Arrive Seoul, South Korea
Upon arrival in Seoul, you are met and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the bustling capital.
Seoul | Echoes of Empires Past
Begin your exploration of this vibrant city with a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace. Commissioned in the 14th century, the palace has risen from the ashes of conquest several times throughout its storied past. Today, the palace endures as the largest of Seoul’s five historic palaces, its compound housing a wealth of museums, gardens and architectural wonders. Next, browse the revealing cultural exhibits of the National Folk Museum. Continue to Bukchon Hanok Village, a collection of hundreds of hanoks (traditional houses) dating back to the 14th century. After a lunch of traditional Korean barbecue, stop at bustling Gwangjang Market, one of the oldest and largest traditional street markets in South Korea, and home to over 5,000 shops. This evening, join your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Seoul | A Peninsula Divided
Today, head north to join a shared tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a hotly contested border region that has divided the Korean Peninsula since 1953. Delve deeper with a tour of the Third Tunnel, a highly secured, mile-long corridor linking the two countries. At Odusan Unification Observatory, look out across the DMZ line toward North Korea. Then, visit Dorasan Train Station, its (as yet) unused international customs facilities a symbol of hope for the future reunification of north and south. Return to Seoul for an afternoon at leisure, exploring the city on your own or relaxing at the hotel. Later this evening, embark on a street food tour in Seoul’s exciting Myeong-Dong neighborhood, sampling everything from Korean egg toast to hotteok (sweet Korean pancakes).
Busan | Coastal Connections
This morning, take a high-speed train to Busan, South Korea’s second largest city and one of the world’s busiest ports. After lunch, pay a visit to the UN Cemetery, a solemn memorial marking the final resting place of more than 2,000 Korean War veterans. Continue to Gamcheon Culture Village and explore its colorful narrow lanes. Later, browse Jagalchi Fish Market, taking in a vast array of exotic seafood. Check in to your accommodations and take in a scenic view of the bay.
Gyeongju | Temples of the Silla Dynasty
Travel outside of Busan to Gyeongju, former capital of the Silla Dynasty, a kingdom that ruled Korea from 668 to 935. Begin your exploration with a visit to Bulguksa Temple, one of Korea’s most iconic structures. Perched atop a series of stone terraces, the temple’s 33 steps represent Buddhism’s 33 stages to enlightenment. The temple was all but destroyed in a 16th-century conflict with Japan. Lovingly rebuilt, it endures today as the crowning glory of Silla architecture. After lunch, visit Tumuli-gongwon, a large park with 23 tombs of Silla monarchs and family members. Delve deeper at the nearby Gyeongju National Museum and its exhibits showcasing treasures discovered within the tombs themselves. Return to Busan for an evening at leisure.
Osaka & Kyoto, Japan | Foodie’s Adventure
Fly to Osaka, Japan, where you enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Visit Dotonbori, the bustling heart of this foodie capital, where diners indulge in everything from octopus dumplings to okonomi-yai, a battered, grilled concoction of chopped cabbage, meat or seafood, and seaweed. Continue on to historic, temple-filled Kyoto, and check in to your beautiful hotel.
Kyoto | The Golden Pavilion & Bamboo Grove
This morning, contemplate Kyoto’s iconic Zen rock garden at Ryoan-ji, the perfect spot for a meditative moment, and discover the glittering Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion). Covered with gold leaf, the temple casts its delicate reflection in a tranquil pond. After lunch, explore the Arashiyama neighborhood, including the garden of Tenryu-ji Temple. Dating back to the 14th century, the temple buildings themselves were destroyed and rebuilt over the course of several conflicts, while its stunning garden has survived the centuries in its original glory. Later, bask in the magical atmosphere of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, strolling along a winding path as sunlight filters down through towering bamboo shoots — considered by many a healing experience. Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Kyoto | Traditional Tea & Sake Tasting
This morning, visit a local temple where you experience the art of the tea ceremony, noting its refined sense of hospitality and etiquette, which date to the time of the samurai. Continue to the 10,000 torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine. The Shinto shrine is renowned for its visually striking tunnel comprised of thousands of vermilion torii gates that line a network of trails leading into the wooded forest of Mount Inari. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit a local sake brewery to gain a deeper appreciation of this national spirit and enjoy a tasting. This evening, savor traditional Japanese cuisine while an attending geiko (as a geisha is known in Kyoto) and maiko (apprentice geisha) dance, sing, pour sake and chat about life in Kyoto.
Tokyo | Heart of the Great Metropolis
This morning, transfer to Kyoto Station and board a high-speed train bound for Tokyo. Hurtling along in excess of 170 miles per hour, your route affords a glimpse of Mount Fuji’s iconic profile. Upon arrival, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon, learn more about local history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum as you browse an extensive array of interactive exhibits spanning the heritage of the city’s last 400 years. Check in to your hotel and gather with your fellow travellers for dinner at a local restaurant.
Tokyo | Taiko Drumming & Shinto Ceremonies
Start your day at Tsukiji Fish Market, a bustling hub of Japanese daily life where a dizzying array of seafood can be found. Next, gain exclusive insider access to a local workshop specializing in taiko (traditional Japanese drum) making. Watch as the craftspeople skillfully ply their trade, then try your hand at playing the finished instrument. Then, embark on a culinary adventure as a local chef leads a hands-on sushi-making class, followed by lunch. Next, visit the sacred Meiji Jingu Shrine and witness a special Shinto ceremony. This evening, enjoy cocktails and a farewell dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.