Seeking Authentic Experiences in South Korea

GalaxyRider

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Hey everyone,

I am making plans to visit South Korea and would really appreciate local advice. Could you tell me the places I need to go for genuine Korean food and lesser-known attractions that are not filled with tourists? Also, if anyone knows good local guides for a more in-depth experience of Korean culture? Looking forward to your suggestions to make my trip very special.

Looking forward to your input!
 

Quasar

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nice topic I will be also in need of some advices since planing to visit South Korea next year with my sister ..... as outsiders what comes to our minds is may be jeju island
 
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GalaxyRider

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nice topic I will be also in need of some advices since planing to visit South Korea next year with my sister ..... as outsiders what comes to our minds is may be jeju island

It's on my list too! I have not visited personally, yet I am told that Jeju Island resembles paradise with its attractive beaches and green surroundings. It appears to be an ideal place for a calm holiday with your sister.
 

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Sorry, can’t help much. I‘m more into defense than tourism. There‘re tons of travel sites, blogs and instagram channels for Korean travel.

Jeju is a beautiful, rough island, but not „tropical“ like Hawaii as many might think. According to season it can be very windy and rainy.
A climb up or visit of Halla-san National Park is recommended.

For practicing muslim tourists finding Halal food can be a challenge, pork is widespread in Korean cuisine. Domestic Beef is very expensive, but fresh seafood is lower-priced and affordable.
 

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A must see for military enthusiasts:

Book a DMZ day trip (Imjingak area & North Korean intrusion tunnels or the Joint Security Area in Panmunjeom).

Visit the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, an extensive exhibition of Korean war history from ancient times up to today. With focus on the Korean War and outstanding installations. Entrance is free as usual for many national museums in Korea.

Not a must see but an interesting add-on after a Gyeongbok Palace visit: Tour of the ex-presidential main residence „Blue House“.

And if you happen to travel to the 2nd biggest city Busan (south eastern coast tip) make sure to visit the UN Memorial Cemetery where fallen UN soldiers from the Korean War are laid to rest with a Turkish and Philippine section.
 

urban mine

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Then I think it would be better to exclude Seoul. First of all, the prices are too high and there are too many people. I think there are many things to enjoy, but... I recommend gunsan because it seems like you want to experience something different. Facing the western coast of Korea, this city offers a full view of Korean modern and contemporary history and is rich in life at that time.

This city was famous for its delicious food and its rich portion. I think you will be able to experience traditional Korean food.

I looked it up on YouTube and there are not many videos posted by foreigners. I think it's not well known to foreign tourists.

Anyway, I hope you Have a nice trip!
 

GalaxyRider

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@Chocopie Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely add those to my itinerary. Jeju sounds like a fascinating place to visit, despite its different climate from tropical islands. My friend also suggested https://gowithguide.com/korea for personalized tours, but I'll take another look at Viator's tour packages before making a decision. It's good to know about the food options too, thanks again for the tips! Cheers 🍻
 

GalaxyRider

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Not a must see but an interesting add-on after a Gyeongbok Palace visit: Tour of the ex-presidential main residence „Blue House“.

And if you happen to travel to the 2nd biggest city Busan (south eastern coast tip) make sure to visit the UN Memorial Cemetery where fallen UN soldiers from the Korean War are laid to rest with a Turkish and Philippine section.
I had no idea you could actually tour the Blue House now, that's pretty cool. And if I ever find myself in Busan, I'll definitely check out the UN Memorial Cemetery to pay my respects to the fallen soldiers. I really appreciate your suggestions! These are very helpful. Thank you so much. 😊
 

GalaxyRider

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Then I think it would be better to exclude Seoul. First of all, the prices are too high and there are too many people. I think there are many things to enjoy, but... I recommend gunsan because it seems like you want to experience something different. Facing the western coast of Korea, this city offers a full view of Korean modern and contemporary history and is rich in life at that time.

This city was famous for its delicious food and its rich portion. I think you will be able to experience traditional Korean food.

I looked it up on YouTube and there are not many videos posted by foreigners. I think it's not well known to foreign tourists.

Anyway, I hope you Have a nice trip!
Hello, I appreciate the information. Gunsan seems like an interesting option, particularly if you seek something away from the usual tourist routes. I very much prefer to stay away from busy places and really enjoy the true feeling of a local area. Also, it's hard for someone to refuse tasty meals, isn't it? Traditional Korean food seems like a good choice. Thank you for the advice on there being few foreign tourists – it is pleasant to visit spots that are not too crowded with people. I'll definitely look into it more. Cheers for the recommendation 🍻
 

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Hey everyone,

I am making plans to visit South Korea and would really appreciate local advice. Could you tell me the places I need to go for genuine Korean food and lesser-known attractions that are not filled with tourists? Also, if anyone knows good local guides for a more in-depth experience of Korean culture? Looking forward to your suggestions to make my trip very special.

