15-day Best of South Korea & Japan (2019)

south korea and japan tours

Seoul – Gyeongju – Busan – Osaka – Nara – Kyoto – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Tokyo

Join us on this exciting journey to experience the essence of the Land of Morning Calm and the Land of the Rising Sun!

One departure only! 

Important Features

  • Expert local guides.
  • Experienced tour leader (for groups of 10 plus).
  • Tips for local guides and drivers included.
  • Small group size – 20 maximum.
  • Premium accommodations.
  • Quality and authentic local cuisine.
  • No forced shopping stops of any kind.
  • Traditional full-course welcome and farewell dinners.

Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner

Scroll down for dates, prices, hotel list and documentation requirements.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1/Thu: Departing for Seoul

Depart from any city you prefer. The tour price doesn’t include international airfare but you can count on Laurus Travel for super-competitive fare quotes.

Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Seoul

Upon arrival transfer to the centrally located hotel on your own. To cover the 50 km, taxi fare from Incheon International Airport costs between 70,000 and 100,000 Korean Won ($65-$90 USD) including expressway toll charge, but many passengers prefer the Airport Railroad Express which costs 14,800 Won ($12.50) one way per person. You need to get off at Seoul Station and take a short taxi ride to the hotel. Alternatively, you can take airport limousine bus which has a stop at Tmark Hotel.

Day 3/Sat: Seoul (B/L/D)

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, 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.

Our full-day tour includes Gyengbokgung Palace, Myeong-dong district (fashion, market, churches) and N Seoul Tower. Tonight we enjoy a sumptuous welcome dinner featuring famous Korean dishes.

Day 4/Sun: Seoul – Gyeongju (B/L)

Enjoy an excursion to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the village of Panmunjom. 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 also includes Freedom Bridge and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel and observing life on the other side from the Dora Observatory.

We travel to Gyeongju by express train (2 hours, 300 km) later in the day.

Day 5/Mon: Gyeongju (B/L)

Gyeongju is a city on South Korea’s 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.

We spend the afternoon exploring Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple – both inscribed as UNESCO Heritage Sites in 1995.

Day 6/Tue: Gyeongju – Busan (B/L)

Following breakfast we drive 16 km north to Yangdong Folk Village. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897).

After lunch we continue on to Busan where we visit the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a seaside Buddhist temple built in 1376. Busan is Korea’s second largest city. Bursting with mountains and beaches, hot springs and seafood, South Korea’s second-largest city is a rollicking port town with tonnes to offer.

Day 7/Wed: Busan (B/L)

Today we visit the bustling Jagalchi fish market, Gujesijang market and Yongdusan Park.

Day 8/Thu: Busan – Osaka (B/D)

Free morning to explore on your own. We fly to Osaka in the afternoon. 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 9/Fri: Osaka – Nara – Kyoto (B/L/D)

This morning, after touring Osaka Castle, and Dotonbori District by cruise, we drive to Nara.

Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and former capital of Japan (710-794). With a population of roughly 370,000 and an area of 280 square kilometers, the city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest collectively form “the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We visit Nara Park (where 1,200 wild sika deer roam free) and Todai-ji Temple (Great Image Buddha) before continuing on to Kyoto.

Day 10/Sat: Kyoto (B/L)

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.

We begin this morning with an excursion to Arashiyama (Storm Mountain), a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Sites to visit here include the Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Forest.

Afternoon schedule takes in Ryoanji Temple and Kinkakuji Temple. Ryoanji literally means temple of dragon at peace. The garden inside is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui or dry landscape, a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth pebbles raked into linear patterns that facilitate meditation. The temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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 11/Sun: Kyoto (B)

We begin the day with a tour of Kiyomizu Temple. The temple represents the best of classical Japanese garden making and the massive veranda here provides stunning views of the city.

After a visit to Gion Preserved District, where you can grab something for lunch, we return to the hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure. If you need recommendations, we’d suggest Nijo Castle and Kyoto Imperial Palace.

Day 12/Mon: Kyoto – Tokyo (B/L/D)

After breakfast, we ride the bullet train (3.5 hours) to Tokyo. Lunch will be a bento box served on the train.

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.

