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KOREA

South Korea is a country in East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.

Starting off, you'll likely find yourself in Seoul, the nation's capital that never sleeps. Popularly called the "Miracle on the Han River", it's one of the largest metropolitan economies in the world. It's the country's industrial epicentre, the birthplace of K-pop, a hotspot for South-Korean nightlife and fine dining. The fabulous history and art collection of the National Museum of Korea reigns supreme and a visit there is a day well spent. Downtown Seoul, where the old Joseon Dynasty city was, is where you'll find most of the palaces. It is surrounded by a Fortress Wall, with the famous Namdaemun, one of the eight gates, being perhaps the main attraction.

Busan is the country's second city and most significant port. Called the nation's summer capital, Koreans flock to this city's fine beaches, seafood restaurants and festivals. Haeundae beach in Busan is the most famous in the country. Gyeongju was once the nation's capital and boasts numerous royal burial sites as well as relaxing resorts.

Just a stones-throw north of Seoul, mountainous Bukhansan is one of the most visited national parks in the world. Some 836 meters high, Mount Bukhansan is a major landmark visible from large parts of the city and the park is home to the beautiful Bukhansanseong Fortress. The popular hike to get up there is well worth it, as you'll be rewarded with great views of the metropolis. Seoraksan National Park and Suncheon Bay Ecological Park are good picks too. In total, the country has 20 national parks, mostly mountainous, but some also focus on marine and coastal nature. The lush green tea fields of Boseong offer quite another, but equally nice and peaceful get-a-way.

If you don't mind the crowds, the volcanic and semi-tropical Jeju Island offers spectacular scenery, a relaxing atmosphere and plenty of activities. The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites, a World Heritage Site, are home to a significant part of all the dolmen in the world and apart from the impressive megalithic stones, have brought forward a highly important collection of archaeological finds. For an entirely different experience, head to Panmunjeom. It's a 'truce village' in the middle of the demilitarized zone and shared by both North and South Korea. A fascinating visit to the last frontier of the cold war and reachable in a day trip from Seoul.

If you'd like to see a bit of Korean folklore, one of the folk villages is a must. Hahoe, Yangdong and the living museum-like Korean Folk Village in Yongin are among the best. Last but not least, South Korea is a country of festivals. No matter where you go, there's likely something happening close by. Watching or even joining in the bustling celebrations is often a fabulous and colourful experience. The Boryeong Mud Festival is a popular pick.

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