Looking forward to your input!
The thing is, lesser known location in Korea are not really that suited for foreign travelers. Lot's of things got lost throughout the modern history of Korea so most of the so-called hidden gems are hard to reach, are spread out so not so much to do in one place, and are not that foreigner-friendly, not in the sense that locals would be hostile, but in terms of that it's hard to get info/hasn't got much tourism related infrastructure.

Though there are general things I could recommend. First is to look up official Korean tourism websites. These are


Obviously more info than us individuals, and although I can't say for sure for Chocopie, I lived quite a while abroad and haven't visited much of Korea myself.

Chocopie's recommendation of DMZ trip is a good one, and more in general they are called "security tours" (안보관광) in Korea. I think it fits the general interests of this forum's members.

Apart from that, what I would rather do is to tell you where to avoid, before telling you where to go, since this applies in general to everyone who's visiting Korea.

These places would be Myungdong, a well-known tourist shopping destrict that I feel is not worth it at all, Dongdaemoon for same reason, Buckchon Hanok village. There are obviously quite a few more, but I can't come up with at the moment. I will edit this post every once in a while when I can think of those places to avoid. I hope other Korean members can fill in.
 
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Windchime

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As for the reccomendations, I like being specific and my answer would vary depending on your travel preferences (eg: if you prefer visiting historic landmarks or exploring nature, or want to experience Korean urbanism like shopping or night lift), as well as your preferred activity (as in, the limit of what you are okay with in terms of physical activity. I wouldn't suggest someone who doesn't like trekking/hiking to go to the mountains, you know). Also important is when you're planning your visit.

It would also depend on who you are travelling with (there's a general preference that differs depending on traveler's age and gender, from my experience. Also, if you've got kids, some places are not recommendable), your past experience travelling the region (as in if you've been to Taiwan or Japan, or China) and the duration of stay.

Of course, I could understand that these might be too specific of a personal information to disclose, to please tell us only as much as you feel comfortable telling. Also, it is important to note that what is implied by "tourists". If you mean tourists in general, there wouldn't be much, if at all, places to recommend. If you only mean foreigners and are okay with seeing Korean domestic tourists, there might be a few since frankly, most foreign tourists only go to Seoul (and to a certain extent to Jeju, especially the Chinese tourists).


Assuming that you like visiting historic locations, like nature, have no problem being a bit sweaty, are not accompanying small kids, staying for around a week and are open to getting away from Seoul, my first recommendations would be Gyeongju and hiking Korean mountains.

Gyeongju is one of the most if not the most famous tourist destination amongst Koreans but not as well known to foreigners. It's got quite a few things to look for since it has been the capital for one of the historical kingdoms, and is still relatively well reserved to this day. On a related note, if you look up some place in Youtube and don't find much tourist videos for that place in English, it's generally a good sign that there wouldn't be much foreign tourists.

In terms of historic importance and general experience, Haeinsa also might be a good choice where Tripitaka Koreana is located. There's a special tour program which lets tourists actually go inside the storage building each Sunday. Though this program needs one to reserve their spot, and there's no spot left until May. (There also seems to be a tourist guide program, but I don't know how good they are https://www.travelokorea.com/sightseeing/hapcheon-packages/)

Since Korea is very mountainous geographically, means there are quite a few that are worth a visit and they have its own charm. Generally, national parks are all great, but I would especially recommend Seoraksan and Jirisan for it's beauty. Korea mountains are especially recommendable during fall season, since it becomes very colorful and Naejangsan is especially recommended during fall season. Also, quite a few of historic buddhist temples are located within mountains, so depending on the mountain, you'll be able to visit authentic temples all the while hiking and enjoying the scenery. Personally, I also like Daegwallyeong as well. It's a mountain pass that feels very open with quite a view, although the scenery of the landscape itself pales a bit compared to the mountains I've mentioned before. Though it has an advantage that it's much more accessible with a car.

Coastal national parks are also worth a visit, but since Philippines is full of beautiful coastal landscape itself, I'm not sure how interesting that would be for you.

Most other authentic Korean historic landmarks are concentrated in Seoul, since it has been the Korean capital for such a long time (a lot of the other important historical and cultural landmarks are in Northern half of the peninsula, unfortunately) and they are generally well known to foreign tourists, so it wouldn't meet the criteria of a "relatively unknown" destination of yours.

Though I these kind of well known destinations are still worth a visit, just like how Roman Forums in Rome, National Gallery in London, Edinbrugh of Scottland, Pergamon in Berlin, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, etc are very much worth a visit despite the amount of tourists who visit there.
 

