South Korea features spectacular views, plenty of attractions and great food. The best way to explore this country is by taking a road trip.
In South Korea, tremendous scenic beauty lies beyond the exciting urban flavors of Seoul. The best way to experience the country’s spectacular panoramic vistas is by taking a road trip. South Korea is known for good roads, plentiful attractions, and incredible food, making every day a new adventure for the senses.
To rent a car in Seoul, you need an International Driver’s Permit, which can be obtained in about two weeks from the American Automobile Association. Many road signs are in English, but it helps to purchase a good map at the airport and have an English-speaking GPS system.
From Seoul, travel east about two-and-a-half hours along one of the most popular scenic driving routes to the Gangwon-do region to enjoy the shaded valleys and jagged peaks of Seoraksan National Park, the top attraction in the region. Situated on the East Sea (Sea of Japan), the park offers a combination of mountains and ocean that is a huge draw for visitors.
It’s South Korea’s most popular national park for good reason. “Seoraksan National Park has spectacular scenery and easy road access to Sokcho Beach and the gorgeous Naksansa Temple,” says Bora Youn, information officer for South Korea’s official tourism bureau. It features unusual rock formations, dense forests, hot springs, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife as well as several ancient temples.
Built during Korea’s Silla Dynasty in the 600s, the nearby Naksansa Temple boasts various notable statues on its grounds, including a popular toad statue for making wishes. The famous Gyeongpodae Pavilion also features a memorable view that is filled with cherry blossoms in the spring.
The park is busiest on the weekends, especially during the autumn season when travelers want to see the fall colors. The Outer Seorak area has the most dramatic vistas, with the sharpest peaks and glimpses of the ocean in the distance. Relax and sample fresh seafood, such as stuffed squid with buckwheat pancakes, at Sokcho Beach.
Pohang and Yeosu
Located about three-and-a-half hours southeast of Seoul, the industrial city of Pohang is the home of an interesting piece of artwork. The large contemporary sculpture called “Hands of Harmony” has served as a backdrop for many photography sessions over the years. Although it’s not a scenic vista, it’s a visual masterpiece worth seeing on your trip down the coast to Yeosu.
Yeosu offers fantastic views of the open water from Hyangiram Hermitage, a small temple set high up on a cliff. Established in 644 by a monk named Wonhyo, the temple was originally called Wontongam. The climb up to the temple is challenging, but the view is more than worth it.
Off the southern tip of South Korea, Jeju Island is accessible by car ferries that leave regularly from several southeastern coastal cities, including Yeosu, Wando, and Goheung. The ferry ride takes about three to four hours, depending on the departure city, and it’s advisable to check websites and book tickets for a car ferry ahead of time.
Despite its somewhat remote location, Jeju Island is probably the most famous scenic destination in South Korea. “Jeju Island has many breathtaking natural features, including bija tree forests, lava tubes, waterfalls, and sandy beaches,” says Youn.
The island was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 2002 and as a World Natural Heritage site in 2007. One of the main attractions is Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (Sunrise Peak), which rises almost 600 feet into the air and has an enormous crater at the top. As the name would indicate, it’s known for its amazing sunrise views.
Also on Jeju Island, don’t miss Manjanggul Cave, the longest lava tube in the world, and Seopjikoji Cape, which offers a view of the shoreline cliff and lighthouse as well as mountains in the distance. Jusangjeolli Cliff features impressive rock pillars that make a great backdrop for photos.
If you want to take a break from the outdoors but still enjoy amazing sights on the island, visit Aqua Planet Jeju, the largest aquarium in Asia with more than 5,000 marine animals, or Osulloc Tea Museum, the largest museum of its kind in Korea.
A trip to South Korea offers a diverse range of activities and attractions, not the least of which are some beautiful panoramic vistas. Share all your photos of this inspiring country with us on Instagram.