South Korea is one of those countries that do not top the list of most travellers when travelling in Asia, and it didn’t top my list initially either but my Travel to South Korea was simply fantastic!
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I went backpacking in South Korea after visiting many other countries in Asia and only ended up being there as it was the cheapest destination to fly after I spent a month backpacking in the Philippines.
What a nice surprise of a country I had!
During all my travels in South Korea I met incredibly friendly people, tried some of the tastiest food in Asia and visited beautiful places! what else do you need!
This is one of the most developed countries in Asia and the world. It’s super safe and combines vibrant cities and spectacular nature.
Korea is a relatively small country, easy to travel around quickly and cheaply, hence perfect for a short holiday break.
If you’re tight on time and want to do some hiking mixed with learning about the local traditions and history keep reading for this backpacking in Korea 8 days itinerary avoiding the super crowded tourist attractions.
Travelling for only 8 days is almost never enough to explore a country but in South Korea you can actually get a good glimpse of the country.
Any extra days you can add can only be a plus!
My suggested 8 day backpacking in South Korea itinerary goes as follow:
Seoul – 1 day
Danyang – 2 days
Gyeoungju – 1 day
Busan – 1 day
Jeju – 2 days
Seoul – 1 day (or any other departing city)
The South Korean trip in detail:
Day 1 Seoul. Ultra modern Korea!
Flying into South Korea is likely you may arrive to Seoul.
Due to the price of food and accommodation, backpacking in Seoul is not the most budget-friendly destination. But it has many things to show and you should experience it at least for a couple of days.
The capital city is an exciting, bustling and vibrant metropolis. The largest city in South Korea combines tradition, nature and all the modern stuff that comes with a huge city.
As on my backpacking adventures I tend to go more towards places of natural beauty I didn’t stay too long backpacking in Seoul, but I had enough time in one night to meet a group of friendly locals. The nightlife in Seoul is for sure really cool!
One of the first things to do when landing in Korea is to get a T-money card that can be used all over the country to pay for public transport at reduced rates.
Check out my blog post about things to know when backpacking in Korea for more tips!
I stayed at Birdsnest Hostel, near the Hongdae area which is a great place for evening drinks and food. It’s very easy to meet locals there if you travel alone in Korea.
During the day I went towards Bukchon Hanok Traditional Village. This place is a bit touristy but you get nice views of the city surrounded by traditional architecture.
Walking distance from Bukchon Hanok you can also find the Gyeongbok and Changdeok Palaces and the Jongmyo Royal Shrine.
For little bit more walking go towards the Cheonggyecheon Canal and end up at the night market for a street food feast!
Days 2-3 Danyang. Beautiful nature!
Being in a country with 22 National Parks you definitely need to put at least one of them on your South Korean holidays!
From Seoul, take a bus towards the countryside town of Danyang. This little sleepy town is next to the stunning Sobaeksan National Park but it also has a great food scene and many other natural attractions.
I stayed at the beautiful Factory G. Ssang Guesthouse. I completely felt at home during my stay there!
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
Danyang is off the beaten path for most tourists but well known for the locals so make sure to go over there and check it out.
This was one of my favourite places on my travels in South Korea.
Day 4 Gyeongju. The open air museum!
I didn’t even know of the existence of this city until I got it recommended by my host in Danyang and what a great recommendation!
The city of Gyeongju is almost on its entirety an Unesco World Heritage Site. Need to say more than that?
The ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom is a perfect place to visit for 1 or 2 days as it’s relatively small and almost everything is walking distance.
A common sight in town is the precense of many “small funny mountains”, these are called Tumulis and are actually burial mounds of the ancient Silla rulers. So cool!
I stayed at the Santa Guesthouse which was not bad and was the cheapest hostel in town.
On my post about things to do in Gyeongju I recommend a number of sites that you can visit in just one day.
Make sure not to miss the night view at Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond.
When you’re backpacking in Korea you should not miss the opportunity to visit this wonderful place as there are so many things to do in Gyeongju!
Day 5 Busan. Colourful and seafood paradise!
If you travel in South Korea is very likely you will make it to Busan which is the second largest city in the country.
I arrived to Busan by bus from Gyeongju as it’s less than an hour away. After checking in Kimchee Downtown Hostel I took the subway and made my way to the most famous place in town.
The colourful Gamcheon Culture Village is a success case for the Korean government on regeneration of a historically deprived area.
This steep mountainous area was first populated by Korean war refugees that settled in the 1950’s, it was a shanty town until the Village Art Project was launched in 2009 when students and artists started painting the old houses, creating murals and street art installations.
Its steep streets and twisting alleys are a fun labyrinth to wander.
Although touristy and at times crowded, this is definitely the top of the list of things to do when backpacking in Busan.
From Gamcheon Culture Village you can walk downhill towards the Jagalchi Fish Market, which is the biggest of its kind in Korea.
Stroll around the market and then go to the first floor to eat freshly caught fish. You can also buy your own fish at any stall downstairs and take it up to a restaurant for it to be cooked.
This is not a backpacking-on-a-budget-friendly destination though…
The next destination for the backpacking in Korea trip is the beautiful Jeju Island. From Busan you can take a ferry or fly. I couldn’t find any ferry tickets in advance and the fly tickets are surprisingly cheap!
Days 6-7 Jeju Island. Home of the highest mountain in Korea!
Backpacking in Jeju Island is the best way to finish your holidays in Korea. This volcanic piece of land has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in Asia.
On the island of Jeju there are 368 volcanoes and hiking Mt. Hallasan should be your priority!
At 1950m of altitude this is the highest mountain/volcano in South Korea!
Although it hasn’t erupted for about 5000 years it’s still considered active. This incredible site was named Unesco World Heritage in 2007. The views are simply too beautiful!
Read more on detail about this adventure on my Hiking Mount Hallasan post.
While backpacking in Jeju Island you can also go surfing (if you’re lucky with the waves) and explore its many beaches.
If you cannot rent a car, there are buses that go all over the island. Make sure to use your T-money card for reduced fares.
I stayed at Jeju Backpackers hostel which is a proper homestay with a fantastic host!
From Jeju Island you can take the world’s busiest air route towards Seoul. Having flights almost every 15 minutes means that you can have incredibly cheap tickets.
Alternatively go somewhere else for your final day backpacking in Korea. On my days in the country I found many cheap tickets also from Jeju Island to Daegu city.
Day 8 Seoul. Time to plan the next holiday!
Back to where everything started. Depending on how many hours you have to explore a little more of Seoul you could even squeeze a quick hike to the nearby Bugaksan mountain.
Otherwise, a stroll around the city for the last taste of Korean street food is always worth a visit!
I hope you enjoy your trip when you travel to South Korea and feel free to ask any questions or drop any suggestions if you have been to this great country! 🙂
Check out my other posts about backpacking in Korea for more inspiration!