See the best of South Korea and Japan as you cross the two nations by car, plane, and train. Learn about culinary traditions at busy markets in Seoul and Busan, then explore volcanic Jeju Island's gardens and mountains. Jet off to Tokyo for Mount Fuji views and pop culture, and ride a bullet train to Kyoto for a tea ceremony and hike before indulging in street food in Osaka.


  • Learn about the tensions between North and South Korea on a tour of the DMZ
  • Explore the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan
  • Taste Tokyo's street food in Ueno
  • Walk through 10,000 torii gates at Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Seoul (South Korea), Optional Insadong & Alive Museum Experience Seoul
Day 2 Guided Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour & Cooking Class Seoul
Day 3 Day Trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Hongdae Shopping Seoul
Day 4 Train to Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa & Gwangalli Food Tour Busan
Day 5 Gamcheon Culture Village, Songdo Beach & Jagalchi Market Busan
Day 6 Fly to Jeju Island, Visit Manjanggul Cave, Seongeup Village & Dongmun Market Jeju Island
Day 7 Explore Mount Hallasan, Seogwang Tea Plantation & Spirited Garden Tour Jeju Island
Day 8 Fly to Tokyo (Japan) & Ueno Food Tour Tokyo
Day 9 Guided Senso-ji Temple Tour, Afternoon Akihabara Pop Culture District Tokyo
Day 10 Day Trip to Arakurayama Sengen, Cruise Lake Kawaguchi & Whisky Tasting Tokyo
Day 11 Train to Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji & Nijo Castle Tour Kyoto
Day 12 Walk from Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine to Tofuku-ji Temple, Tea Ceremony Kyoto
Day 13 Train to Osaka, Guided Tour & Umeda Sky Building & Dotonbori Osaka
Day 14 Depart Osaka  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Seoul (South Korea), Optional Insadong & Alive Museum Experience

Seoul Arrival, Drive to Hotel
Seoul's capital of nine million residents is ready to discover

Welcome to Seoul, the dynamic South Korean capital. Meet your driver at Incheon International Airport for an approximately one-hour transfer to your hotel, then spend the rest of the day or evening exploring the city of nine million residents.

Insadong Street, with its souvenir shops, art galleries, and restaurants, is the perfect place to kick-start your Seoul discovery. At its Alive Museum, interact with over 100 artworks spread across two floors and savor delicious street food walking around Insadong. End the afternoon or evening with Seoul's skyline at Seoul Sky, one of the highest glass-floored observation decks in the world. Then settle into your hotel for three nights in Seoul.  

Day 2: Guided Gyeongbokgung Palace Tour & Cooking Class

Step into the world of the Joseon Dynasty at Gyeongbokgung palace

Start your journey through traditional Seoul with your guide in the morning, beginning at Gyeongbokgung palace, the former Joseon Dynasty's family residence. See some of the palace's more than 50 buildings and 7,700 rooms spanning 90 acres (40 ha). Then watch a guard changing ceremony at Gwanghwamun, the palace's largest gate, and explore intricate pavilions. From the Gyeongbokgung, you'll venture to learn more about Korean history at Bukchon Hanok Village, with its rebuilt hanoks (traditional wooden homes).

In the afternoon, you'll join a cooking class for further insight into South Korean culture and learn to make dishes such as bibimbap (rice with mixed vegetables and meat), samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), kimchi, and yachaejeon (savory pancakes). Return to your hotel to rest or continue your tour of Seoul independently in the evening. 

Day 3: Day Trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Hongdae Shopping

View from the Dora Observatory in the DMZ to North Korea Propaganda village and Kaesong with abandoned observation post bunke
View from the DMZ's Dora Observatory to a North Korea propaganda village in Kaesong

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a 160-mile (250 km) long and 2.5-mile (4 km) wide buffer zone between North and South Korea. On a DMZ tour in Paju, about one hour north of Seoul, you'll get to explore this area, including the Third Infiltration Tunnel, which was built by the North Korean Army, and the Dora Observatory, for a chance to see views of North Korea through binoculars. At Tongil Chon (Unification Village), a settlement in the buffer area of the DMZ, you'll learn about life in this unique part of the country and eat local dishes for lunch.

Afterward, have your camera ready for views from Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, one of Korea's longest bridges, on your way back to Seoul. Once in the city, at lively Hongdae Shopping Street, take your pick among trendy shops, cafés, and restaurants, and soak up the atmosphere of musicians and dancers. Return to your hotel or stay out to enjoy more of Seoul's nightlife for your last night in the city.

Day 4: Train to Busan, Haedong Yonggungsa & Gwangalli Food Tour

Night view of Busan and the Gwangalli
Take to the streets as you cover some ground on a night food tour of Busan's Gwangalli

It's an early morning start today to catch a three-hour high-speed train to the coastal city of Busan, where you'll meet your driver to continue the tour. Start by traveling about 20 minutes east of Busan to arrive at Haedong Yonggungsa and take a walk around its 14th-century Buddhist temple with views of the rugged East Sea coastline. Then return to the city to Haeundae Blueline Park for a ride in the four-seater Sky Capsule to admire coastal scenery as your ride atop the shore and over the water and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at Haeundae Beach.

