15 Things To Do in South Korea: The Ultimate Guide for EPIK Teachers


Korean Bucket List copy

There are 52 weeks, 365 days, and 8 765.81277 hours in a year. As EPIK teachers, that’s all the time we know for certain we have available to see and do all the things we want in South Korea. How do we make the most of it?

I decided to make a bucket list of 15 breathtaking, memorable, or overall un-missable things I want to do in South Korea before my year is up, and I think you should do them too! It doesn’t matter if you’re here for a short time as a tourist, or you decide to stay a lifetime, these are must-do’s on any Korean bucket list (and it’s okay if we don’t get through them all).

I’ll update this list as I cross things off from now until August 25th, 2015. Leave me comments as you check things off as well; I can’t wait to hear about your adventures in South Korea!

PalaceSeoul

1. Visit the ‘Five Grand Palaces’ in Seoul

I read somewhere that these palaces can be described as architectural grandeur… and that last word alone is enough to sell me! First on my SK bucket list is to visit the royal palaces of Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Gyeonghuigung.

Lantern Festival

2. Attend the Lotus Lantern Festival For Buddha

In honor of Buddha’s birthday, every May a glowing celebration is held for locals and international visitors alike. Lanterns symbolize wisdom, and are said to bring light to the world in the Buddhist belief system. I definitely want to pay my respects to Buddha.

3. See the radiance of Naejangsan as it changes colors for the season

According to Wikipedia, “Naejangsan is a mountain located on the border of North Jeolla and South Jeolla regions in southwestern South Korea.” Above all, it’s said to have SPECTACULAR autumn foliage. I want to see the leaves fall around me like gold specs from the sky!

Climbing Shoes

4. Go Rock Climbing Like the Koreans Do!

In Korean, outdoor sports are HUGE! I first noticed it with all the multi colored ajjumas in hiking clothes, and later it became more apparent as I started joining the fun. Climbing a mountain was something I wanted to do from the beginning, but I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish it. Thankfully, I had a little help from my friends.

5. Take a tour of the DMZ

This one is slightly controversial. So many tourists flood to the Demilitarized Zone running across the Korean Peninsula, serving as a safe zone in-between North and South Korea. I’m curious to go and learn more about the history behind North and South Korea, but I’m also skeptical. I may offer a quick highlight, but not expect too many pictures out of respect.

Namdaemun

 6. Shop in the the Namdaemun Market

10,000 stores put together to form a splendor of Korean clothes, accessories, artisanal crafts and so much more. This experience is more about the ambience and the people who flood the market, rather than the shopping. For those of you who can’t walk out of a store without a purchase, you’ll find plenty of affordable gifts for your friends and family back home.

Mountain3

7. Island Hop Around the Korean Peninsula

Something that often gets overlooked in South Korea is how beautiful the beaches are that surround the country. There are dozens of places to island hop, but my number one pick is the west coast off of Mokpo.

8. Eat a traditional Korean dessert

This is one of the things on the list that’s a given, but I love me some dessert, and I can’t wait to find out what types of Korean desert are my favorite.

9. Attend the Chicken and Beer Festival in Daegu

Does this one really need an explanation? We missed it by about a week this year, and I’m hoping I can catch it July 2015.

Lanterns

10. Climb Mt. Palgongsan to Gatbawi

This hike is not for the faint of heart. Taking on this mountain means you take on the never ending stairs challenge, but the view from the top, the sounds of chanting from the heart, and the colors of the lanterns make it all worthwhile.

Street Food

11. Eat Korean Street Food With Drunk Locals

One of my absolute favorite things about traveling, as it is for a lot of people, is trying street food. The little local places that look dodgy usually have the best food within miles. The one way to tell if you’re not going to get sick is if locals eat there too! Plus, add a little booze to any situation, and It’s 110x more fun!

IMG_1493

 12. Noraebong Your Heart Out Until 3:00am

I’m sure you’ve seen this on many must-do lists before, but that’s because it’s such a huge part of Korean culture that you can’t leave the country without trying it at least once. It’s so huge, in fact, that I know people who have been asked to sing in front of their entire school on their first day of classes as a type of “Introduction.” Further more, if you’re a hoping to become an EPIK teacher, be aware that many school outings with coworkers revolve around these beautiful Karaoke rooms. Be forewarned, they have the ability to transport you in a time-warp back to 1988. Choose your song carefully.

TrainCherryBlossoms2

13. Attend a Spring Flower Festival

The best way to celebrate the changing of seasons… There are festivals spread out all around South Korea, so feel free to take your pic according to your region. Wherever you go, prepare to be surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms and smiling locals now that winter is coming to an end!

 14. Visit the Boseong Green Tea Fields

Imagine fields of green, neat narrow rows of green tea and an abundance of fresh tea to sample. To really see the fresh color and experience the aromas, you’ll have to visit Boseong in the summer. However, I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s also picturesque in the wintertime, often covered in mounds of fluffy snow. There is also a festival of lights festival held in January and February and that make this destination perfect all year round. Let’s see if I can see it from both angles!

 15. Scuba Dive on Jeju Island (or anywhere in Korea!)

Jeju-do is Koreas most visited island by locals and tourists alike. It’s no wonder with this breathtaking beauty and the amount of diverse activities this area has to offer. You can do everything from hiking Hallasan (the highest mountain in Korea) to visiting Loveland with statues of genetelia. My activity of choice, however, is Scuba Diving. I’ve heard that it’s quite underrated, and that’s why I’ve saved the best for last.

