Side street through Bukchon-Hanok-Village past traditional houses

Our favorite South Korea tours and excursions

Mountains, beaches, markets and islands are all well and good (who are we kidding – they're pretty amazing here), but if you’re looking for something that can’t be seen or done anywhere else in the world, Korea’s still the place to be.

We know that local people are key when it comes to delving into an exciting new destination – no off-the-peg walking tours here, only experiences that we’ve tried ourselves and loved to bits.

How does visiting a pristine river island sound? Appealing? We can get you there on a zipline, rather than a bus. Want to visit a Korean temple? We can get you bed and breakfast at one – not just any temple, mind you, but one where the monks will teach you martial arts. Want to take a few steps into North Korea, without the danger of stepping on a landmine? Yep, we can arrange that too.

While some experiences will simply become great memories, what happens in SK doesn’t necessarily need to stay there – try one of our classes and you’ll be able to wow your friends back home with authentic Korean dishes, or even the latest K-pop moves.

Our top picks

You won't want to miss out on these must-dos hand-picked by our expert team

Suwon fortress walls

Half day trip to Suwon


The last walled city in Korea, Suwon is perhaps best known as the home of the World Heritage-listed Hwaseong Fortress, the 18th-century stronghold built by King Jeongjo to honor the remains of his father. So where better to kick off a half-day history tour?

As you stroll past bastions and artillery towers, you’ll learn how the fortress was expertly designed to defend the city using the very best of Eastern and Western military architecture. Want to get hands-on? To really get you into the Joseon dynasty mindset (or perhaps even that of a modern-day Olympian), you’ll have the opportunity to try some traditional Korean-style archery while you’re here.

After delving into the political and military history of Korea at Haenggung Palace – which once served as the royal family’s retreat during times of war – it’s out of the past, and back into the present: your tour will wrap up amid the craft stores, workshops, colorful murals and street food stalls of Haenggungdong Mural Village.

Sculpture of golden hands resting on each other as a Gangnam Style monument in Seoul

K-pop dance class


In Seoul’s trendy Hongdae district, you’ll often find students from the local universities practicing the latest K-pop dances. Any flattish area will seemingly do; all the better, if there’s something reflective to show the moves from a front angle...

Whether you’re destined for superstardom or not, having a go at the moves yourself is great fun, especially if you’ve a Korean hero or heroine to emulate. Here in Hongdae, the birthplace of so many top acts, you will spend an hour and a half in the hands of expert K-pop dancers at a local studio, learning step-by-step choreography to the latest hits. Lose yourself in the music and by the end you’ll be dancing like the stars, with your own certificate and personal music video to remember the occasion. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes... other than that, all you need is a bottle of water and some energy!

Two people cycling along a quiet street in Udo Island

Udo Island cycling tour

South Korea

Just fifteen minutes by ferry from Jeju Island, Udo is Jeju’s “mini-me”: an extraordinarily picturesque islet where the fields are lined with walls of hand-stacked volcanic rock. Bicycles make a delightful way to get around, since there’s next to no traffic, bar the odd tractor.

Your guide will be able to suggest places to cycle to, though the choice is yours. One fine target is Geommeolle beach, known for its black sand; from here you could leave your bike behind for a while, and take the short hike to Udo’s highest spot for a panoramic view of the surrounding turquoise waters. You’ll also be able to ride to some of the island’s many fishing villages – and perhaps sample some of the peanuts Udo is famed for, in ice cream and rice beer form!

After taking the ferry back to Jeju, you’ll visit Sunrise Peak, a volcanic bluff formed by an underwater eruption 5,000 years ago. Its bowl-shaped crater is a truly spectacular sight –and from up here you’ll be able to wave Udo goodbye, too.

Street food vendor spooning vegetable noodles into takeaway bowl

Evening street food tour of Seoul


While you can enjoy Korea’s tantalizingly spicy cuisine pretty much anywhere these days, there are some foods that are simply best discovered here – most notably barbecues and street food, both of which form part of this exciting evening tour.

Your tour will begin at around 6pm, and the first stop is a local barbecue restaurant. Korea’s take on barbecue consists of meat and veggies marinated with sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic, then cooked on a gas or charcoal grill – often at the center of your table.

After stopping to try traditional rice cakes, it’s on to the Insta-friendly Gwangjang Market, where locals and tourists alike flock to sample the many varieties of street food on offer. Among the specialties are sundae sausages served with perilla leaves, tteokbokki rice cakes drenched in thick chili sauce, and mayak gimbap – “narcotic rice rolls”, so-called for their addictive qualities. Once you’ve eaten your fill at the market, your tour will conclude at around 10pm.

Wooden door entrance to traditional Korean Hanok house

Full day guided tour of Seoul


It’s amazing how much you can see on this full-day guided tour, which will reveal the traditional heartbeat still pumping beneath Seoul’s modern facade.

Your first stop will be one of Seoul’s sumptuous palaces. The oldest, Gyeongbokgung, was once the main royal residence of the Joseon Dynasty – like a more pleasant version of Beijing’s Forbidden City, and with a mountain backdrop to boot.

After exploring the palace, you’ll make the short trip to Bukchon, a picturesque district of traditional houses that provides a glimpse of old Korea. Today, many of these hanok have been converted into museums and workshops, including a superb folk art gallery.

Nearby, bustling Insadong’s narrow back alleys are lined with art galleries and teahouses. After the traditional culture on show here, depending on the tour, you’ll either finish up at Myeongdong shopping district, Namsan Tower, or Gwangjang Market, ending a day through which you’ll have seen Seoul from as many angles as possible.

View of the stage during Nanta kitchen-based musical in South Korea


South Korea

A madcap kitchen-based musical, Nanta has been delighting audiences since first opening in 1997. An electric fusion of traditional Korean drumming beats and modern performance, it’s the country’s longest-running show.

Nanta made its international debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – and since then, it has been staged in over 50 countries, becoming so popular that there’s now a dedicated Nanta theater way out in Bangkok.

The basic premise is that of a restaurant owner’s hapless nephew struggling to cater for a wedding – and a series of seemingly impossible orders. The acrobatic feats and magic tricks of the performers are really something to behold, and the kitchen knife stunts may well leave you gasping. Then, of course, there’s the pounding music itself, the percussion performed with kitchen utensils including knives and chopping boards. Audience participation is also encouraged... you have been warned!