They say good things come in threes and nowhere is this more true than South Korea, which offers a tasty trio of trendy destinations. If you’re familiar with the country, you’ll already have guessed correctly: Seoul, Jeju Island and Busan. No doubt there are many other fascinating locations to uncover outside of these hotspots, but if this is your first trip, you won’t go far wrong if you include these three. So go ahead and get a rich taste of Korea in just over a week by following this practical 9D8N Korea itinerary.
Save on flight tickets with a multi-city flight booking
In this itinerary, you’ll be visiting three locations spread across South Korea, starting in Busan and ending in Seoul. To get in and out of Jeju Island, you’ll need to tack on an additional round trip flight.
It’s a mistake to think that buying return flights to Seoul plus the additional connections in between would cost less than buying single flights. On the contrary, you might just waste time and money with the former option. Our multi-city search function is a fantastic way to find and book all the tickets you need at one go. Simply input the locations and dates according to your itinerary and pick the best option for your epic Korea trip.
The multi-flight search option is convenient and could land you a good deal too, so definitely check that out!
Now that you have your flights to Korea, let’s dive into this epic 9D8N Korea itinerary.
Thinking of travelling to Korea this 2019? You wouldn’t want to miss these Singapore to Korea flight deals with fares to Busan, Jeju, and Seoul. See you there!
9D8N Korea itinerary part one: Busan
Unwind on the coast of Busan on day one
Make the most of your Korea itinerary by flying from Singapore to Busan. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before because you’ll start your day with some heavy-duty sightseeing.
The famous Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located in north-east of Busan, along the sweeping coast. Built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty by a Buddhist teacher called Naong, this temple features Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary and interesting statues such as that of the Goddess of Mercy and the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. This site is scenic, set as it is with the backdrop of the ocean behind it.
A one hour bus ride connects the temple with Haeundae Station, which is the jumping off point to your next location: Haeundae Beach. Stretching 1.5 kilometres, Haeundae Beach offers plenty of space on the soft white sands to lounge around and absorb some Vitamin D. If you’re travelling with kids, this is just the place to let them loose! They’ll get busy building sandcastles or chasing after birds. And when you get hungry, order up some Korean fried chicken and beer to savour on the beach.
Just three stops away on Metro Line 2, you’ll find Shinsegae Centum City, a gargantuan shopping and entertainment complex. You could spend an entire day here with activities like ice-skating, a cinema and plenty more besides, but if you love to pamper yourself, zoom straight to Spa Land, a jjimjilbang (Korean spa) with a mind-boggling array of themed saunas and spa. My post-flight fatigue simply melted away after a good full-body scrub at the sauna.
Next, put your squeaky-clean self back on the Metro because you’ll be ending your day at Gwangalli Beach, a five-minute walk from Gwangan Station. As darkness creeps across the sky, the beautiful lights on Gwangan Bridge take centre stage. Conclude your day by enjoying the caress of the sea breeze accompanied by the atmospheric music drifting from talented buskers – the perfect way to end your first day in Korea.
Places to visit in Busan on your second day
After a jam-packed first day, you’ll slow it down by visiting just two family-friendly attractions on your second day.
After breakfast, make your way to Gamcheon Culture Village, which is accessible via bus (or a steep hike) from Toseong Station. This colourful wonderland built in the mountains is criss-crossed by narrow streets connected by many stairs. You’ll never know what awaits you at each corner – perhaps a mural, an artwork, a viewpoint, or a cat! It’s hard to believe that this photogenic paradise was a slum back in the 1950s. Deliberately get lost for an hour or two, and then try to find your way back to the main street which is lined with cafes and eateries.
Your next excursion takes you to Taejongdae Park, an hour by bus from either Nampo Station or Busan Station. What will you find there? Fantastic ocean and cliffside scenery, that’s what. You can explore the area by hopping on and off the Danubi Train, or you could just rely on your own two feet. The must-sees are the observatory and the lighthouse from which there’s a winding coastal walk punctuated by outcrops with ahjummas selling sumptuous seafood. This could be your final meal of the day, or you could return back to the city via Nampo Station where dinner options are in abundance.
