Drive Korea (B) 20 days
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Folk Museum of Korea
- Insa-dong Antique Shop Street
- Namdaemun Market
- Hwaseong Fortress
- Seosan Triad Buddha
- Haemi Fortress
- Sudeoksa Temple
- Gongju National Museum
- Songsanri Tombs
- Gungnamji Pond
- Jeongrimsa Pagoda
- Buyeo National Museum
- Busosan Fortress
- Nakhwaam Bluff
- Salted Seafood Market
- Gwanchoksa Temple
- Jeonju Hanok Village
- Saemangeum Dyke Drive
- Naesosa Temple
- Gochang Dolmen Museum
- Dolmen Park
- Gochang Fortress
- Juknokwon Bamboo Grove
- Soswaewon Garden
- Jeungdo Island
- National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage
- Haenam Land Edge
- Wando Isand
- Sinjido Island
- Gogeumdo Island
- Gangjin Ceramic Museum
- Byeongyeong Fortress
- Tea Plantation
- Nagan Fortress Village
- Dolsan Park
- Hamel Park
- Yeosu Fish Market
- Hyangilam Hermitage
- Songgwangsa Temple
- Hwaeomsa Temple
- Ssanggyesa Temple
- Hwagae Market
- Cheonghakdong Village
- Jinju Fortress
- Hakdongmaeul Village
- Jungang Market
- Lacquerware Museum
- POW Camp
- UN Memorial Cemetery
- Centum City
- Haeundae Beach
- Yongdusan Park
- Jagalchi Fish Market
- Tongdosa Temple
- Tomb of King Munmu
- Gameunsa Pagodas
- Lighthouse Museum
- Yangdongmaeul Village
- Seokguram Grotto
- Bulguksa Temple
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Donggung palace and Wolji pond
- Banwolseong Fortress
- Seokbingo Freezer
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Tumuli Park
- Tomb of Kim Yusin
- Tomb of King Muyeol
- Bunhwangsa Temple
- Unmunsa Temple
- Goryeong Tumuli Museum
- Daegaya Museum
- Haeinsa Temple
- Hangae Village
- Jikjisa Temple
- Songnisan National Park
- Beopjusa Temple
- Hahoemaeul Village
- Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy
- Andong Folk Museum
- Bongjeongsa Temple
- Ginseng Market
- Sosuseowon Confucian Academy
- Hwanseongul Cave
- Coal Museum
- Jeongdongjin Station
- North Korean Submarine
- Gangneung Museum
- Chamsori Museum
- Gyeongpodae Beach
- Woljeongsa Temple
- Naksansa Temple
- Seoraksan National Park
- Unification Observatory
- Kim Ilsung Villa
- Geojin Fishing Village
- The 4th Tunnel
- Eulji Observatory
- Peace Dam
- Soyang Dam
Driving in Korea (Right hand traffic)
The tour provides recommendable routes for self-driver travelers. Since you have greater mobility, a number of visits and sites available en route are built in the itinerary. Therefore, some days are pretty packed whereas some are less hurried. The choice of visits and the road is absolutely at your preference. It is indeed an exciting yet could be 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
Click on the days to access the programs quick
The given distances and time of travel are estimated figures for your guideline purpose
|Days||Visits and Activities||Distance|
|Day 1||Arrive Seoul||60km|
|Day 3||Seoul - Suwon - Seosan - Haemi - Yesan - Gongju - Buyeo||210km|
|Day 4||Buyeo - Nonsan - Ganggyeong - Iksan - Jeonju||90km|
|Day 5||Jeonju - Gunsan - Gimje - Yamido - Buan - Gochang - Gwangju||220km|
|Day 6||Gwangju - Damyang - Jeungdo - Mokpo||220km|
|Day 7||Mokpo - Haenam - Wando - Gogeum - Sinji - Gangjin - Byeongyeong - Boseong - Nagan - Suncheon||270km|
|Day 8||Suncheon - Yeosu - Dolan - Songgwang - Gurye||210km|
|Day 9||Gurye - Hadong - Cheonghakdong - Jinju - Goseong - Hakdong - Tongyeong - Geoje - Busan||330km|
|Day 11||Busan - Yangsan - Ulsan - Gampo - Homigot - Yangdong - Gyeongju||230km|
|Day 13||Gyeongju - Goryeong - Seongju - Gayasan - Gimcheon - Songnisan||230km|
|Day 14||Songnisan - Andong||140km|
|Day 15||Andong - Punggi - Buseok - Taebaek - Samcheok||220km|
|Day 16||Samcheok - Jeongdongjin - Gangneung - Odaesan - Naksan - Sokcho - Seoraksan||190km|
|Day 18||Seoraksan - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Haean - Bangsan - Hwacheon||240km|
|Day 19||Hwacheon - Chuncheon - Gapyeong - Seoul||110km|
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.
