South Korea: 9 days travel itinerary

Following my previous post on my South Korea trip, some of you asked for my travel itinerary. Here it goes, as much as I can recall back from my not-the-best memory.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I joined a 7 days 6 nights ground tour organised by Apple Tour. After the tour, I extended my trip and stayed on for 2 more nights in Seoul.

May 2020 Update: All my transports were arranged and taken care of as part of the ground tour, but I have updated this post with more information to help you with planning, if you choose not to join a ground tour.

Day 1 / Sea World & Wax Museum, Nami Island

After arriving Incheon airport, we went to Sea World & Wax Museum, and then Nami Island (where the infamous Korean drama “Winter Sonata” was filmed).

nami island south korea
Nami Island

The museum was nothing special, I would recommend skipping it if you are planning your own trip.

Nami Island though is beautiful, and despite being overcrowded with tourists (locals mostly), there is still plenty of space to run around, and take beautiful shots !

Best time to visit Nami Island is Autumn ! Just look at those orange yellow foliage on tall pine and maple trees, against golden sunset backdrop !

Nami Island | Getting there from Seoul on your own is not the most straight forward. By train, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Gapyeong station, before connecting via taxi or bus to Nami Island ferry wharf. Joining a day tour is the most hassle free option. Otherwise, take a bus tour from Seoul, costs about 23,000 won (17 EUR) round trip, and it includes entrance fee to Nami island. Admission fee / 13,000 won (10 EUR), including round trip ferry fare. Opening hours / 0730 to 2145 hrs.

Day 2 / Mount Seoraksan national park, Daepohaeng fish market

We visited Mount Seoraksan national park, Shinheungsa temple and Daepohaeng fish market.

Mount Seoraksan national park is very peaceful and quiet. You want to take your time and walk around the ginormous park, taking in the beautiful rocky landscape, and river streams. If you are a hiker, there are many hiking trails to reach those 30 peaks within the park. The highest point, Daecheongbong Peak is about 1,708 m high !

Mount Seoraksan national park | Getting there / is an almost half a day effort. You need to first take a 2.5 hours bus from Seoul to Sokcho city (about 1 hour away from the park entrance). From Sokcho city, you then take local bus no. 7 or 7-1 to the park entrance. Admission fee / 3,500 won (3 EUR).

For lunch, we went to the Daepohaeng fish market which was an interesting experience. We selected our live seafood from the market, paid for it, and barbecued it ourselves. Seafood cannot get any fresher than this!

Daepohaeng fish market | Location / Gangwon-do, Sokcho-si, Daepo-dong. Opening hours / 1100 to 2200 hrs.

Day 3 / Everland, Dongdaemun 

We went to Everland theme park, and after returned to Seoul.

The downside to joining a ground tour is that you don’t get any flexibility with the plan and time. We wished we got to spend more time in the theme park, but unfortunately we only had 3 hours. I did the T Express, and it was so much fun! T Express is South Korea’s first wooden roller coaster, also ranked worldwide as 4th steepest, and 9th fastest roller coaster. There’s an online poll that even ranked T Express as top 3 in the world!

Everland | Getting there / By train, take Everline to terminal, and then free shuttle bus to Everland. By bus, check out the many options from Seoul or Incheon Airport. Admission fee / 56,000 won (42 EUR) for adult one day pass. Opening hours / 1000 to 2000 hrs.

Upon arriving in Seoul, we checked in our hotel, and did some shopping at Dongdaemun (popular shopping district) in the evening. Our tour guide also organised ginseng foot spa, massage and ginseng face mask for us. It is something different you should give it a try.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a popular shopping mall with lots of local designer labels. It is “the” place to go to for the latest Korean fashion ! The architecture is out of the world, literally, like a spaceship.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza | Location / 281 Eulji-ro, Euljiro 7(chil)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul. Opening hours / 1000 to 1900 hrs (2100 hrs on Friday and Saturday), closed on Monday.

