Start \ Regions and countries \ Asia \

South Korea

Main attractions

Landscape in Jeju Island, South Korea
Landscape in Jeju Island / Korea.Net, , CC BY-SA 2.0

The rich and distinct culture of Korea has created countless amazing landmarks. Yes, South Korea has beautiful natural landmarks, but the extremely rich man made heritage leaves them in shadow. The most interesting landmarks of South Korea are:

  • Buddhist temples - many temples in South Korea resemble small towns with numerous very ornate buildings and countless treasures inside.
  • Traditional villages - in the country are found several villages which seem to be brought by time machine from 500 - 600 years old past.
  • Megalithic monuments - major part of world's megalithic monuments are found in North and South Korea.

Natural landmarks

Caves

  • Bilemot Cave - Jeju. Longest lava cave in South Korea, 11,749 m long.
  • Gosu Cave - North Chungcheong. Some 5.4 km long limestone cave, which has formed in limestone. This cave has impressive cave formations, including cave pearls, rimstone pools, cave corals, stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Hwanseon Cave - Gangwon. Some 8 km long limestone cave. In the cave are enormous cave halls, up to 100 m tall, cave pools and waterfalls, rimstone pools and numerous species of cave fauna, including four species found only here.
  • Manjang Cave - Jeju. Second longest lava cave in South Korea, 8,928 m long.
Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls, Jeju Island in South Korea
Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls / Ben Kucinski, , CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls - Jeju. Waterfall with three cascades. Waterfall emerges from cave and the first cascade is 22 m high, second - 30 m and the third - lower than the previous ones.
  • Cheonjiyeon Waterfall - Jeju. Scenic, 22 m tall waterfall, 12 m wide.
  • Jeongbang Waterfall - Jeju, Picturesque, 23 m tall waterfall with a single plunge which falls into the cove at ocean.

Fossil finds

  • Bibong-ri dinosaur eggs - South Jeolla. Fossilized nest of dinosaur eggs, diameter of nests reaches 1.5 m.
  • Deongmyeong-ri dinosaur footprints - South Gyeongsang. Very rich find of dinosaur footprints, with more than 4,000 individual footprints and some 420 walking trails.
  • Sado-ri dinosaur footprints - South Yeolla. Roch find of fossils, including the longest known dinosaur trail in the world, more than 84 m long.
  • Uhang-ri dinosaur footprints - South Jeolla. Oldest footprints of webbed-feet birds and archaeopteryx in the world among other footprints left by dinosaurs.
Jusangjeolli, Jeju Island in South Korea
Jusangjeolli / Republic of Korea, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Jusangjeolli - Jeju. Sea promontory which is formed from thousands of interlocking basalt columns.
  • Mount Hallasan nutmeg grove - Jeju. The only grove of Torreya nucifira trees - beautiful conifers, mostly old and large trees. Here grow many rare and endemic plants. Here is located the oldest nutmeg tree, more than 800 years old.

Man made landmarks

One of Jungnim-ri dolmens, South Korea
One of Jungnim-ri dolmens / Steve46814, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Megaliths

  • Bugeun-ri Dolmens and Gocheon-ri Dolmens - Incheon, Ganghwa Island. Large groups of megaliths. The largest one is a table-type dolmen with a stone plate which weighs 150 - 225 tons.
  • Igeum-dong - South Gyeongsang. Prehistoric settlement and necropolis with megaliths. Site was inhabited in 700 - 550 BC. Site includes 63 burials, including burials of high-ranked people and palisade. Interesting are remnants of two large raised-floor buildings.
  • Jungnim-ri Dolmens (Gochang Dolmens) - North Jeolla. Group of some of the most impressive of the numerous South Korean dolmens, capstones weigh up to 225 tons. In this area are found 442 dolmens, which were created in the 7th - 3rd centuries BC. Nearby are other impressive megaliths.
  • Hyosan-ri Dolmens and Dasin-ri Dolmens - South Jeolla. Two groups of dolmens - the first includes 158 dolmens and the second - 129 dolmens. These ancient monuments were created in the 6th or 5th century BC.
Donggureung Royal Tombs, South Korea
Donggureung Royal Tombs / Jordi Sanchez Teruel, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Prehistoric and ancient burials