You will tour the centuries-old Namdaemun Market brimming with well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. The whole area is a labyrinth of street vendors and buildings. The market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. A fantastic place to haggle over the price to get the best deal on something you want or simply admire the vibrancy of this massive market..
At the western entrance of the market in the middle of a traffic circle stands Sungnyemun. It is a formidable and iconic construct that served as the southern gate of the wall that surrounded Seoul during the period of the Joseon Dynasty.
Day 3 Seoul - Suwon - Seosan - Haemi - Yesan - Gongju - Buyeo (B) 210km
Pick up your car by signing a rental car agreement. Start your day by driving to Suwon. While in Suwon, you will explore UNESCO World Heritage site of Hwaseong Fortress from the 18th century. Though it is relatively small in scale, it is well acknowledged as the best structure of its kind ever built in Korea. A 5.74km-long fortress enclosing both flatland and hilly terrain is parapeted with crenels and merlons and highlighted by four main gates and well over 50 structures including temporary palace where the king sought refuge during war and found rest during times of peace. 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, including the Korea's largest Janganmun Gate.
On the way, you may want to stop in Seosan to witness 7th cenuty Triad Buddha engraved on a rock surface. The access may not be easy on holidays or particular peak days due to traffic on a short narrow road. The standing figure in the middle is Sakyamuni Buddha (2.8m). He has a fleshy face, eyes, a shallow, large nose and a smiling mouth, it gives a feeling that it is even cheerfully laughing. At the back of the head the round halo-like nimbus has lotus flowers inscribed in its center and flame patterns at the border. On the left of the carving is Dipankara bodhisattva decorated with a necklace and covered with robes that extend to his ankles. He has a chubby face and seems to be smiling with his entire face and holds cintamani. On the right side is the Maitreya bodhisattva in meditation. Both of his arms were seriously damaged, but it still displays sophisticated carving skills in his left hand grasping his right ankle and his jaw resting in his right hand.
A short drive from Seosan is Haemi Fortress, one of the holy places for the Catholics. Haemi has been the military base since the construction of fortress in 1491. The fortress has an oval shape and measures 5m high and 1,810m long. Architecture aside, Haemi Fortress's historical importance is closely tied with the history of the Catholic Church in Korea. It was here that many Catholics were executed during the Byeongin Persecution of 1866, and the fortress and its surroundings are considered holy ground by Korean Catholics. Near the fortress is Yeosutgol holy site, where Catholics were buried alive, drowned and otherwise made dead en masse. There is a memorial dedicated to those who martyred here. The rock to the right of the memorial is particularly macabre - some of the victims were executed by ramming their heads repeatedly into the stone.
Next, visit 6th century Sudeoksa temple. The temple is rather unremarkable, laid out along a more-or-less central axis with the standard entry sequence of multiple gates placed on land that slopes up toward the main courtyard. The main worship hall is an original structure built in 1308, thought to be one of the oldest wooden buildings in the country. Another piece of architecture worthy of note is the 14th century stone pagoda standing in the main courtyard. It is a beautifully-balanced Goryeo period pagoda, an elegant 4.1 meter-high 3 storied stone pagoda.
Gongju is a charming city that once served as the Baekje's capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Visit Gongju National Museum and get a glimpse of the fascinating archaeological articles from Baekje (BC18-AD660) era, and artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong (501-524), one of the last rulers to reign in the capital of Gongju. Near museum is Songsanri Tombs, a group of royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. The tomb which belongs to King Muryeong (462-523) and his wife, the queen 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.
