1232 GMT February 24, 2020
It is a safe country to visit. Right off the plane, visitors are swept up in a fast pace of life in cities that never sleep, whether it's Seoul, Busan or elsewhere. But outside the urban hubs, one discovers a very different side to South Korea. Its biggest and most popular island, Jeju, has a tropical feel, while smaller islands seem to have been forgotten by time. Journey to traditional villages and you'll have a chance to encounter folk traditions such as mask dances, and hearty fare such as pajeon (pancakes with spring onion), independent.co.uk wrote.
Tucked into the peaks is the county of Pyeongchang, which is preparing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics that will fall 30 years after the momentous summer Olympics in Seoul.
A high-speed train line from the capital is being built for the event and will launch in mid-2017. Until then, skiers and hikers are best off taking a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal – buses take about two hours and cost 15,000 South Korean won (£9). Many of the Olympic events will take place at Yongpyong Resort, which offers day passes for the slopes for 74,000 won (£43).
From Yongpyong, it's only a short bus ride to the east coast city of Sokcho and Seoraksan National Park.
A hike up to Daecheongbong, 1,708 meters above sea level, makes for a perfect counterpoint to the manic modernity of Seoul. Standing with a crowd of hikers watching the sun rise from the ocean horizon, one realizes that Korea is not just fast-paced, but timeless too.
Seoul was the capital of Korea's last dynasty, and its palaces are colorful symbols of its royal past. Of the five, Changdeokgung is the largest and most splendid, with gardens, ponds and halls. Tours should be reserved in advance. Those that include the palace's Secret Garden cost 8,000 won (£5).
In the Design Museum, within one of the plaza's curvaceous, silver structures, is a display of priceless treasures which is on loan from the Kansong Art Museum. Kansong only opens for four weeks a year, making ‘The Treasure of Kansong: Preserving National Identity Through Culture’ a rare opportunity for art lovers.
Bukhansan national park
With 16 mountains protected as national parks and 19 serving as provincial parks, it's no surprise that hiking is popular among South Koreans. Not only are the trails well maintained, but they are often within walking distance of subway exits and bus stops.
Bukhansan is a magnificent national park just north of Seoul, but for a true taste of Korean wilderness visit the Jirisan or Seoraksan national parks.