How To See The Best of Korea in 14 Days (Or Less): A 2-Week Itinerary

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, Korea

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14 min read
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, Korea

With the rise of K-Pop, K-Fashion, K-Skincare, K-Drama, K-BBQ and K-ERR’THANG, it’s not long before Korea takes over the world. Maybe, maybe not. On a hunt for some good ol’ kimchi, the secret behind immaculately flawless skin and insanely pretty beautiful men, I embarked on a 2-week journey through South Korea, from the volcanic island of Jeju to the bustling city of Seoul. We even did the ever cliché train to Busan in hopes of spotting the lingering zombie. FYI I’ve never actually seen the movie.

The 2 weeks were filled with ups and downs, and I surely wasn’t expecting Korea to be what it was, as all I’d seen of it was from their Korean movies and dramas. But for what it’s worth, it really was an eye-opener for me and my family. Follow along as I, the FOMO traveler, take you on a 2-week journey through South Korea, and hopefully, you’ll be able to DIY your own perfect 2-week itinerary too!

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Trip Summary

Cities: Jeju Island, Busan, Seoul
Day trips: Jeonju, DMZ
Ideal Season: April to May; September to October Trip Intensity: ★★★☆☆
# of Train Rides: 1 # of Flights 1
Trip Cost: ~Approx. $1,260/per person Personal Cost: ~Approx. $890/per person
*incl. flights, hotels, long distance trains *incl. local transport, food, entrance fees

**Stay tuned as I’ll be posting in-depth itineraries for each city soon!

Don’t leave home without travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose World Nomads Travel Insurance, designed specially by travelers for travelers, so they know exactly what they’re talking about.

Itinerary

Day 1

Home to Seoul to Jeju Island: Today we’ll be flying to Jeju Island upon arrival in Seoul, so make sure you allocate enough time between flights! Alternatively, you can fly directly to Jeju Island if that option is available to you from your origin city. Check latest flight prices here.

Arrive in Seoul Incheon International Airport in the morning. Once at the airport, pick up your:

  • SIM Card – If you’re after data in Korea, prepaid SIM cards run by periods instead of data usage. You get unlimited data for a set number of days. I would recommend booking your SIM card online in advance as they usually have discounts for advanced bookings. Also, English isn’t widely spoken in Korea, so getting everything settled before you arrive is one less headache to deal with. Order your SIM card here for pick up on arrival at the airport.
For a limited time only, get FREE 1GB data with a Flexiroam Starter Pack. You can even use this data in 53 other countries! Just pay for shipping and start surfing! Get your FREE 1GB Starter Pack via this link. While stocks last.
  • Transport card (T-Money) – This is a reloadable transportation card that makes traveling around South Korea really convenient. It can be used on public buses and subways in most metropolitan cities. The best part is you get a 1,000 won discount on journeys when using the T-Money card! You can buy them from the convenience stores located within the airport (GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, Ministop, With Me, Buy The Way, Story Way, etc) and they cost 2,500 won and up depending on the design of the card you choose. We got some Line-themed ones for 4,000 won, mainly because the cashier did not explain this to us. If we’d known, we would’ve saved a couple bucks but I guess they make some cute souvenirs!

Then, take the train to Gimpo Airport. Most domestic flights and low-cost carriers operate from this airport. Take the All-Stop Train, NOT the Express Train from the airport as these go direct to Seoul city!

Allocate enough time between flights, and fly out to Jeju Island! Pick up your rental car. We chose AJ Rent A Car as they had the cheapest car rental prices after comparing. To compare prices, you can check out rentalcars.com.

Set up camp in South Jeju so you’re close to the main waterfalls and cliffs.

Overnight: Seogwipo

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 2

Jeju Island

Today, explore the Southern part of the island where most of the main waterfalls are, and they are all within close proximity to one another. The main sights to hit today are:

  • Jeongbang Falls – the one pictured above!
  • Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls – not the biggest waterfall, but it’s a very nice walk through the park!
  • Jusangjeollidae – spectacular volcanic rock formations!
  • Cheonjeyeon Falls – not to be mixed up with Cheonjiyeon, (yep there’s only one letter difference between the two!) there are three waterfalls here!

