20 Photos to Make You Fall in Love with Traditional Korea

I‘m going to be perfectly honest. What drew me to Korea as a high school senior was K-pop. The bubblegum pop, the pretty faces, the over the top glitz… I ate it all up. I spent my first summer in Seoul indulging in all the food, attempting drinking soju, trying to run into Kpop celebrities, and getting caught up in the cheap shopping life. I never learned about traditional Korea and never even made it to Gyeonkbokgung in the six weeks I was here.

When I came back to teach, my main concern was making sure I was far out of the city. I didn’t want to get caught up in a very specific version of Korea that reflects only a small percentage of its culture. Since then, I’ve spent time getting to know a more traditional Korea, one that gets shuffled in the mix of soju, Gangnam, and K-pop. It’s easily my favorite part of this country, and I’m sure you’ll fall a little in love after seeing these pictures.

1. Hanboks at GyeongbokgungHanboks in Gyeongbokgung

Hanboks are a traditional form of Korean dress. Koreans wear them for special holidays, but you can also rent one to wear around in many of the big traditional areas. I believe you even get into Gyeongbokgung for free if you’re wearing one! I just love the contrast between this girl’s pretty hanbok and her very modern sneakers.

2. Shrine to Yi Sun Shin at Hansando, Tongyeong
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Yi Sun Shin is a major Korean war hero, and Hansado in Tongyeong was one of his important bases.

3. Burial Mounds in Gyeongju
Check out these beautiful photos of a more traditional Korea to make you fall in love with this country and forget all about its city image.

Though they look like giant hills, they’re actually burial tombs from the Silla dynasty. You can climb up some of the free tombs outside of the main park to get a beautiful view of Gyeongju.

4. Hansando
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Fun fact, the waters around Hansando are actually known as one of Tongyeong’s most beautiful views.

5. Ceiling DetailsDSC_1482

Look at any traditional structure in Korea, and look up at the ceiling. You’ll be impressed every time.

6. Drying Dyed Scarves in HanbolDSC_0921

One of the very random work trips I have taken in my time here is out to Hanbol, a small literary village in Namwon. We dyed some silk scarves and learned about one of Namwon’s more traditional areas.

7. The Real Palace Not to MissDSC_1392

Shhh, don’t tell Gyeongbokgung, but Changdeokgung is easily the prettier palace, especially if we add its secret garden.

8. In Damyang’s Bamboo ForestDSC_0765

If you’re ever down south, definitely make Damyang a part of your trip. It has a beautiful bamboo forest and in the back it opens up to a little village area filled with traditional houses.

9. A Couple Dressed in Hanbok
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How cute is this couple? I do think the hanboks are such cute outfits, and I love seeing couples wearing them together. Plus, with the modern buildings in the background, it kind of looks like they’re walking towards their future together!

10. Actual Secret Garden Vibes
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Huwon is Changdeokgung’s massive garden. They call it a “secret garden,” but obviously it’s not very secret or private anymore. However, because they regulate who can come in and out, it’s still quite peaceful.

11. Reflections
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Is anyone else a little obsessed with capturing reflections? I just think they’re so interesting.

12. EntranceDSC_1405

I do kind of wonder where that door leads to now….

13. Gwanghallu in WinterDSC_1121

My favorite photo from Korea, this is of Gwanghallu, which is my town’s pride and joy. One of our half days during winter, friends and I decided to take advantage of the giant storm we had and capture Gwanghallu with all the freshly fallen snow.

14. Korea’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Chunhyang and Mongryeong
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Looking for a good story from traditional Korea? Look no farther than the love story of Chunhyang and Mongryeong. Actually, if you look up the story, it’s just called “Chunhyang” or “Chunhyangjeon” since it’s really more about her than them.

15. Nestled in Naejang Mountain
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I’m not 100% what this area is, but I think it’s a Buddhist temple area. We saw it when we took a cable car up to the peak at Naejangsan. Side note: how gorgeous is that fall foliage?

16. Sunset Over Jeonju Hanok VillageDSC_0547

I should mention hanok means “Korean House,” and it’s used to describe traditional style of housing compared to the looming apartment buildings we get now. Jeonju’s Hanok Village is easily the most famous (though Bukchon is a good alternative if you’re not leaving Seoul). It’s actually a bit criminal that I’ve only been here twice given how often I go to Jeonju…

17. Early Spring
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If you can, early spring in Korea is gorgeous. The cherry blossoms are out and everything is beginning to bloom, but winter still lingers in the barren trees and cold weather.

18. Corner Details in Gyeongju
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The details, I’m tellin’ ya!

19. Cheomseongdae ObservatoryDSC_0358

This guy is going to be much smaller than you expect, but that doesn’t make its long history any less impressive. It’s been around since the 7th century!

20. Hyangwongjeong Pavilion
Hyangwongjeong Pavilion

One of the most Gyeongbokgung’s most famous images, this beautiful pavilion is in a pond surrounded by lily pads.

So, are you in love yet? I have so many more photos, so definitely look out for a part two later this year ;) I’ll probably make it when I’m back in the States and missing all this architecture.