Our afternoon sightseeing 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.

Day 13/Tue: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Tokyo (B/L)

Full day excursion to Mt Fuji and Hakone by coach. Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain (3,776 m) in Japan, is a two-hour drive from Tokyo. We first stop by the Fuji Visitor Center to learn about current weather conditions as well as the history, formation and ecology of Mt. Fuji through exhibits and films. We then proceed to Mt Fuji’s 5th Station sitting at 2300 metres above sea level.

After lunch, we enjoy a 15-minute cruise on Lake Ashi. 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. Tour the Owakudani Geothermal Valley before returning to Tokyo.

Day 14/Wed: Tokyo (B/D)

Our first stop today is Edo-Tokyo Museum to explore the history of Tokyo. The main features of the permanent exhibitions are the life-size replica of the Nihonbashi bridge, the Nakamuraza theatre and scale models of towns and buildings from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods.

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.

Our final stop is Tokyo Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city.

Enjoy a full-course Japanese style farewell dinner.

Day 15/Thu: Tokyo – Return Home (B)

Your wonderful Korea and Japan tour ends this morning. The guide will escort you to the airport express train or shuttle bus for your transfer to Narita or Haneda airport. Guests returning to North America will gain a day upon crossing the International Date Line, thus arriving home the same day.

south korea and japan tours

City Nights Hotel Category
Seoul 2 Tmark Grand Hotel first class
Gyeongju 2 Hyundai Hotel Gyeongju first class
Busan 2 GnB Hotel first class
Osaka 1 ANA Crowne Plaza Osaka first class
Kyoto 3 ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto first class
Tokyo 3 Tokyo Dome Hotel or similar first class
  • Price based on double occupancy. Payment by cheque or cash only.
  • Credit card not accepted except for deposit. See Terms & Conditions for details.

Dates & Prices

Land Tour
Single Supplement
Oct-03 Oct-17 $8950/$6900 $3030/$2370

What the tour price includes:

  • Hotel accommodations.
  • Local economy class air where applicable.
  • Standard/Ordinary Class seat on high-speed train.
  • Daily meals as specified.
  • Guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary.
  • tips for local guides and drivers.
  • English-speaking guides throughout tour.
  • A full-time tour leader for groups with 10+ guests – the tour leader may double as local guide wherever we see fit.
What the tour price excludes:

  • International airfare.
  • Passport and visa charges.
  • Tips for tour leader where applicable – tipping the tour leader is completely at the guest’s discretion and our recommended amount is $10 USD per day per guest.

When dealing with Laurus Travel, you don’t need to worry about hidden charges because there are none!

See Terms & Conditions for more information.

Passport & Visa Requirements

A passport with at least one (1) blank visa page and six (6) months validity at the end of the tour is required.

Visa is not required of nationals from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and a host of Western countries.

Health & Immunization

You are not required of any inoculation certificate to enter South Korea and Japan. However, we do suggest you visit your family physician or a travel medicine clinic to determine what precautions you should take. We recommend inoculation shots for hepatitis A and suggest that you check out advice provided by the US CDC and Health Canada.

Tap water is potable but the taste of chlorine may be a bit strong, especially in South Korea. You can get rid of the unpleasant taste by boiling the water – each hotel room is furnished with an electric kettle. When you travel to another country, stomach upset may be an issue even though the food is clean and fully cooked. This is because your stomach is still adapting to the ingredients or minerals in the local food.

Always carry a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer containing more than 60% of alcohol, no matter where you go. This advice applies even if you are travelling in your own country.

A Special Note on Train Travel

Since the trip involves train travel, it’s important that you limit yourself to one suitcase and one carry-on with a combined weight of 15 kilograms (33 lbs) or less. Your suitcase should have wheels and measure 25″ by 18″ by 10″ or smaller. The carry-on should be a backpack so that you’ll have a hand free at all time. Having a hand free at all time can significantly reduce severity of injury in case of falling down. If you find our recommendation too hard to accept, please talk to us before signing up. Navigating subway and train stations means lots of walking and going up and down on narrow escalators. If you bring a heavy bag, not only will you struggle to catch up with the group but you may have a hard time finding storage space on the train.

Click here for more advice.