Planning a trip to Korea? It is a fascinating country that is truly foreign. Here is my Korea Itinerary for 14 days that you can use to start planning yours!
Korea Itinerary Day One
Arrive Seoul South Korea
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Seoul is, of course, the main point of entry for Korea and a great place to start your Korea Itinerary. Seoul is one of the biggest cities in the world and can be quite intimidating. It has a great underground system but it is not the easiest to understand as I have never seen so many stops on an underground! And the stations are huge! It is critical to check which is the best exit for you to use for where you are going or you could get very confused. And very sore feet!
Finding a hotel wasn’t that easy. If you don’t speak any Korean I would highly recommend staying at a hotel that has a speaker of your native language. Many Koreans driving taxis etc are illiterate so even if an address is written down they may not be able to understand. Having someone to explain this at the hotel is really helpful – particularly for getting taxis!
I really liked Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun. The location is great. It is a busy area with loads of shopping – and the shopping malls tend to have restaurants on their higher floors which makes it easier to get dinner. The rooms were quite boutique and very clean.
Stay at Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun
Seoul Itineraries Day Two
A great first-day activity in Seoul is visiting the Demilitarized Zone and the North/South Korea border. This is a fascinating excursion which I highly recommend. It takes about 2/3 of the day so you will be back in Seoul for an afternoon coffee! I actually think this was the best thing I did during my stay in Korea.
Do make sure you book ahead – these tours sell out fast. A bus will take you towards the border. There are then several stops. The train station that never happened. The Bridge to Nowhere. And best of all the actual border itself where you will be able to take a couple of footsteps into North Korea!
For everything you need to know for a DMZ Tour check out this great post from Husband in Tow.Don't Miss Out - Book your DMZ tour now - they sell out fast
One of the biggest challenges in Korea is finding restaurants where you can read the menu and order something you’ll actually enjoy eating! There are some really fun options to do street food markets and cooking lessons in the evening which I would highly recommend.
The language gap is very large in Korea – one of the largest of anywhere I have travelled. I highly recommend taking tours whilst in Korea. It will save you a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to get around and will provide you with much more information on the area. I wish I had of done more tours when I was there!Check out the Top 10 Seoul Tours
Stay at Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun
Korea Trip Itinerary Day Three
Time to explore Seoul! Try a mix of old and new with one of Seoul’s most famous palaces, a super cute shopping district and the amazing and futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza.
Seoul has two main palaces – Gyeongbokgung and Changgyeon. I chose to visit Gyeongbokgung – I wasn’t sure I needed to visit two palaces and I fell that was a wise decision! Again there are few tours in English so this is one to pre-book.
When you visit the palace or palaces (they are quite near each other) do head to Insadong. This is a super cute area with shops and restaurants. Yes, it is very touristy but there are also loads of locals. This is also the home to the rather well-known Poop cafe – you can drink your coffee in a mug shaped like a toilet! Korean kitsch at its best!
Dongdaemun Design Plaza was designed by famous architect Zaha Hadid. It is a jaw dropping place. I highly recommend putting aside some time to explore it. It is big! There are exhibits inside – some paid and some free. Gift shop – of course! And quite a few food places as well as places to relax outside. It is also very photogenic!
- Beat the Queues and book your visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace before you go
- Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Stay at Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun
South Korea 2 Week Itinerary Day Four
Fly Seoul to Jeju Island South KoreaCheap Flights from Seoul to Jeju Island
Jeju Island is in the far south of South Korea. I stayed in Seogwipo which is in the south of the island. We visited the rather unique Loveland on the way from the airport to Seogwipo eg we had the cab stop there. This is a rather unique tourist site. My understanding is that Jeju Island is a common place for Korean couples to go on their honeymoon. As Korea is generally quite a conservative country it is likely that the newlyweds may not be terribly experienced.
Therefore these “love” parks have lots of sculptures of different sexual positions, sex organs and well lots of rather interesting takes on genitalia in general. This would not be a good place to go if you are travelling with your parents!!! But it is quite amusing and a uniquely Korean experience!
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Once in Seogwipo, it is possible to walk to the Cheongjeyeon Waterfall and Saeyeongyo Bridge which are lovely.
I did find Seogwipo a rather confusing place. Virtually all the hotels are in a town area that really doesn’t feel like it is anywhere near a coastline. Again, a bit like Seoul and Korea in general if I had of known then what I know now I definitely would have taken more organised tours. It was quite hard work trying to figure out how to get around – with lots of unsuccessful attempts and sore feet!Click here for the top Jeju Island Tours
The day’s activities:
- Cheongjeyeon Waterfall
- Saeyeongyo Bridge
Heading to Japan? Check out my post on the Nakasendo Trail.
