South Korea & Japan Discovery - 14 Days

South Korea
Seoul - Explore the nations captivating capital; Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jogyesa Temple, Insadong Antique Alley, Cheonggycheon Stream and Seoul Tower on Mt. Namsan, The DMZ - Visit one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world, Imjingak Park built to honour the displaced from both the North and the South of Korea, Dora Observatory, Andong - Discover UNESCO World Heritage listed Hahoe Folk Village and Andong Folk Museum, Gyeongju - Uncover the former capital of the Silla Kingdom and historic heart of the nation; Gyeongju National Museum, Tumuli Park and the Sill royal tombs, Anapji Pond, the ancient Cheomseongdae Observatory, UNESCO Listed Seokguram Grotto - Marvel at one of Asia's finest Buddhist shrines and Bulguksa Temple, Tokyo - Explore Sensoji Temple district and temple, Harajuku, Takeshita Street, Meiji Shrine and Shibuya Crossing, Lake Kawaguchi in Fuji Hakone Izu National Park - Marvel at the spectacular mountain scenery and views of Mt Fuji, Kyoto - See the UNESCO Listed Nijo Castle, Sanjusagen-do Temple with its 1000 life-like statues and Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Temple), Kamakura - Visit Big Buddha Statue, Hokokuji Zen Temple and the Bamboo Forest with a delightful village atmosphere. Opt to take part in a traditional tea ceremony, Stay in a ryokan - Sample Japanese hospitality, bathing in natural hot springs, wearing a Yukata (casual Kimono) and sleep on a futon, Kyoto - Join a walking tour of the famed Geisha District (Gion), with its ancient cobbled streets, streams, bridges and quaint teahouses and the opportunity to see Geisha and Maiko en route to their next engagement

Departure dates

From 2024-05-05 to 2025-11-09

What's included

13 nights 3 - 4 star hotels (inclusive of 1 night in a traditional Japanese Inn).
9 breakfasts and 1 Japanese dinner at Lake Kawaguchi.
Escorted by a qualified English-speaking local tour guide (separate driver and tour guide for groups of 5 or more in South Korea).
Airport arrival and departure transfer on days 1 and 7 in South Korea.
South Korea: All transfers and transportation in private air-conditioned vehicles .
Private excursion to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).
Touring of Seoul, Andong and Gyeongju in South Korea.
Japan: Airport arrival transfer to tour hotel (by train) from Narita or Haneda International Airport on day 7.
Guided sightseeing and walking tours in Tokyo, Kamakura, Lake Kawaguchi and Kyoto in Japan.
Japan: All transportation and transfers - buses, trains and bullet trains including Suica swipe card .
Baggage forwarding service from Tokyo to Kyoto (one bag per person).
Lake Kawaguchi and Mt Fuji - Kachikachi-yama Ropeway and observatory.
For tours staying at Lake Kawaguchi between 14 Apr – 28 May each year we'll visit to the Fuji Shibazakura (Moss Phlox) Festival with Mt Fuji as the backdrop.

Itinerary / more information

  • Day 1, Seoul
    Sunday. Welcome to Seoul! Upon arrival you will be met at Incheon Airport and transferred to our hotel in the centre of Seoul.

    Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is a captivating blend of tradition and modernity. This bustling city boasts a rich history reflected in its ancient palaces and shrines, while also showcasing futuristic skyscrapers and innovative architecture. Here, you can explore Korea's royal palaces and serene parks, shop at dynamic markets, enjoy diverse Korean cuisine, and immerse yourself in the city's vibrant nightlife.

    The remainder of the day is free for you to relax or explore Seoul at your own pace. The subway station is within walking distance of the hotel, giving you easy access to all areas of the city.
    No meals included.
    Day 2, Seoul Sightseeing
    Today, we explore Seoul, the enchanting capital of South Korea. Our first destination is the magnificent Gyeongbokgung Palace, a historic gem that served as the primary royal residence during the Joseon Dynasty. Within the palace's picturesque grounds, we delve into Korean culture and history at the National Folk Museum, gaining insights into the nation's rich heritage.

    Next, we journey to Jogyesa Temple - the centre of Zen Buddhism in Korea. The serene atmosphere and beautiful architecture make it a truly captivating place to visit. Nearby, we explore Insadong, a lively antique alley bustling with art galleries, antique shops, craft stores, pottery boutiques, traditional eateries, and cozy teahouses.

