly transformed district was named BIFF Square on August 14, 1996.
Across the street from the square is a fascinating Jagalchi fish market, a great attraction located dockside. Here you will find a diverse array of seafood on display as you walk along the narrow alleys of street vendors. A nearby indoor market features live fish in the tanks and the upstairs are dried fish along with many restaurants selling raw fish at reasonable prices. The market is really a visual and culinary treat.
Day 11 Busan - Yangsan - Gampo - Gyeongju (B) 150km
Explore Gamcheon village, an amazing community built on the side of a hill. Once a poverty-stricken village, it has been spruced up with colorful houses, cafes, murals, galleries and arts shops, sculptures, and scenic views. The atmosphere feels more fun, creative and quirky, less commercial and mercenary. The attraction weaves in and out of back alleys where people still live. It is out of the way, but relatively easy to get to. The artistic vibes in the village in light of its history makes it a culturally distinctive place in an urban city. You can take winding alleys and stairs that form a maze around and through and freely walk up and down hills taking in the views and the culture.
Next up is 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.
After the visit, depart Tongdosa for a 70km drive and en-route, stop at Gampo to see the unusual Underwater Tomb of King Munmu, about 200m off the coast. The king wished his body to be cremated and buried at sea so he could 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 site.
A short ride from the shore is an ancient temple site of Gameunsa dedicated to the Dragon Spirit of King Munmu (626-681). The immense Twin 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 these true masterpieces of Korean architecture.
Gyeongju is 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)
With a full day to further explore the delights of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seokguram grotto. It is the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. 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 grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.
A short ride leads you to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bulguksa temple, where you will witness the impressive gates, symbolic bridges leading up to the world of Buddha, graceful architectures, Three-storied Seokgatap and highly ornate Dabotap blending well into the architectural harmony. At Gwaneumjeon hall, check out the image of the Avalokitesvara who is referred to as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and has a thousand hands, and eyes in each so as to reach out to those in need of help. You will see a gilded statue of Vairocana with the gesture of the first wisdom, Sakyamuni Buddha along with sixteen figures of Buddha's disciples sitting in deep meditation, and a gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha who is the ruler of the Western Paradise Sukhavati. 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.
Visit Gyeongju National Museum for a great insight into Silla culture and history. The first thing that you will notice is The Bell of King Seongdeok, the largest extant bell in Korea. You must certainly stand in awe before the bell from the 8th century with such artistic beauty of design. The bell is distinguished not only for its outstanding beauty but also for its long reverberating sound, the incredibly precise casting technique, in addition to the sad legend surrounding it. On entering the museum, 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.
Afterwards, explore Donggung palace and Wolji pond, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, then 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, check out 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.
The tour also covers 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.
You will also explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Yangdongmaeul, a delightful journey to the traditional clan village which embraces simple, unadorned natural beauty. There are some steep hills to climb but also easier streets. Over 150 homes as well as two shrines are in perfect harmony with the natural topography, presenting different angles where walls ascend a hill interspersed with tiled roof houses or thatched roof buildings.
Day 13 Gyeongju - Seoul (B) 390km
With leisurely time to pack, travel to Seoul on a speed train. You'll have plenty of opportunity to explore the city at your own pace. In your free time, we highly recommend Myeongdong fashion and shopping district.
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.