Korea has become a favorite destination among travelers who want to go on vacation in Asia. This is not only because of the country’s distinct modern culture, PSY, or its rise as a global consumer electronics provider; Korea offers a different façade of Asia that’s different from Japan, China, or the rest of the continent.
But if it’s your first time to travel to Korea, where should you go? If you don’t have an idea yet as to how to enjoy your vacation in the country, then here are the top cultural highlights for you to check out:
1. Traditional markets.
When you travel to Korea, it is very important that you check out its traditional markets, such as the Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Myeong-dong, and Insa-dong. These markets are different from the modern ones as they offer the best of Korean culture and traditional practices.
These are the markets where you can grab the best of Korean cuisine, from the noodles to the street food and the kimchi. You can also watch cooks as they prepare your order, as most of them include a bit of showmanship in their performances.
In Insa-dong, you may not only get good food, but also the latest in Korean fashion. You can shop for clothes and accessories in this market, or grab tea in its traditional teahouses and cafes.
2. Roofless Museum
One of the best cultural highlights of Korea is the Gyeongju Bulguksa Temple, otherwise known as the “roofless museum.” Built during the ancient Silla Kingdom, this temple has been designated as a World Heritage Site, thanks to its grotesque structures and historical granite pagodas with bamboo and lots flower patterns.
The temple’s Seokguram Grotto is a dome-shaped stone cave made of over 360 granite plates, showcasing the ancient architecture and engineering of the Koreans during this time. The grotto is also the home of a magnificent Buddha statue that serves as a majestic sight to see during the sunrise.
3. Jeju Island.
Perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in the country is the Jeju Island. Located at Korea’s southernmost end, Jeju offers a lot of places to visit, from its legendary Hallasan Mountain where wizards were said to have visited from time to time, to the mountain’s Baekrokdam Lake.
There are also lava caves, known as the Geomun Oreum, as well as the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, which serves as the best spot watch the sun rising at dawn.
5. Seoraksan Mountain
The Seoraksan Mountains is one of the most famous hiking destinations in the country. It has several peaks and valleys, including the country’s third-highest summit, Hangyeryeong. It is also named as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve as it is serves as a home to various species of plants and animals.
If you feel like exploring North Korea, then visit the Geumangsan Mountain, which features a different façade each climate season. You may have to sign up for a special tour to visit this destination, though, as you will be crossing the North-South border in order to get to the mountain.