Korea Itinerary 14 Days – Day Five
The coastline of Jeju is stunning! However, it is not that easy to get around. I struggled a lot to figure out buses and then ended up getting a taxi to take me for the day. Even this was tough as the language barrier is huge. I did manage to visit:
- Lizard Island
- Seongsan Ilchulbong
- Sangumburi Crater
- Manjanggul Cave
This was perhaps the highlight of Jeju Island. It was a relief to get away from the weird almost industrial feeling Seogwipo! Do take your camera as there is much to photograph in these locations.
However, I would highly recommend you take the stress out of it and book a day tour to cover these sites – there are lots of good tour options here.
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South Korea Itinerary 14 Days – Day Six
Climb Mount Hallasan. This is a lovely trek and there are several different paths to be taken depending on how energetic you are feeling. The paths are generally very clearly signposted and there are a couple of stops with food.
The path is clearly signed so there is no need to get a guide. We found it easy to get a taxi to the starting point of the trek. However, it was not so easy to get a cab back. If you can, try to agree a time to meet your taxi driver or get a number to call them on when you are finished.
Jeju Itinerary Day Seven
- Lee Jung-Seop Gallery
- Jeongbang Waterfall
- Seogwipo Market
We spent day 7 in Seogwipo and found some interesting options! First up was the Lee Jung-Seop Gallery. He is one of the most famous artists in Korea. He was an artist around the time of the Korean war and this is a lovely gallery.
Seogwipo has some lovely waterfalls which are well worth visiting. Again, it is not that easy to find them but once you get there it is worthwhile! Seogwipo market feels very local. I suggest heading there at lunchtime. We looked at where there were queues and what they had ordered and bascially followed along – and earnt some rather tasty snacks as a result!
2 Weeks in South Korea Day Eight
Fly to Daegu South Korea
Daegu is virtually in the middle of Korea and in a bit of a basin – which makes it very warm in summer!!! Of everywhere I went in Korea it was the easiest place to get around – possibly as it is a bit smaller and more of a grid layout.
A bus tour is always a great way to get a feel for a city and Daegu was no exception. Also, I used the bus tour to take me to the starting point for the Apsan mountain cable car. This was a fantastic thing to do! I visited in the height of summer so there was no way I was going to hike up the mountain. However, if your visit is better timed than mine I highly recommend doing this and it seemed clearly marked.
The view from the top of the mountain is stunning! Full panoramas over Daegu! There are also locks on the barriers which make for nice foregrounds for photos.
- City Bus Tour
- Apsan Mountain Cable Car
nameThe view over Daegu
Korea Itinerary Day Nine
Kim Kwang-Seok was a popular folk singer in Korea. He died in 1996 by taking his own life. He sold over 5 million records. He was born in Daegu and there is now a street named after him. The street is filled with street art portraits dedicated to Kim Kwang-Seok and most of the time there will be a musician playing his music in the area. There are also quite a few cute cafes etc in this part of town.
Suemon Market is in the centre of Daegu and quite a large place. It is a more functional market vs a tourist market but has some interesting food options.
Accommodation options in Daegu are rather limited if you are a westerner. I highly recommend the Novotel. The location is brilliant – right in the heart of everything. And it has many staff who speak English and this was very helpful.
- Suemon Market
- Kim Kwang-Seok Street
Jeonju Day Ten
Day trip to Jeonju South Korea – bus from Daegu return. It was quite easy to figure this out and very easy to walk to the old town from the bus stop. I highly recommend getting dressed up in the local costumes as do many Koreans! We attracted a good deal of attention and amusement as westerners dressed up in their outfits!
The old town is very photogenic and filled with stores and cafes. Don’t miss the mural village. This is outside of the old town – you will need to cross the main road to get there. This area is filled with street art over several levels and also has a few cafes. Extremely photogenic!
For more information on Jeonju read this great post on 8 Things to do in Jeonju South Korea
Daegu Day Eleven
Who could resist a Racoon Cafe? Literally, there are racoons wandering around the cafe. I didn’t feel comfortable getting too close but it certainly was an unforgettable experience! We also found a dog and cat cafe. Sensibly there was one room for the dogs and one room for the cats!
- Racoon Café
- Medicine Street
South Korea 2 Week Itinerary – Day Twelve
Train from Daegu to Seoul.
Don’t miss Seoul Tower – the views are amazing! However, do pick your weather. There are quite a few hazy days in Seoul which will result in a poor viewing experience. If you get a good day get moving and get up that tower!
- Seoul Sky Garden
- Seoul Tower
Due to the challenge of getting around Seoul I would highly recommend checking out some of these fun cultural themed half day tour options.
Stay at Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun
Seoul Itineraries Day Thirteen
Seoul Wall is the old wall that used to run around all of Seoul. Several parts are still in good shape. I found it easy to navigate the wall on my own but it wasn’t easy to get there or get back. And do check about photography. When I visited it was illegal to take photos on the sides of the wall towards North Korea.
