Busan & Gyeongsangnam-do
The best sites in Korea either awe with beauty or deepen our understanding of the culture. Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do (부산과경상남도) do both. Underrated Busan’s easily accessible mountains and beaches, as well as its colourful seafood and drinking scene make it very easy to love.
Bursting with mountains, beaches, hot springs and seafood, South Korea’s second-largest city is a rollicking port town with tons to offer. From casual tent bars and chic designer cafes to fish markets teeming with every species imaginable, Busan has something for all tastes on land or sea.
Korea’s cultural warehouse, Gyeongsangbuk-do (경상북도) is a region resplendent both in natural beauty and heritage sites, including many fascinating temples, ancient pagodas, rock-carved Buddhas and tombs. Gyeongju is often called ‘the museum without walls’ for its historical treasures, many of which are outdoors.
This beautiful southwest province is one of Korea’s least developed and greenest. The heartland of Jeollanam-do (전라남도) has rolling hills, the towering Sobaek Mountains to the east and 6100km of coastline to the south and west, with over 2000 islands offshore – less than 300 of which are inhabited.
Chances are that you’ll end up spending a day or two in the island’s capital, Jeju-si (제주시), as this is the main entry to point to Jeju, either by air or sea. The city centre, 4km east of Jeju International Airport, has a few historic structures, plenty of shopping, and lively bars and restaurants opposite the old City Hall – all fine, but nothing extraordinary.
Incheon-gwangyeok-si (인천광역시) was hived off from Gyeonggi-do in 1981. It continues to grow with giant areas of landfill in the West Sea having been converted recently into the new urban centres of Songdo International City and Cheongna. Dozens of islands are also part of the municipality – find out more about them and other areas of Incheon at http://english.incheon.go.kr.
Gwangju (http://english.gjcity.go.kr) may look like any other city with its shop-filled central area, an attractive riverside, busy restaurants, pubs and bars – all encircled by apartment blocks – but within this everyday exterior resides the heart of an artist and the soul of a revolutionary.
The southwestern province of Jeollabuk-do (전라북도) is Korea’s rice bowl. As Korea’s agricultural heartland, this fertile, green area has influenced Korean cuisine more than any other part of the country. For foodies, no trip to Korea is complete without eating your way through Jeollabuk-do.
Jeju-do’s second-largest city is beautifully situated on a rocky volcanic coastline, dotted with lush parks, a deep gorge and two of the country’s most famous waterfalls. The clear blue waters and mild water temperatures make Seogwipo Korea’s best scuba-diving destination and it’s also an ideal base for hiking.
South Korea’s fourth largest city is a pleasant and progressive place with a fascinating traditional-medicine market, some excellent eating options and a humming downtown that’s good fun to explore. The city is a popular place for exchange students and English teachers, and the large student population gives Daegu a young and carefree feel.