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nice topic I will be also in need of some advices since planing to visit South Korea next year with my sister ..... as outsiders what comes to our minds is may be jeju island
As Chocopie pointed out, finding Halal food in Korea is a hard thing. The good thing though, is that there's plenty of sea food anywhere in the country. As with my response to GalaxyRider, I could give you some specific recommendations if you can give us some details.

Though Since Turkiye is such a diverse and awesome country to visit in terms of what once will be able to find and see, experience, eat, etc, I think it would be a very difficult task for us to suggest you tourist destination that could really awe you :unsure:
 

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Some other small recommendation would be Danyang or Gochang, but I'm not sure how interesting these places would be for foreigners. Danyang especially has a lot of domestic tourists, so if you hate that, it's a no-go.
 

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As Chocopie pointed out, finding Halal food in Korea is a hard thing. The good thing though, is that there's plenty of sea food anywhere in the country. As with my response to GalaxyRider, I could give you some specific recommendations if you can give us some details.

Though Since Turkiye is such a diverse and awesome country to visit in terms of what once will be able to find and see, experience, eat, etc, I think it would be a very difficult task for us to suggest you tourist destination that could really awe you :unsure:
thank you so much for your effort to prepare such a substantial and detailed answer. Halal food is not a problem for us as we are open to experience local tastes. we were planing to visit South Korea earlier but because of the understandable strict Covid regulations we had to postpone it.... I already sent your answer to my sister... :) thanks again
 

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@Windchime Thank you very much for all these tips. I was a little unsure about how to begin, but now I have a better understanding of what to do. It seems there is some difficulty in locating these hidden gems, but I am ready for an adventure. The places like Gyeongju and the hiking areas you talked about seem very suitable for me. I really enjoy absorbing history and natural surroundings. And you are correct, often the most excellent places are those that aren't crowded with tourists. I will surely check those locations. Thank you once more for sharing this useful information with me. 🍻
 

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@Windchime Thank you very much for all these tips. I was a little unsure about how to begin, but now I have a better understanding of what to do. It seems there is some difficulty in locating these hidden gems, but I am ready for an adventure. The places like Gyeongju and the hiking areas you talked about seem very suitable for me. I really enjoy absorbing history and natural surroundings. And you are correct, often the most excellent places are those that aren't crowded with tourists. I will surely check those locations. Thank you once more for sharing this useful information with me. 🍻

Indeed I have saved his post for later reference for my own trip plans later lol.

I only visited Seoul so far and all the touristy things there in previous couple trips....along with DMZ visit. I visited friends I knew from childhood (one batch from school in HK the other from school in Singapore, places I grew up) and that was extra helpful on lot of matters.

I for one enjoyed that stuff as there wasn't much time in that visit. When I visited Japan I had more time to explore the countryside outside city I was staying etc and more off the beaten path stuff (biking around lake biwa, hiking places, train and ferry rides etc)....again with couple local friends it helped a lot and checking all the various blogs, vlogs and tourist info to reseach thats out there and have a good schedule planned as packed or unpacked as you want.

But really its matter of time you have to spend and interests you have.
 

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thank you so much for your effort to prepare such a substantial and detailed answer. Halal food is not a problem for us as we are open to experience local tastes. we were planing to visit South Korea earlier but because of the understandable strict Covid regulations we had to postpone it.... I already sent your answer to my sister... :) thanks again
Ah, yes, although I am ignorant of Islamic rules and the do's and do nots, I think I recall that travellers are not subject to, or not subject to as strict of a restriction of what one shall and may not eat. Though I also know that people from countries of predominantly Islamic backgrounds don't eat/hate pork, even if they are not Muslims themselved.

Unfortunately, all of the East Asian nations have incorporated pork ver well into their cuisine so it would require extra caution... though getting beyond that, I think there are plenty of beef and chicken as well as vegetable based dishes that could suit your tastes.
 

GalaxyRider

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Indeed I have saved his post for later reference for my own trip plans later lol.

I only visited Seoul so far and all the touristy things there in previous couple trips....along with DMZ visit. I visited friends I knew from childhood (one batch from school in HK the other from school in Singapore, places I grew up) and that was extra helpful on lot of matters.

I for one enjoyed that stuff as there wasn't much time in that visit. When I visited Japan I had more time to explore the countryside outside city I was staying etc and more off the beaten path stuff (biking around lake biwa, hiking places, train and ferry rides etc)....again with couple local friends it helped a lot and checking all the various blogs, vlogs and tourist info to reseach thats out there and have a good schedule planned as packed or unpacked as you want.

But really its matter of time you have to spend and interests you have.

Japan's definitely on my bucket list too! I've heard so much about the beautiful countryside, the rich culture, and of course, the delicious food. Your experiences biking around Lake Biwa and hiking sound amazing—I'd love to explore those kinds of off-the-beaten-path spots.
 

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