10 Beautiful Places in South Korea
South Korea is on everyone’s radar right now, as PyeongChang gears up to host the Winter Olympics beginning on February 9. But the country’s appeal extends far beyond athletic facilities—with ancient temples, tea plantations, trendy neighborhoods, and more than 3,000 offshore islands to explore, South Korea should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Need more convincing? Here are the country’s most beautiful sites, ready to welcome you long after the Olympians head home.
1. Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond
Located near the city of Gyeongju, this 7th-century palace complex contains well-preserved temples, museums filled with ancient relics, and three small islands. Its star attraction is the surrounding Wolji Pond, an artificial lake that perfectly reflects the buildings (especially at night) and becomes covered with lotus flowers in the summer.
2. Cheongsando Island
Southern Cheongsando Island is known for its untouched beauty—think terraced rice paddies, panoramic ocean views, and fields of yellow rapeseed flowers. The island is also famous for embracing the concept of slow living, hosting a «Slow Walking Festival» every year in which visitors and residents are encouraged to stroll the walking trails as slowly as possible to better soak in the scenery.
3. Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), Seoul
Built in 2014 near Seoul’s Dongdaemun Market, this Zaha Hadid-designed plaza is well worth exploring for a few hours. The building’s seven levels can be explored on a guided tour or at your own leisurely pace, but the on-site history museum and clothing market are just added bonuses to the architecture itself, designed with no angles nor straight lines.
4. Samgwangsa Temple, Busan
Samgwangsa Temple is known for its annual lantern festival, an event honoring Buddha’s birthday (usually in late May) that attracts over a million visitors every year. During the festival, countless lanterns light up in spectacular colors beneath the night sky.
5. Boseong County
About 40 percent of the country’s green tea supply grows in the fields of Boseong, which attracts photographers and filmmakers as much as tea drinkers thanks to its dramatic green fields.
Located about 20 miles west of Busan, Jinhae is a quiet coastal town known for one thing: cherry blossoms. Each spring, the city holds the largest cherry blossom festival in South Korea, with hundreds of thousands of pink trees lining streets, railways, and streams.
7. Ulleungdo Island
This volcanic island boasts some seriously impressive scenery, with Hawaii-esque coastlines and Cabo San Lucas-esque rock formations. But visual similarities aside, this Sea of Japan destination is truly one of a kind—especially when you throw in the island’s famous seafood dishes (like honghap bap, a seasoned rice dish served with mussels).
8. Jirisan National Park
Established in 1967, this is the oldest official national park in the country, drawing visitors for its 119,350 acres of rolling mountains and valleys, temple complexes, and Asiatic black bear habitats.
9. Haeinsa Temple
Haeinsa is one of the most famous ancient sights in the country, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Aside from its beauty, the temple is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of some 80,000 tablets engraved with Buddhist writings.
10. Juwangsan National Park
Juwangsan National Park may be small (about 41 square miles), but it packs quite the punch. The park is known for the vertical, rocky cliffs of Juwangsan Mountain, tucked-away waterfalls, and willow tree-filled Jusanji Pond (pictured).