When the sun sets, join a culinary tour beginning at lively Gwangalli Beach, with views of the Gwangan Bridge. From street food to restaurants, sample local dishes such as jangeo-gui (grilled eel) or bibim dangmyeon (boiled glass noodles with pickled radishes, fish cakes, and vegetables). After your food tour, see Busan's nightlife at BIFF Square, filled with trendy shops, bars, and more Busan cuisine. At the end of a full day, rest at your Busan hotel.

Day 5: Gamcheon Culture Village, Songdo Beach & Skywalk, Jagalchi Market

Hike up to Gamcheon Culture Village to see Busan's most colorful neighborhood

Set off for Gamcheon Culture Village, one of Busan's most colorful areas sprawling over treed hills, where you can get lost among winding streets while taking photos of street art and city views. For an afternoon snack, try ssiat hotteok, a sweet pancake with a brown sugar filling, and save room for Jagalchi Fish Market, one of the country's largest markets where you can take your pick among many food stalls. 

Spend the afternoon relaxing by the Songdo Beach waterfront and stroll over the glass-floored Songdo Skywalk for a unique view of the waves. Then ride Songdo Marine Cable Car to Amnam Park for more coastal views at Yonggung Suspension Bridge. Spend your evening out in Busan for your last night, maybe returning to BIFF Square. 

Day 6: Fly to Jeju Island, Visit Manjanggul Cave, Seongeup Village & Dongmun Market

On volcanic Jeju Island, experience its natural wonders and village life 

Transfer to the airport for a one-hour flight from Busan to Jeju Island, and then start your discovery of this volcanic atoll, where you'll spend the next two nights. With your guide, you'll first check out Manjanggul Cave, a lava tube considered the 12th longest in the world, spanning 5.5 miles (8.9 km). From there, see Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak), a tuff cone that seems to emerge directly from the sea. 

Learn more about the island's culture at Seongeup Folk Village, exploring a town of 3,000 thatch roof and lava rock homes passed down through generations. Learn folk songs in the local dialect, and see dol haruebangs ("grandfather made of stone" statues), which you can take home in miniature. For dinner, head to Dongmun Traditional Market to try local specialties such as haemul ttukbaegi (hotpot seafood stew), hallabong (tangerines), black pork barbecue, and abalone porridge.

Day 7: Explore Mount Hallasan, Seogwang Tea Plantation & Spirited Garden Tour

Learn about Jeju Island's green tea industry during a plantation tour

Jeju Island's natural wonders are today's focus, getting a jumpstart with a hike up Hallasan mountain. Follow the one-mile (1.3 km) Eoseungsaengak Trail, ending at the summit for East China Sea views. Continue to learn about the island's tea production and one of South Korea's most important tea centers, at Seogwang Tea Plantation. Learn how tea is harvested, explore a small museum, soak up sweeping tea field vistas, and end the tour with a tea ceremony. 

In the afternoon, you'll walk through paths dotted with Bonsai trees, waterfalls, and ponds at the Spirited Garden and then head to Jusangjeollidae on the island's south coast to see where lava from Hallasan erupted into the sea of Jungmun. End your tour of the islands with a swim in Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls and then return to your hotel to prepare for your journey to Tokyo tomorrow.
Plan your trip to South Korea
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 8: Fly to Tokyo (Japan), Ueno Food Tour

At Ameya-Yokocho in the Ueno district, taste Tokyo's street food with your local guide

The adventure continues leaving South Korea for Japan today. In the morning, take an approximately 1.5-hour flight from Jeju to Seoul and then catch a two-hour connecting flight to Tokyo. Meet your driver at the airport for a transfer to your hotel, where you can relax and refresh to get ready for the Japan portion of your trip, starting with Tokyo's food scene. 

In the Ueno district, follow along as your guide leads the way through Ameya-Yokocho, an open-air food and handicrafts market where you'll have a chance to taste ramen, take a seat at an izakaya (pub), and learn about the food and drinks that are most popular among locals such as takoyaki (octopus-filled round pancakes), curry, and fried meats. After your introduction to Japanese culture and Tokyo, rest at your hotel after a full day.

Day 9: Guided Senso-ji Temple Tour, Afternoon Akihabara Pop Culture District

See the modern pop culture side of Tokyo in the Akihabara district

With a full day to explore Tokyo with a guide, your tour begins with a visit to Meiji Jingu Shrine. Discover the Imperial Palace East Gardens, and find your way to Nijubashi Bridge as you admire its flowers and foliage. See Senso-ji temple, Tokyo's oldest temple, and then stroll nearby Nakamise-dori, a busy shopping street connecting the temple's main gate and hall. Next, explore Tsukiji Outer Fish Market, where you can get in line to try dishes such as onigiri (rice balls) or sushi.