  • Cheonmachong - North Gyeongsang. One of the Royal tombs of Gyeongju - large tumulus which was built in the 5th or 6th century AD. This 12.7 m tall artificial hill has a wood-lined passage in it. 11,500 artefacts have been recovered from this tomb. Tomb contained interesting drawing of so called "Korean Pegasus" - horse with eight legs.
  • Donggureung Royal Tombs - Gyeonggi, near Seoul. The best representatives of the royal tombs of Joseon Dynasty. This group consists of nine tombs where 7 kings and 10 queens have been buried in the 15th - 19th century. In Geonwolleung tomb is buried King Taejo - the first king in this dynasty.
  • Gimhae tumuli (Daeseong-dong tumuli) - South Gyeongsang. Necropolis of the kings and noblemen of Gaya state. Site contains diverse burials, most were made in the late 3rd - early 5th century AD.
  • Gold Crown Tomb - North Gyeongsang. Another one of the Royal tombs of Gyeongju - large tumulus which was built in the 5th or 6th century AD. This tomb was very rich woth treasures including very ornate golden crowns of Silla Kings. More than 40,000 artefacts have been recovered from this tomb - mostly jewellery and other precious items.
  • Goryeong Jisandong Tumuli - North Gyeongsang. Group of nobleman's burials from the Daegaya period, built in the 4th - 6th century AD. Thus far are known 704 burials with diverse design.
  • Haman tumuli (Malisan tumuli) - South Gyeongsang. Hundreds of smaller and larger burial mounds - burials of the kings and nobleman of Gaya state.
  • Tomb of King Muryeong - South Chungcheong. Burial of the ruler of Baekje Kingdom in 501 - 523 AD. This tomb was found intact and has been one of the most interesting archaeological discoveries in the history of South Korea.
  • Umbilical cord tomb of Taejo - South Chungcheong. Royal tomb where the umbilical cords of King Taejo (the early 15th century) and his son Jeongjong are buried.
Cheomseongdae observatory, South Korea
Cheomseongdae observatory / parhessiastes, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Other prehistoric and ancient landmarks

  • Bangudae Petroglyphs and Petroglyphs in Cheonjeon-ri - Ulsan. Groups of rock art, engraved in the cliffs along Daegokcheon Stream. Engravings were left by prehistoric people (enegravings of whales and other animals, people). Most petroglyphs were made in the late Neolithic - Bronze Ages, Cheonjeon-ri site has been a sacred site throughout millenia and also the intellectuals of Joseon Period (the 14th - 20th century) have left engravings here.
  • Cheomseongdae - North Gyeongsang. Ancient astronomical (astrological?) observatory, built in the 7th century AD.
  • Daepyeong - South Gyeongsang. Prehistoric settlement, inhabited in the time period between 3500 BC and 500 AD, one of the earliest permanent settlements in this region of Asia. This settlement has the oldest earthwork fortifications in East Asia (in the oldest layer) and was an early centre of jewellery and pottery handicrafts.
  • Samseonghyeol - Jeju. Three mysterious holes in the ground in Jeju City. According to legends from these holes came semogods - founders of the ancient Tamna state on Jeju island. In the 16th century here were built walls and altar.
Bukchon Hanok Village with Seoul in the background, South Korea
Bukchon Hanok Village with Seoul in the background / travel oriented, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Historical settlements

