Although South Korea is known for its urbanization and technological advances, the country has still retained much of its cultural traditions and nature. As such, it is a destination full of sights for city lovers and nature lovers. There are lots to explore in South Korea – trendy neighbourhoods, ancient temples, tea plantations and over 3,000 offshore islands. Need more convincing? Here are the most beautiful places in South Korea that should be on your bucket list.
1. Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak), Jeju Island
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the peak in Jeju is famous for many things, but is best known for the magnificent sight of the sunrise over it (hence its name). The tuff cone was formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions about five thousand years ago. At 182 meters high, visitors can climb up the peak from the northwest side in 30 minutes.
2. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond, Gyeongju
This 7th-century palace complex in Gyeongju National Park contains well-preserved temples, museums with ancient relics, and three small islands. Its main attraction is Wolji Pond, an artificial lake that perfectly reflects the structures (especially at night) and is covered with lotus flowers in the summer.
3. Ggotji Beach, Taean-gun
Four kilometers southwest from Anmyeon-eup, Ggotji Beach is where to go to watch the sun set between two large rock formations – Granny Rock and Grandpa Rock. Legend has it that the wife of a base commanding officer in the Shilla Dynasty became the Granny Rock when she died waiting faithfully for her husband.
Cheongsando is famous for its natural beauty. The island off the south coast remains green all year round. Think terraced rice paddies, ocean views, and fields of yellow rapeseed flowers. The island is also famous for its concept of slow living. Every year, it hosts a “Slow Walking Festival” where visitors and residents are encouraged to stroll the walking trails as slowly as possible to better soak in the scenery.
5. Cheonjiyeon Falls, Jeju Island
Cheonjiyeon literally stands for ‘the connection of the sky and the land’, and this waterfall is said to be where seven divine beings descended from heaven and bathed in the pond. Legends aside, the 22-meter high waterfall is surrounded by walking trails, lemon trees, and a pond filled with harmless mottled eels. You can visit in the day or in the night, when the trails and cascades are illuminated at night.
6. Yangdong Folk Village, Gyeongju
Yangdong Folk Village is a traditional aristocratic village from the Joseon dynasty. It has retained its Neo-Confucian culture and many historic homes over 200 years old have also been preserved. The village follows the topography of the surrounding mountains and valleys in an auspicious Hanja character. As one of the most valuable folk villages in South Korea, it has also seen some famous guests such as Prince Charles and Ban Ki-Moon!
7. Gwang-An Bridge, Busan
Also known as the Diamond Bridge, this two-story bridge over the ocean connects Suyeong-gu and Haeundae-gu. It offers an astonishing view of mountains, beaches, hills and city lights. The bridge is only for vehicles, but you can take in the spectacular night view of the bridge from afar. Its state-of-the-art lighting system means that it has an exterior lighting of over 100,000 colors!
8. Kyeong-Wha Station, Changwon
You might be wondering, how can a train station be one of the most beautiful places in South Korea? Well, wait till you see it in spring, where cherry blossoms rain down on the train track. The station draws in tons of photographers each year, furiously clicking away as the train approaches the station under the cherry blossom tunnel.
9. Upo Wetlands, Changnyeong-gun
Upo Wetlands is the largest swamp area in South Korea. At 2,314 kilometers square, it is also home to over 1,000 species of flora and fauna, some of which are endangered. Visitors can bike or walk around this beautiful natural swamp. You can bring a picnic lunch, or dine at one of the restaurants across the street from the entrance. Since Bugok Hot Springs is in the same area, you can also go on a dip after your hiking or biking excursion.
10. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Busan
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in South Korea. The temple overlooks the sea on the northwest corner of Busan. Since most temples in South Korea are in the mountains, the chance to get in touch with your spirituality while watching the sun rise over the sea is especially special.