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South Korea is known for a lot of things—much more than kimchi, soju and karaoke. This amazing country has many beautiful places worth exploring—in both its busiest cities and its calm and scenic countryside. Not sure where to go? Whether you’re heading to South Korea this February to watch athletes, or have always wanted to explore this truly fascinating country, make sure to add these unique destinations to your own Korean itinerary.

RELATED: 11 things to know before traveling to South Korea

Bibimbap

Flickr CC: Joamm Tall

Jeonju

The western city of Jeonju is known for a lot of things—traditional village homes, famous Korean dish bibimbap and vibrant culture—just to name a few! No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find activities to keep busy. Every fall the city celebrates its cuisine with the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival. Here, both tourists and locals gather to celebrate this flavorful dish and sample different varieties. While in Jeonju, duck inside a makgeolli bar to try another local favorite—a sweet fermented rice wine with a milky consistency. After the makgeolli is poured out of a copper kettle, it’s sipped from small, individual bowls. Visiting the Jeonju Hanok Village will give you a chance to see the famous traditional houses up close.

Seoul

No trip to Korea would be complete without spending some time in Seoul, the country’s capital—which is bustling and full of life at all hours of the day. If you’re in search of impressive citywide views, head to Namsan Seoul Tower. What else is there to do? Eat amazing street food, go shopping in one of many underground shopping malls, play with adorable furry friends at the many cat and dog cafes and get your culture fix at one of the city’s top museums, or at the famous Gyeongbokgung Palace. You can even dress up in hanbok, traditional Korean attire—rental spots make it easy and fun to do so.

Juknokwon Bamboo Garden (죽녹원), Damyang (담양), South Korea

Flickr CC: Jirka Matousek

Damyang

If you’re looking for an adventure off of the beaten path, Damyang is a worthy spot to visit. Located in the Jeollanamdo province, its small town feel offers beauty and relaxation. Damyang is most well-known for plentiful bamboo and its signature dish, daetongbap—or bamboo rice! Be sure to visit Juknokwon Bamboo Garden, where you can stroll through bamboo-lined pathways and taste bamboo flavored ice cream! If you’re already planning to visit the city of Gwangju (known for the famous 1980 Gwangju Uprising), it’s a quick bus ride to calm Damyang.

Busan

Another great city to visit is Busan! Pronounced “Pusan,” this coastal destination is Korea’s second largest city. Most people think of the beach when they hear Busan, because the city has many of them. Haeundae Beach is perhaps the most famous beach and has a lot of restaurants, bars, and shops. If you want to purchase fresh seafood, be sure to visit the Jagalchi Fish Market. Many of the markets have diners attached, where you can pick your fish and they’ll cook it for you! If you’re looking to visit temples while in South Korea, a visit to Haedong Yonggungsa is a must—the seaside views are amazing.

hwaseong fortress 3

Flickr CC: Joel

Suwon

About 20 miles outside of Seoul, lies Suwon—a busy city full of culture and history. There’s a lot to see here, so be sure to allow for more than one day to explore. Be sure to visit Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. It’s a massive structure worth seeing in person. You can watch special events and performances here. Within the fortress walls also stands Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. Be sure to try some galbi, or marinated short ribs—one of the region’s best dishes.

JEJU Island

Flickr CC: Min_Photo

Jeju

Known as the “Hawaii of Korea,” Jeju is the largest island and is volcanic.  It can easily be reached by ferry or plane. Black sand beaches, waterfalls, and impressive views can be found here. Many visitors come to Jeju to hike Mount Hallasan, the largest mountain in Korea. Be sure to see the haenyo women, legendary divers who plunge up to 65 feet without breathing gear to catch fish—these women are highly impressive! For a unique meal, enjoy Jeju’s famous black pork barbecue.

_MG_2474_5_6.jpg

Flickr CC: Richard Bitting

Sokcho

Sokcho, once part of the North, is another city to see. Only a couple of hours by bus from Seoul, it’s easy to travel to this destination. Seroksan National Park is one of the country’s most-visited places—a hike up Seoraksan Mountain offers breathtaking scenery! Head to a local restaurant and order an ojingeo sundae (it’s actually squid sausage), a favorite in Sokcho. If you’re looking for something a little different to do, visit the uniquely cute Teddy Bear Farm.

Tagged: Asia, Korea

Natasha Gabrielle
Natasha is a freelance writer, blogger and traveler. After spending the last 2 years living and working in South Korea, she continues to travel the world and document her adventures at LiveLearnVenture.com.
Natasha Gabrielle

@LiveLearnVentur

#travelwriter and #adventurer. Former ESL teacher in Korea. Writes for brands like @Orbitz + @ThePointsGuy + @FlyerTalk. email@livelearnventure.com (not dm)
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