South Korea is popping up on ‘to go’ lists all over the place, and with good reason. South Korea’s been gaining in trendiness for quite a long time, and its food, pop music and technology are now known around the world. Travelling within Korea means seeing a country that’s incredibly efficient, thrillingly advanced and surprisingly cool.
Seoul is the city of the future. Exciting new architecture projects are everywhere, the fashion is very of-the-moment, and design is a key value. Everything from takeaway coffee cups to the chair you’re sitting on has been created with form as well as function in mind. Use the subway (one of the world’s best and cheapest) to travel all over the city, snacking on bubbling bowls of kimchi stew, exploring the chic boutiques of Garosu-gil, or checking out the museums dedicated to showcasing the technology we’ll all be using in the future. You can also explore imperial palaces, sweat out your troubles at a traditional Korean bathhouse, and see groups of drummers perform traditional music – all in superbly clean and organised settings.
While it’s tempting to stay in Seoul’s energetic 24-hour embrace, getting to explore the quieter parts of South Korea will show you a whole different country. Jeju, ‘the Hawaii of Korea’, is an island with beautiful mountains, sandy beaches and fields of flowers. Gyeongju, the capital of the Shilla kingdom for a millennium, is an open-air museum, peppered with archaeological treasures from the tombs of emperors to pagodas and ruins of ancient palaces. If you want to peek into North Korea, take a day trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which, along with the dubious honour of being the most heavily armed border in the world, is also home to more than 50 endangered species.