Overnight: Seogwipo

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 3

Today, head further West for mountains and tea plantations. It’s going to be a pretty touristy day, so brace, brace! For some reason, these places were way more packed with tourists than the waterfalls the day before.

  • Sanbangsan Mountain – beautiful mountain with a view of rapeseed flower fields in the distance (if you come during the right season!)
  • Yeongmeori Coast – just walk a little further down from Sangbangsan and you’ll reach the beautiful coastline
  • Innisfree Jeju Green House Café – Korean beauty brand with their very own café! You can even make your soaps here. A nice place to stop by for lunch!
  • O’sulloc Tea Plantation – this is just next to the Innisfree Café. Great for tea and green tea desserts! Also, walk through the green tea plantations. Watch out for bees!
  • Hallim Park – a park featuring caves, a variety of plants and flowers and even a small zoo!
  • Hyeopjae Beach
  • Aewol – this is the ‘hipster’ corner of Jeju Island, and is perfect for a sunset stroll by the beach. Also don’t miss Monsant Café that was rumored to be opened by K-Pop Star, G-Dragon!

Then it’s a 1.5 hour drive all the way East to Seongsan-ri. Spend the night here so you can get up bright and early for the sunrise at Seongsan Mountain, also known as Sunrise Peak. Go figure!

Overnight: Seongsan

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 4

Wake up bright and early for the sunrise at Seongsan Mountain. The East of Jeju is also where you can make a trip to Udo Island, but we opted not to. From here, you can explore the North East side of the island.

  • Manjanggul Cave – the 12th-longest lava tube in the world!
  • Mysterious Road – you definitely can’t miss this. There’s a natural phenomena that happens here when you turn off your car engine and put your car to neutral, and your car will appear to move uphill! Don’t just take my word for it, go do it!
  • Dongmun Market – traditional market filled with fooooood!

Overnight: Seongsan

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 5

Jeju Island to Busan: Take the morning flight to Busan after dropping off your rental car at Jeju Airport.

Drop off your luggage at your hotel, and head out for lunch. Then take the bus to Haeundae Beach for an evening stroll.

I loved staying in Seomyeon because it’s so central! There’s Lotte Department Store next to the train station, and even a huge underground shopping mall that you can’t miss! Seomyeon is also known as the medical district of Busan, where you can find endless clinics offering cosmetic enhancement services 😉

Overnight: Seomyeon

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 6

Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan

Spend the first half of the day at Gamcheon Culture Village. You can easily spend a day here getting lost through the winding alleys and walkways. Be prepared for leg day though, it’s a lot of uphill and downhill climbing!

Walk through Jagalchi Market and BIFF Square. Then if you’re not tired of markets just yet, there’s Gukje Market right around the corner.

Fun fact: Remember the intro scene to Black Panther? That was filmed at Jagalchi Market!

If you’re into animals, visit Raccoonamatata, a raccoon café! They are pretty mischievous though and they scratch! I’ve heard that most people from the States find this really weird because, in that part of the world, raccoons are considered to be pests. But to us in this side of the world, they are really cute and cuddly creatures! To each their own 🙂

Overnight: Seomyeon

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 7

Visit the largest department store in the world, Shinsegae Centum City Department Store. And after your feet get sore, relax in Spa Land, once of Busan’s best jjimjilbangs (Korean-style spas) located inside the mall. There are 22 different sauna rooms for you to choose from, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. And get ready to strip down to your birthday suit! Fret not though, it’s so commonplace here, no one bats an eyelid.

In the evening, head to The Bay 101 for a fantastic night cityscape view.

Overnight: Seomyeon

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 8

Busan to Seoul: Take the train from Busan Station to Seoul Station. Take the KTX train that’ll get you between the two cities in about 2 hours.

After a pretty hectic week, spend the day with a little relaxing shopping. Explore Myeongdong which is a beauty haven in the day, and comes alive at night when roadside stalls open selling everything from food to dog clothes!

We loved staying at Myeongdong as there’s so much food and shopping to be done here! It’s also really central and isn’t very far from most of the main attractions in Seoul.

In the evening, pop up to Namsan Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city! Head up just before the sunset so you get to see the city both before and after dark. Skip the queue, get your tickets online here!

