Two Wheels 10 days
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Folk Museum of Korea
- Insa-dong Antique Shop Street
- Namdaemun Market
- Silleuksa Temple
- Gosu Cave
- Ginseng Market
- Hahoemaeul Village
- Andong Folk Museum
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Donggung palace and Wolji pond
- Banwolseong Fortress
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Tumuli Park
- Bulguksa Temple
- Seokguram Grotto
Tips on Korean names
Expressway - 고속국도
National Road - 국도
Provincial Road - 지방도
City. County Road - 시. 군도
Other Road - 기타도로
Railroad - 철도
Bike Lane, Bike Path, Bikeway - 자전거도로
Sharp curve - 급커브
Steep gradient - 급경사
Usually named with following Korean suffixes stand for
Ro (로) - Road or Street
Daero (대로) - Main Street or Thoroughfare
Gil (길) - Road or Street
Ri (리) - Village
Maeul (마을) - Village
Dong (동) - Administrative unit in the city or village
Myeon (면) - Small County
Eup (읍) - Large County
Gun (군) - Administrative unit covering Myeon and Eup
Si (시) - City
Do (도) - Province
Cheong (청) - Office of Gun, Si or Do
Samuso (사무소) - Office
Samgeori (삼거리) - Fork or Junction
T Junction (T자형 삼거리)
Gyocharo (교차로) - Crossroads or Intersection
Sageori (사거리) - Crossroads or Intersection
Negeori (네거리) - Crossroads or Intersection
Nadeulmok (나들목) - Interchange
Gyo (교) - Bridge
Daegyo (대교) - Long Bridge
Yeok (역) - Subway station, Railroad station
Tunnel (터널) - Tunnel
Jihado (지하도) - Underpass
Guldari (굴다리) - Underpass
Jae (재) - Pass or Hill
Ryeong (령) - Mountain pass
Road signs are almost always in English as well as Hangeul.
Language is less of a problem than it might seem - many people understand some English.
Riding on any of the major roads can be physically and mentally exhausting and frustrating, traffic in general has little respect for your cycling plight.
Accommodation in motels or pensions is ubiquitous, standard and economical.
Vegetarian menus in some restaurants are rare to find.
Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -) 60km
Touching down at Incheon International Airport, and after you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel. Bike pick up upon check in. The evening is yours to relax, allowing your mind and body time to adjust to different time zone.
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 - Paldang - Yangpyeong - Yeoju (B) 100km
With time to hassle over the city's traffic, an hour bus ride to Gwangnaru Park (20km) to begin your adventure. The trails are not for professional races or intense competition. More suited for relaxed biking than racing. The Hangang and Namhangang River bike path starts out 310km and hugs more than half of the entire length. From urban skylines to beautiful river vistas, the river valleys have something for everyone, and the bikeway is a dedicated bike and walkway with no vehicular traffic.
The route winds its way at Yangsuri, camping sites, picnic facilities, sports grounds, wide areas of natural parkland and over gently rolling terrain. It is a perfect match for the runner, skater or bicyclists. Currently there are 132km of completed Namhangang bikeway with additional spurs in the towns of Namyangju, Yangpyeong, Yeoju, Wonju and Chungju with an access to number of tiny villages, museums, ancient temple and pottery workshops. The trail travels north through Neungnaeri and turns to the south at the Yangsuri river junction. From Paldang, enjoy a rolling ride of 16km over the defunct railroad to Sinwon. This paved stretch follows the line of the old Jungangseon Railroad, which was built in 1939 to connect to Gyeongju.Cycling continues to Yeoju (55km) on a fairly flat path. Cycling is pleasant and scenery is beautiful. The weirs were constructed as part of the river restoration project to improve water quality, control the flood and to help with water shortages. One such example you will pass by is Ipobo that was built in the shape of an egret flying up into the sky.
While in Yeoju, stop at Silleuksa, a rare temple that is perched on a riverbank amid an attractive waterfront whose cove forms a snug and cozy enclosure for this ancient sanctuary. Incense burning in the temple and sights and smells mixed offer visitors a really magical experience. To the east of the monastery is a hill on which a seven-story brick pagoda stands. It is a 9.4 meters high and is the only existing Goryeo brick pagoda (918-1392).
Day 4 Yeoju - Chungju (B) 70km
The bike tour continues along the river to Chungju. It is pretty flat with few hills. A 70km trip is not much for a biking but it could be a beautiful and relaxing ride. It gives a tantalizing tease of what will be if the full length and connections are all realized further down from the Chungju Dam. Chungju has an outstanding cultural background. In addition, the natural scenery created by beautiful mountains, lakes, and hot springs are the crucial assets of Chungju. In Chungju, stop at the 7-story Jungang Tower, marking the central location of the Korean Peninsula.
