Why Korea should be the first destination on your list
Located in the heart of East Asia and offering a unique combination of cultural, historical and nature-based attractions, there are countless reasons why South Korea should be first on your list of travel destinations.
From Parasite to BTS: Riding the Korean Wave
With Bong Joon-ho's Parasite winning four awards at this year's Oscars, and K-Pop group BTS capturing audiences globally with their sold-out virtual concerts, Korea is quicly becoming a pilgrimage site for fans of Hallyu (Korean Wave) pop culture.
There are countless ways to experience Hallyu in Korea from attending a K-Pop concert to experiencing the K-Pop star lifestyle for yourself with a dance class, recording session or "K-Beauty" make-over. Fans of Korean films and dramas can visit shooting locations across the country, from the stairs where the Kim family hit rock bottom in Parasite to the picturesque Joseon dynasty sets of Kingdom, the Netflix-produced historical zombie drama.
A Safe Destination in the "Untact" Era
A new word "Untact" has been coined (from "undoing contact") to describe the new contactless systems which have been adopted throughout the country, utilising cashless payment, QR codes and more to make social distancing as easy as possible. Among locals, "Untact" tourism has become a new trend, with travellers keen to explore all kinds of outdoor attractions from botanical gardens to the country's numerous scenic mountain trails.
Escape the Metropokis: Nature, Wellness and 'Slow Cities'
There is no better form of "Untact" travel than escaping the big cities to explore Korea's diverse natural attractions, from peaceful mountain and cycling trails to the fascinating volcanic rock formations on Jeju Island (a UNESCO natural heritage site). Whether staying in the city or venturing elsewhere, visitors are never far away from the healing experience of a Korean spa or wellness resort, many of which make use of traditional Korean medicine and meditation practices to rejuvenate the mind and body.
While the popular destinations of Seoul and Busan are known for their fast-paced lifestyles, those seeking a more relaxed visit may enjoy the so-called "slow cities" in the southwest of Korea. Jeonju in particular is known for being the well-preserved home of Korean flok culture; visitors who stroll through the streets of its historic hanok village report a felling of travelling back in time. From Jeonju, it's a short journey by train or bus to the luscious green tea fields of Boseong or the enchanting bamboo forest of Damyang - both still relatively unknown to foreign visitors and well worth a visit.
A Hub to Explore East Asia
Located in the heart of East Asia and with quick and easy transport links to Japan, China and other nearby countries, Korea is the perfect hub for those looking to embark on a more extensive tour of the region. It takesapproximately two hours to fly from Seoul to Beijing or Tokyo and there are a number of tour operators offering packages that cover two or more countries in East Asia.
Incheon International Airport is conveniently located approximately one hour away from Seoul (by car or public transport) and operates flights all around the world; there are a variety of transit tours available for stopover travellers interested in a short visit to Seoul's main cultural and historical attractions. Other airports such as Gimhae (Seoul) and Jeju (on Jeju Island, the southernmost point of Korea) also operate regular flights to major cities in East Asia and elsewhere.
The Diverse Flavours of Korea
Traditional Korean food or hansik takes rice as its staple and is often served with soup and an assortment of side dishes including kimchi (fermented vegetables). From quick, satisfying street food - try tteokbokki (spicy stir-fried rice cakes) or hotteok (sweet filled pancakes) - to innovative Michelin-starred restaurants, foodie travellers are spoilt for choice.
While Korean barbecue and KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) are firm favourites among tourists, there are also plenty of meat-free and vegan options. Temple food in particular - inherited from more than 1700 years of Korean Buddhist tradition - utilises natural, plant-based ingredients from the mountains to create nutritious yet flavoursome variations on Korean cuisine.