Shopping spree at recommended places to shop in Busan on day three
If you’re getting tired of long commutes, you’ll be relieved to know that you won’t be going out of the city on your third day.
Put yourself in the middle of the action at Nampo-dong, the district which is home to BIFF Square. Street vendors congregate here to offer a mouth-watering array of snacks such as hotteok, a type of sweet pancakes filled with brown sugar and seeds. Branching out from this square are streets lined with shops selling shoes, cosmetics, clothing, and all kinds of trinkets.
From there, you can wander into the enormous Gukje Market as well as Yongdusan Park, which spills around the base of the Busan Tower. Save some space in your tummy, because you will step into the seafood heaven that is Jagalchi Market. This is where you can chomp on still-alive, wriggling octopus. Can’t handle that? Buy a selection of squid, shellfish, crabs, eels and all sorts of other sea creatures, then take your catch upstairs to be cooked for you in the restaurant of your choice.
From there, move on to another commercial hub: Seomyeon Underground Shopping Centre. After that, If you haven’t had your fill of shopping, continue on to the Lotte Department Store, a mall that has something for the whole family. Otherwise, emerge outdoors and experience the nightlife that the area is well-known for. At Output, you can dish out moves to electronic and hip-hop beats all night long.
9D8N Korea itinerary part two: Jeju Island
Goodbye Busan, hello Jeju!
It’s finally time to say goodbye to Busan. A short one-hour flight from Busan Gimhae Airport will take you to Jeju Island. In terms of transportation on the island, I highly recommend you rent a car in Jeju. It’s also possible to get around Jeju Island by taxis, intra-city/intercity buses or a city-tour bus but these options would involve a lot of waiting times between sightseeing and unless you’re fluent in Korean, the language barrier could prove problematic.
Once on Jeju, start by dropping your luggage at your accommodation, then hit the road. Introduce yourself to Jeju Island’s wondrous nature at Jeongbang Falls and Cheonjiyeon Falls, both located near Seogwipo City. Jeongbang Falls begin from a cliff and tumble right into the ocean whereas Cheonjiyeon Waterfall reveals itself after a one-kilometre walk on a scenic path. If you’re up for it, you could also visit Cheonjeyeon Falls, which comprises three waterfalls and overlooks the Seonimgyo Bridge.
Following your waterfall-hopping adventure, have a change of scenery at Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff, a breathtaking location which straddles a pine tree forest and the Jisatgae Coast. This is not an ordinary cliff – you’ll find that the waves crash against hexagonal pillars of rocks, varying in height and sizes but all stacked shoulder-to-shoulder. These are actually volcanic formations that came to existence after Hallasan Mountain erupted into the sea.
Next, make a quick stop at Jungmun Beach, or continue your way to the Teddy Bear Museum. Yes, a museum dedicated to teddy bears! What a treat for the kids. For those who love all things cuddly, the global teddy bear collection, the Elvis Presley show in the theatre and the outdoor park with sculptures are sure to delight. Next, you could also hop off to the Chocolate Museum to learn how all those sweet treats are produced. Finally, Hello Kitty fans – adults and kids alike – won’t want to miss a trip to Hello Kitty Island, a three-storey Sanrio paradise with a museum, cafe and gift shop.
Enjoying the nature and scenic views in Jeju Island on day five
Start your day in the depths of the Manjanggul Cave, a lava tunnel that is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is dotted with stalactites, stalagmites and other cool structures – such as a seven-metre-high lava pillar. Out of the 13 kilometres of this multi-level natural wonder, only one kilometre is open to the public.