Day 4 Buyeo - Nonsan - Ganggyeong - Iksan - Jeonju (B) 90km
Today, you will explore archaeological sites and ancient historic areas, which were collectively named as a UNESCO World Heritage sites. Gungnamji is the Korea's oldest artificial pond dating back to 634. Ringed by weeping willow trees, it creates a colorful spectacle with its stock of water lotuses in summer. Jeongrimsa temple site with its five-storied stone pagoda recalling the glorious past is one of the city's most distinctive and outstanding landmarks.
At Buyeo National Museum, you will feel the spirit and the essence of the brilliant Baekje culture as you appreciate the beauty of the archaeological relics. A beautiful gilt bronze incense burner is impossible to miss. Crafted over 1,500 years ago, it shows a graceful dignity and the elaborate skills of Baekje craftsmen.
Stroll up paths to Busosan to explore Baekje fortification. At the top of the hill sits Yeongillu pavilion where the 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 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.
Next, visit Gwanchoksa to witness 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.
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.
A short drive is UNESCO Heritage sites of Mireuksa temple site with its 7th century stone pagoda and Wanggungri palace site that recalls the glory of the ancient kingdom. The temple has been a symbol of spiritual guidance and support for Baekje, and in Wanggungri you will witness the five-story stone pagoda standing alone on a vast archaeological site.
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.
Day 5 Jeonju - Gimje - Gunsan - Buan - Gochang - Gwangju (B) 220km
Drive to Gimje to witness a magnificent 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. Enshrined in the hall is a huge Maitreya Buddha. Maitreya is refining his bodhisattva practice in Tusita but will come down to earth in the future and become a Buddha. He is attended by Dharma Flower Grove Bodhisattva on his left and Great Wonderful Aspect Bodhisattva on his right. A 5 story pagoda from Goryeo period stands at 7.5m near Maitreya hall. It is relatively large in size, but has a simple appearance.
Next, enjoy driving over a 33.9km long dyke. This seawall, located on the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula, is the world's longest man-made dyke linking two headlands between the industrial port city of Gunsan and Buan. The driving itself is really refreshing.
Tide permitting, Chaeseokgang can be visited. It is a natural rock formations that look like stacked books. Visit may include Naesosa. At the entrance, fir trees stand tall providing a tunnel under which you will walk into the main gate of the Buddha's world. Unlike most of the Korean temples, Naesosa is less colorful, mostly bare wood, with a few faded murals on the ceiling and beams inside the temple. It is an immensely tranquil place. Nothing is out of place, nothing is hurried or loud, everything moves on slowly, steadily, towards no specific end. Timeless is too brief for this place.
Next up is Gochang Dolmen Museum providing comprehensive information about Dolmen with its theme park featuring a life-size village replica. It is an excellent facility that gives visitors an idea of Bronze Age culture, including quarry, transportation, construction, burial and tomb formats, rituals, relics excavated in Gochang, and life of the pre-historic people. Near the museum is UNESCO World Heritage stie of Dolmen Park, the largest concentration of dolmens perhaps anywhere in the world. A total of 447 dolmens of various types are scattered at the foot of a series of hills. Generally, the capstones of the dolmens are around 1 to 5.8 m in length and may weigh up to 225 tons.
Gochang Fortresswhich has a total perimeter of 1.7km, and is a good example of Korea's fortress architecture. Local belief being that the one trip around the fortress will cure leg disease, two trips will prevent disease and give you a long life, and three trips will bring you to the paradise.
Day 6 Gwangju - Damyang - Jeungdo - Mokpo (B) 220km
You cannot go anywhere in Damyang without realizing the significance of bamboo, which has always been one of the most admired plants in Korea - its tall, high stems often likened to the unyielding spirit of a true gentleman. You will explore Juknokwon. Located near the city centre, it is a theme park landscaped with bamboo. Be amazed at peaceful paths lined with dense bamboo groves and the shady walkways that are incredibly refreshing.
The bamboo museum is a very interesting source of information on bamboo. There are ancient and modern objects built from bamboo on display, as well as detailed exhibits explaining the life cycle and cultivation of the hardy plant. There are workshops of bamboo artists outside the museum where they display their crafts. These range from small utensils and fans all the way up to tables and furniture.
This small town 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.
