South Korea Travel Guide

Rich in natural wonders, traditional temples and modish shops, South Korea has rightly emerged from its neighbour Japan's shadow and become one of the great Asian destinations. Separated from North Korea by a demilitarised zone since 1953, it has flourished into a stable and mature democracy, where 50 million people inhabit nine provinces and, in particular, seven megacities.

The capital, Seoul, is the largest and most frequented city. The world's tenth largest city, its ancient shrines nestle beneath soaring skyscrapers in an urban sprawl of vibrant nightlife, unforgettable dining, and unique attractions. There is no shortage of luxury accommodation by way of five-star hotels, especially around Myeongdong and City Hall on the north of the river, and Gangnam to the south. Seoul also has a number of backpacker guesthouses for those visiting on a budget, and the traditional wooden guesthouses north of Anguk station in the palace district are becoming more and more popular.

Another area rich in tourist attractions is the southeastern region, with its wealth of archaeological treasures. Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom, is an open-air museum boasting tombs, temples, pagodas, and ruins dating from as early as 57 BC. With its luxury hotels, the Bomun Lake Resort is a fine base from which to explore the area. New resort complexes are currently under construction to open up this fascinating area to even more tourist opportunities.

The least populated area of the country is Gangwon-do Province, on the eastern side of the peninsula. Here, remote forested mountains and valleys are studded with small towns. This area, which played host to the Asian Winter Games in 1999, is fast becoming one of the world's most sought after skiing destinations. For the rest of the year, visitors are drawn to the province's magnificent beaches and scenic hiking trails.

Those seeking a romantic getaway should head for South Korea's resort island, Jejudo, known as 'Little Hawaii' because of its subtropical vegetation, volcanic landscape, sandy beaches, and sparkling waterfalls. The island is dominated by the towering Mount Halla volcano, but visitors need not fear a natural disaster as the volcano was last active in 1007.