South Korea is a fusion of bustling cities, cultural heritage, incredible nature, and tranquil temples. I’ve wanted to visit ever since I fell in love with the cuisine and this trip exceeded my expectations.
After researching, I felt travelling with The Dragon Trip on their 10-day South Korea Premium Tour seemed like it would be a great way for us to explore. All of the fun and none of the planning, for an amazing 10 day itinerary in South Korea.
I did wonder if 10 days would be enough time to explore South Korea. But fear not, this action-packed itinerary gives you a real insight into the country and we experienced some amazing activities.From a temple stay in the mountains to a luxury island escape, our Korean adventure was everything I imagined and more. If you are limited with your days or when you want to visit, I think this is the perfect itinerary to discover Korea.
Day 1 – Seoul
The first day in Korea begins in Seoul. You’ll arrive in the city and the tour begins with a group dinner. Unfortunately for us, our flight was delayed, and we missed the group dinner. However, the hotel is located in a really cool area of Seoul, so we decided to head out for a late-night Korean BBQ experience. Delicious Korean food? What more could I ask for?The hotel included in the tour is L7 Myeongdong. This is based in one of the most visited areas of Seoul. I would definitely recommend staying here, the location makes it easy to explore the city and the area has such a fun vibe with a ton of street food options.
Day 2 – Seoul
We were up bright and early to meet with our tour group. We started the morning with a walk to Namsan Tower. This is an iconic sightseeing spot in Seoul – if you watch any Kdramas you will recognise this place!We headed to the top in the cable cars and enjoyed the panoramic views of the skyline from outside. Once we went inside the tower, it was amazing to see a 360 view of Seoul. Our tour guide (shout out Jin) was telling us about the different areas of the city.Lunch was a group meal at a local Ginseng Chicken restaurant. As I previously mentioned, I LOVE Korean food. It really is what inspired us to finally book this trip. I wouldn’t have personally picked the Ginseng chicken, but I’m glad it was on the itinerary because it’s such a wholesome, warming, delicious meal. I’d recommend trying it at least once.
After lunch, it felt like we went back in time visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace watching the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony.Walking around the Palace, you get a real sense of the history and culture of Korea. This is a great place to dress up in Korean Hanboks, you’ll see a lot of people at the Palace wearing traditional clothes – it’s beautiful. Of course, I had to get involved, you don’t need to ask me twice to dress up.Day 3 – DMZ
Today was an incredibly early morning, we had to leave the hotel at 4am to arrive at the DMZ early enough to secure tickets. I believe this has now changed and the number of tickets available each day has increased, our experience meant we had to arrive SUPER early, and our tour guide got in line.
Thankfully, we were able to rest in the coach until a reasonable time to go eat breakfast. There are several places to grab food at the DMZ visitor centre. We had a bunch of delicious snacks whilst waiting to get our tickets.Once we had our confirmed time to enter the DMZ, we met up with a North Korean defector in the visitor centre. This was such an eye-opening experience, to hear first hand of the experience living – and escaping – North Korea. It makes you understand your own privilege and gain an understanding of the tragic history separating these countries.It is a heavy topic and after our conversation, we had a group lunch to fuel up for our visit to the tunnels underneath. We went down the tunnels and although it’s interesting to understand the political implications of this – it’s a damp tunnel and the walk back uphill is pretty tough.Unfortunately, on the day we visited it was raining and misty, so the observatory was a bit of a let-down. Normally you can view North Korea through the binoculars and from the viewing deck. They have a village on the border of the DMZ, which is thought to be a propaganda village.Overall, I think it’s always important to understand the history of a country and I would say visiting the DMZ is absolutely worth it. For me our Q&A with a defector from the North was a fascinating part of the day and made up for the poor weather and visibility.
As you can imagine, we were rather tired after our super early morning, so we had a quick dinner and got some rest. There is a Nanta show included in the tour, we didn’t attend but it’s worth noting how many activities you’re able to experience.