Good walking shoes are recommended as the terrain is dimly-lit and uneven. Be extra cautious if you’re travelling with children. I would also recommend bringing a thin windbreaker if you are prone to feeling cold, as it can get chilly underground even in summer
Your next stop is Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as “Sunrise Peak”. This geographical landmark emerged from the sea at the eastern end of Jeju Island some 100,000 years ago. It takes 30 minutes to scale the peak. Twice a day at 1.30pm and 3pm, performances are put up by haenyeo (female divers) at the waterfront. The middle-aged or even elderly ladies would hold their breath underwater as they harvest seafood – an impressive feat! You can support them by feasting on their fresh catch afterwards.
From Seongsan Ilchulbong, there are really too many options on where to go, so we’ll leave this open-ended. If the day is still young, you could drive to Seongsan Port and catch the hourly ferry to Udo Island, which is like a mini-Jeju brimming with idyllic natural sights. Another stunning site that you can visit in Jeju is Sangumburi Crater, from where you can admire unique flora and fauna, including gently-swaying pampas grass fields.
There’s also the Jeju Folk Village Museum which offers a glimpse into the culture of locals of yesteryear, as well as Kimnyoung Maze Park which is a lot of fun for both adults and children. With the many must-visit places in Jeju, you’ll struggle to run out of places to visit.
Hike up Mount Hallasan in Jeju on day six
A hike up Mount Hallasan could be the highlight of your time on Jeju Island, so dedicate a day for this if you’re physically capable. No, it’s not a walk in the park; you’ll have to scale a massive volcano that soars almost 2,000 metres above sea level. This is the tallest mountain in the country, in fact.
There are four trails on the mountain, two of which lead to the summit: Seongpanak Trail and Gwaneumsa Trail. The former is lengthier by 900 metres but features an incline that isn’t as steep. The latter, which stretches 8.7 kilometres, is reportedly more picturesque – so if you’re up for the challenge, you will be duly rewarded. Both trails require approximately five hours each way.
If you are averse to the notion of a long, strenuous hike, or if you have kids in tow, opt for Eorimok Trail, which owes its popularity to its gentle nature – at least in comparison to the two mentioned above. This trail begins on a boardwalk before taking you deeper into the forest and releasing you into the scenic meadows. The last trail, the Yeongsil Trail, winds around the mountain and gives you spectacular views particularly in Autumn. You could combine these two trails by taking one on the way up to the Witse Oreum Shelter and the other on the way down; the return trip would take approximately five hours.
Whichever trail you decide on, it’s highly advisable to start early and don’t forget to pack food and lots of water. Wear clothes appropriate for the weather and be prepared for lower temperatures at higher elevations.
9D8N Korea itinerary part three: Seoul
Sadly, our time in the Hawaii of Korea is up. Luckily you still have a few days left to enjoy some more of what Korea has to offer. Brace yourself for South Korea’s capital city as you hop on the one-hour flight from Jeju to Seoul.
Before you start sightseeing, though, find a hanbok rental shop – not only because you’ll look fabulous in the traditional Korean attire, but also because wearing a hanbok will grant you free access to palaces such as Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. How perfect for a full cultural immersion! There are many shops in Seoul where you can rent a hanbok for men, women and kids, including around Gyeongbokgung Station which is the hop-off point to your next stop.
The main palace of the five Grand Palaces in Seoul, Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty to serve as a home for royalty. It was destroyed multiple times, once during the Imjin War and again during the Japanese occupation, but has since been rebuilt and restored. You may also want to time your visit to coincide with the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony which is scheduled twice daily at 10am and 2pm. Do take note that the palace is closed for weekly maintenance on Tuesdays.
Next, wander into the Bukchon Hanok Village which is peppered with traditional Korean houses. You will feel right at ease here with your hanbok. Get lost in the maze, pop into quaint cafes and tea houses, and stop for a photoshoot at the top of the hill. You can also visit museums displaying art, wooden figurines, Korean antiques and other items related to Korean culture. Just be mindful that this is a residential area where locals appreciate their peace and privacy.