Ihwa Mural Village is not too far from a section of the wall. It is a cute area with street art and cafes. Perfect for Instagram!
Finally, the Korean War Memorial and the museum are extremely impressive! The area around the building is massive! And filled with ships and tanks and all things military. I found the exhibit on the Korean War fascinating. The gratitude of the Korean people for the western allies who supported them during this time is very moving. As is the massive effort Korea as a country has put into taking itself from this weakened position to become a global player. Fascinating stuff and a must do whilst in Seoul!
- Seoul Wall
- Ihwa Mural Village
- Korean War Memorial
Stay at Splaisir Hotel Dongdaemun
Korea Itinerary Day Fourteen
Fly out of Seoul
Want to use this itinerary as a basis to plan a trip of your own? Check out the link below to wOndary – you can use this format and share it with friends and/or customise your itinerary:
Boutique Hotels in Korea
I have to say Korea was a challenging location when it came to finding good boutique hotels. There are a lot of hotels, of course, but the boutique trend has not really hit Korea hard outside of Seoul. Here is what I was able to find:
Boutique Hotels Seoul
-In Seoul, Glad Live is in the now famous Gangnam area. This is a stylish and sleek boutique hotel which starts at a very reasonable £66. Click here for prices and availability
-Also in Seoul is another Glad Hotel – Glad Hotel Yeouido. This one is in the high-rise part of Seoul and wonderfully describes itself as a poetic express in brick! Prices start at £70. Click here for prices and deals.
-The Splaisir Hotel in Dongdaemun has an absolutely fantastic location right near the stunning Dongdaemun Design Centre. It is also very close to several full-on shopping centres with lots of interesting food places. It is quite stylish and importantly has friendly staff who can speak English! Click here for availability and prices.
-the IP Boutique hotel is under Namsan Mountain and has a strong design aesthetic. Lots of glass outside and they love some strong colours inside and out. Prices start at £70. Click here for dates and prices.
-Down the road from the KY Heritage Hotel is the JW Marriott. I am not normally a Marriott person as it doesn’t meet my usual boutique standards but they had a roof top bar and white wine by the glass and that was more than enough to get my custom in Seoul!! It did seem like a good place to stay – nice hotel and lots of good food options. Prices start at £260. Click here for dates and prices.
-If you want to go very upmarket the lovely Banyan Tree has a hotel and spa in the former Tower Hotel building. Each guestroom is inspired by the four seasons of the year and the five oriental elements: water, fire, metal, wood and earth. Prices from £240. Click here for dates and prices.
Boutique Hotels Jeju Island
Jeju Island is a slightly odd place. The coastline is stunning as is the climb up Mt Hallasan. But the cities of Jeju and Seogwipo feel industrial rather than resort like! Anyway here are a few options:
-In Seogwipo is the Vistacay Hotel Cheonjiyeon. I did visit this hotel in its opening month and was unimpressed with the service and very very small towels. However, apparently the big towels were on order and the staff were trying. The rooms were quite nice. There is a pool – although it was yet to open when we visited. The highlight was the downstairs bar which did have wine – the key thing I was always looking for in Korea. Prices from £40 Click here for prices and availability.
-For a more upmarket option check out the Hyatt Regency Jeju which is on a sloping cliff overlooking the ocean. They even have a white wedding chapel which has featured on Korean TV! Rooms start at £167. Click here for prices and availability.
-the Lotte brand seems to have entered many different categories in Korea – including hotels! The Lotte Hotel Jeju features a windmill with a café and an in-house casino that is open 365 days a year! Their indoor spa and garden are the largest in Jeju and they have a volcano fountain show that kicks off every night at 830pm! Rooms from £143 a night. Click here for prices and availability.
-finally, the Villa de Aewol is a lower cost option near the airport. It does have a 25-metre swimming pool, spa and on-site golf and a chic style. Rooms from £51. Click here for prices and availability.
OK, I have to admit it – I could not find a boutique hotel in Daegu. I am ashamed. I did really search. However, I did go to Daegu and I did need to sleep. I stayed at the Novotel – again not somewhere I normally stay. Absolutely fine but I would always prefer somewhere with more of a local flavour. However, Korea is not the easiest country to get around and I must confess I was so happy to see the Novotel and I loved being somewhere that was nicely done with friendly English speaking staff and a great set up. The location is brilliant – the centre of Daegu – and honestly this is the place to stay in Daegu. Prices start at £100 . Click here for prices and availability.
Flights to Korea:
Seoul is the usual port of arrival for most into Korea – Check out Cheap Flights to Seoul Here.
For flights from Seoul to Jeju Click here for prices and dates.
And for flights to Daegu Click here for prices and deals
And here are some of the best articles that I have found about Great Things to do in South Korea:
Or if you are travelling solo check out these group tour options:
And don’t leave without getting some travel insurance – Click here for a great deal on Travel Insurance
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