Next, you are treated to a slow island of Jeungdo, known for its specialties ? skate fish and salt. To reach Jeungdo, you will have to past a chain of islands dotted en route. The highlight of Jeungdo village is its salt field. Built in 1953, the salt field has a history of a half century and is a cultural asset of the modern era, being the largest single salt field in Korea.
While in Mokpo, squeeze in a stop at an excellent National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage and learn about the impressive artifacts recovered from underwater excavations of shipwrecks. The main exhibition includes skeletal hull of a replica wooden ship from the Goryeo dynasty along with over 3,000 excavated relics from Wando and miraculously intact ceramics from the famous kilns of Gangjin. And of course the remains of the 14th-century Chinese ship discovered in 1975 just north of Mokpo in Sinan and over 22,000 recovered pieces of pottery - the primary source of the museum's artifacts. The exhibition also includes Life of a Korean Fishing Village, with displays of traditional and modern fishing methods.
Day 7 Mokpo - Haenam - Wando - Gogeum - Sinji - Gangjin - Byeongyeong - Boseong - Nagan - Suncheon (B) 270km
Check out Ttanggeutmaeul literally Land Edge Village. It is the Korean peninsula's southernmost tip. It was once an exile place during the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910). But, today it has become a famous tourist destination for its geographical location. 122m high Sajabong peak stands there with a beacon tower and observatory at its summit. The sunset view from here is spectacular and fascinating. There are two main interesting points, a 10-meter-high stone stele marking the most southern point of the mainland and a quite original and interesting Ddangkkeut observatory situated on a hill nearby. On clear days, you can view the peak of the Hallasan mountain over the distant horizon.
Later, head on to Wando Island. Road No. 77 continues up to Namchang where your island hopping tour begins. A 138m long Wando bridge leads you to Daldo, an isle lying between the mainland and Wando. A little further on, there is another 560m long bridge directing you to Wondong on Wando island. Wando embraces a total of 201 islands, of which 141 are uninhabited and 60 are inhabited. Thanks to the advantageous environment of being surrounded by clean waters with warm temperatures, Wando's harvest of abalone is superior both in quantity and quality, as it is abundant with seaweed, the main food for growing abalones.
Stay on road No. 77 and continue your way to the neighboring island of Sinjido through a 1,110m long Sinjigyo bridge. Check out Myeonsasibri beach, which is 3.8km long and 150m wide white sand screened by black pine trees. Your drive continues to Songgok pier where you catch a ferry for about 10 minute crossing to Sangjeong on the island of Gogeumdo, the last leg of your island hopping. The bridge is under construction and you will then drive as the bridge is completed. This island is closely related to Admiral Yi Sunsin. Back in the 16th century, there were numerous battles around the island and Admiral Yi set up his naval base here. He led 12 battle ships and defeated 133 Japanese warships in Myeongryang, and recorded 23 strings of undefeated battles.
Next, drive on a 760m long Gogeum bridge linking the island and Maryang on the mainland. Then, take a road No. 23 to Gangjin, a home to traditional Korean Celadon. While you are at Misan, take road No. 819. Soon after, you will get to the Gangjin Celadon Museum, an excellent facility for an introduction of the Korean celadon. Nearby is a functioning kiln, and you may have a chance to view the reproduction of the celadon. The Holland sailor Hamel's crew members were detained for 8 years in the 7th century.
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. Another noted feature of the village is an irrigation canal for the rice fields located further down, which were not common in Korea, but were most usual in The Netherlands.
En route stop at Boseong, known as the home of tea, hemp clothes and Sori or a Korean traditional genre of singing. A 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. A short walk along the path lined with cedar trees that had been planted to block the wind leads you to the tea plantation delightfully accommodating visitors. 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.
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.
Day 8 Suncheon - Yeosu - Dolan - Songgwang - Gurye (B) 210km
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.
The southern tip of the Dolsan Island situates Hyangilam hermitage from the 7th century. Perched on a gigantic pile of boulders on the eastern tip of Geumosan, the hermitage becomes more popular for the Korean folk-spiritual 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.
Back on mainland, explore Songgwangsa temple, 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.
Visit 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.
