Day 1: Seoul – Gyeongju
After pickup from your Seoul hotel, depart by air-conditioned private vehicle for the coastal city of Gyeongju. Passing low mountains on the 4- to 5-hour journey to the East Sea, your local guide will enlighten you about the sights and stop for lunch (own expense) on the way to your first destination.
Get off the private vehicle at Seokguram Grotto, built during the 8th-century Silla dynasty on the slopes of Mount Toham. Visit one of the finest Buddhist shrines in Asia, including a serene stone statue of the Buddha gazing at the sea.
As you tour the granite corridor, antechamber and domed rotunda, your guide will inform you about the significance of the Buddhist architecture and sculptured art – including divas, bodhisattvas and disciples – at this UNESCO World Heritage-listed landmark.
Next, take a short ride to Bulguksa Temple, built in 774 and today one of the best-known temples in the country. Renowned for its design that symbolizes dignity, peace and harmony, the temple complex is considered one of the most remarkable architectural achievements of the ancient Far East.
Walk along the series of wooden buildings housing the Hall of Great Enlightenment and the Hall of Supreme Bliss, and admire the grounds of Bulguksa with its stone terraces, bridges and pagodas representing the land of Buddha.
When you arrive in Gyeongju City, enjoy your evening at leisure; get to know your travel companions over dinner at your hotel or a local restaurant (own expense), or just relax at your accommodation.
Overnight: 3-star Kolon Hotel in Gyeongju or similar
Day 2: Gyeongju – Busan (B)
After breakfast at your hotel, continue to explore Gyeongju's historical heritage region with your group. First, enjoy a guided tour of Anap Pond, an artificial pond built in 674 AD as part of the palace gardens to commemorate the victory of the Silla kingdom.
Learn about how Anap Pond was used as a recreational area for the Silla’s royal family and eventually became part of what is now Gyeongju National Park. Then, head to the Gyeongju National Museum, Tumuli Park and Cheomseongdae Observatory for a visit.
After lunch (own expense), board the private vehicle for a 1.5-hour drive to Busan, Korea’s second largest city and its principal port including ferry service to Japan. Serving as the gateway to the Hallyeohaesang National Park and its picturesque island, Busan is known for its magnificent coastline and scenic islets, as well as outstanding shopping, sightseeing and fine dining at first-class restaurants.
Visit Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest seafood market and well known throughout the country. As you walk past the stalls packed with all kinds of fresh and dried fish, watch the Jagalchi women busily preparing and selling them to their customers.
After checking in to your hotel, get a recommendation for dinner from your guide and relax at leisure for the rest of the evening.
Overnight: 3-star Tokyo Inn in Busan or similar
Day 3: Busan – Seoul (B)
Following breakfast, enjoy a morning walk at Haeundae Beach – a popular shoreline that includes Folk Square, where traditional Korean games such as seesaw jumping, tug-of-war and wrestling are played.
Afterward, your guide will drive your group to Beomeosa Temple, Korea’s largest Buddhist temple. The complex, situated on the Kumjon-san (Kumjon Mountain) is one of Busan’s main attractions. Learn why it is famous for its impressive gate as you look up at the giant carved gatekeepers standing guard at the entrance.
Pass through the four gates and see the stone pagodas and Beomeosa Daeungjeon, the main temple hall that was rebuilt several times since 1614. After learning more about Buddhism and the Silla Dynasty from your guide, board your private vehicle for the 2.5- to 3-hour return to Seoul, where you’ll be dropped off at your own hotel.