In the afternoon, explore the vibrant Akihabara district, Japan's pop culture capital and a world of manga, animé, and gaming. Get ready for a sensory overload on this self-guided adventure as you walk past bright billboards and people dressed in outrageous costumes and otherworldly outfits. Stop to shop at the multi-story Animate store, and test your gaming skills at GiGO Akihabara Building 3. At the end of your tour, spend the evening exploring more of Tokyo or resting at your hotel.

Day 10: Day Trip to Arakurayama Sengen, Cruise Lake Kawaguchi & Whisky Tasting

Iconic Chureito Pagoda of Arakurayama Sengen Park overlooking Mount Fuji
Iconic Chureito Pagoda of Arakurayama Sengen Park overlooks Mount Fuji

In the morning, meet your guide for an approximately 1.5 drive north from Tokyo to Arakurayama Sengen Park, where a monumental pagoda is framed by Mount Fuji views and Oshino Hakkai, a set of eight ponds, is fed by snow melt from Fuji's slopes. 

In the afternoon, board a boat to cruise across Lake Kawaguchi or head for the sky on Mount Fuji Panoramic Ropeway—reaching an observation deck near the summit of Mount Tenjo. On the way back to Tokyo, stop at Fuji Gotemba Distillery, where grain whisky and sake are produced using water from Fuji's snow melt. Learn about distilling and tasting different types as you learn their distinct flavors. At the end of the tour, return to your Tokyo hotel.

Day 11: Train to Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji & Nijo Castle Tour

Kinkakuji Temple
Get your camera ready for gold Kinkaku-ji temple

Kyoto, a city known for geisha culture, Edo period architecture, and iconic shrines, is your next Japan tour stop, starting with a 2.5-hour train ride west from Tokyo. After transferring to your new hotel, meet your guide, who will introduce you to the former Japanese capital.

At Kinkaku-ji, get your camera ready for the golden pavilion before transferring the 10 minutes to Nijo Castle. Admire the former home of the first Edo Period shogun while walking through gardens filled with tranquil ponds and fountains. At the castle's gold leaf and cypress-carved Ninomaru Palace learn how design and architectural details were used to express the Shogun's power. At the end of your tour, ask your guide for a recommendation for dinner.

Day 12: Walk from Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine to Tofuku-ji Temple, Tea Ceremony

The 10,000 Red Gates of Fushimi Inari
Walking through Fushimi Inari Taisha's 10,000 torii gates is a must in Kyoto

Kyoto's temples and shrines are best explored on foot, and today you'll hike or walk from Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine to Tofuku-ji temple. At the beginning of the approximately four-hour trail, pass through 10,000 torii gates and then set off through forested hills and a quiet residential area. At Tofuku-ji, admire its gate built in 1425, one of the country's oldest Zen gates. After a morning in nature, return to Kyoto for lunch and continue your tour.

Change into a kimono for a tea ceremony, ending with a taste of matcha and traditional sweets. Change out of your kimono and leave the tea house for the nearby Samurai & Ninja Museum, where you'll have the option to try on full samurai armor and pose with replica swords while learning the art of handling a katana and about Japan's military nobility and covert agents who played important roles in feudal Japan. At the end of your tour, enjoy your last night in Kyoto on your own.

Day 13: Train to Osaka, Guided Tour & Umeda Sky Building & Dotonbori 

Tour Osaka Castle, originally built in the 1500s

An hour's train ride takes you to Osaka today, where you'll meet your guide for a tour of the city combining history with modern amenities. At Osaka Castle, see a reconstruction of a castle built in the 1500s and walk around its lush grounds. Learn more about the city's history at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living, where exhibits explain the Edo period and other significant points in Osaka's past.

In the afternoon, take the elevator at Umeda Sky Building to Kuchu Teien Observatory for city views. Back at ground level, explore Shinsaibashi—a 1,698-foot (600 m) long arcade filled with clothing stores and restaurants. Spend the evening on your own in the Dotonbori district, known for its bright lights and variety of street food. Try okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), deep-fried skewers, and taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes) for dessert. Enjoy your last night in Japan, and prepare for your departure tomorrow.

Day 14: Depart Osaka

Enjoy your last morning in Japan's charming Osaka
Your journey through South Korea and Japan ends today after breakfast. Meet your driver for a transfer to the airport and then a flight to your next destination. 

More Great South Korea Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to South Korea? Check out these other South Korea itineraries, explore different ways to spend two weeks in South Korea, or discover the best time to visit South Korea.


A note on diacritical and retroflex markings: In order to support the best technical experience and search functions, diacritical markings have been omitted from this article.


Map of  Best of South Korea & Japan: Seoul, Busan, Tokyo & Kyoto - 14 Days
Map of Best of South Korea & Japan: Seoul, Busan, Tokyo & Kyoto - 14 Days
Written by Kelly Lu, updated Jun 27, 2023