Day 9 Gurye - Hadong - Cheonghakdong - Jinju - Goseong - Hakdong - Tongyeong - Geoje - Busan (B) 330km
There will be a lot of driving today, and you will explore the charm and excitement of one of Korea’s most unique areas and for you to take in the mountain and ocean vista. Squeeze in a stop at 8th century Ssanggyesa literally meaning Twin-Streams Monastery. It is located in a picturesque mountain setting with a large array of buildings and treasures. On the east side of the main worship hall is a large rock Maehbul, a unique image of Buddha engraved in a hollowed out section of rock. Palyeongru is where many musicians were trained by Meditation-master Jinam who created Beompae (Buddhist music and dance) and also wrote a song with 8 notes about fish and mountains. The temple is where tea was first grown in Korea. The temple was lost during the Japanese invasion in the 16th century and what stand today are the restored remains of the temple.
Hwagae Market offers colorful bazaar of produce. The market is full of excitement. The cheerful rhythm of the drum attracts the ears and eyes of many, creating an exciting atmosphere. A traditional blacksmith still produces hoes, sickles, and other implements in the traditional ways. You can feast your lips on local specialties.
Later, explore Cheonghakdong. It literally means a community where a crane of blue feathers lives. It is one area that was left virtually untouched throughout much of Korea's turbulent history. About 200 residents in Cheonghakdong Village still honor the old Confucian way of life and the holy ground to worship the founder of Korea and a monastery called Samseonggung. At both entrances, there is either a gong or a drum that must be struck by a member of the party in order to announce visitors' arrival. There are about 1,500 various types of stone towers. When the palatial residence is shown, the ascetic solemnly requests to the visitors to show respect.
Jinju is a charming city set by the picturesque Namgang river. Explore Jinju fortress, which is built on the cliffs along the river. When Japanese troops breached the inner wall in the 16th century, a faithful girl Nongae plunged into the swirling river holding a Japanese general tightly in her arms, drowning both. Jinju fortress contains gates, pavilions, shrines, watch towers and the Jinju National Museum displaying historic artifacts and documents that speak to the Hideyoshi's invasion.
Time and tide works out, visit Dinosaur Museum and dinosaur footprints. Sangjogam in Goseong is considered one of the top dinosaur sites in the world - the top three being: Goseong, a site in Colorado, and Argentina's tracks. A raised boardwalk enables you to casually stroll along at low or high tide and view the huge diversity of tracks. The black layers of sediment rock lie slightly tilted toward the sea, and on these tilted sheets are the footprints of the ancient giants, which are virtually the only physical traces of their passing. The best viewing time is at low-tide, as few tracks can be seen when the gentle lap of water washes around the feet of the boardwalk that circles around two rocky promontories and curls along a wide beach area. Next, drop by Hakdongmauel, a small village with its stone wall lanes. Founded in the 17th century, the village has 50 houses guarded by winding walls built with argillite slates.
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 and visitors 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)
The day is reserved for refreshing, however you can explore the city at a relaxed pace if you please.
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.
Then, 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 gather 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 - Homigot - Yangdong - Gyeongju (B) 230km
En route, stop off 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.
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.
Then, enjoy driving tour 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.
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.
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 are scattered throughout this ancient city.
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.
You may want to 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 13 Gyeongju - Goryeong - Gayasan - Seongju - Gimcheon - Songnisan (B) 230km
Drive to Cheongdo to visit Unmunsa temple from the 6th century. This ancient temple features seven treasured artifacts including an old pine tree and a stone lantern. Unmunsa is the largest Buddhist nunnery in Korea, maintaining a capacity of roughly 250 nuns who practice Buddhism for four year periods. The nunnery is entirely self-sufficient with no dependency on laypeople or outsiders. These women come out as dharma warriors, very strong from the rigorous discipline. There is a famous tree, which is said to have grown up from a branch planted by a passing monk. About 500 years old pine, which is 6 meter tall and has a girth of 2.9 meter, drooping its braches downwards is rare and really visual.
En route, stop at Goryeong Tumuli Museum featuring a perfect replica of the Jisan-dong Tomb No. 44 itself and learn about the ancient sacrificial burial custom a funerary practice. About 40 persons were presumably entombed together. Such examples of massive human sacrifice have not been found in other ancient tombs of the era of the Three Kingdoms. Visit also includes Daegaya Museum exhibiting a huge collection of artifacts excavated in Goryeong.
