Beyond Seoul: 19 reasons to explore Korea
As much as we love hitting up Seoul’s crazy venues, it’s the rest of the country that offers up some of the best travel experiences in Korea.
Ranging from yummy to quirky to deeply therapeutic, here’s a roundup of provincial attractions to add to your Korea travel itinerary.
MBC Dramia (MBC 드라미아)
Die-hard fans of the explosively popular MBC K-drama "The Moon Embracing the Sun" (해를 품은 달) have been flocking to MBC's Dramia to watch actors Han Ga In and Kim Soo Hyun gaze longingly at each other on set.
Dramas "Jumong," "The Great Queen Seonduk," and "Dong-e" were also filmed at Dramia.
Two viewing tours are available. Visitors can also try on historical court dress, play traditional folk games and try their hand at archery.
Admission is ₩7,000.
778-1 Yongcheon-ri, Baekam-myeon, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi Province (경기도 용인시 처인구 백암면 용천리 778-1번지); +82 31 337 3241; withmbc.imbc.com/dramia
Heyri Art Village (헤이리 예술마을)
At Heyri, interesting exhibitions and festivals are a way of life.
First envisioned in 1998, Heyri Art Village is home to more than 350 artists in the field of fine arts, music, theater, photography, sculpture, crafts and literature who have the lofty aim of promoting cultural interchange, education, and discussion as well as exhibiting and selling hand-crafted works of art.
A tour of the village on an electric bus costs ₩8,000.
1652 Beopheung-ri, Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi Province (경기도 파주시 탄현면 법흥리 1652번지); +82 31 946 8551; www.heyri.net
The Gallery Sansawon (전통술 갤러리 산사원)
The Gallery Sansawon experience is the traditional Korean equivalent of the brewery tour.
The "gallery" houses more than 1,000 historical documents and Korean alcohol-related items, but if museums just aren’t your thing, it also offers free samples of 10 different kinds of traditional alcoholic drinks and food items, from alcohol bread and crackers to yakgwa (traditional cookies) and yeot (traditional taffy) made with rice wine lees.
While this year's makgeolli bread and crude liquor-making program is over (it's usually held from December-January), other seasonal programs are available including cooking (using rice wine lees) in March and April, a liquor-making program in May and June, and the traditional alcohol cocktail-making program in July and August. Prices start at ₩15,000 per hour. Two-hour-long courses start at ₩25,000.
512 Hwahyeon-ri, Hwahyeon-myeon, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi Province (경기도 포천시 화현면 화현리 512번지); +82 31 531 9300; www.sansawon.co.kr
Woljeongsa Temple Stay (월정사 템플스테이)
This 1,400-year-old temple is surrounded by fir trees in the eastern valley of Odae mountain.
In addition to housing numerous important cultural treasures, the temple runs a great temple stay program for foreigners. Participants can learn Buddhist manners, perform tea ceremonies and make 108-bead malas.
63 Dongsan-ri, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon Province (강원도 평창군 진부면 동산리 63); +82 33 339 6606; woljeongsa.org
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Yoon’s Restaurant (윤가네 한우마을)
Gangwon Province is known for its tender, delicious beef, and Yoon’s Restaurant (Yoongané Hanwoo Maeul) is one of the most famous Korean barbecue restaurants in the country.
Located near the High1 Resort, skiers and snowboarders frequent the restaurant after a day of hard riding for the restaurant's near-perfect charcoal-grilled sirloin, ribs and fillet. Doenjangjjigae (bean soup) and naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) are also best-selling dishes.
One serving (170 grams) of grilled beef sirloin and one serving of grilled beef ribs cost ₩30,000 each.
The restaurant seats 120 and is open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.
62-48 Gohan-ri, Gohan-eup, Jeongsun-gun, Gangwon Province 강원 정선군 고한읍 고한리 62-48; +82 33 592 2920; xn--o39an1hvviu0nrqaeg984g.aui.kr
South Chungcheong Province
Oeam Maul (외암마을)
With its tile-roofed houses and more than 50 thatched-roof houses, Oeam Maul is a beautifully preserved village left over from the Joseon Dynasty.
Tour programs of the village are available. Activities vary by season and include rice planting, kite-making, sledding, kimchi-making, tofu-making and an overnight stay at a hanok (a traditional Korean-style house).
A one-day program costs ₩20,000 (lunch included), while the two-day-one-night program costs ₩56,000.
