Truth be told, a 5-day itinerary in South Korea would only scratch the surface since the country has so much to offer. Its cosmopolitan cities, beautiful nature and landscapes, sea, mountains, and everything in between will make you want to spend more time in South Korea.
However, the country is not one of the cheapest Asian destinations, thus we understand why you might want to link it to other more affordable places (or not).
If you are unsure how to spend your 5 days in South Korea, how to get around, and everything in between, we’ve got you covered. We have put together 5 options for 5-days itineraries you can choose from based on your preferences.
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Table of Contents
- South Korea 5 day itinerary
South Korea 5 day itinerary
South Korea Travel Tips worth having
Before you go, here are a few valuable travel resources you might find useful.
General Travel Information for South Korea – covers everything you need to know for planning your trip. From when is the best time to visit the country, to visa requirements, how to get there, and much more.
Driving in South Korea – might be challenging for some, but when you know the basic rules and what to expect, everything is easier.
SIM Card or Pocket Wifi in South Korea: what to choose
If you don’t know where to stay, make sure to check out our Accommodation Guides here.
But let’s jump right into our proposal for itineraries worth following.
Other things worth knowing
How do you pay for things in South Korea? How much cash should you have?
Truth be told, South Korea is one of the most cashless places I have ever been to. During our stay there, we’ve only used cash in the first week or so.
You can pay for anything by card, no matter the amount, and tipping is not custom (restaurants, or taxis). Moreover, there are stores that only accept payment by card.
However, there are only a few exceptions you will need cash for buying your T-Money card and/or buying individual train or transportation tickets from vending machines. You will be requested to pay cash for the card itself, but you can top it up by using your card.
You will be happy to learn that there is a workaround for this as well: this option offers both a SIM card with unlimited 4G data and acts as a T-Money card. You can book it and pay for it online, and pick it up from the airport upon your arrival.
Another option would be to purchase the Seoul City Pass. That depends a lot on what you plan to do and see, and how many paid attractions you want to include on your list of things to do in Seoul. Usually, if you plan to see a few, the price of the City Pass will allow you to save significantly. Moreover, the card can have a T-money transportation card function.
If however, you would feel safer by having some local money, I wouldn’t have more than 50 USD, and I would either withdraw from an ATM or exchange it at one of the many exchange offices in Myeongdon.
VISA & K-ETA
Depending on where you are traveling from, you will or won’t need a visa. Check your Visa requirements here!
Currently, South Korea has in place a visa-free online application process for certain eligible countries (you can check the list here) that you must obtain before your trip.
K-ETA or the Korean Electronic Travel Authorization must be obtained before boarding a flight or ship. Here is some useful information regarding the K-ETA visa:
- The approval process takes more than 72 hours, thus it is useful to apply in advance;
- You will need to have accommodation booked before applying for the K-ETA, the address is one of the required information.
- The validity of the K-ETA visa is of 2 years from the date of approval;
- With the K-ETA you can stay in South Korea for 30 to 90 days;
- However, if you are visiting for travel purposes, and plan to return after your first visit, you will have to come back and update your visa with the new hotel address;
- One person can apply for up to 30 persons and can pay for all at once;
- K-ETA price: 10.000 won (around 9-10 USD)
How do you get around from one city to the other
The fastest way to travel around major cities is by KTX – Korean Express Train. This option is perfect for when you travel between major cities.
However, if you only want to travel outside of Seoul, you can take the subway, or bus, or choose to rent a car.
When you want to travel to Jeju Island, the best option is either to catch a flight from Seoul or take a ferry from Busan. For the second option, you might not have enough time if you only plan to spend 5 days in South Korea, since the ferry ride is around 4-5 hours one-way from Mokpo to Jeju, or even up to 12 hours from Busan Port.
In our opinion, traveling by train is the fastest and most comfortable option. Book your Korea Rail Pass here for when you travel around South Korea by train to more than one destination.
When is the best time to plan for a South Korea itinerary?
While we know you can’t always plan your trip around the perfect season for visiting a country, the good thing about South Korea is that it has 4 seasons.
Summer and winter have relatively extreme weather, with hot and humid days during summer, and very cold days during winter. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot visit during those months – there are plenty of things worth doing and seeing in each season.
If you can plan your trip and choose whichever season, we strongly encourage you to go during spring or fall. Each of these seasons has its highlights and beauty.
