Luxury tour for history buffs and gourmands!
Seoul – Gyeongju – Busan – Taipei – Taroko National Park – Yilan – Sun Moon Lake – Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo
This meticulously crafted itinerary combines the key highlights these destinations have to offer with a primary focus on culture, history, fine food and hiking. Conducted by an expert tour leader well versed in the culture and history of all three destinations, you are in for a special treat!
- Small group size – 16 maximum
- Expert guide(s)
- Luxury accommodations
- All gratuities
- All applicable taxes and surcharges
- Gourmet food both local and western
- No forced shopping stops
- Cultural shows and cooking classes
- Daily breakfasts and most lunches and dinners
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Scroll down for dates, prices, hotel list and documentation requirements.
Day 1/Sat: Departing for Seoul
Fly to Seoul from a city of your choice. International air is not included. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Sun: Arrival in Seoul
Transfer to the hotel by airport limousine shuttle bus on your own upon arrival at Incheon International Airport.
Some travellers prefer the Airport Railroad Express which costs 9,000 Won (US$8) per person in combination of taxi on arrival at Seoul Station.
Getting to the hotel by taxi direct from the airport, which is 50km west of Seoul, should cost between 70,000 and 100,000 Korean Won or US$65 to US$90 including expressway toll charge.
Day 3/Mon: Seoul (B/L/D)
Capital of South Korea, Seoul is a huge metropolis where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet Buddhist temples, palaces and street markets. Notable attractions include futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a convention hall with curving architecture and a rooftop park; Gyeongbokgung Palace, which once had more than 7,000 rooms; and Jogyesa Temple, site of ancient locust and pine trees.
Full-day sightseeing in Seoul includes Gyengbokgung Palace, Myeong-dong district (fashion, market, churches), N Seoul Tower and the National Museum of Korea.
Day 4/Tue: Seoul – DMZ- Seoul (B/L)
This morning we embark on a half-day excursion to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ divides North Korea and South Korea and is one of the last remnants of the Cold War. The DMZ runs across the Korean Peninsula and roughly follows the 38th parallel north (popular name given to latitude 38° N) on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. With over a million soldiers on watch each day, this stretch of land measuring 250 kilometres (160 miles) long and about 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide is the most fortified border in the world. Our itinerary includes Freedom Bridge, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel and observing life on the other side from the Dora Observatory. If you have claustrophobia, please stay away from the tunnel!
We return to the city after lunch and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 5/Wed: Seoul – Gyeongju – Busan (B/L/D)
This morning we travel to Geongju by by high-speed train (300km, 2 hours). Sightseeing in and around Gyeongju takes in Yangdong Folk Village, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa (Bhuddist temple) – all listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Gyeongju is on the southeast coast. It was the capital of the 1,000-year-long Silla dynasty and is known for its extensive historical remains. The 8th-century Bulguksa Temple features twin stone pagodas, a series of wooden staircases and a large bronze Buddha. Nearby, Seokguram Grotto houses a towering seated Buddha and offers panoramic views of the sun rising over the Sea of Japan.
If time allows, we’ll make a quick stop at a royal tomb called Cheonmachong before continuing on to Busan.
Day 6/Thu: Busan (B/L)
Bursting with mountains and beaches, hot springs and seafood, Busan is a rollicking port city with tonnes to offer.
We begin the day with a visit to the United Nations War Cemetery to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers during Korean War. The rest of the day is spent at Jagalchi fish market, Gujesijang market and a nice oceanfront park called Dongbaek where the 2005 APEC Summit was held.
Day 7/Fri: Busan – Taipei (B/D)
Morning or noon flight to Taipei takes 2 hours 30 minutes.
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, which should not be confused with the People’s Republic of China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. With a population around 2.7 million, Taipei is also the economic, educational, and cultural center of Taiwan and one of the major hubs of transportation in East Asia.
Afternoon sightseeing takes place at the National Palace Museum which houses a huge collection of national treasures removed from the Forbidden City in Beijing when the national government under the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) fled to Taiwan in 1949.