Oeam-ri, Songak-myeon, Asan-si, South Chuncheong Province (충남 아산시 송악면 외암리); +82 41 541 0848; www.oeammaul.co.kr
Taean Greentour (태안 농어촌체험관광)
Taean is home to 12 seaside villages, 11 farms (some orchards, some plantations) and six different festivals including a clam-calling festival and a garlic-digging festival.
The mudflat is an excellent playground for novice fishermen who want to experience life in a fishing village.
Taean-gun, South Chuncheong Province (충남 태안군); +82 41 670 2561; www.taeangt.net
North Chungcheong Province
Nangye Gukak Instrument Production Village (난계국악기제작촌)
The Nangye Gukank Instrument Production Village focuses on studying and making traditional Korean instruments as well as promoting gukak -- classical Korean music -- to other countries.
A great time to visit is during the Korea Haegeum Festival, which is held every October.
For a hefty fee, participants can also take home their own instrument -- the 25-string gayageum-making class costs ₩1,650,000.
521-1 Godang-ri, Simcheon-myeon, Youngdong-gun, North Chungcheong Province (충북 영동군 심천면 고당리 521-1번지); +82 43 742 8558; www.nangyekukak.or.kr
Sangsoo’s Herb (상수허브랜드)
A bowl of rice cooked with rosemary leaves topped with various herbal flowers, herb sprouts, pork chops and nuts mixed with a spoonful of herb gochujang ... Sangsoo’s Herb, an herbal-themed park located in Cheongwon, offers this novelty menu, called Cotbap (flower rice), for ₩12,000.
The park grows more than 1,000 different kinds of herbs. In addition to a wonderfully sweet aroma, five different kinds of herb handicraft experience programs (making herb rice cakes, making herb potpourri, making herb soap, planting herbs, and making herb-scented candles) are available.
A Herb Festival is held every May.
The admission fee is ₩3,000.
480 Oecheon-ri, Buyong-myeon, Cheongwon-gun, North Chungcheong Province (충청북도 청원군 부용면 외천리 480번지); +82 43 277 6633; www.sangsooherb.co.kr
Korean Famous Medical Village (한방명의촌)
For ₩60,000, the wishfully named Korean Famous Medical Village offers an "Oriental Medicine Experience Program" with five different kinds of treatments -- an "oriental physical exam" (find out how aged your blood vessels are), a "face-lifting facial massage and mask," an "oriental foot care," a hot stone jwahun (a type of oriental steam treatment) therapy and "health tea" tasting.
If that sounds too overwhelming, the treatments are also available separately for ₩20,000 each.
210 Myeongam-ri, Bongyang-eup, Jecheon-si, North Chungcheong Province (충북 제천시 봉양읍 명암리 210번지); +82 43 653 7730; www.kfmv.kr
South Jeolla Province
Cheongmaesil Farm (청매실농원)
At this 80-year-old farm, visitors can try everything there is to experience in terms of maesil (a type of plum) including maesil-picking, cooking maesil-based foods, maesil concentrate facials, and listening to a lecture from the maesil master -- and farm owner -- Mrs. Hong.
The blossoms bloom in March, making the farm a beautiful weekend getaway, while maesil-picking takes place in June and costs ₩100,000 per family (four people).
414 Dosa-ri, Daap-myeon, Gwangyang-si, South Jeolla Province (전남 광양시 다압면 도사리 414번지); +82 61 772 4066; www.maesil.co.kr
Gangjin Celadon Museum (강진 청자박물관)
The area of Gangjin was renowned for its celadons between the ninth and 14th centuries and 188 celadon kiln sites have been discovered in the region.
The Goryeo Celadon Museum exhibits more than 450 Goryeo celadon artifacts and a kiln site, and also runs a celadon experience program, allowing visitors to try out the celadon-making process such as wheel-shaping, sculpting and creating mosaics.
The admission fee is ₩2,000 for adults and ₩1,000 for children under 12.
117 Sadang-ri, Daegu-myeon, Gangjin-gun, South Jeolla Province (전라남도 강진군 대구면 사당리 117); +82 61 430 3718; www.celadon.go.kr
North Jeolla Province
Jinan Red Ginseng Spa 진안 홍삼스파
Jinan Red Ginseng Spa features various therapy rooms, a rooftop open-air bathtub and meditation labyrinths.
Oriental medicine constitution consultants are available to help you make the best therapy choices. Yongdam, the spa’s Korean restaurant located on the first floor of Hotel Ginsengvill, prides itself on using "well-being" ingredients like ginseng, black pork, deodeok (a type of mountain root) and mushrooms.