  • Bukchon Hanok Village - Seoul. Traditional village with original, approximately 600 years old network of streets and alleys. In village have been preserved many hanok - traditional houses.
  • Gyeongju - North Gyeongsang. Former capital of Silla Kingdom. In the city are located numerous monuments of architecture and history and it is nicknamed "the museum without walls".
  • Hahoe Traditional Village - North Gyeongsang. Traditional village from the 16th century which was built in accordance with the geomantic guidelines of pungsu - in plan it resembles a lotus flower. Ancient shamanistic traditions, traditional architecture and art traditions are preserved here.
  • Naganeupseong - South Jeolla. Late medieval village and castle. This village is planned settlement built for administrative purposes and with well kept architecture and traditions. 231 traditional houses have been preserved.
  • Oeam Village - South Chungcheong. Well preserved clan village, developed by Yi family over the last 500 years. There are 69 households left, local people maintain their traditions.
  • Yangdong Folk Village - North Gyeongsang. Very well preserved traditional village which was founded in the 15th century. Nowadays this is a group of more than 160 traditional houses in dense forest, with local people still practising traditions of the old.
Geumjeongsanseong with approximately 17 km long fortress walls, South Korea
Geumjeongsanseong with approximately 17 km long fortress walls / , CC BY-SA 3.0

Fortifications

  • Dongnaeeupseong - Busan. Ancient fortress of Busan city, first mentioned in 1021 AD. Fortress was extended in 1713, when the length of walls reached 5,240 m.
  • Geumjeongsanseong - Busan. Largest mountain fortress in South Korea. Fortress was built in 1703 and walls were some 17 km long, 1.5 - 3 m tall.
  • Hwaseong Fortress - Gyeonggi. The only preserved city walls in South Korea, built around the historical centre of Suwon City in 1794 - 1796. Wall is 5.74 km long and 4 - 6 m tall.
  • Namhansanseong - Gyeonggi. Well preserved, impressive mountain fortress, with parks and temples. First known fortress was built here in 672 AD. Current structures have been constructed mainly in the 17th - 18th century. Since 1954 here is set park with fine views on Seoul.
  • Samnyeonsanseong - North Chungcheong. Ruins of an enormous mountain fortress, built in 470 - 473 AD. Measured length of walls is 1,680 - 1880 m and they were 13 - 20 m tall.
Gyeongbokgung in Seoul, South Korea
Gyeongbokgung in Seoul / mendhak, , CC BY-SA 2.0

Palaces

  • Changdeokgung - Seoul. Royal palace complex of Joseon Dynasty, outstanding achievement of Korean architecture. Palace complex was built in 1405 - 1412 and currently there are 13 buildings and gardens with 28 pavillions. Complex has a free planning, in harmony with the hilly relief and nature.
  • Changgyeong Palace - Seoul. Former summer palace of Goryeo Kings, originally built in the middle of the 15th century.
  • Gyeongbokgung - Seoul. Royal palace complex, first built in 1395 and rebuilt in 1867, when 330 buildings with 5,792 rooms were constructed. One of the symbols of Korea. Currently the complex is undergoing reconstruction.
Mireuksa pagoda, South Korea
Mireuksa pagoda / Korea Copyright Commission, , public domain

