With k-pop artists dominating the charts with their catchy tunes and k-dramas having overnight success with engaging storylines, Korea has quickly become a popular travel destination for people around the globe wanting to experience all that Korea has to offer. Autumn is just around the corner, and there’s never been a better time to plan a trip to Korea.
A trip to The Land of Morning Calm would not be complete without a visit to some UNESCO world heritage sites in South Korea that hold cultural or natural significance. With over 15 world heritage sites to add to your travel bucket list, here’s a South Korea travel guide to turning your wanderlust into an adventure.
3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Korea
Changdeokgung Palace Complex
Nestled within the heart of the Jongo District in Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace takes you back to the Joseon Dynasty as you step upon its grounds. Known as one of the “Five Grand Palaces,” Changdeokgung Palace sits at the foot of the Ungbong Peak of Bugaksan Mountain, providing a scenic backdrop fit for a king as it provided the main residence for Korea’s ruling royal family between the 1600s and 1800s.
Visitors make their way through the Donhwamun Gate, the largest entrance gate amongst palaces in Seoul, to be greeted by Injeongjeon. Injeongjeon is the main palace building where important events and ceremonies were once held. Visitors can also take a peek into the bed chambers of the king and queen and the Nakseonjae building, which was used for relaxation and reading. As with many palaces in Korea, if visitors wear Hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, there is free admission.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a private tour of Huwon the Secret Garden, which is situated at the back of the Changdeokgung Palace. The tour gives visitors access to a space that once was a resting place for royal family members, filled with hidden pavilions and fountains that are highlighted by the seasonal foliage.
Having been a regular filming location for period k-dramas, such as the Netflix original Kingdom, take advantage of the picturesque views while immersing in Korean culture during a visit. Grab this Changdeokgung Palace Pouch to remember the visit to this larger-than-life cultural heritage site.
Situated under the slopes of Mount Gaya, the Haeinsa Temple, while a gem all on its own, houses Janggyeong Panjeon. Jangyeong Panjeon is the depositories or buildings which hold the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks.
The Tripitaka Koreana is known as the 32nd national treasure of Korea as it holds the most complete and accurate collection of Buddhist texts, which are valued for their delicate craftsmanship. The temple complex has a 24-hour surveillance system with full-time bodyguards to protect the collection from fire and theft.
Visitors can walk amongst the four buildings that hold the 80,000 woodblocks that date back to 1237. The buildings are revered for their impeccable design that contributed to preserving the woodblocks for over 500 years. The Haeinsa Temple is a pilgrimage of sorts for Buddhists and scholars alike as it is one of the “Three Jewel Temples” in Korea.
Haeinsa Temple Complex has beautiful courtyards visitors can explore and even a temple maze, created to practice walking meditation. Shrine halls can be found sprinkled around the temple complex with Buddha statues and colorful murals.
The marvel that is Haeinsa Temple gives visitors a space to soak in peace and tranquility amongst the scenic view of Mount Gaya, while also allowing them to see a one-of-a-kind treasure. Don’t forget to bring along your Book of Scriptures Cotton Temple Bag for your visit to Haeinsa Temple or just for your everyday outings.
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
Named as one of the two natural UNESCO world heritage sites in Korea, Jeju volcanic island and lava tubes is a site that is a must-see for visitors to Korea. This natural heritage site includes three different areas: Mount Halla, Geomuoreum, and Seongsan Illchulbong.
Jeju is an island that was formed by the Hallasan volcano. Although classified as an active volcano, many would argue that the lack of activity from the volcano would say otherwise, but its previous activity has given visitors natural wonders to marvel at for years to come. Mount Halla is a product of the volcanic eruption that created Jeju island, the highest mountain in Korea.
Plan a hike to the summit and enjoy the reward of seeing the Baengnokdam crater at the top and the rest of Jeju island as Mount Halla sits in the middle of it. Geomuoreum lava tube system is boasted to be the most beautiful lava tube system in the world because of its stunning carbonate stalagmites and stalactites adorning the caves that formed from once flowing lava.
Seongsan Illchulbong is a tuff cone, a small volcanic cone that surrounds a crater with steep sides. Formed nearly 5,000 years ago, Seongsan Illchulbong is another well-known hiking destination. With the trek taking only 45 minutes to reach the top, it’s the perfect opportunity to see a well-preserved, natural phenomenon that holds great geological value when understanding volcanic eruptions.
Beyond Jeju Island's natural beauty, it is also known for its tangerines, and visiting one of its many cafes that feature yummy treats you can’t get anywhere else. Let Jeju Island be your next escape to an island where you can take in all its natural wonders. Can’t make it to Jeju Island, or just missing Jeju’s island aura? Check out Daebak’s Jeju Island Collection to get a piece of Jeju at home.
Hallyu has provided an avenue for people worldwide to be exposed to Korean culture in a way they normally wouldn’t have. Having the opportunity to learn about Korea by visiting the country and being immersed in the culture in different ways is an eye-opening experience that all should welcome.
Discovering all the places that can be visited to learn more about the culture and history is only half the fun of planning your trip to Korea. At the top of your Korea travel list should be some UNESCO World Heritage sites, a glimpse of Korea’s true beauty.
About UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has created a growing list of places around the world that hold cultural and natural significance, as well as areas that hold value to humanity.
Founded in 1945, over 1000 places on the World Heritage List exist to explore and experience. The organization works to preserve these sites for future generations to enjoy and learn from. Korea has 13 cultural heritage sites and 2 natural heritage sites, with 13 sites on a tentative list to be considered for nomination.
Planning your next trip to Korea? Shop for all your Korean travel and Korean culture essentials at The Daebak Company’s K lifestyle store today! Have you visited any UNESCO world heritage sites in Korea? Let us know in the comments your favorite sites!