    Our adventure continues with a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Cheonggycheon Stream, which peacefully winds its way through the heart of the city, surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers. We'll end the day with a visit to the towering Seoul Tower on Mt. Namsan. Here, you'll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the sprawling cityscape from the observatory.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 3, The DMZ
    Seoul - DMZ - Seoul. This morning, we depart for an exhilarating excursion to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a historically significant area located just 45 kilometers north of Seoul. The DMZ, acting as a buffer zone and the border between North and South Korea, holds a unique place in world history.

    Our first stop is Imjingak Park, a poignant memorial built to honour those who tragically lost their homes and families during the tumultuous separation of Korea. We'll then delve deep into the mysteries of the 3rd North Korean Infiltration Tunnel, a subterranean passage stretching 1.5 kilometers in length and plunging 150 meters below the ground. This tunnel serves as a chilling reminder of North Korea's intentions for a surprise invasion.

    For those eager to catch a glimpse into the North, we've got you covered. Our next destination is the Dora Observatory, perched on Mount Dora. From this vantage point, you can peer across the border and get a rare view of the secretive northern territory.

    On our way back to Seoul, we'll make a stop at either an amethyst or ginseng shop.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 4, Scenic Andong
    Seoul - Andong. This morning, we leave Seoul and head southward to Andong, a place steeped in the traditions of Korean Confucianism.

    In the afternoon, we explore the ancient UNESCO-listed Hahoe Village. Nestled among the serene landscapes, approximately 130 traditional houses, each bearing its unique charm, have been lovingly preserved by the same families for generations. As you wander through, you'll be transported back in time, experiencing the timeless beauty of Korean culture.

    Our exploration continues with visits to the Andong Folk Museum and the historic Dosansewon Confucian School, which was established back in 1574. This educational institution offers a fascinating glimpse into the Confucian values that have shaped Korean society and continue to resonate today.

    Please Note: If travelling in 2025 you will visit the Byeongsansewon Confucian School instead and continue to Gyeongju where you will spend the night.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 5, Gyeongju - Capital of Silla Kingdom
    Andong - Gyeongju. Continuing our journey southward, we arrive in the city of Gyeongju, often referred to as the 'museum without walls.' This enchanting city served as the capital of the Silla Kingdom from 57 BC to 935 AD, and it's a treasure trove of ancient Korean history and culture.

    This afternoon, our first stop is the Gyeongju National Museum, a repository of countless treasures that showcase the remarkable legacy of the Silla Dynasty. Among its prized possessions is the 23-ton Emille Bell, cast in AD 771, a testament to the incredible craftsmanship of the era.

    Next, we venture to Tumuli Park, a landscape dotted with gigantic grass-covered burial mounds that house the final resting places of Silla's royalty. Our journey continues with a leisurely stroll around the picturesque Anapji Pond, where the Silla royal family once found respite and relaxation.

    Last stop of the day is a visit to Cheomseongdae Observatory, one of the world's oldest astronomical observatories. Standing tall as a symbol of ancient scientific inquiry, Cheomseongdae offers a window into the Silla Dynasty's achievements in the realm of astronomy.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 6, Bulguksa & Seokguram Temple
    Gyeongju - Seoul. This morning, our journey takes us to two magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples. Our first stop is Seokguram Grotto, a masterpiece of Buddhist art and spirituality. Perched dramatically on the slopes of Toham Mountain, this grotto is considered one of Asia's finest Buddhist shrines. Explore its sacred chambers and admire its intricately carved statues.

    Our next destination is the beautiful Bulguksa Temple, a testament to the architectural and artistic prowess of the Silla Dynasty, having been constructed in 528 AD. This temple's beauty and historical significance make it a true jewel of Korean culture. Wander through its peaceful courtyards and admire the magnificent craftsmanship of its structures.

    In the afternoon, we bid farewell to Gyeongju and journey back to the bustling capital, Seoul. This evening, you have the opportunity to spend your final night in Korea at leisure. Why not check out the city's vibrant nightlife or indulge in 'chimaek' - South Korea's favourite food combination of fried chicken and beer.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 7, Seoul
    Seoul - Tokyo. Saturday. An airport transfer will take you to the airport for your onward flight to Tokyo. Upon arrival to Tokyo you will be met at either Narita or Haneda International Airport by your guide. Travel by train into the heart of the city and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure.

    We recommend arriving before 3pm on this day, as there will be a Welcome Meeting at 6pm, where you will meet your guide and the rest of the group.

