Seoul Searching: Why South Korea’s New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Hike South Korea's Breathtaking National Parks
South Korea is home to 22 breathtaking national parks that offer incredible hiking opportunities. From coastal trails with ocean vistas to mountainous routes through lush forests, Korea's national parks showcase the country's incredible diversity of landscapes.
One of the most popular is Seoraksan National Park, located in eastern Gangwon Province. Seoraksan's jagged granite peaks, waterfalls, and pine tree forests have earned it the nickname "the Alps of Asia." Hikers can choose from dozens of trails, like the 8-hour trek to the park's highest point, Daecheongbong Peak (1,708 m). Or take the cable car up and descend via the 3-hour Osaek Course along a stream dotted with rapids.
On the southern coast, Dadohaehaesang National Park comprises over 1,700 islands. Hike along the cliffs and beaches of Hongdo Island, known for its oddly shaped volcanic rock formations. Nearby Heuksando Island has gentler trails past historic temples and the UNESCO-listed Daeheungsa Temple. Visitors can also hike and camp on uninhabited islands like Jukdo, accessible only by boat.
The Taebaek Mountains in eastern Gangwon Province are home to Odaesan National Park, revered in Buddhism and soaked in spiritual history. Hike through silent forests lined with ancient Buddhist temples and hermitages like Sangwonsa, Woljeongsa, and Sinheungsa. Or climb 1,563 m high Birobong Peak for spectacular views over the East Sea.
In Jirisan National Park, South Korea’s largest, hikers summit multiple mountain tops over 2,000 m high. Tackle the 24 km trek from Daewonsa Temple to Jangteomok shelter via Nogodan Peak (1,507 m). It then descends past waterfalls like 48-meter-high Cheonjedan Falls before ending at the sheltered valley of Baemsagol.
Bukhansan National Park offers awesome ridge hiking right in Seoul. Trek past historic Buddhist temples and towering granite cliffs on the popular 8-hour course between the park’s two highest peaks, Baegundae (836 m) and Insubong (810 m). On clear days, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of Seoul and beyond.
Hallasan National Park, occupying Jeju Island, presents a volcanic landscape unlike anywhere on the mainland. The 15 km route to the 1,950 m summit of Hallasan, South Korea’s tallest mountain, passes lava tubes and the crater lake Baengnokdam. For easier hiking, the 5 km Eorimok Course trails along the northwest side of the mountain.
What else is in this post?
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Hike South Korea's Breathtaking National Parks
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Learn About Korea's Fascinating History and Culture
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Dive into the Thriving K-Pop and K-Drama Scene
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Work Remotely from South Korea's Ultramodern Cafes
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Take a Day Trip to the DMZ and Border with North Korea
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Travel South Korea's Cutting-Edge High Speed Rail
- Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Make Friends with Locals in Seoul's Quirky Neighborhoods
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Learn About Korea's Fascinating History and Culture
From ancient kingdoms to modern megacities, Korea boasts a captivating history and culture just waiting to be discovered. Visitors who take the time to peel back the layers and dive into the past are richly rewarded.
One of the best ways to learn about Korea’s long history is to visit the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. In Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, Bulguksa Temple’s elaborate wooden gates and stone staircases have overlooked the countryside for over 1,300 years. Nearby, Seokguram Grotto houses a serene stone Buddha dating to the 8th century. Gyeongju's National Museum also holds a treasure trove of artifacts from Silla tombs.
In Ganghwa, visit Korea’s oldest Anglican church, Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul, now quiet but once central to 19th century Korean-Western relations. The fortress walls of Hwaseong Haenggung Palace in Suwon also stand as a testament to Korea’s Joseon dynasty.
Modern history buffs won't want to miss the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul. Its vast exhibits recount Korea’s tumultuous 20th century, from Japanese occupation to the Korean war. The nearby Seodaemun Prison History Hall stands as a solemn reminder of oppression. But Korea’s spirit persevered, evident in the De-Militarized Zone where North meets South. A DMZ tour offers a glimpse of the tensions that still linger.