Day 5 Chungju - Sancheok - Cheongpung - Danyang (B) 90km
The main trail is Local Road 82 and Local Road.
To avoid a busy street, a short bus ride to Sancheok (산척) and begin the day’s tour. This is a great bike path in a beautiful area, but for bike riders of high skill levels. A challenging tour continues on a series of mountain passes and roadways all the way to Danyang (65km). Due to a challenging trail, flexibility in the distance of cycling. The first leg of the tour to Guryongri village (구룡리) for 25km is pleasant with less vehicular traffic. Lonesome tiny farming villages are ahead. Dundae, Seodae, Dodeok, Samtan, Bangdae all of which are nestled in the moutain foot or valleys. A little further on from Jangseonri village, take a left fork and jump on Jangseonro (장선로). Continue all the way to Guryongri village. By making a right turn here, you join a 9km long scenic but busy Road 82. At the Southern edge of the village, stay on a Road 82 on the left fork. Shorly after passing Cheongpung Resort hotel, take a left road of Hayhyeon-Soyaro (학현소야로), and then the third leg of challenging route (31km) begins. At Gakgiri village (각기리), take a right fork and stay on this road to Hari village (하리). Next, turn left at Hajin Samgeori (하진삼거리) to pass through three tunnels Maegok (274m), Jinju (768m) and Sangjin (47m) that comes one after another. Shortly after the tunnels, make U-turn to Danyang. Time permitting, explore Gosu cave on a vehicle. Formed about 400 million years ago, it is virtually an integrated exhibition hall of all imaginable cave resources. Then, stop off at Dodam Sambong rocks representing the typical love triangle of ancient Korea: a husband, his wife and his mistress.
Day 6 Danyang - Punggi - Yecheon - Andong (B) 100km
Main trail to Andong is Road 931 via Yecheon. Then, a combination of Local Road and Bikeway to Andong.
Bus to Punggi (35km) and see ginseng market. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root, which has a good smell better than it tastes, has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. There are also many shops along the street leading out from the painfully quiet train station. Street vendors sell flowers, fruits, food stuff and home grown grains and vegetables. All these features mixed offer a rural ambience of Korea's remote town.
The trail to Yecheon stretches 30km most of which are mountain passes. From Yecheon to Andong (35km) is a combination of Local Road and Bikeway. The villages and landmarks on the trails from Punggi to Yecheono are Ohyeongri, Hancheonri, Hitdeutjae Pass, Yujeonri, Nojwaeri, Hachon 3-ri, Beolbangri, Gwanhyeon 3-ri and Deokyul 1-ri. At Doekyul Samgeori (덕율삼거리), take a right fork to Yecheon. The villages ahead are Galguri and Ugyeri. Straight ahead at Hancheon Samgeori (한천삼거리) and on to Nambon Samgeori (남본본삼거리) to join Yanggungro (양궁로). About 2km ahead is Dongyecheon Interchange (동예천교차로). Past under the highways and stay on Yanggungro by taking a right fork there. About 2.6km ahead is a fork. Here, cross Gopyeonggyo bridge (고평교) and follow the road past Wolpori, Jiksan 1-ri and on to Subakgol where the road name changes to Goeejeong 2 gil (괴정2길).
Continue your way to Goeejeong Samgeori (괴정삼거리) and straight ahead to join Pungsantaesaro (풍산태사로) that streches out side by side with Gyeongsero motorway. At Angyo Sageori (안교사거리), stay on Pungsantaesaro and on to Hari Samgeori (하리삼거리), Then, make a right turn to the direction of Danho and Maae. Soon thereafter, cross the bridge and follow Pungsandanhoro (풍산단호로). There is another bridge to cross, Danhogyo (단호교). Here, turn left and get to the 2.9km long bikeway, or go straight on a road that runs in the middle of the rice paddies to Danho 1 ri village (단호1리). Follow the road for about 6km. Take a left fork by crossing the bridge and under the highway to join Namilro (남일로). Pass Geomamgyo bridge (검암교) and turn left at the fork in front of the Gagokri village (개곡리). You will soon get to the riverside bikeway that leads you to Andong, a stronghold of Confucianism that has deeply influenced the lives of Koreans in all aspects.
Day 7 Andong - Gyeongju (B) 140km
Spend the day without biking. 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).
Gyoengju 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.