Journey continues to the 9th century Haeinsa. Renounce each of 108 worldly desires of the mind as you climb 108 stairs. Within the Hall of Great Peace and Light, you will see Vairocana Buddha attended by Bodhisattvas and 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 a group of four depositories or Janggyeong Panjeon from the 15th century. Housed within the depositories are 81,258 wood-blocks of Tripitaka Koreana, the world's oldest and a complete collection of the Buddhist sutras as well as 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 on Ganghwado and were transported here for safekeeping. 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. Check out two long depositories are designed to have natural ventilation by facing different size windows in the front and rear of the building. 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.
En route, stop at Seongju where quality melons are produced. Hangaemaeul is a good example of clan village of Seongju. The village exudes an old charm and unique atmosphere of calmness and relaxing. The foundation of the village goes back to 500 years, but the village remains intact, giving visitors the unique opportunity to take a walk along stone walled allies.
En route, stop off at 5th century Jikjisa temple. On entering the compound, you can see two, 3 story pagodas dating back 8th century. Enshrined in the main hall are the triad of Sakyamuni Amitabha and Medicine Buddha. Inside the 1,000 Buddhas Hall are small white Buddha images, which were made from jade from Gyeongju during Joseon dynasty. Among the little statues, there is one of a naked baby and it is believed that, if you see it first, then you will have a good luck. The most valuable object in Jikjisa is a granite statue of the Medicine Buddha. It dates from the Unified Silla period and scholars place it at the end of the 9th century. The right hand is placed on the right knee with the fingers in evil surrender position and left hand is holding a vessel containing medicine. Jikjisa also has a famous bell cast in 1713. On the upper part of the bell, the mantras for breaking the hells and Om Mani Banme Hum are inscribed.
Your journey continues to Songnisan national park, weaving through the picturesque countryside. En route, make a short stop at a 600-year-old pine tree shaped like an open umbrella. In recent years several branches were damaged by wind and snow, though what remains is still beautiful. Upon entering Beopjusa dating back to 553, you will certainly stand in awe before the enormous golden Buddha gazing down at the temple and a five-story wooden pagoda, the only one left in Korea. Check out a 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. 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 is considered unique for beauty and design. Two stone pillars once held the temple banner pole. An excellent carved relief called Maaebul and worship halls also can be seen.
You cannot miss Four Buddhist Instrument Ceremony. The sounds of each instrument, Brahma bell, Dharma drum, wooden fish and cloud-shaped gong, have a function in saving beings of other realms. Hearing them 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 14 Songnisan - Andong (B) 140km
With leisurely time to pack, drive to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects, and explore UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hahoemaeul from the 15th century. 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. As you take a walk in the narrow alleys, enjoy the rustic and old charm of this unique village. You cannot possibly miss a 600-years 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).
A short drive on a narrow road built on an edge of high cliff to Byeongsanseowon. Standing opposite a rock cliff encircled by the Nakdong river, Byeongsan Seowon is a Confucian school built by Ryu Seongryong to train the disciples. In 1614, Confucians erected a memorial tablet for him to commemorate his scholastic achievements and knowledge, thereby making this a famous academy. The access is a narrow road, but the Seowon boasts its beautiful scenery and excellent architecture. The access is not easy due its narrow road built on the edge of the cliff.
Andong Folk Museum offers 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 15 Andong - Punggi - Buseok - Taebaek - Samcheok (B) 220km
En route, stop off at Bongjeongsa temple. The temple is neither big nor colorful. Daeungjeon, a central building of Bongjeongsa, is particularly apparent in the multi-cluster bracketing of the eaves which is characterized by simplicity and sturdiness. Geukrakjeon is the Korea's one of the oldest wooden edifices. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit this temple on April 21, 1999.
Visit Sosuseowon from the 16th century, the first private institute established in Korea. It was a birthplace of Confucian education and a cradle of prominent scholars. 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. Although the educational function of the facility has long since ceased, the commemorative ceremonies have been and are still held twice a year.
While in Punggi, a small remote town famous for quality apples and ginseng, you will explore ginseng market with piles of fresh ginseng roots, including variety array of ginseng products. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. With all these features combined creates a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.