The admission fee at the Red Ginseng Spa is ₩39,000. For ₩153,000, couples can enjoy the Couple Package, which includes a night at the Hotel GinsengVill, breakfast and the use of the spa (reservations are a must).
16-10 Oesayang-gil, Jinan-eup, Jinan-gun, North Jeolla Province (전북 진안군 진안읍 외사양길 16-10); +82 63 433 0393; www.redginsengspa.kr
Sunchang Gochujang Festival, Gochujang Village (순창 장류축제, 고추장마을)
Sunchang is best known for its delicious gochujang -- a spicy, sweet and salty condiment made with red pepper powder and other ingredients.
The Sunchang Gochujang Festival is held every November, during which participants can wander through booths and taste various kinds of gochujang and gochujang-based foods.
If November seems too far away, sign up for the gochujang making program or the injeolmi (traditional rice cake coated with bean flour) making program. Prices start at ₩15,000.
265-5 Baeksan-ri, Sunchang-eup, Sunchang-gun, North Jeolla Province (전북 순창군 순창읍 백산리 265-5); +82 63 653 0703; sunchang.invil.org
South Gyeongsang Province
Oedo Botania (외도 보타니아)
Thanks to its mild climate and heavy rainfall, this camellia-covered island is a haven for temperate and tropical plant life.
Don't care that 800 different species can be found here? It was also where the last scene of the original hallyu K-drama "Winter Sonata" was filmed.
In addition to the countless flora and the hallyu trivia, there is also a dinosaur cave, a dinosaur rock and a sculpture park. A full tour takes about 50 minutes.
If you get tired, enjoy a cup of herbal tea at Otea’s Room while looking out at the ocean, or slurp a hot bowl of udon at the snack shop.
109 San Wahyeon-ri, Irun-myeon, Geoje-si, South Gyeongsang Province (경상남도 거제시 일운면 와현리 산 109번지); +82 070 7715 3330; www.oedobotania.com
Sancheong Hanbang Resort (산청 한방리조트)
Here's a typical day at this eco-friendly resort pension: a rafting trip on the river followed by a medicinal herb bath and a hot few hours in a Korean dry sauna built with the finest red clay.
There are six two-room (one bedroom, one living room) pensions, one three-room pension and three duplex type pensions (₩100,000, ₩230,000, and ₩150,000 each; prices go up during the peak season from July to August)
327 Nae-ri, Sancheong-eup, Sancheong-gun, South Gyeongsang Province (경상남도 산청군 산청읍 내리 327번지); +82 55 972 9989; www.sancheongresort.com
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North Gyeongsang Province
Cheongdo Gamwine 청도 감와인
Bordeaux and Napa Valley may be the go-to places for wine, but for daring, curious drinkers, Cheongdo is a not-to-miss spot.
Cheongdo Gam Wine specializes in wine made with Cheongdo specialty flat persimmons, which are matured in their own wine tunnels.
Persimmon wine tasting and wine tunnel field trips cost ₩3,000, bottling persimmon wine costs ₩20,000 and persimmon-picking (from September to November) starts at ₩5,000.
252-2 Songgeum-ri, Hwayang-eup, Cheongdo-gun, North Gyeongsang Province (경북 청도군 화양읍 송금리 252-2번지); +82 54 371 1904; www.gamwine.com
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Southernmost Theme Park 최남단 체험테마공원/체험감귤농장
Jeju's Southernmost Theme park, located in Seogwipo, is a curious mix of tangerine farm, insectarium and petting zoo.
The basic experience program (₩5,000) includes a tour of the tangerine farm, tangerine tasting, a tour of the insectariums and the butterfly park, feeding the animals at the petting zoo (rabbits, ducks, chicken, deer, and donkeys) and taking a picture on a donkey.
Prices vary depending on the season.
Daheeyeon Cave Café 다희연 동굴카페
Daheeyeon, a green tea farm in Jeju-si (or Jeju City), features endless fields of green tea, a tea culture museum and caves formed from volcanic eruptions.
Visitors flock to the cave café in Daheeyeon, a renovated space in a Gotjawal cave (meaning gravel forest), to savor the taste of green tea muffins, green tea chocolate, and various green tea-based drinks and coffee in a unique, bizarre atmosphere.
The cave also serves as a home for bats, so don't freak out if you see any.
An electric cart tour is available for those who want to see the vast green tea fields more comfortably.
600 Seonheul-ri, Jocheon-eup, Jesu-si, Jeju Special Self-governing Province (제주특별자치도 제주시 조천읍 선흘리 600번지); +82 64 782 0005; www.daheeyeon.com
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