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 9

Transform yourself into Korean princes and princesses and take the royal route today. Don’t miss the chance to don traditional Korean wear and get free entry into palace grounds! There are plenty of hanbok (Korean traditional wear) rental shops dotted around the palaces that you can choose from. The following cultural spots are within walking distance:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace – the main palace in Korea
  • Bukchon Hanok Village – traditional Korean village that actually still serves as residences to the locals, so tourists are not very welcome here. So be respectful when you’re in the area!
  • Changdeokgung + Secret Garden – get your tickets in advance for the Secret Garden tour!
  • Jogyesa Temple – lovely temple filled with colorful lanterns. Great for a photo op!
  • Ihwa Mural Village (optional)

And then end the day exploring the traditional shops of Insadong.

If you prefer guided tours, these are some awesome options:

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 10

Today, head a bit East towards Common Ground if you’re into coffee and a bit of an indie vibe. It’s a cluster of containers that have turned into shops and cafés.

On the way back, stop by Dongdaemun Station and explore Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Depending on how interested you are in art, you could spend an hour here or even the whole day. There are art exhibits here you can peruse, or just admire the architecture.

In this neighborhood you will find plenty of wholesale shopping malls, so you can spend the day shopping here. If you’ve ever been to Bangkok, the feel is a lot like the malls there. Shop until the sun goes down when the Dongdaemun Night Market starts up at 10pm.

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 11

Day trip to Jeonju. There’s a shuttle especially for tourists that operates on weekends and only costs $10 per person! The bus ride takes around 3 hours. It’s a much cheaper option than taking a train yourself which could cost about $30. Make your reservation here.

Jeonju is a cultural village that is known to be Korea’s foodie capital. In 2012, it was designated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and is the birthplace of ‘bibimbap‘!

If you’d prefer to have a guide who can fill you in on the best spots to visit in Jeonju, check these ones out:

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 12

When in Seoul, you can’t miss a day trip to the much-talked-about DMZ. You will have to book your tickets well in advance, especially for the JSA (basically the famous blue house you see on the news) as it’s a politically sensitive area. With that said, tours can also be canceled at the very last minute so be prepared for that.

Of course, as it’s a military area, you can only go as part of a supervised tour:

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 13

Today is a pretty free and easy day since we’ve covered most of the main tourist sights in Seoul. If you haven’t had your fill of shopping yet, there are still plenty of shopping districts to explore. This is why I mentioned that you can see South Korea in 2 weeks or less! If you are not much of a shopaholic, you can definitely cut your trip a little shorter here!

Shopaholics, follow along… One of my favorite shopping districts in Seoul was Garuso-gil, which means Gingko tree-lined street. Plenty of beauty shops here that are a little more upmarket, with a handful of indie cafes. Quite a nice place to wander around feeling a little ‘posh’. Watch out for Ferrari’s and Lambo’s whizzing past the tree-lined streets!

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 14

Another day for shopping and cafe hopping. Head to Hongdae Shopping Street where you’ll find much cheaper prices as this area is mainly catered to university students. You’ll definitely feel a much younger and hipper vibe here too! And, if you’re an animal freak like me, visit some meerkats at the Meerkat Cafe!

Another hip area is Ehwa Shopping Street that’s near the Women’s University, which is also worth a look for its unique architecture!

Overnight: Myeongdong

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Day 15

Phew, it’s been a jam-packed two weeks so now it’s time to pack our bags, say goodbye and fly home!

I hope you enjoyed this 2-week itinerary and I hope it helped you in planning your own little trip. Stay tuned for more in-depth itineraries for each city!


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Further reading: Lonely Planet Korea Travel Guide is an up-to-date guide on what to see and skip, and the hidden secrets Korea holds. It features color maps and images, highlights and itineraries, insider tips, essential info, honest reviews and cultural insights.

Covers: Seoul, Incheon, Jeju-do, Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do, Cheongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Sokcho, Samcheok, Chungju, Daejeon, Gongju, Daegu, North Korea, Pyongyang, Panmunjom, the DMZ, and more


Visiting South Korea Checklist

⇢ Compare flight prices to Seoul
⇢ Compare accommodation options and prices on Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb
⇢ Book tours in advance on GetYourGuide | Viator | Klook | Trazy
⇢ Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose World Nomads Travel Insurance, designed by travelers for travelers.
⇢ Don’t leave home without a power bank!