Explore Hwanseongul Cave. About 30 minute grueling uphill hike from the ticket office or a 6 minute on a mono rail gets you 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. Many waterfalls are actively eroding the floor. Only 1.6km open to the public; yet that section alone will provide unforgettable memories. Cave tour is absolutely at your choice. You could opt out by staying outside, or simply relax.
Taebaek is a highland town once boomed with coal mining until the early 1980s. There is a coal museum showcasing Korea's coal mining with 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. Taebaek boasts of two river sources. Hwangji pond from which 5,000 tons of water flows daily is the source of the Nakdong River and Geomryongso is that of Han River.
Day 16 Samcheok - Jeongdongjin - Gangneung - Odaesan - Naksan - Sokcho - Seoraksan (B) 190km
En route, stop at Jeongdongjin. It is a tiny 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.
Check out the salvaged North Korean submarine that is on display together with retired Korean navy ship. The three armed guerillas infiltrated into the land on September 15, 1996, to spy on the naval installations in the area while the others were on standby in the submarine. However, it ran aground on September 18. The crew eventually abandoned any attempt to find their way back to the North and split up in several groups. But, one was soon spotted by a civilian who became suspicious and alarmed the authorities. Counterespionage operation was in progress for 49 days and of the 26 North Korean infiltrators, 1 was captured alive, 13 spies were shot, 11 were murdered by their colleagues and 1 reportedly escaped back to North Korea.
Gangneung is 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. Gyeongpodae 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.
Visit 7th century Woljeongsa temple. You will pass under the Boje-ru, which is adorned with various guardians to gain access to the temple courtyard. Straight ahead, you will immediately notice the nine-story, octagonal shaped, stone pagoda from the Goryeo Dynasty. The uniquely shaped pagoda is not only the main highlight to the temple, but it’s also National Treasure. Wind chimes hang on each corner of the pagoda, while a seated stone Bodhisattva is situated out in front making an offering. Another amazing part of the temple is the 800-meter path arched by tall fir trees. The trickles of stream and fresh yet musky fir trees small add the pleasure of your visit.
You will then 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.
Stop at Naksansa temple from the 7th century. In April 2005, the temple with all the surroundings was burned to the ground. Today, 12 temple buildings and facilities were restored. Exquisitely decorated, the hall is full of statues of the Bodhisattva in various poses, and you will appreciate the skill of Korean woodcarving. There is a fine 6.2 meter-tall seven-story stone pagoda that is believed to have been erected in 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.
Seoraksan national park is a place that you can definitely find lots of outdoor activities to make it worth while for an extended stay. Rugged peaks, fantastic cliffs, numerous waterfalls, unique rock formations, and scenic valleys altogether make this park and surrounding area some of the most beautiful sceneries on the Korean peninsula, and give this area an unparalleled popularity around the year..
Day 17 Seoraksan (B)
The word of the day is hiking of varying lengths and difficulty. Only a small walk from the park entrance, you will marvel at a large bronze statues, Unification Buddha, symbolizing Korean people's hope for reunification of the country. A little further on is Sinheungsa temple where Cheonbuldong valley and Ulsanbawi trails begin.
Cheonbuldong valley Trail
It is 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. Near Biseondae rises Janggunbong majestically and among the crags of it is Geumgang cave with a tiny temple inside. You will head up a very steep incline for 600m from the gentle slope of the trail, and 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. From Biseondae, another 3.5km to Yangpok Falls, so spacious yet everywhere you looked you are surrounded by giant mountain peaks.
About an hour and half into the walk from the park entrance is Gyejoam hermitage. Located at the base of Ulsanbawi, and the point at which the trail takes a sharp rise upwards. In front of the hermitage on a spacious stone slab is a huge spherical rock called Heundeulbawi. This rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be shaken with some effort, but nobody gets further than waggling it. Your adventure begins by climbing a massive steep staircase that winds its way up the side of the cliff that angle up Ulsanbawi, a 2.8km-long ridge of naked, gray stone peaks jutting 873m into the sky.
Biryong waterfall Trail
The trail is relatively easy for anyone to enjoy and you will view Biryeong waterfalls at the trail end. About 400m further above the falls, you will be amazed at Towangseong waterfalls cascading down a 320-meter cliff.
There is a cable car that picks you up at the valley floor to the Gwongeumseong. 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 above sea level) are as follow and the given times are based on round trip starting and ending at Sogongwon in a relaxed pace.
