South Korea 2-Week Route: The Highlights


Everyone types the question: “Is two weeks in *insert place here* enough?” Deep down, we all know the answer. One week, two weeks, a year will never be enough. There’s always something new to do or see. So with that in mind, we’ll introduce our Korea in 2 weeks itinerary to help you start scratching the surface.

The two of us are the kind of travellers who like a mix of city and nature, and who can handle the odd longish bus journey if push comes to shove. Oh, and of course, we’re often keeping an eye on the price of things (a teacher’s salary can only stretch so far). So we’ve pegged down some of the must-sees for our style of travelling. If you’re looking for high-end hotels and fine dining then you’ve definitely come to the wrong place (but we’d be down to accept a free dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant if you’re offering).

We’ve written down the itinerary that worked for us. As always, we’ve got a snazzy reel too, so those with a short attention span don’t have to endure reading our waffle.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

2 Week Itinerary

You’re most likely going to fly into Seoul, so why not explore the capital while you’re there? We’d suggest taking at least 3 days. If you’ve got time, then take more. The list of things to do in Seoul is as long as Leonardo DiCaprio’s dating history, and that’s not even including the day trips away. If you’re considering a day trip to places like the DMZ, Bukhansan National Park or Suwon, then bump your 3 days up to 5 days.

Seoul to Sokcho

We’d be all metropolitan-ed out by this point and in need of our nature fix. Cue: Seoraksan National Park. Korea has 22 national parks, but the general consensus is that Seoraksan is the best. This can be done as a day trip from Seoul but we don’t think it would leave you long to explore the park. The best thing to do would be to use Sokcho as your base. It’s a 2 hour ride from Seoul to Sokcho. If that’s too long, then break up your journey with a one-day stopover at Chuncheon.

Spend 2 days of days in Sokcho, immersing yourself in all that green, before heading further south.

Sokcho to a) Samcheok or b) Daegu

Ah, Sokcho. Every planner’s nightmare. It’s one of those awkward places that just doesn’t seem to connect to anywhere else, with the exception of the capital. But who are we to complain after a lovely few days there?

Keep heading South and stop off at Samcheok for another national park: Haesindang Park. If you’re visiting in the winter and the weather is not on your side, then substitute Samcheok for Daegu – there’s more to do in a city on a rainy day.

Whichever option you choose, give yourself 2 days.

a) Samcheok or b) Daegu to Gyeongju

Whichever you picked, you’ll be able to make your way to Gyeongju. And you’re in for a treat. We spent one day here but that wasn’t enough. If you can, stretch it to 2 days. The city is the embodiment of traditional Korea. The centre is a hub of culture and there are regular buses to take you to some of the sites on the outskirts. If, for some reason that we cannot begin to fathom, you find yourself growing tired of Gyeongju and have time to kill, then you can visit some of the major cities like Ulsan and Pohang from here.

Gyeongju to Busan

Keep plodding further South and you’ll end up in Busan – Korea’s second-largest city and Ellie’s personal favourite. 2 days here is enough time to see the city’s major sites. One downside; geographically, the city itself is very spread out, so journeying to certain places can be time-consuming.

Busan to a) Jeju Island or b) Gwangju

What happens next is dependent on the time of year you’re visiting. If you’re here in the warm, sunny months, then take a flight out to Jeju island for 3 days. Like we said, we’re the kind of travelers who enjoy the outdoors – so Jeju is the crowning gem for us.

In the torrential rain, or freezing cold, we’re pretty confident that it would lose its charm, so best off giving it a skip and saving it for your next visit. Instead, city-hop to the west. Busan to Gwangju.

We can’t let Ellie pass up this opportunity to represent Gwangju seeing as she lived in the city for a year and now has a special fondest for the place. It also doubles up as a nifty base for places like Jeonju, Mokpo, and Yeosu.

Back to Seoul

From Gwangju, you can take the KTX back up to Seoul. Or, if you’re keeping an eye on the wallet, take the bus. True, it’s a longer journey (3 hours and 20 minutes with only one bathroom stop) but for a fraction of the price.

From Jeju, a flight back to Seoul will take around 1 hour and 10 minutes and can cost anywhere between 50 to 90 euros.

And there you have it, that’s a rough two-week schedule with a blend of city and nature.

Transport

You’re probably asking, how am I supposed to get to each of these places? Fair question.

At the time of writing, all these places could be reached by either bus or train. As is the case with pretty much every other country, travelling by train is the quicker but more expensive option. KTX is the Korean equivalent of the bullet train, but there are slower alternatives to choose from.

For buying tickets, our go-to was Korail. If your card details aren’t compatible with this site then Rail Ninja is another popular bet. We’ve linked this handy ‘how to guide’ to help with your ticket booking.

Bus was our choice of travel. Cheap and not too uncomfortable, which made the long journeys more bearable. Best thing about inter-city buses in Korea – they leave exactly on time. In the whole year Ellie was there she can’t name a single time when she had to wait for one.

If only buying a bus ticket was as easy as taking one. TxBus is the English site where you can buy tickets – the downside: not all of the routes are listed here. There’s also kobus – the Korean site. The downside for this one is obvious: you’re buggered if you can’t read Korean.

Buying a bus ticket directly at the terminal is always an option. You’ll never be expected to pay more on the day, but it does come with the uncertainty of arriving to find that the bus you want to get is already full.

Round Up

The 2 week itinerary we made suited us perfectly but we’d be interested to know what you would’ve changed or done differently. For a country so small there’s so much to do and so little time to work with.

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