When it comes to culture, Korea punches above its weight. Seoul’s National Museum of Korea holds national treasures like Goryeo celadon ceramics. The National Folk Museum of Korea highlights heritage from housing to hanbok costumes.
Art aficionados flock to the MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) while the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art and Gana Art Center represent private collections. Seoul's Bukchon Hanok Village and Namsangol Hanok Village preserve historic Korean architecture.
Korean pop culture has also exploded onto the global stage. At K-Star Road in Apgujeong, K-pop fans can shop for idol merch and admire their wax figures at Kpop Planet. Behind the scenes studio tours by Trazy offer a glimpse inside the world of K-pop.
Visitors can also experience traditional culture like harvest festivals, local dishes like kimchi pancakes, lively markets filled with silks and ceramics, fishing villages, Confucian academies, and more. Temple stays offer an immersion in Buddhist traditions. A jimjilbang bathhouse visit lets you unwind Korean style.
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Dive into the Thriving K-Pop and K-Drama Scene
For many travelers, a trip to Seoul wouldn't be complete without diving into the city's world-famous K-pop and K-drama scene. K-pop (an abbreviation of Korean pop music) has evolved into a global phenomenon, with bands like BTS, BLACKPINK, and Twice gaining fans across continents. Meanwhile, K-dramas (Korean language TV series) have become international sensations on platforms like Netflix. Their compelling stories, high production values, and charismatic stars have captivated viewers worldwide.
In Seoul, K-pop and K-drama culture permeates daily life. You can see locals sporting hairstyles and fashion straight off the stage and screen. Hip hop clubs blast the latest K-pop hits well into the night as patrons dance along. Store windows display life-size cutouts of boyband members and drama heartthrobs.
Myeongdong Street is a hub of K-pop commerce, packed with shops hawking everything from albums and lightsticks to shirts embroidered with idol faces. Tower Record's three-story branch has an entire floor dedicated to K-pop. Fans stock up on merch and get their fix of videos playing on loop. For variety, check out the rotating K-pop exhibits at Klive Museum.
No trip to Seoul is complete without a behind-the-scenes look at how the K-pop magic happens. Studios like SM Town and FNC Entertainment offer tours that take you inside rehearsal studios and recording booths. You may even catch a live performance or dance practice. Visitors say seeing idols' signed mics and costumes up close is an "eye-opening experience."
For the full K-drama treatment, neighborhoods like Namsan Tower and Bukchon Hanok Village make for perfect selfie backdrops. Stroll the streets featured on shows like Crash Landing On You and It's Okay To Not Be Okay. Or visit the Korea Drama Center, where interactive exhibits let you act out famous scenes. Fans especially love the replica drama sets, like an office where they can pretend to film a contract marriage scenario.
Insiders highly recommend catching a live music show to see the spectacle of K-pop in action. At venues like KLIVE and MUV Hall, top idol groups take the stage to ear-splitting cheers. Fans say the high-energy shows exceeding their already high expectations, with nonstop dancing, costume changes, and special effects. Nothing beats joining the fan chants and lightstick ocean in person.
Of course, don't miss out on the treats featured in dramas, like hedgehog bread, malatang, and bingsu. Trying the eats brings the shows to life. Just be prepared to search for English menus or point enthusiastically at pictures.
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Work Remotely from South Korea's Ultramodern Cafes
Cafes have become the remote worker's office - and Seoul offers some seriously trendy spots to set up shop. With superfast WiFi, ample outlets, quality brews, and Instagrammable interiors, these ultrachic cafes let travelers mix work and play. Nomads passing through Seoul rave that the city's cafes rank among the world's best.
In Seoul's hippest neighborhoods, you'll find no shortage of cafes catering to the laptop crowd. Top on every nomad's list is Cafe Onion in Hongdae - this pioneer of Seoul's cafe culture dazzles with industrial-chic decor and an in-house bakery. Grab an outlet along the share table or windowsill and get lost in your work alongside locals.