1. Biryong Falls (310m) + Towangseong Falls observatory (5.6km): 3 hours 30 minutes - Moderate and Strenuous
2. Biseondae (334m) (6km): 2 hours 30 minutes - Moderate
3. Biseondae + Geumgang cave (495m) (7.2km): 4 hours - Moderate and Strenuous
4. Biseondae + Yangpok (715m) (13.2km): 7 hours - Moderate
5. Heundeulbawi (510m) (6.6km): 3 hours - Moderate
6. Heundeulbawi + Ulsanbawi (873m) (7.6km): 5 hours 30 minutes - Moderate and Strenuous
7. Gwongeumseong (800m) Cable car (3.4km): 1 hour (roughly four minutes each up and down) - Moderate
Sokcho has so much more to offer than just mountains. Daepohang becomes a great attraction when this small alley lit up. 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. And in downtown, there is a colorful market selling fishes, fruits, vegetables, grains and daily necessities, and a little further down is a North Korean refugee village that can be accessible by a hand-pulled boat.
Day 18 Seoraksan - Hwajinpo - Geojin - Haean - Bangsan - Hwacheon (B) 240km
Today, you will experience significant military presence and learn about the stark reality and immense tragedy of divided Korea. Being so close to the border, both towns are still very much a slow and rural. They are less-traveled locations where you may not have the comforts and conveniences of luxury travel.
At the most northern tip of the east coast sits 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. The big blocks are designed to topple onto the road 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 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, not to glorify him but to learn Korea's complicated history. 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. The villa displays photos and documents chronicling his life and modern Korean history. When the Korean War ended in 1953, the border between the Koreas was redrawn, and the Hwajinpo wound up in the South.
Explore 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.
The road head turns to the inland westward, and the elevation thereafter gradually rises up and villages or farmlands are seldom seen, but only get the feeling of locked in the mountains. It generally has very light traffic volumes so the lack of development of this remote area. Tour stops at a small village, Haean that sits in the circular concave shape of the terrain resembled a punch bowl. It is a natural geologic bowl several kilometers across, ringed by steep mountains on four sides. The bowl creates the richest farmland, and the area is starkly beautiful. Many fierce battles were fought here during the Korean War because of its strategic location. The Battle of Bloody Ridge took place here from August to September 1951 and this was followed by the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge from September to October 1951, meanwhile the 1st Marine Division reinforced by the Korean Marine Corps Regiment captured the line of hills in the Battle of the Punch Bowl from 31 August to 20 September 1951.
You will also tour the Eulji Observation Post and the 4th Tunnel. At the peak of the observatory, 1000 meters above sea level, enjoy the stunning 360 panorama of the Punch Bowl, including an ominous view of North Korea. Then, explore one of four known tunnels passing under the DMZ, dug secretly by the North. Check out a vivid hint of the surprise attack and to carry out future military operations against the South. Those who suffer from asthma, claustrophobia or a weak heart cannot enter the tunnel.
Along the way, you will stop off at Peace Dam that measures 125m high and 601m long. It was built to stave off possible catastrophic flooding should the upstream Imnam Dam in North Korea collapse, either intentionally or by accident. Although it can hold back 2.63 billion tons of water, there is no reservoir behind this dam. As it stands, you will find it merely preventive. Near the dam is a small Water Museum, where you can get familiar with the story of water, and the importance of water conservation. While here, you cannot hardly miss World Peace Bell that was made from empty cartridge cases gathered from the world’s conflict zones in that it carries a significant meaning. The bell weights 37.5 ton but is incomplete. Check out a broken pigeon wing that is on display near the bell. It will be added bringing the bell complete on the day of unification of Korea.
Day 19 Hwacheon - Chuncheon - Gapyeong - Seoul (B) 110Km
With leisurely time to pack, explore Chuncheon, a charming town surrounded by mountains and scenic lakes. Soyanggang Dam with its length of 530 meters and height of 123m is among the attractions of the city. You will want to explore Myeong-dong, a busy commercial center brimming with shops and restaurants serving one of the local specialties, Dakgalbi. Then, drive along the scenic Han River all the way down to Seoul. By returning the car, your drive adventure ends.
Day 20 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return at your own transportation to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.