Day 8/Sat: Taipei (B/L)
We begin the day with a tour of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Built in commemoration of the Kuomintang leader who fled the mainland with his government in 1949, the memorial hall is a landmark in Taipei and a major tourist attraction whose change of guard taking place multiple times during the day draws large crowds.
This is followed by a cooking class which should last 2 to 3 hours, during which you’ll learn to make xiaolongbao, Chinese beef noodle soup plus one or two other dishes.
Afterwards we tour Dalongdong Bao’an Temple, an old house of worship that embraces Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism all at the same time. Later on, we visit the 508-metre-tall Taipei 101, a new symbol of the city.
We spend the evening exploring a crowded but very safe night market that offers an abundance of mouth-watering street food.
Day 9/Sun: Taipei – Taroko National Park (B/L/D)
This morning we drive 160km (3 hours) to Taroko National Park located on the northeast coast of Taiwan. Taroko is famous not only for its deep marble gorges but also for the aboriginal tribal culture. After a delicious lunch at a popular restaurant staffed by local Austronesian aboriginals, we spend the whole afternoon exploring the spectacular national park.
Overnight at a resort in the park.
Day 10/Mon: Taroko National Park – Yilan (B/L/D)
Our exploration of Taroko National Park this morning features a 2-hour hike over mountainous terrain. Travellers who are overweight or not into hiking can sit it out.
After lunch we drive to the county seat of Yilan where we stay at luxurious urban resort famous for hot spring bathing. This part of Taiwan is paradise for hot spring lovers. Dinner at an incredibly popular roast chicken restaurant that has the aura of sidewall food stall.
Day 11/Tue: Yilan – Sun Moon Lake (B/L/D)
Free morning to relax (maybe more hot spring bathing?) or explore on your own. The afternoon drive from Yilan to Sun Moon Lake takes three and a half hours.
Surrounded by forested peaks and crisscrossed by foot trails, the 7.93-square-kilometre Sun Moon Lake is a popular resort destination all year round due to mild climate (elevation 748 metres).
The area around the lake is home to the Thao tribe, one of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. The tiny island in the lake called Lalu is sacred to the Thao people and off limit to tourists. East of the lake, the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village is a theme park with a section devoted to re-created indigenous villages. Displays here include centuries-old carved lintel pieces, handicrafts and weapons.
Day 12/Wed: Sun Moon Lake (B)
Today’s schedule includes a cruise on the lake, visit to the aboriginal cultural village and a scenic spot or two around the lake for photography. We spend the rest of the day exploring the town by the lake.
Day 13/Thu: Sun Moon Lake – Osaka (B)
This morning we drive to Taoyuan Airport near Taipei to fly to Osaka. The flight is almost three hours. Depending on flight schedule, sightseeing may be arranged in Taipei or Osaka.
Situated at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is Japan’s third largest city by population after Tokyo and Yokohama, and serves as a major economic hub. Osaka was once known as the “nation’s kitchen” because of its role as Japan’s rice trading centre during the Edo period.
Day 14/Fri: Osaka – Kyoto (B/L)
This morning after a tour of Osaka Castle, we drive to Kyoto (1 hour).
Nicknamed City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto (literally: capital city) served as Japan’s capital for more than one thousand years before the imperial court moved to Tokyo in 1868 AD, at the beginning of Meiji Restoration (1868 to 1912 – a historical period responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation in the early 20th century). Kyoto is a scaled replica of China’s Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). With a population of 1.5 million, Kyoto forms a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.
Afternoon sightseeing in Kyoto begins with Kiyomizu Temple whose massive veranda provides stunning views of the city. We spend the rest of the day exploring a traditional entertainment district known as Gion.
Day 15/Sat: Kyoto (B/L)
We begin the day with a tour of historical Nijo Castle, the site that saw the beginning and ending of the Tokugawa shogunate (1600-1868).
We then embark on an excursion to Arashiyama (Storm Mountain), a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Sites to visit here include the Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryu-ji Temple and the Bamboo Forest.
Afternoon schedule takes in Kinkakuji Temple. Kinkaku-ji, meaning Temple of Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The official name of the temple is actually Rokuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple) but is widely known as Golden Pavilion Temple because of the three-story building on the grounds of the temple. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf.
