How to capture the essence of this fascinating, complex nation? Social relations may be grounded in ancient Confucianism but South Korea is most decidedly a forward-thinking country thanks to its hurry-hurry approach to everything, an insatiable appetite for technological advancement and an indomitable can-do attitude. No one knows where the country is headed, but it’s fast-forward all the way. That’s what makes South Korea so exciting and at times unnerving; it’s a country of endless possibilities. Seoul is where this is felt most keenly. There’s an infectious energy here and it’s easy to get caught up in the Korean joie de vivre, as well as the city's non-stop attractions. Less modern but no less appealing is the ancient city of Gyeongju, where temples, pagodas and royal tombs are a source of much fascination. Further south, the bustling port town of Busan is a little rough around the edges but rewards those travellers willing to persevere
Few international travellers explore the countryside, which is a tragedy and a blessing. Serene temples, picturesque mountains, lush rice paddies, unspoiled fishing villages and endless hiking opportunities are so far off the beaten track, it’s unlikely you’ll meet any Westerners (or even English speakers) on the road less travelled. Voyage to the remote, unspoilt islands of Dadohae Haesang National Park, or head to the charming backwater of Buyeo for its historic Baekje relics and lively covered market. For a somewhat less rural (and considerably more surreal) experience, there is Panmunjom & the DMZ Tour - the closest you can get to North Korea from its southern neighbour without being shot.