Day 4 – Gyeongju
This morning, we said goodbye to Seoul and hell to Gyeongju where we would be staying in a traditional Hanok!We stayed at Hwangnamkwan Hanok Guesthouse – I immediately fell in love with this charming little town, surrounded by nature with such darling traditional buildings all around.We had a few hours free upon arrival in Gyeongju, so we walked around the main area enjoying the atmosphere and stopped for some lunch. I would say it is slightly touristy, but not in a bad way. There are so many street food stands and cute little stores. This is where I first tried Hotteok and I was instantly hooked – an absolute must try!We then went out on a bicycle ride around the city, stopping at ancient sites and enjoying nature. We actually upgraded so we could do the electrical bike which was a lot of fun! We made our way to the Folk Village where we found an ancient tea house to enjoy a refreshing drink. It’s truly a magical feeling to be walking around such ancient and traditional style buildings – it really is like stepping back in time.We saw the iconic Woljeonggyo Bridge, it is truly a beautiful location – I can see why it’s one of the most photographed places in the country!We had another group dinner, but it was a special dining experience – a traditional set meal in a Hanok! This is known as a Hanjeongsik set and I would say it’s a must try during your time in Korea. You’re able to try so many new dishes (even if you don’t like them, it’s worth trying). Some of the flavours were like nothing I had tried before – specifically acorn jelly, I wasn’t a fan but the number of dishes to try was incredible. We washed it all down with a few glasses of Makgeolli, a traditional rice wine.After our incredible dining experience, we walked along to Anapji Pond to take in the night-time views. It felt magical, a great end to a wonderful evening.
Day 5 – Golgulsa Temple Stay
After a surprisingly comfortable night sleep (you sleep on the floor in a Hanok) we grabbed a traditional breakfast, which again, was incredible.We headed out of the city towards Golgulsa Temple in the mountains where we are doing a temple stay for one night. Our stay here was super interesting, immersing ourselves in a different side of Korean culture.
Upon arrival, you change into temple clothes, and were assigned our rooms. They were very basic and included sleeping on the floor again – but it was clean and comfortable.We joined in with an archery lesson, which was a lot as fun – let me tell you it’s not as easy as it looks!
We then went for a communal lunch. The meals at the temple are all vegetarian and you are encouraged to only take a portion you can finish. You’re also required to clean your own dishes. The food was still very tasty, and I enjoyed the culture of self sufficiency and no waste.We then walked up to the temple at the top of the hill to watch a Sunmundo exhibition. The people in the temple often train this Korean martial art, they are very skilled. After this, we had the opportunity to try it out for ourselves. It was quite intense, but enjoyable and finished with a relaxing meditation session.A communal dinner was once again made for us. It was lovely to be able to chat with different people on our tour, as well.
Day 6 – Busan
There was the opportunity to wake up at sunrise for a meditation experience with the monks, we decided to sleep a little longer and go for a relaxing breakfast.
It was an exciting morning as we took the bullet train to Busan! It is crazy how efficient and cool these trains are, not only that but you can get the best snacks in the train station.
Upon arrival, we checked in at our hotel Youngmu Parade Hotel. The rooms were so spacious and clean, I cannot tell you what a treat it was to have a large comfy bed after two nights sleeping on the floor.We then went to a Korean cooking class to make our own lunch! This is an activity that we probably would not have booked for ourselves, but truly was one of the best experiences we had. The chef showed us the dishes we were going to cook and then we got to give it a go ourselves.
We made Kimchi jeon (Kimchi pancakes) and Gimbap. Two iconic Korean dishes. It was a lot easier than I had anticipated and the end result eating the lunch we had made was so lovely. We then visited such a beautiful temple by the coast – Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, where we wandered around and took in the views at our leisure. We had the evening free on this day and we decided to take our guides recommendation and go to a traditional Korean Jjimjilbang. The spa evening was exactly what we needed during our busy itinerary, plus the spa was HUGE. If you’re not aware, Korean spas work slightly differently to what we may be used to – you are given shorts and t-shirt to wear. They are unisex in public areas, so there are a lot of saunas, hot rooms, relaxation areas, ice rooms where you can mix. If you want to go in the pool or steam room, it’s single sex and you don’t wear anything. They also had a ramen restaurant in the spa, which is what we had for dinner. Ramen is soooo good in Korea, there are an insane number of choices. I know it’s instant noodles, but the banchan are free and you can customise as much as you want. There was a free sikhye drink included in our entrance fee. It was the perfect way to spend a rainy evening in Busan.