Explore UNESCO world heritage site, Seokguram grotto from the 8 th century. After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 15 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to the grotto, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas-reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.
Day 8 Gyeongju (B)
The word of the day is bike tour of Gyeongju.
Hotel to Bulguksa temple (9km)
Bulguksa temple to downtown 14km. Visit Bulgukisa temple very first then on to the city to explore the attractions.
Bulguksa temple to downtown Gyeongju via Bomun Lake Resort where hotel is located (18km)
Downtown to Hotel (9km)
Bulguksa temple nestles on the mountain foot of Tohamsan mountain, 9km outside Bomun Resort where you stay. Following the one-pillared gate and the four guardian's gate, you will reach two double level arched stone staircases - the symbolic bridges, leaving the world of sufferings behind and to enter Buddha's land. Up from the bridges on the terraced main courtyard stands the Hall of Great Enlightenment. The hall houses Sakyamuni Buddha who is flanked on the right by Kasyapa and Maitreya Bodhisattva and on the left by Dipankara and Ananda. Before this hall stands a stone carved lantern and two stone pagodas. Three-storied Seokgatap with its calm simplicity of lines and minimal decoration and Dabotap with highly ornate and the noted complexity of the universe stands blending well into the architectural harmony. While here, it is worth noting the carved wood fish and cloud shaped gong hanging from the beams and a large dharma drum resting on the back of a turtle.
Behind the main worship hall stands Museoljeon literally Hall of No Words. The hall gets its name from the belief that Buddha's teachings cannot be taught by mere words alone. Following a steep flight of steps behind Museoljeon, you will witness an image of the Avalokitesvara who is referred to as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. She has a thousand hands, and eyes in each so as to reach out to those in need of help. Birojeon houses a gilded statue of Vairocana with the gesture of the first wisdom, a combined hand mudra formed with both hands positioned in front of the heart, with the raised forefinger of the clenched or vajra-fist' right hand encircled by the closed vajra-fist' of the left hand. Enshrined in the Nahanjeon hall is Sakyamuni attended by two bodhisattvas, and sixteen figures of Buddha's disciples sitting in deep meditation. Hall of Supreme Bliss, standing near the main compound, houses the gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha, the ruler of the Western Paradise Sukhavati. You can hardly miss the boar in front of this hall where many are encouraged to hug and rub it. All sorts of pigs, for that matter, stand for good luck in Korean culture, as the chubbiness of the pig stood for prosperity. After all, only the rich could afford to eat and idle enough to get fat. 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.
Enjoy a tour of 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.
The ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress was 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.
You also witness 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.
Visit Bunhwangsa temple boasts 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.
Explore the Tomb of Kim Yusin (595-673), who served as general under King Muyeol. Dressed in civilian garb, the stone carved zodiac images surrounding the mound are the most well preserved of all the remains. A little further on is the Tomb of King Muyeol (603-661). Presided over the golden age of Silla expansion, King Muyeol forged an alliance with Tang China and defeated the rival Baekje kingdom with the help of Kim Yusin. The tomb is a circular ground mound made of piled-up soil with a bottom girth of 116m, and a height of 8.8m. Near the base of the mound are ring of stones which were possibly used in protecting an underground structure, but most have disappeared over the centuries while only the larger stones remain. Behind the king's tomb are four giant mounds that are believed to hold the remains of relatives of the king. A famous turtle base with tablet cap-stone that dates from the original construction is on display and you will not miss it. Near Gyeongju train station is a covered market, a classic example of the Korean market with lots of fresh vegetables, seafood, food stands and some textiles .With this your biking adventure ends in Gyeongju.
Day 9 Gyeongju - Seoul (B) 390km
You will this morning explore UNESCO world heritage site, Seokguram grotto (18km) from the 8th century. After taking a twisting ride up around eastern side of Tohamsan and about 10 minute walk through a lovely wood brings you to the grotto, the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. The basic layout of the grotto includes an arched entrance which leads into a rectangular antechamber and then a narrow corridor, which is lined with bas-reliefs, and then finally leads into the main rotunda. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha, in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The Buddha image is sculptured in perfect proportion with stark simplicity while the garments were accomplished by shallow cuts. Curled knots of the head and the sacred jeweled spot on the forehead are evident but not conspicuous. The face is full and round with a comparatively small nose and clearly defined mouth. The eyes are half closed under long arching eyebrows while there is no hint of smile. The ears are long and stretching out. The hand mudra symbolizes witnessing the enlightenment. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides. With time to visit, return early afernoon on a speed train to Seoul.
Day 10 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.