Most tourists visiting South Korea tend to spend a lot of time in the northern part of the country. But there are lots of good reasons to also head south.
Jeonju city centre
Jeonju makes for a delightful change from South Korea’s modern, skyscraper-packed cities. Less than two hours south of Seoul, it’s the country’s enclosed area of traditional hanok architecture, with around 800 low-rise commercial and residential buildings with dark roof tiles and elaborate gables. Many people here dress in traditional Korean Hanbok costumes. And the restaurants specialise in typical Korean food, serving the bibimbap rice dishes that were invented here.
If you want to escape the noise and bustle, visit the Gyeonggijeon Shrine or climb up past the Omokdae Pavilion for a beautiful view over the hanok.
Boseong tea plantations
This is South Korea’s most important tea-growing region, and is home to a Tea Museum. Boseong offers ideal conditions for tea cultivation, with at least 1,500mm of precipitation a year, a cool and humid climate overall, and clear temperature differences between day and night.
Almost six million tea bushes grow here, climbing the hills in neat rows.
Busan’s Jagalchi Fish Market
Busan is South Korea’s second city and is home to one of the most important and busiest fish markets in Asia. Colourful hoses splash out water from fish tanks and barrels, which then sloshes around the tiled floor, making it a good idea to bring rubber boots with you. This is a working market, and tourists risk getting in the way. But you can walk down the apparently endless lines of stalls, enjoying the colours and authentic smells of the huge range of seafood on offer. It’s best to go early – the work day here starts at 5am.
The 200 or so rounded grassy mounds of Gyeongju’s Tumuli Park are the graves of kings from the Silla dynasty, which eventually united Korea in the 7th century. Close by lies the Cheomseongdae Observatory, built to observe the stars 1,500 years ago and made of 366 stones – one for every day in a leap year. You can also visit Wolji Pond, on whose banks three Silla pavilions have been reconstructed. Unesco declared the area a World Heritage Site in 2000.
Mount Namsan’s Buddhas
South of Gyeongju lies Mount Namsan, an open-air museum to Buddhism housing 122 temples, 53 stone statues and 64 pagodas dating from between the 7th and 10th centuries. Narrow – but not to steep – paths lead from one sanctuary to the next, where visitors can see different representations of Buddha. A relaxed and informal place, it offers a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern South Korea. – dpa