 

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55 Comments

  1. I am saving this post for when I travel there. You have covered so much in 2 weeks which is amazing
    As always great pictures 💕

  2. Thank you for this detailed guide. I think this is one all inclusive post that gives a detailed view and serves as a mini guide to the beautiful country of Korea. I feel itchy feet now!

    1. That’s great! Hope this helped you in planning your trip 🙂 I will be posting more in-depth posts real soon too!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Purvi! I like to be as detailed as possible so my readers can get the most out of it 🙂

  3. Great guide! I am always looking for these kind of advices before going on a trip.
    Planning to go next year, and definitely all this will be useful!
    Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Thanks Simone! I’m glad you liked it 🙂 I will be sharing more in-depth posts on Korea so stay tuned 😉

  4. Great guide, I seem to be seeing more and more about Korea recently and it’s a place I had never thought of travelling to before but maybe I should!

  5. I am going to save this blog post for the nearfuture. Your guide to Korea is so beautiful and detailed. Something that the writers of Lonely Planet Guide Books usually do. Thanks for your efforts.

  6. I never thought of going to Korea but this looks perfect and makes me visit once there. you have out a great itinerarty for the first timers. Such a great post & quite informative. All the pictures looks so good and appealing to visit this place. Thanks for sharing & keep up the good work.

  7. This looks like a fab itinerary and it’s so useful you included all the details on costs! We are considering a trip to Japan and Korea some time next year, and so this will be super helpful.

  8. Wow! Stephanie,your posts are so informative.I’ll definitely save your posts ans use it later when we plan a trip.I liked it so much that I have subscribed to your page as well! Thanks for sharing the info.Stay in touch!

  9. This is such a comprehensive guide and I was looking for something like this. Bookmarking this post for later

  10. Wonderful and very thorough post. I have been wanting to visit South Korea and looking for ways to do it. I might have to visit it many times because there are so many things to do. Luckily, I live across the East Sea/Sea of Japan and it is cheap to get to Korea.

  11. Korea has been on my bucket list since a long time and now with your informative post, it’s even easier to plan a trip! Thank you for the detailed itinerary. I shall use your post later when i plan a trip to Korea.

  12. Very detailed 2-week South Korea itinerary for the first timers! Well done, Stephanie!

    xoxo Milijana

    PS: I am curious about the results of the hunt for ‘insanely pretty beautiful men’?! 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading Milijana!

      As for the hunt for pretty men, I’d say they aren’t as widespread as they portray it in Korean movies and drama haha! But you do get the rare eye candy every now and then. 😛

  13. That’s a thorough itinerary. I really liked the details(this includes SIM card) you have provided, It seems two weeks will be enough time to see most of the country. Your itinerary will be my guide when I actually plan for it.

  14. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical because you can’t really fully experience a country in two weeks but this article was really comprehensive and an amazing read. Thank you for sharing

    1. Hey Daniel, you certainly can’t see the entire country in two weeks, but these are usually the main spots to hit when in South Korea for first-timers! 🙂 glad you enjoyed it!

  15. I so want to visit South Korea one. To be able to meet Lee Min Ho out on street gives me goosebumps, though I know in reality this may not be possible. None the less, I will try once to visit South Korea. Thanks for this informative post!

  16. Such a great itinerary! Super detailed and comprehensive, definitely taking a bunch of tips from this as I’m looking into visiting South Korea. But I have to say; please add more pictures!

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. I am bookmarking your post as it is complete guide on 2 weeks itinerary for Korea. You have covered a lot in 2 weeks. I loved that colorful Gamcheon village.

  18. I visited Korea two years ago and honestly didn’t like it that much. (I only visited Seoul though and it was too much of a big city for me. Traffic, crowds everywhere, air pollution, etc. – I wasn’t a fan.) I wish I’d read your guide though! The southern parts of the island with the waterfalls are absolutely stunning and the tea plantation sounds like my kinda drea paradise too. Definitely bookmarking this and rethinking of another trip back!

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