Continue to Changdeokgung, which was built after Gyeongbokgung. This well-preserved Joseon palace comprises a public palace area and a royal family residence. It also features a Huwon (secret garden), which permits limited admission each day. Be sure to make an online reservation or come early to get the tickets on-site if you want to uncover the secret grounds.
Sum up your day by visiting Insadong or Namdaemun Market – or both! The neighbourhood of Insadong teems with culture and crafts. You can start your search for souvenirs such as handicrafts or kitschy keepsakes like magnets, chopsticks and t-shirts. If you’re up for a late night, move on to the massive Namdaemun Market, a traditional bazaar that is hectic both day and night. Aside from scoring bargains, you can have your fill of handmade knife-cut noodles (kalguksu) and other toothsome delicacies along Kalguksu Alley.
Discovering the modern & young side of Seoul on day eight
You’ve seen a bit of what’s on the ground – now it’s time to get a bird’s eye view of Seoul from high above. Take your pick from the N Seoul Tower or Seoul Sky. The former, also known as Namsan Tower, is in the heart of Namsan Park and is a signature landmark of the city. It also houses a Hello Kitty Island on the fifth floor. The latter is tucked high up the tallest building in South Korea: the Lotte World Tower. Both offer observatories with panoramic views, but it’s worth mentioning that Seoul Sky has a deck with a transparent glass floor.
Get back to the ground and take the subway to Hyehwa Station to reach Ihwa Mural Village. This funky neighbourhood at the top of Naksan Park will remind you of Gamcheon Culture Village. The artistic elements include installations, metal art, and of course, funky murals on various surfaces. The colours are sure to catch a child’s attention and the area comes with glorious city views to boot!
Your next stop is Hongdae but en-route, you can drop at Ewha Womans University Station to check out the Ewha Womans University Shopping Street; it’s only two stops before Hongik University Station, the entry to Hongdae. In case you’re wondering, the neighbourhoods surrounding the Korean universities are chock-full of shopping, entertainment and dining options that cater to youth culture.
Hongdae is always buzzing with life. You can hunt down street art, listen to buskers, and as always, shop and eat ‘til you drop. Families, make a beeline for Hongdae Playground! From Hongdae, consider making a detour to Yeonnam-dong, an up-and-coming area that is garnering a reputation as a trendy hangout spot with hipster cafes. But do pop back to Hongdae after sunset to experience the best of Seoul’s nightlife.
The final call for souvenir shopping on your last day in Korea
Your final day in Korea has arrived. It’s okay to feel sad, because that’s an excellent excuse to indulge in some intensive retail therapy.
One word: Myeongdong. Go crazy because this is the mecca for Korean skincare products and cosmetics. Even if you’re not into beauty trends, you could collect free samples to distribute to your friends back home while keeping your eyes peeled for street food. Peer into the carts of vendors and stuff yourself silly with gyeran-ppang (egg bread), deep-fried reos, octopus balls, grilled scallops and ice cream waffles. You could even catch a Nanta show in Myeongdong that’s filled with wacky acrobatics and wow-inducing performances. It’s wholesome family fun!
After that, transfer to Dongdaemun Station and proceed to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. The futuristic facade and the LED rose garden are impressive, but do enter the building to check if there are any ongoing exhibitions.
You can also explore Dongdaemun Market, a huge area that encompasses malls and shopping streets. While you can do some shopping, most areas are geared towards wholesale retailers, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to buy in bulk. As you walk around, keep your eyes peeled for a food stall where you can have your final meal in Seoul.
If you have some time to kill, stroll along the Cheonggyecheon Stream to enjoy a slice of serenity in the heart of a modern city for one last time before you head back. You’ll spot dating couples, families with kids, and office workers taking a break. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock, because you don’t want to miss your flight… (or do you?)
After nine wonderful days, it’s time to say goodbye to Korea’s Big Three. Three of the best places to visit in the country. Chances are, you’ll return for more soon.