Day 7 – Busan
Our second day in Busan was spent exploring, we first went on the Songdo Marine Cable Car for amazing views over the city and ocean. We were able to walk around and enjoy the natural environment, unfortunately the weather was quite changeable during the time we visited but I imagine during summer it would be amazing to spend time at the beaches here.
We had some free time in BIFF Square where we grabbed lunch and did a little shopping. This area is filled with amazing restaurants and street food – you can find literally anything you would want! We had Army stew, which is such a hearty dish filled with a great mix of ingredients. Then it was time to shop, if you’re interested in K beauty, this is the place for you! I found a lot of great beauty stores and got a bargain or two, I came home with a lot of sheet masks! After that we visited Gamcheon village, you’ve probably seen this place online, it’s a village filled with colourful houses built on layered streets. It’s a fun place to walk around and perhaps pick up a souvenir or grab a yummy drink. I wouldn’t advise dedicating too much time, but it’s certainly worth checking out. Luckily the weather cleared up for us to enjoy an evening on the water. We went out on a catamaran to enjoy the views of Busan at night – the city lights are so pretty from on board. There was also a drone show, it sounds a bit weird, but it was such an amazing way to wrap up our time in Busan.
Day 8 – Jeju Island
We flew over to Jeju island on this morning – it’s crazy because you leave the bustling city of Busan and an hour later you’re on a tropical island of Jeju!
We checked into our phenomenal hotel, Parnas Hotel Jeju. The rooms were pristine and it has beautiful panoramic views over the coastline. Then we headed out for yacht sailing to take in this stunning island from the water and partake in fishing out on the ocean. One thing to note about Jeju is that the island is famously quite windy – it was a rough trip out on the yacht! The water was truly such a beautiful shade of blue and it was such a magical experience, however it wasn’t my favourite activity purely because of how choppy the water was.
We had a free evening and found a nearby restaurant to try some Jeju seafood dishes.
Day 9 – Jeju Island
We woke up and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the hotel – it was a great fusion of Korean and western dishes, and we were ready to explore the island.We embarked on a walk along the Jeju Olle Trail, this incredible path brings you along the coast of the island really giving you the opportunity to enjoy the natural splendour of Jeju. You’ll want to stop all of the time to take in the beautiful views of crystal-clear waters, volcanic peaks and waterfalls. After a gorgeous morning walking in the sunshine, we stopped at Olle Market to grab a spot of lunch. We wandered around the market and ended up trying something from one of the stands. I so wish I could have brought home a ton of the kimchi – they had so many varieties, it looked tasty! Then we made our way to Sangumburi Crater, which had such beautiful views of rolling fields and great to see this natural monument.After this, we had the option to take a hike up Seongsan Ilchulbang also known as sunrise peak, or meet the women divers of Jeju. We decided to take the hike to enjoy the spectacular views of the island. It was a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. Our last night we went for a group meal of Korean BBQ and soju. It was the perfect way to round off our 10 days exploring Korea together.
Day 10 – Seoul
The end of our 10-day South Korea Premium tour with Dragon Trip. We woke up early and headed to the airport, we had a morning flight back to Seoul and our onward flight was booked for the same evening.
Unfortunately, the weather had different plans for us, and all flights were cancelled due to high winds – this is where I would caution everyone to add in an additional day to their itinerary. Apparently, this is very common for high winds to cancel flights from Jeju.
We ended up spending all day in the airport rescheduling multiple flights, until we were able to fly back to Seoul on the evening. However, I was quite happy to have another day in Seoul and we indulged in some more incredible Korean food, plus checked out a sheep café – café culture here is next level!
I think you can tell we packed a lot of activities and experiences into 10 days in Korea, making this a perfect itinerary for first timers. You’re able to get a real insight into the country and how different the regions are. I left wanting to return – there is still so much to see and do!
I can’t recommend this tour enough; it really was such an easy way to discover Korea. We didn’t have any issues with language barriers, and we got a lot of information and advice from our tour guide. It was so well organised, we had to simply turn up on time and enjoy – no organisation required! Such a treat for me, as I’m normally the one making bookings and figuring out where we need to be and when.
I hope you’ve found this detailed itinerary useful; you could absolutely adapt the itinerary to your own preference if you don’t join the tour.
We received a media discount from The Dragon Trip. However, as always, all photography and opinions are my own.