***THIS IS THE AGENDA FOR THE 2020 TOUR, BUT WE EXPECT THE 2021 AGENDA TO BE VERY SIMILAR. THE FINAL AGENDA FOR 2021 WILL BE POSTED IN LATE 2020***
NOTE: As a result of our very successful tour in 2019, this tour will be offered again in 2020 with a few tweaks for improvement. The biggest change is that our time in Busan has been extended, which will allow us to see more of the southern region. As a result, time in the eastern mountains will be shortened to one day at Seoraksan National Park. Another change is that more meals will be included in 2020, and beer is now considered part of the meal! Finally, the DMZ tour is back on the 2020 agenda, even though it was temporarily unavailable in 2019.
HEADS UP!! A couple of things to consider. First, while beer is ubiquitous in Korea, wine is not usually available in neighbourhood restaurants, and good quality wine can be hard to find in local markets. As such, guests may want to buy a bottle or two at Duty Free before arrival.
Second, Korea is a meat-loving cuisine, and may be difficult for vegetarians or vegans. As such, non-meat eaters may want to bring protein bars and expect a few very simple meals. As a work-around in 2019, we found a couple of Indian restaurants and a few vegetarian friendly Korean places near our hotels is Seoul & Busan. Knowing that should help in 2020.
For more than 20 years my wife Ursula and I have considered Korea our second home, as we have lived there twice. The first time was in 1996 when we were in Busan for a year and a half (I taught English at the University of Foreign Studies). Then, after a 20 year career in politics and government, we moved back to Seoul in 2016 (with our 2 teenagers) for two years when I was an Associate Professor of Public Administration and Politics at Sejong University.
For any first time visitor to Korea, Seoul is a real eye opener. That's because it has become one of the most exciting cities in Asia, especially for young people. Korean cuisine is the rage, and Korean fashion, television and music are huge around the world. As a result, the youthful energy of Seoul is palpable, and there's little chance anybody would ever be bored.
While everyone expects a big city vibe in Seoul, few anticipate the amazing hiking also available. On this tour we will take a day trip to Seoraksan National Park on the East Coast to experience South Korea's premier mountain hiking destination. While in Seoul, we will also make 2 hikes within the city, as well as seeing many of the best known tourist sites, including the Lotte Tower, the Royal Palace and several Buddhist temples. We will also spend a day at the Demilitarized Zone, the last vestige of the Cold War.
After a week in Seoul, we will take the KTX high speed train to Busan on the south coast.
One highlight of any visit to Busan is to see the massive Chagalchi Fish Market. We will also visit the spectacular Beomeosa temple in the mountains, and make a day trip to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea and site of several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This tour offers a unique mix of Asian culture, Cold War history, great cities, challenging mountains and lots of opportunity for hiking. Join us if you've always wanted to see all that South Korea has to offer. It's also a chance for me to introduce you to my second home.
AIRFARE: est. $1400
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: est $775
TYPE: Urban Hiking
HOTELS: 3 star & 4 star
LENGTH: Two weeks
GROUP SIZE: 12 guests
Hotel Atrium, Seoul (8 nts)
Asti Hotel, Busan (6 nts)
DMZ organized day trip
Seoraksan organized day trip
Gyeongju organized day trip
Lotte Tower tour
Seoraksan cable car
Songdo Beach cable car
Geonggam Park cable car
Daily walking & hiking tours
Entrance to all group attractions
Tour Concierge (Barry)
All ground transportation & taxes
This tour is guaranteed to depart. The Land Package price is in Canadian dollars, based on double occupancy, and only guaranteed after a $250 deposit is received.
Day 1 (Saturday) Depart Toronto
Our group will depart Pearson Airport early afternoon.
Day 2 (Sunday) Arrive in Seoul (D)
Our flight will arrive late afternoon Sunday. After taking a shuttle bus to our hotel, those interested can walk with Barry to nearby Ikseon-dong for a light supper.
Day 3 (Monday) Walking Tour of Neighbourhood Markets (B, L, D)
We will walk through Gwangjang and Dongdaemun Markets in the morning. After lunch and a break at the hotel, we will walk to the Insa-dong Culture Street and enjoy a Korean dinner.