Day 4 / Gyeongbokgung Palace, Cheong Wa Dae, Myeongdong

First morning at Seoul, we visited Gyeongbokgung Palace (largest of the Five Grand Palaces). You want to be there for the changing of the royal guards ceremony (the likes of Buckingham Palace with some added martial arts flair) which happens at 1000 and 1400 hrs.

Gyeongbokgung seoul south korea

Gyeongbokgung Palace | Location / 12, Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. Admission fee / Free.

Cheong Wa Dae seoul south korea
My tour group in front of Cheong Wa Dae

Cheong Wa Dae | is the residence of the President. Location / 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul.

seoul south korea
Myeongdong, Seoul

And in the evening, more shopping at Myeongdong.

Day 5 / Gwangwhamun Plaza, Ewha’s Women’s University

In the morning, we walked around Gwangwhamun Plaza, and also visited Ewha’s Women’s University, which is one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea, and also the largest female education institution in the world ! After lunch, we took a flight to Jeju island.

Ewha’s Women’s University | Location / 52 Ewhayeodae-gil, Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul.

Day 6 / Jeju Island, Seongsan Ilchulbong, Cheonjiyeon waterfall

First morning at Jeju, we visited Seongsan Ilchulbong (don’t ask me how to pronounce it, but it  translates as “Sunrise peak”. It is a giant crater formed by a hydrovolcanic eruption about 5,000 years ago. If you physically fit, you must do the hike to the top to witness the vastness of the crater, about 600 m in diameter!

Seongsan Ilchulbong jeju south korea
Seongsan Ilchulbong
Seongsan Ilchulbong, the crater
Seongsan Ilchulbong, the crater

Seongsan Ilchulbong | Location / 78 Seongsan-ri, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do. Getting there / By bus, take bus no. 701 from Jeju City Old Bus Terminal, about 80 minutes. Admission fee / 2,000 won (1.5 EUR). Opening hours / 0730 to 1930 hrs.

After Seongsan Ilchulbong, we visited Seongeup village, orange farm (Jeju island is also famous for its oranges), and lastly Cheonjiyeon waterfall.

Cheonjiyeon waterfall jeju south korea
Cheonjiyeon waterfall

Cheonjiyeon waterfall | Location / Cheonji-dong, Seogwipo. Admission fee / 2,000 won (1.5 EUR). Opening hours / 0900 to 2200 hrs.

Day 7 / Shinchon lady street

We took our flight back to Seoul. Stopped by Shinchon lady street for some street shopping. Apparently, it is popular for selling socks (of all things). After parting ways with the tour group, I stayed on in Seoul for another 2 nights, just to catch up on shopping and eating!

CAUTION: Always print your hotel addresses in Korean! Not all taxi drivers (and locals) can read English, let alone know their local address names in English!

Day 8 & 9 / Seoul

The last 2 days, I just took the time to explore Seoul city, did more shopping, and got to try more delicious local foods !

What to eat

Unfortunately, I cannot recall the exact restaurant names. However, below are some of the must eats in South Korea!

  • Barbecue pork (black pork if you are in Jeju island) wrapped in lettuce is the perfect pairing ! Forget about all the fancy salad with gourmet meat out there ! You have no idea how much of these I had ! And if you are worried about feeling heaty from all the barbecue, all South Korean restaurants provide free chilled water. Just remember to constantly hydrate yourself.
  • Bibimbap, one of my go to Korean comfort food ! Hot rice served with sauteed vegetables, and fermented soy bean paste in a hot stone bowl.
  • Kimchi jjiage, kimchi soup, my favourite especially in the winter cold
  • Japchae, Korean stir fried glass noodles
  • Myeongdong dumplings, one of my best meals in this trip
Myeongdong dumplings seoul south korea
Myeongdong dumpling
  • Samgyetang, ginseng chicken soup. If you are a soupy person like, this is definitely for you! The chicken is stuffed with rice, before its cooked inside ginseng soup. It is served together with vermicelli in the soup.
Samgyetang seoul south korea
  • Gyeran-ppang, a warm street food, which is essentially a whole egg inside a thick pancake dough. Perfect during cold weather as well.
Gyeran-ppang seoul south korea

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