Have you crossed any of these off your bucket list yet? What is your favorite thing to do when you’re visiting a new country?

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26 Comments

  1. Lauren
    September 29, 2014
    Reply

    Love these bucket list items! I am looking forward to learning more about each of these things and doing them all with you!!! One thing I’d like to do is go clubbing in Seoul! hehe Great post!

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      I’m excited to have you as party partner in crime to do them all! 🙂 It’s going to be a hell of a year.

  2. Great list! I haven’t done all of these, but I’ve definitely ticked off quite a few. I think riding bikes around Gyeongju should be on your list. It’s a great city and very rich in history. There’s so much to do there and it’s really a trip worth making.

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      OOOH!! That’s a great one Meagan! I might have to do some research and see how feasible that is for me without buying a bike. 🙂 Maybe I can rent one!

  3. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    Love it! There’s a few on here I have already ticked off. I also missed the chicken and beer festival and have never been more disappointed. I have never heard of Mt Taebaeksan, but it sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  4. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    I have done about most of these things, so I think its definitely possible to complete before the end of next year! The lotus festival in Busan is Incredible. One of the bigger temples sets up the most amazing set of lights I have ever seen.

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      Oh, I am so excited! I’ll have to do some research and maybe plan on that, then. Thanks Rafiqua!

  5. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    Oh my god!!! A chicken and beer festival?! How did I not know about this?! Daegu always has cool stuff going on~

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      RIGHT!? When I heard about it I was like…. ooooh, I have to do this. Next year, Elisha, next year.

  6. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    I have done a few of these, the singing until 3 am was especially memorable! Of the ones I have done I was trying to decide which was my favorite. I found my trip to the DMZ to be the most interesting. I think I would recommend that to anyone traveling to Korea.

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      Hmm… i’m still a bit torn about it like I said, but I agree. I think it’s definitely something you should do, but with the right intentions/sense of awareness.

  7. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    Awesome suggestions! I’m putting together a bucket list for my time in South Korea and this has helped me a ton. I’m headed to the DMZ today and contemplated making a post about it… but you’re definitely right – out of respect, I may not and I certainly won’t be taking too many pictures. I never thought to scuba dive in Jeju Island but what a great idea, I’ve been dying to go and why not get certified here!

    xoM

    • September 30, 2014
      Reply

      Megan, let me know how the DMZ is! Still torn about it. I highly highly recommend getting scuba certified if you like the water even just a little bit. I swear it heals your soul! 🙂 If I find any riveting info about diving in Jeju/SK I’ll be sure to pass it along!

  8. September 30, 2014
    Reply

    Not a bad list, though I think Yeosu is a better spot for island-hopping. We’ve only got 300+ to choose from:)

    Anyway, great things you’ve shared here. I didn’t realize there was a Chicken and Beer festival. Sounds like a blast!

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      haha I’ll have to check out Yeosu! I’m sure it’s beautiful, too. It was a little too chilly for island hopping this time of year (just got back yesterday), so I’ll have to give another area a new go next summer.

  9. October 1, 2014
    Reply

    I’ve done most of these, and it’s a pretty good list!

    I went to the chicken and beer festival in Daegu in 2013 and I have to say, it wasn’t anything special. It was just suuuuper hot, and it was just chicken you can get anywhere but in one place. Not as much for free as I thought either! We still had fun though. 🙂

    I hope you get to do all of these things!!

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      Hmm… I’ll keep that in mind so I can curve my expectations a bit, then! Thanks for the insight Evan and Rachel 🙂

  10. October 2, 2014
    Reply

    Really good list! I too have done many things on this list. I’ve lived in Jeju, but I’ve never been scuba diving. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?! I see my bucketlist expanding 🙂

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      Nooo!! I can’t believe that; you have to go!!! haha come along with me!

  11. October 5, 2014
    Reply

    I have a Korean Bucket List too, but it actually only has a few of the same things as yours! I’d recommend going to the Busan Fireworks Festival (coming up Oct 24th or 25th I believe)! Definitely my favorite I’ve been to. Buddha’s Birthday was also one of my favorite festivals! Try to check out different temples within the few days and go both during the day and night!

    • October 6, 2014
      Reply

      Oh nice! There’s an upcoming trip for the fireworks festival I’m definitely considering; thanks for the tip! I’ll take a look around and see if I can find your bucket list :). Maybe I can tick some of those things off, as well. (if time permits).

  12. November 1, 2014
    Reply

    South Korea’s definitely beautiful, but the cultural shock can be so huge… if you come ready for it, then you’ll enjoy it as a little kid!

  13. Roxy Riess
    January 17, 2015
    Reply

    Hey lovely!!!!!

    You can now cross #8, 12, and 14!! Yo go gurrrrrl!!! 🙂 🙂

  14. […] my bucket list when I made the big move to Daegu, South Korea in August 2014 was, “Try a traditional Korean dessert.” I had heard the hype about how delicious food here would be, from BBQ to green tea, but I never […]

  15. […] my bucket list when I made the big move to Daegu, South Korea in August 2014 was, “Try a traditional Korean dessert.” I had heard the hype about how delicious food here would be, from BBQ to green tea, but I never […]

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