Extra tip: if you choose to visit in spring or fall, make sure to book your accommodation, tickets, and activities in advance, since it is a busy touristic season.
Option 1: 3 days in Seoul & 2 days in Busan
Seoul and Busan are South Korea’s most important towns, offering plenty of tourist attractions to easily fill up your 5 days. Even though one is set in the North of the peninsula, while the other is in its southern tip, there are plenty of easy ways to get from Seoul to Busan and back.
Unfortunately, you will have to go back to Seoul for your flight out of South Korea, because Busan doesn’t have too many international flight options.
3 days in Seoul
While you might think that spending 3 days in Seoul would be enough, one thing you must remember is that the city is a huge metropolis with over 20 million inhabitants. That means not only that you will spend time commuting, but also that the city has plenty to offer.
No matter if you are in love with nature, culture, history, k-pop, k-beauty, or anything in between, Seoul has it all and much more.
Read also: How to get to Seoul from Incheon Airport
Day 1 – start your day at the Palaces where you can easily spend more than half of the day from one palace to the other. Head to Insadong for lunch and have a traditional Korean meal. Shop for souvenirs or art to bring back home. Head over to Bukchon Hanok Village.
Day 2 – spend one day in Gangnam and tick off all the things you shouldn’t miss in the area. This is Seoul’s poshest area that offers plenty of things to do and see.
Alternatively, follow this itinerary I have put together based on my first visit for 3 days in Seoul. It includes a map with attractions and it is packed with useful information that will help you plan your trip.
Read also: Choose the best area to stay in Seoul
2 days in Busan
Once again, 2 days in Busan is a short time but should be enough for you to meet and greet the city. On our first escape to the seaside city, we only spend 2 nights there and it was enough for us to go back.
Getting from Seoul to Busan is easy and there is an option for anyone, no matter the budget or how you prefer to travel. There are plenty of daily flights, fast trains, and buses. Traveling by car would not be an option with such a limited time, thus we would suggest taking a flight or KTX (bullet train).
Check out our post on how to get from Seoul to Busan for all the options including additional information.
Busan Itinerary option
Day 1 – start your day on Yeongdo Island and explore its many beautiful natural settings, but also the popular and colorful Jeoryeong Coastal Walk. Head over to Gamcheon Cultural Village and end your day at the Jagalchi Fish Market.
Day 2 – this day is for the beach and for going on coastal rides. Haeundae is South Korea’s most popular beach and it offers plenty of things to do and plenty of delicious restaurants. Don’t skip a ride on the Blue Line Train or colorful Sky Capsule, you will fall in love with this part of Busan.
Read the complete guide for 2 days in Busan here, including a map and plenty of useful information about getting around, where to stay, tourist attractions, and more.
Option 2: Stay in Seoul and go on day trips
The easiest thing would be to follow the above 3 days in Seoul itinerary and go on 2 day trips outside of the city. Public transportation is so good and convenient that you will find it easy to get even to the mountains.
For a comprehensive list of day trips from Seoul, including how to go around and where to go, check out this round-up.
If, however, you are wondering which trips are the most popular and the ones we would encourage you to go on, here are our top choices:
- a day trip to DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to the border with North Korea. It is only done by organized tour and you would read everything about it here.
- the Garden of the Morning Calm and Nami Island – are usually done together as a tour, but you can easily get there on your own and choose which one to visit. Check out the tour here!
- Incheon – the famous port city is easily reached by subway train from Seoul (line 1).
- Suwon – is another city that can be reached by train from Seoul, with a beautiful fortress built on a hill and a popular cafe street.
Read also: The complete itinerary for spending 4 days in Seoul
Option 3: 3 days in Seoul and 2 days on Jeju Island
I will of course skip the Seoul part since we have already gone through this before, but we will focus on Jeju Island.
Jeju Island is South Korea’s largest and most popular island. Even during the pandemic, every weekend was packed with people since this was the only place you could go to and really feel like you were traveling.
Its landscape is impressive and unique because of its volcanic nature, but not only nature lovers will love it here.
Infrastructure on the island is not as good on the peninsula, thus renting a car would be a better idea when you want to make the best out of your 2 days in Jeju.
You can also book a guided tour or have a driver with a car that will take you from one place to the other. You can make your own itinerary, but you can also rely on his experience and knowledge.
When is the best time to visit Jeju Island?
