9 unique experiences you can only have in South Korea
If you’re on the hunt for a travel destination that’s as dynamic as it is diverse, South Korea should be high on your list. From energetic baseball games to sleeping in a traditional Hanok, it’s all possible in this innovative nation that’s as trendy as your fresh vintage wardrobe. So, without further ado, here are 9 uniquely South Korean experiences that’ll have you saying, “Annyeonghaseyo!” to your next adventure!
1. Personal Colour Analysis Experience
Personal colour analysis, or PCA for the trendsetters out there, is all the rage in South Korea. It’s like your personal style compass, helping you nail the colours that make your natural beauty pop. You’ll find plenty of places that offer this service across South Korea, but you may want to book ahead as PCA has undoubtedly been having a pop culture moment and we’ve heard it’s getting more difficult to secure a slot 🤐
The process kicks off with a heart-to-heart. You spill the tea on your style, what makes you tick, and any glam goals you’ve got. Next up is the skin tone assessment, where specialised PCA consultants use various methods, such as draping different-coloured fabrics or using specialised tools, to identify whether you have a warm, cool, or neutral undertone. Then the consultant whips up a personalised colour palette that’s all about you! It’s like your fashion cheat sheet, complete with clothing, makeup, and even hair colours that’ll make you shine. The process can take around an hour, with some services even offering a follow up session to make sure you’re still strutting your stuff in your signature hues and answer any burning questions you have for slaying the style game.
Check out this TikTok to see the wild process in action!
2. Create Traditional Korean Crafts
From Hanji to Jogakbo, Maedeup to Ssangyongchum and beautiful Celadon, traditional Korean crafts not only serve practical purposes but also carry cultural and artistic significance. Many artisans continue to preserve and pass down these crafts from generation to generation, ensuring their continued relevance and beauty in contemporary Korean culture.
On Contiki’s South Korean Soul trip we’ll have time to learn about traditional Korean crafts and culture in Jeonju. You may even have the opportunity to participate in a fan making class at a local cultural centre, as fun fact, Jeonju is home to more fan artisans than anywhere in Korea. This fan making class is one of Contiki’s educational Make Travel Matter® Experiences, and aligns with Goal 11 of the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development by preserving local cultures and safeguarding natural heritage.
3. Stay in a Traditional Hanok Guesthouse
Ahhhhh, can you hear that? Rain drops gently splashing on the old, tiled roof. Quiet footsteps approaching as your local host brings you breakfast in bed – a traditional bed on the floor that is (and it’s the best night’s sleep you’ve had in years 😴). Welcome to a Hanok stay in Jeonju with Contiki.
While Hanoks in South Korea come in many shapes and forms, staying in any of these elegant and eco-friendly accommodations allows you to truly immerse yourself in traditional Korean culture. The design, furnishings, and layout of Hanoks have been preserved for generations and many Hanoks have beautiful gardens or courtyards where you can relax and unwind. These houses are typically located in quieter, more traditional neighbourhoods, providing a peaceful and serene environment for travellers who seek an authentic and rejuvenating experience. This unique South Korean experience is truly unmissable.
4. Experience South Korea’s Baseball Culture
Batter up, sports fans ⚾ Okay, we know that South Korea isn’t the only place in the world you can watch a baseball game, but South Korean baseball isn’t just a sport; it’s a full-blown spectacle. The good vibes are so contagious that you’ll be high-fiving strangers by the end of the 3rd inning!
Energetic music floods the stadium and fans dressed head to toe in their team’s uniform swing to the rhythm of beating drums. In South Korea, baseball’s cheer culture is as important as the game itself. Between innings, you’ll be treated to dance-offs, cheerleaders busting moves, and even the occasional K-pop performance. It’s like getting a bonus concert with your baseball fix.
The players are adored like rockstars, and they’re as skilled as they are stylish. Their charisma and talent make you want to root for them, even if you’ve never watched a game before. And if the elite athleticism and epic crowd entertainment wasn’t enough to convince you to add a baseball game to your South Korean itinerary, well maybe the stadium snacks will throw you a curveball. Forget your average hot dog; here, you’ll be munching on spicy tteokbokki, crispy fried chicken, and mouthwatering kimbap. It’s like a foodie’s paradise, right in the stands.
5. Snag a Vintage Style Haul
Vintage shopping in South Korea is a fast-emerging trend among young travellers. The thrill of a fashion treasure hunt, one-of-a-kind finds, and sustainably sourced ‘fits is unmissable for Zillennials looking for a lil’ wardrobe refresh, all without burning through that all important travel budget.
Seoul, an incredibly fashion-forward city, keeps its vintage stores on point, so you’re always slaying the latest trends from the past. Whether you’re wandering the streets of Hongdae or searching for the perfect item at a local flea market, there’s no need to feel guilty about spending your precious travel time searching for your dream drip, as it’s more than just shopping; it’s a cultural exchange, a way to connect with locals, and an exploration of South Korea’s fashion scene—all rolled into one unique experience!