Over in Yeonnam-dong, Re:Pl Ground draws the startup crowd with its loft-like open concept space centered around a coffee counter. At Standing Coffee in Sangsu, exposed pipes and wooden accents pair nicely with great breakfasts. Visit late and you'll find a lively evening scene perfect for unwinding after your workday.
For a nature-filled workspace, head to Cafe Yeon in Sinchon, where trailing vines and skylights lend an airy, tropical feel. Or soak up old-world charm at the second floor Cafe Madang in Bukchon Hanok Village. Its antique furnishings and hanok views never fail to inspire.
Dedicated nomads rave about Meerkat Friends in Seongsu-dong, calling it a remote worker's paradise. This dedicated workspace-cafe offers lightning-fast WiFi, comfy swivel chairs, private focus booths, and free-flowing coffee. You can even rent lockers to store your gear. An airy mezzanine provides quiet nooks to hunker down in.
Cafes are also raising their coffee game, so you can level up your morning routine. At Fritz Coffee Company, baristas use premium beans and professional equipment to craft each cup. Coffee Libre takes things up a notch with "cuppings" and tasting flights for true java nerds.
For a touch of luxury, OR.ELLE offers premium pour-overs and a swanky vibe in Cheongdam, Seoul's poshest district. Chain Caffebene's Reserve locations feature barista counters and cafe fare perfect for all-day work sessions.
Wherever you go, the cafes exude an energy that keeps you dialed in. Nomads love how the bustling surroundings provide a sense of co-working community. It's easy to strike up conversations with digital nomads at the next table. English-speaking baristas happily handle orders from foreigners. And the relentless work ethic of Seoulites reviewing documents and typing away keeps you focused.
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Take a Day Trip to the DMZ and Border with North Korea
One of the most fascinating day trips from Seoul is heading up to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that forms the tense border with North Korea. This buffer zone slices the Korean peninsula in half, separating the communist North from the democratic South. It’s an intense Cold War time capsule where two nations stare each other down, just 30 miles from the megacity of Seoul.
Venturing to the DMZ provides an eye-opening glimpse into the standoff that still divides Korea today. You’ll gain insight into the Korean War’s lingering impact and modern geopolitical tensions. Despite the somber history, a DMZ tour also offers surreal moments, like gazing at propaganda villages across the border or descending into secret infiltration tunnels. It's an experience that will stick with you long after leaving Korea.
The classic DMZ tour begins at Imjingak Park, where the Freedom Bridge conveys hopes for reunification. You’ll learn about the complex before continuing to an observatory deck overlooking the deserted North Korean town of Gijeongdong. Seeing the dilapidated buildings devoid of any life is chilling. At the Dora Observatory, binoculars let you peer across the DMZ at propaganda South Korean fueled by the North.
The heart of the tour is the Joint Security Area's blue conference halls straddling the Military Demarcation Line. This is the only spot where visitors can technically cross into North Korea. Inside the rooms where negotiations have taken place, South Korean soldiers stand guard on one side with stony North Korean soldiers staring back just feet away. Photos are strictly forbidden, but the experience is unforgettable.
Later stops include passing by the wreckage of the Bridge of No Return and the creepy Third Tunnel discovered in 1978. Walking along its damp walls drilled under the DMZ shows the secretive lengths the North will go to. Some estimate up to 20 more tunnels remain undiscovered.
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Travel South Korea's Cutting-Edge High Speed Rail
Zip between cities at speeds up to 190 miles per hour on South Korea’s ultra-modern high-speed rail network. Korea Train Express (KTX) bullet trains provide a scenic, smooth, and punctual way to travel South Korea that leaves cars and buses in the dust. Racing along at nearly triple highway speeds, these futuristic trains shrink a country the size of Portugal down to size. You can enjoy city views in Seoul then be hiking mountain trails in Sokcho 3 hours later - no airport hassle required.
Travel addicts say riding the KTX trains is a highlight of any Korean trip. Seoul to Busan zips by in just 2.5 hours versus almost 5 hours driving. And the spacious 2x2 leather seats with power outlets at every pair mean you ride in comfort. Large windows in the upper deck cabins provide panoramic views of South Korea’s varied landscapes. Cafe cars serving snacks and hot dishes mean you won't go hungry on longer journeys.