Day 4 (Tuesday) Demilitarized Zone Tour (B)
On this day we will take a full-day group tour to the DMZ to experience the last vestiges of the Cold War. Upon our return, guests will have a free evening, but are welcome to join Barry for chicken and beer.
Day 5 (Wednesday) Lotte Tower & Typical Seoul Neighbourhood (B, D)
We will begin our day with a visit to Lotte Mall, featuring a trip up the Lotte Tower. Afterwards, we will visit the neighbourhood where Barry and his family lived, including Sejong university, Children's Park, supermarket and shopping district. That tour will end with a Korean bbq dinner.
(B-breakfast; L-lunch; D-dinner)
Day 6 (Thursday) Seoraksan National Park (B, L)
On this day, we will depart early by private bus for a full day tour of Seoraksan National Park, Korea's most famous and popular mountain destination. We will take a cable car to the top for amazing views, as well as visit a Buddhist temple and hike along a mountain stream.
Day 7 (Friday) Cheonggyecheong Stream, Royal Palace & Hanok Village (B, L)
We will walk a loop along the Cheonggyecheong Stream, through the Royal Palace and back through the Hanok traditional village. Lunch will be pizza, salad and beer in Ikseon-dong. After lunch, guests have the option to join Barry for a bike ride along the Han River, or enjoy some free time.
Day 8 (Saturday) Namsan Mountain hike, visit to Itaewon & Myeong-dong (B, L)
We will start our day with an easy hike up Namsan Mountain to the Seoul Tower, Aferwards, we will go to "What a Salad" for lunch in Itaewon, and guests will have free time to explore this international neighbourhood. In the evening, we will go to Myeong-dong to experience Korea's street food scene.
Day 9 (Sunday) FREE DAY (B)
Guests will have the day to do whatever they want. One option is to attend church, then hike the Achasan Ridge with Barry. Other options include: the Korean National Museum; the Korean National War Memorial & Museum; a river cruise on the Han River.
Day 10 (Monday) TRAVEL DAY - Seoul to Busan (B, D)
After breakfast, we will travel from Seoul to Busan by KTX high speed train. After checking in at Hotel Asti, we will tour Busan's Gamcheon Cultural Village. After returning to our hotel, dinner will be at a traditional Korean restaurant near our hotel.
Day 11 (Tuesday) Walking Tour of Chagalchi Fish Market & Songdo Beach Cable Car (B)
After breakfast, we will walk along the Busan waterfront to Chagalchi Fish Market and visit the Nampo-dong market. About noon we will take the Song-do Beach cable car to Amnam Park. After returning to the hotel in late afternoon, dinner will be street food in the busy Seomyeon Market area.
Day 12 (Wednesday) Gyeongju Daytrip (B)
This day will be an organized group tour to the nearby ancient capital of Gyeongju to visit several UNESCO World Heritage sites. Upon returning to the hotel, guests will have a free evening.
Day 13 (Thursday) Busan Harbour Cruise & Haeundae Beach (B, D)
We will begin our day with a cruise of the Busan harbour. After lunch, we will travel across the city to Haeundae, the most famous beach community in South Korea, where we will stay for a group dinner.
Day 14 (Friday) Beomeosa Temple & mountain hike (B)
Our day will begin with a visit to Beomeosa Temple. From there, we will hike to the North Gate of Geumjeongsanseong Fortress, then south along the mountain ridge. For those who prefer, an alternative city tour will be organized. Guests will have a free evening.
Day 15 (Saturday) FREE DAY (B, D)
Guests will be free to do whatever they want. Barry will help with options. We will end our day with a farewell dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.
Day 16 (Sunday) Train to Seoul; Flight to Toronto (B)
After breakfast and check-out, we will catch the KTX high speed train to Seoul, then transfer to Incheon Airport by subway. Due to the magic of the International Date Line, we will depart Korea at 18:55 and arrive in Toronto more than an hour earlier, at 17:30.