The island’s position in the very south of South Korea offers it a somewhat milder climate that on the continent. That being said, if you could choose the perfect time to see Jeju, that would be anytime between April and June, but also during fall.
During summer, temperatures and humidity rise, making it too hot for visiting.
How to get to Jeju Island
The fastest and easiest way to get from Seoul to Jeju is by plane. There are plenty of daily flights that will get you there in less than one hour.
What to do and see in 2 days on Jeju Island
I would suggest going on a guided tour on one of your days on the island because this is the easiest and fastest way of seeing the most important attractions.
For the other day, you should not miss a visit to Camellia Hill – a beautiful garden whit fairytale-like camellias, hydrangeas, and other flowers depending on the season.
If you love tea and k-beauty, then the Innisfree Jeju House & Osulloc Tea Museum is another stop you should make on your itinerary. They have a pretty cafe where you can try their cakes and teas, but you can also see the green tea fields and learn about its harvest. Since Innisfree is one of the largest k-beauty brands, you will have the chance to shop for cosmetics as well.
Shinhwa World Theme Park is a fun place no matter how old you are. The theme park has 3 zones and 15 rides & attractions, thus you can easily spend a few hours of great fun here. Book your ticket in advance here!
The Spirited Garden in Jeju is somewhat like the Garden of Morning Calm outside of Seoul, a place of tranquility and beautiful nature.
During the fall season, you shouldn’t skip a visit to a Jeju farm where you can participate in picking the famous Jeju mandarin (Hallabong). There are plenty of places throughout the island and you can ask your hotel for recommendations.
Where to stay on Jeju island
The island is not so big thus and can easily be seen by car from whatever part you choose to stay in. However, since you only have 2 days at hand, you will want to choose your accommodation carefully.
I would recommend staying in Jeju-Si, the island’s capital. It is the closest place to the airport, with plenty of resorts to choose from.
Another great option if you want to escape the capital city would be the city of Seogwipo. While the place is smaller than Jeju-Si, you will still find plenty of cafes, restaurants, and things to do.
Option 4: 3 days in Seoul and 2 days in Yeosu
As you would expect, I will focus mostly on the second part of the trip, namely the 2 days in Yeosu and Boseong.
Set in the southern part of the Korean peninsula, in the region of South Jeolla, here is where you can explore tea plantations, spend time by the sea, and see one of the most beautiful temples in Korea.
You can fly from Seoul to Yeosu airport, and from there, rent a car, and drive all the way to Boseong and Namhae.
In Boseong you will find the Green Tea Factory and plantations. Set on terraced hills, the beautiful tea plantations are worth visiting especially during spring and summer.
At the park’s entrance, we found a restaurant that served traditional Korean dishes with a green tea twist, and we strongly suggest trying cold noodle soup with green tea.
Inside the park, there is a cafe that serves green tea ice cream, and coffee among other things. Both were delicious and I was sorry I could eat more.
Before you exit the park, don’t forget to stop by the hidden bamboo forest – it is a unique experience, especially if you haven’t seen one before.
Choose Yeosu as your base camp mainly because it is the closest place to the airport and from there you can easily reach all the other destinations. On the small peninsula, you will find plenty of hotel options, but also small beaches, a cable car offering breathtaking views, and also charming cafes.
Namhae is a 1.5 hour drive away from Yeosu and here is where you will find the beautiful Boriam Temple, but also the small and picturesque German Village. Here is where Koreans who left and worked in Germany, decided to build their own small Germany-inspired town overlooking the blue sea.
Option 5: 3 days in Seoul and 2 days in Gyeongju
One of the most authentic small towns in South Korea, Gyeongju has preserved its long-lost traditional vibe.
As the capital of the Kingdom of Silla, Gyeongju became the center of Korean political and cultural life by 668 A.D. Records of Samguk Yusa, a medieval collection of historical accounts, legends, and folk tales, puts Gyeongju’s population at over 178.000 households, circa half a million inhabitants.
Today Gyeongju is a major tourist spot, attracting 8-9 million visitors a year, including close to 1 million foreigners. The main points of attraction are related to the invaluable historical, architectural and cultural heritage of the Silla period.
You can easily get to Gyeongju from Seoul by KTX in roughly 2 hours.
Book your Korea Rail Pass here for when you travel around South Korea by train to more than one destination.
Read everything you must know about Gyeongju, what to see and where to stay in this comprehensive guide!
Winter in Korea – the best things to do and see