    PLEASE NOTE: The international flight from Seoul to Tokyo is not included in the cost of this tour. Travellers need to independently book these flights at a personal cost.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 8, Tokyo
    Today we explore the capital. Taking the subway to Asakusa we visit the lively Sensoji Temple District, which is home to Tokyo's first temple and scores of interesting souvenir and craft stalls. In the afternoon we'll head to Harajuku, which is a magnet for young and fashionable Tokyoites with its hip shops and cafes. Here, we'll visit the impressive Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined. Yoyogi Park, beside the shrine is a popular hangout for locals and there is always a lot going on, especially on Sundays with bands playing, drum circles, dancers and busking.

    The last stop of the day is Shibuya Crossing - regarded as one of the busiest intersections in the world. The famed junction has no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the traffic lights turn red a wave of pedestrians, up to a 1000, converge onto the intersection from every direction. Known as 'the scramble', it's a well-practised art to duck and weave with sportsman like agility to avoid collision, which we'll watch from the second floor of Starbucks, located directly opposite the crossing. This evening offers free time, though if travelling in January, May and September you might like spend the evening watching a Sumo tournament (must be booked in advance). See our Trip Notes for more information.
    No meals included.
    Day 9, Kamakura
    Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo. This morning we board a train for our day trip to Kamakura, Japan's first feudal capital, which is just an hour from Tokyo. Kamakura is a popular seaside location with a quaint village life feel and some stunning Zen temples. Here we'll visit the iconic bronze Big Buddha and the Zen Temple of Hokokuji with its beautiful bamboo garden. Here, you can drink tea and learn about the tea ceremony before walking the cobbled shopping district - adorned with lovely locally made items before returning to Japan's bustling capital for the night. Tonight, we'll organise a Shabu Shabu (a traditional Japanese hot pot meal) if the majority of the group are interested.
    No meals included.
    Day 10, Tokyo
    Today offers a guided tour of the Tokyo National Museum, housing a number of exhibitions from galleries to Japanese archeology. The Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park, a large public park within central Tokyo and famous for a number of museums held within it's grounds. The remainder of the day offers free time to independently explore.
    No meals included.
    Day 11, Hakone
    Tokyo - Lake Kawaguchi. This morning we travel by highway bus (with luggage forwarding) to Lake Kawaguchi, located at the foot of Mt Fuji in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. The scenery is stunning with panoramic views of a snow-capped Fuji most of the year. Upon arrival we'll travel along the Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway and visit the observatory. For tours staying at Lake Kawaguchi between 15 Apr - 28 May each year we'll visit the Springtime Fuji Shibazakura (Phlox Moss) Festival held at Motosu Lake, where the landscape is covered in a vibrant, hot pink moss with Fuji as the backdrop. No trip to Japan would be complete without sampling authentic Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan (a Japanese inn), which is where we'll bed down tonight. At the ryokan, sample tasty local cuisine and take a relaxing dip in the natural hot spring baths.
    no breakfast, no lunch, 1 dinner included.
    Day 12, Kyoto
    Lake Kawaguchi - Kyoto. The area has some great hiking trails and early this morning you might like to opt for a hike along the foreshores of the lake. We then travel by bus to Mishima, then bullet train to Kyoto - Japan's ancient and cultural capital.

    As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Here we enjoy a guided tour of Sanjusagen-do Temple, famous for its statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. They stand in 10 rows of 50, each hand crafted and slightly different from the next. Late this afternoon we head to Gion, for a walking tour of this famous Geisha District. After, you may wish to watch a cultural performance at Gion Corner Theatre where you'll have the opportunity to see a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) performing.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 13, Kyoto
    This morning, we enjoy a guided tour of Nijo Castle, one of the city's most impressive UNESCO sites. Built by the first Tokugawa shogun in 1603, the exquisite Nijo Castle is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. After, we visit Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) a stunning Zen Buddhist temple and part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The top two floors of the monument are completely covered in gold leaf. Set upon a small lake with landscaped gardens, the large completely gilt structure is impressive, as it is a beautiful Temple. Kinkakuji Temple continues to be one of Japan's most visited temples.

    This afternoon offers free time for you to relax or to further discover the many sights of Kyoto your own way. Consider visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its winding path lined by thousands of bright red torii gates. Just a short train ride away from the main Kyoto Station, this must-see sight is free to visit and is open 24 hours a day. You might also wish to hire a Kimono and walk the streets as many Japanese do or take part in a cooking lesson.
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
    Day 14, Kyoto
    Saturday. On day 14 our tour comes to an end after hotel check out.

    Prefer to end your tour in Tokyo? On day 14 you can opt to travel by train from Kyoto to Tokyo, where you will spend the night. On day 15 (Sunday) catch the train to Tokyo Airport (breakfast excluded on day 15).

    For information about visas, top travel tips and much more, take a look through our [[travel guide|126582]].
    1 breakfast, no lunch, no dinner included.
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