Our recommendation for a great vintage flea market in Seoul is Dongmyo. This vibrant and bustling marketplace is one of Seoul’s oldest and most famous flea markets, making it a must-visit spot for both locals and tourists. Dongmyo Flea Market is conveniently located near Dongmyo Station, making it easily accessible via public transportation. It’s often combined with visits to nearby attractions like the Dongmyo Shrine and Dongdaemun Design Plaza, so make a day of it and enjoy exploring a different area of Seoul.
6. Hit the Waves 🌊
Or river… Or harbour… All options are good options in South Korea.
You probably didn’t expect this, but South Korea has soooo much to offer in terms of outdoor adventures and water sports. During your time in South Korea you could fit in a surf at Busan’s Songjeong Beach, enjoy a sunset kayak down Seoul’s Hangang River, or even see if you have a secret talent for SUP yoga at Gwangalli Beach. However, if it’s a true dose of nature that you’re after, we’d recommend extending your trip by planning a few days to explore Jeju Island, a volcanic island off the southwest coast of the Korean Peninsula with a stunning coastline, dreamy waterfalls and unbeatable hiking trails.
Not fussed on actually getting wet, but still love the feeling being by the water has on your soul? Join an evening harbour cruise in Busan to see the iconic Diamond Bridge sparkling the night away, or for a casual night out in Seoul head out to Yeouido Hangang Park for a riverside picnic feat. convenience store ramen, your new Contiki mates, and many, many good vibes.
7. Visit the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)
Now, when we’re talking about unique experiences you can only have in South Korea, this truly is something you cannot do anywhere else.
The DMZ is a demilitarised and neutral area, creating a buffer that divides the two Koreas. It runs approximately 250 kilometres across the Korean Peninsula, from the Yellow Sea to the East Sea. Access to the DMZ is highly restricted, but for a rare peek into this mystifying region, curious travellers can visit certain areas within the DMZ through guided tours – like the Peace Tour included on Contiki’s South Korean Soul trip.
One of the highlights of the DMZ day tour is the Third Infiltration Tunnel. This underground passage, dug by North Korea, was discovered in the 1970s. Visitors can descend into the tunnel and walk along its dimly lit passages for a unique experience. From the Dora Observatory, tourists can peer through binoculars to get a glimpse of North Korea. On a clear day, you can see the North Korean city of Kaesong and even the world’s tallest flagpole in the North Korean village of Kijong-dong. The Unification Village, also known as Tongilchon, is an interesting and symbolic community located within the Demilitarised Zone in South Korea. It’s one of the few places where civilian life is permitted within the heavily fortified area and is home to a small civilian population where residents live and work in the village under the watchful eye of the military.
8. Ride the Hallyu
Also called the Korean Wave, Hallyu is the idea that South Korean pop culture has become a major driver of global culture. From K-Dramas and other popular series like Squid Game becoming absolutely huge on streaming services worldwide, to the domination of the cosmetics industry by Korean skincare routines, and even the number of KBBQ places popping up in cities across Australia; the K-Wave craze certainly has hit us hard! And we haven’t even covered the most rapidly growing territory of this phenomenon… K-Pop 💥
K-Pop culture thrives in every corner of the country, however Seoul in particular pulses with the energy of the K-Pop universe, offering a sensory overload of music, fashion, and dance.
Learn the iconic moves of your favourite idols by challenging yourself to a K-Pop dance class. The choreography for K-Pop music relies on hard-hitting, synchronized movements (like in the unforgettable, and still insanely catchy, Gangnam Style), so you’re sure to work up a sweat while you stare blankly at the instructor trying to figure out HoW THeY eVeN moVE tHEiR BoDY LikE tHAT 🤯 !!
Image source: Contiki
Once you’ve learnt your moves, make sure you visit Seoul’s coolest new attraction, HiKR Ground. On the second floor, hallyu fans can experience K-pop Ground, a space filled with XR technology where visitors can make their own personal music videos from over 100 different backgrounds. Like this:
9. Discover Serenity with South Korea’s Wellness Scene
K-beauty isn’t the only thing South Korea is well-renowned for in the wellness space. Whether you’re into high-tech gadgets or herbal elixirs, South Korea’s wellness scene has something for every seeker of good vibes and good health. There are so many unique wellness experiences available, but here are two that really caught our 👀
Let’s start with salt cave therapy – a holistic wellness practice that involves spending time in an underground cave (or room with a cave-like environment) filled with natural salt crystals that are believed to have healing properties. Being in a calming salt cave environment can promote relaxation and reduce stress, and it’s also believed that the salt-infused air can have numerous benefits for respiratory health and improving sleep.
Secondly, South Korea boasts numerous healing forests, where visitors can soak up the positive energy from the trees while doing a spot of forest bathing. These guided walks through lush forests are designed to reduce stress, boost mood, and improve overall well-being through immersion in nature. This one is easy to tick off your list as you travel South Korea with Contiki – during your visit to Awon Hanok in Jeonju, be sure to take a stroll around the bamboo forest trail that surrounds the gallery and get some well-deserved tree time.
Image source: Contiki
So, there you have it, 9 unique experiences you can only have in South Korea. Whether you’re dancing to K-Pop beats, discovering ancient traditions, or indulging in spicy street food, this dynamic country absolutely passes the vibe check with unforgettable adventures at every turn.