When based in Seoul, the KTX provides an awesome way to access outdoor adventures across Korea on weekends and holidays. Under 3 hours from Seoul, Sokcho is the gateway to breathtaking Seoraksan National Park. In just over 2 hours, you can hike the ridges and waterfalls of Odaesan National Park near Gangneung. The historic coastal city of Gyeongju, perfect for cycling and temple-hopping, is just an 80-minute ride away.
KTX lines head north to Seoul and down the eastern seaboard to Busan before cutting inland to Gwangju and Mokpo. Newer routes continue further south to Jinju and Ulsan. Coming soon are extended lines down to Gangneung on the east coast and west to Gunsan and Gwangju. By 2025, the KTX aims to offer rapid rail service to over 90% of Koreans. Pretty soon, nearly all of South Korea's top destinations will be just a quick train ride from Seoul.
Booking KTX tickets is simple via English websites like Korail or even directly on Omio. Just plug in your destination, date of travel, and preferred train times. First class seats cost about 50% more than standard class, but the spaciousness and free snacks are worth it. You can save money by booking 21 days in advance or traveling during late night hours. Options to add rail passes or reserve multiple journeys make extended travel planning easy.
Train fanatics highly recommend the KTX for its cutting-edge technology like active tilting and pressure control. With a top tested speed of 190 mph, it ranks among the world's fastest trains. Spacious, clean, and food-cart equipped, it puts regional Amtrak trains to shame. Riders also praise the trains' safety, lack of delays, and abundance of English signage.
Travelers do warn that trains tend to book up on weekends and holidays, especially busy routes to Busan. So reserve tickets 3-4 weeks in advance for peak dates. Downloading the helpful KakaoMetro app provides updates if delays occur. And always arrive at the station 30 minutes before departure, as security lines can back up.
Seoul Searching: Why South Korea's New Digital Nomad Visa Makes 2024 the Year to Visit - Make Friends with Locals in Seoul's Quirky Neighborhoods
One of the best parts of visiting Seoul is mingling with locals in the city's most colorful districts. Wandering these quirky neighborhoods leads to chance encounters and new connections that make any trip unforgettable. Travelers say embracing Seoul's unique communities leaves them with fun memories and friendships to last a lifetime.
Hip Hongdae buzzes with youth culture and creative energy. On weekends, indie bands rock the neighborhood's legendary music venues while students bust moves at dance battles outside. Huddle around makeshift tables and chat with students unwinding over beer and snacks after exams. They’ll happily give recommendations on Hongdae’s coolest clubs, karaoke rooms, and comic book shops.
In arty Samcheongdong, browse galleries and craft studios nestled in winding alleys. Chat up the designers and baristas at the chic cafes and boutiques before joining locals picnicking along the stream. As dusk falls, follow newfound friends to tucked-away wine bars like Good Day for glasses on the patio.
Wander Bukchon Hanok Village’s traditional homes and laneways to glimpse daily local life. Elders gathered in the public squares play baduk (Korean chess) and share stories over makgeolli (rice wine). They’ll invite you to observe and maybe even play a round, delighted to share their culture with foreigners.
In the glittering Gangnam nightlife district, party the night away with fluent English-speaking bartenders and servers. They’ll keep your glass full and recommend hidden gems like authentic pocha teahouses amid the high-rises. Follow along for late night noodles and tales of misadventures from international students and young professionals alike.
Seongsu-dong’s converted warehouses harbor industrial-chic clubs, eateries, and breweries. Chat up the local DJs and designers drawn to the area’s artsy vibe as you bar hop into the wee hours. The area’s tight-knit community means fast friends and insider invites to underground parties.
In multicultural Itaewon, strike up conversations with the international crowd at microbreweries and fusion restaurants. Bond over what brought you both to Korea’s most diverse district, swapping travel stories or commiserating over culture shock. With new friends as guides, explore Itaewon's secret haunts like jazz bars hidden in basements.