Buddhist temples

  • Beomeosa - Busan. Main temple of Jogye Buddhist Order. Originally built in 678 AD, burned to the ground in 1592. Rebuilt in 1613 and contains many treasures of art.
  • Beopjusa - North Chungcheong. Important Buddhist temple, originally built in 553. Temple includes Palsangjeon - wooden pagoda, which originally was built in 553. Current structure was rebuilt in 1605 - 1626 and is 22.7 m tall. Pagoda contains valuable paintings.
  • Bulguksa - North Gyeongsang. Temple complex with outstanding relics and monuments of architecture, such as Dabotap pagoda (751 AD?) and Seokgatap pagoda (also 751 AD?) with treasures under it.
  • Bunhwangsa - North Gyeongsang. Very old Buddhist temple, built in the times of Silla Kingdom in 634 AD. Today just a few buildings remain of the original large complex.
  • Buseoksa Temple - North Gyeongsang. Oldest extant wooden building in South Korea, built in 676 AD. This temple contains valuable treasures.
  • Statue of Buddha in Seokguram cave temple, South Korea
    Statue of Buddha in Seokguram cave temple / Richardfabi, , CC BY-SA 3.0
    Geumsansa - North Jeolla. Ancient temple, originally founded in 600 AD in the Kingdom of Baekje. Current structures are from 1635 but temples contain much older treasures and relics.
  • Jongmyo - Seoul. The oldest royal Confucian shrine with ancient traditions preserved since the 14th century. Main structure was built in 1394 (rebuilt after fire in 1608), when Seoul became capital. The main building is 95 m long.
  • Haeinsa - South Gyeongsang. An important temple complex, it was first built in 802 AD. Since 1398 it has held an entire set of Buddhist Scriptures - the Tripitaka Koreana written on 81,258 wooden blocks.
  • Hwaeomsa - South Jeolla. Ancient temple, built in 544 AD and rebuilt in the early 17th century. Temple contains important treasures of art and history. Important structure is the ornate Gakhwangjeon Hall, built in 1699 - 1702.
  • Mireuksa pagoda - North Jeolla. One of the oldest pagodas in Korea, built in the times of Baekje Kingdom in the 5th century AD. This 30 m tall pagoda is the only structure remaining from once enormous temple complex.
  • Seokguram cave temple - North Gyeongsang. This rock-cut temple is located near Bulguksa and contains some of the best Buddhist sculptures in the world. Temple was made in 742 - 774. Especially impressive is the 3.5 m tall statue of Buddha.
  • Seonamsa - South Jeolla. Beautiful mountain temple sith some 20 historical buildings. According to local legends temple was founded in 529 AD. Temple contains many outstanding treasures, current buildings were built mostly in the 17th century. In temple grounds is old tea plantation with 300 - 400 years old tea plants.
  • Songgwangsa - South Jeolla. One of the main Buddhist temples in Korea, initially founded in 867 and later refounded in the 1190s. Site includes a residential building from the 15th century - one of the oldest in Korea.
  • Tongdosa - South Gyeongsang. This is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Korea, established in 646 AD. Today it consists of 65 buildings. The temple candle has been burning without interruption for the last 1300 years.

Medieval academies

  • Namgye Seowon - North Gyeongsang. Second oldest Neo-Confucian private academy in Korea, founded in 1552. The architecture of its structures is an early attempt to plan an efficient higher education institution.
  • Sosu Seowon - North Gyeongsang. Oldest Neo-Confucian academy in Korea, founded in 1543. Most of the old buildings of this academy and many traditions have been preserved up to this day.
Poseokjeong, South Korea
Poseokjeong / Steve46814, , CC BY-SA 3.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Bell of King Seongdeok - North Gyeongsang. Largest extant bell in Korea, which was cast from bronze in 771 AD. Bell is 3.33 m tall and 18.9 tons heavy. Now it is located in National Museum of Gyeongju.
  • Gatbawi - North Gyeongsang. 4 m tall, rock cut statue of Buddha on the summit of hill. Statue has separate stone hat. Statue was made in the middle of the 7th century AD and today it is believed that it fulfills almost any wishes of wished from whole heart.
  • Poseokjeong - North Gyeongsang. Site of once beautiful royal pavillion of Silla Kingdom. Most interesting feature today here is a system of small water channels where in earlier times cups with alcohol were floated - when this cup reached a person standing at the channels, this person had to drink and recite a poem.
  • 63 Building - Seoul. World's tallest gold-clad building, 249 m tall. Skyscraper was built in 1985. At sunrise its reflection is blinding.

List of described attractions by administrative divisions

South Korea is divided into one special city, 6 metropolitan cities, one special self-governing city, 8 provinces and one special self-governing province. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Busan
Daegu
Daejeon
Gangwon
Gwangju
Gyeonggi
Incheon
Jeju
ArrowManjang CaveCaves
North Chungcheong
North Gyeongsang
North Jeolla
Sejong
Seoul
South Chungcheong
South Gyeongsang
South Jeolla
Ulsan

Map of South Korea

Your thoughts?