Barry’s Note: For more than 20 years Ursula and I have considered Korea our second home, as we lived there twice. The first time was in 1996 when we were in Busan for a year and a half. 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 Chair of the Asian Studies graduate program 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 the world, 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 mountains and hiking also available. Beyond Seoul, we will also make a day-trip to Seoraksan National Park to experience South Korea's premier mountain hiking destination. While in Seoul, we will make a couple short 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.
PLEASE NOTE: While beer is everywhere 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, most Korean meals are based on meat or seafood, which can make it difficult for vegetarians or vegans. If that’s your diet, you may want to plan ahead and expect a few very simple meals (as there is always rice and vegetables). Fortunately, on our last tour we found a couple of Indian restaurants and some vegetarian friendly Korean places. Knowing that should help on our next tour.
GROUP SIZE: max 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 guaranteed with a $250 deposit.
Pre Day (Saturday) Depart Toronto
Air Canada offers a direct flight from Toronto to Seoul, departing Pearson at 14:10.
Day 1 (Sunday) Arrive in Seoul (D)
The Air Canada flight arrives at 16:40. After taking a shuttle to our hotel, the group will walk to a nearby restaurant for a light supper.
Day 2 (Monday) Walking Tour of Neighbourhood Markets (B, L, D)
We will walk through the traditional Korean market nearby and have lunch in a local’s place before returning to our hotel for a break. In the evening, we will take the subway to the Insa-dong Culture Street and enjoy dinner in a traditional Korean restaurant.
Day 3 (Tuesday) Demilitarized Zone Tour (B, L, D)
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, we will take a break before heading out for Korean-style fried chicken and beer.
Day 4 (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 campus, Seoul Children's Park, a local supermarket and shopping district. That tour will end with a Korean bbq dinner.
Day 5 (Thursday) Seoraksan National Park (B, L)
This will be a long 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 returning to the hotel in the late afternoon, guests will enjoy a free evening.
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) 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 at 18:40.