Day 16/Sun: Kyoto (B)
Today is set aside for you to explore on your own. It is not difficult to move around Kyoto by public transportation. We recommend Kyoto National Museum, Fushimi Inari Shrine (hiking) and a leisurely stroll along the photogenic Kano River. Please feel free to ask if you need additional recommendations.
Day 17/Mon: Kyoto – Tokyo (B/L)
After breakfast we ride the bullet train to Tokyo, which takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Tokyo, literally meaning Eastern Capital and officially known as Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and one of the most populous mega-cities in the world with 13.5 million living in the prefecture and close to 38 million in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. Formerly known as Edo, the city has been the de facto seat of government since 1603 when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarter – Shoguns, although appointed by the emperor, were the de facto rulers of Japan during the shogunate period from 1192 to 1867. The city was renamed Tokyo after Emperor Meiji moved his seat here from Kyoto in 1868. Covering an area of 2, 188 square kilometres, Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Afternoon sightseeing in Tokyo begins with a stroll through the plaza outside the Imperial Palace (the palace itself is not open to tourists). This is followed by a visit to tranquil Meiji Jingu – a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.
We then drive through ritzy Ginza shopping district on our way to Nakamise-Dori in Asakusa. Nakamise-Dori is a vibrant promenade lined with food stands and souvenir shops. The street connects the famous Asakusa sightseeing spots of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and Asakusa Kannon Temple (also known as Senso-ji Temple), the oldest temple in Tokyo dating back to 628 AD.
Day 18/Tue: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Tokyo (B/L)
We depart at 7:30 AM to embark on a full-day excursion to Mt Fuji and Hakone.
Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain (3,776 m) in Japan, is a two-hour drive from Tokyo. We stop by the Fujisan World Heritage Center to view the summit as well as learn the history, formation and ecology of Mt. Fuji through exhibits and films. It is a matter of luck whether the summit is visible as Mt. Fuji is often shrouded in clouds. In case you wonder, our schedule does not include hiking the mountain not only because it opens to hikers only from July to early September but also because it takes at least six hours to complete the hike even if you start from the highest station – the Fifth Station located at 2,305 metres above sea level.
We then proceed to Lake Ashi in Hakone for a short cruise across the lake. This is followed by a breathtaking ride of the Hakone Ropeway, which, on a clear day, offers stunning views of Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountain slopes dotted with lakes. At the end of the ride is the Owakudani Geothermal Valley where we spend about half an hour before returning to Tokyo.
Day 19/Wed: Tokyo (B/D)
Free day to explore on your own. We recommend Edo-Tokyo Museum, Tokyo National Museum, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building where the panoramic observation decks on 45th floor (202 meters) are open to the public free of charge.
Day 20/Thu: Returning Home (B)
Transfer to the airport by airport limousine shuttle bus. Bus ticket is not included in the tour price. The ticket to Narita Airport costs 3,100 Yen and to Haneda airport 1,500 Yen. Narita airport is also serviced by JR N’Ex Airport Express Train. Taxi to Narita costs US$250 but tipping is not expected. The charge to Haneda should be around US$75.
|Seoul||3||The Westin Chosun Seoul||luxury/5 stars|
|Busan||2||Lotte Hotel Busan||luxury/5 stars|
|Taipei||2||The Sherwood Taipei||luxury/5 stars|
|Taroko National Park||1||Silks Place Taroko||luxury/5 stars|
|Yilan||1||Evergreen Resort||luxury/5 stars|
|Sun Moon Lake||2||Fleur de Chine||luxury/5 stars|
|Osaka||1||New Otani Osaka||luxury/5 stars|
|Kyoto||3||The Royal Park Shijo||premium/boutique|
|Tokyo||3||New Otani Garden Tower||luxury/5 stars|
Dates and Prices 2020 & 2021
* Land Only price does not include international air. Contact us for a competitive fare quote.
|Tour price includes:
||Tour price does NOT include:
Visa is not required of visitors from Western countries.
Budget a few hundred dollars for incidentals and meals not included in the tour price.
See Terms & Conditions for more information.