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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.