Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley


The only landlocked province in the South, Chungcheongbuk-do (충청북도) – or Chungbuk as it’s known informally – is largely mountainous and agricultural (two things that don't mix well, so you'll see all available scraps of land farmed). The province is kind of sleepy and its major cities are hardly compelling, though bibliophiles must make a pilgrimage to Cheongju, where in 1377 Buddhist monks printed the world’s oldest extant book with movable metal type.

The province’s charms are better appreciated in its smaller towns and three national parks, which are home to an assortment of intriguing and historic Buddhist sites. You can climb the azalea-covered peaks of Sobaek-san, descend into the otherworldly caverns of Gosu Donggul, or simply savour the views along the river and at nearby Chungju-ho. Then there's Guin-sa, a Buddhist temple ensconced in a steep valley, as imposing as the mountain slopes on either side of it.