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42 Comments

  1. August 29, 2016 / 9:09 pm

    NIce post! These photographs are wonderful. I’ve been in Korea for over six months now, and I still need to see many of these places. Thanks for giving me some ideas!

    • September 2, 2016 / 8:35 am

      Thank you, Matt! Haha don’t worry, nearly at 2 years and I still feel like I have more to see!

  2. August 17, 2016 / 12:39 am

    This looks so amazing! One of my closest friends is Korean and she said it’s such a beautiful country, just have to explore outside of Seoul and head to the mountains/coast/islands and this totally shows that beauty! Xo Chloe

    • August 19, 2016 / 6:32 am

      She’s so right! The coast is my favorite because I love the water. Thank you :) I’m glad you enjoyed!

  3. August 14, 2016 / 8:31 pm

    I love all the photos and how you chose to introduce the traditional Korea! I’m Japanese and I love showing traditional sides of it as much as I love the modern side of it, too! Thanks so much for joining us on FlyAwayFriday – LOVE your blog! If you’re on bloglovin let me know and I’ll follow you ASAP! Hope to see you next week! xo

    • August 19, 2016 / 6:30 am

      Hi! I’m glad you enjoy :) Oh man I love traditional Japanese culture! It’s so beautiful and when you think of all the ways the younger generation still incorporates it today, it’s awesome! I’m glad to join :) I am on bloglovin! Will find you!

  4. August 14, 2016 / 12:04 am

    Ahhh loved these! I’ve been living here in Seoul for three months now and really want to heck out more of the traditional aspects of the city and outside the city. This gave me some great ideas!

    • September 2, 2016 / 8:34 am

      Definitely! A few of my friends are from Seoul, and I lived there for six weeks in college– it’s so easy to never leave!

  5. August 13, 2016 / 11:47 pm

    Beautiful photos! My friend has been talking about Korea since I met him so it’s definitely high on my bucket list.

    • August 17, 2016 / 3:49 am

      Definitely come visit! Haha it’s so beautiful and honestly not a big travel destination, especially outside of Seoul!

  6. August 13, 2016 / 12:25 pm

    Beautiful pictures! I spent about 2 days in Seoul in December. I want to go back when it is not so cold. The other thing you could add to your list would be some food pictures. I really enjoyed the food!

    • August 17, 2016 / 3:48 am

      Oh man yeah! December is quite cold/dreary for Korea! Haha don’t worry, once I’ve accumulated all the food pictures I want, there’s a post coming for that :p

  7. August 13, 2016 / 7:48 am

    Wow! Talk about Wanderlust! I just added a new place to my bucketlist! I would love to see the k-pop culture as you mention, as well as the traditional architecture and monuments! What a cool contrast :)

    • August 17, 2016 / 3:47 am

      Haha yay! I’m so glad you’ve added it :) It’s such a beautiful country, and it’s even better if you do like K-pop (always fun when you accidentally run into an idol!).

  8. August 13, 2016 / 5:51 am

    These pictures are beautiful and together with the descriptions result in a quickfire education! I know next to nothing about Korea, having only been in Seoul airport for an hour as a connection. The architecture is stunning and the shot of corner in Gyeongju is stunning. Great Post! Love C and D x

    • August 17, 2016 / 3:46 am

      Thank you so much! Korea is definitely beautiful, and so underrated as a travel destination! Come visit :)

  9. August 12, 2016 / 11:24 am

    Beautiful photos, Samantha. Gwanghallu is so beautiful. I haven’t heard of the place until this post and you captured it so beautifully. I need to look up that place as soon as I’m done commenting.

    • August 12, 2016 / 11:11 pm

      Thank you, Wendy! Haha yes definitely visit :) Namwon is such a cute city as a whole, and Gwanghallu is simply gorgeous!

  10. August 8, 2016 / 12:26 pm

    Beautiful photos! But if I may suggest, I also think that sometimes the people also makes me in love with traditional Korea. For example, that event where the old ladies dive into freezing cold water, and how people (used to) celebrate the birth of a child. Thank you for sharing! :)

    • August 11, 2016 / 12:22 pm

      Thank you! And yes, definitely the people :) (I just don’t happen to have photos of them!)

  11. August 8, 2016 / 7:52 am

    Very nice list. Aside from the food, the history and traditional culture are what draws me to Korea! (Of course I first met Korean’s in Toronto and was introduced to Kpop before anything else.) Before learning about Korea I was very intrigued with Japanese culture. The traditional side of things are the most interesting about these countries.
    There are a few places in your list I will need to go check out. I’ve yet to explore much out of the Seoul, and Gyeonggi area. The palaces and such I frequent very often and love!

    • September 2, 2016 / 8:33 am

      Thank you for reading! Definitely, the true gems are spread out through the rest of the country :)

  12. August 8, 2016 / 6:17 am

    I always love your photos, Sam! This is a beautiful selection. The traditional/ natural parts of Korea are also becoming my favourite! I fell so hard for Gyeongju when I visited over Lunar New Year- should really go again soon and see it all it’s green glory! Thanks so much for sharing- I have even more places to put on my list now! :D

    • August 8, 2016 / 9:59 am

      Thanks Nicole! Actually a few of us in Namwon are planning on going on weekend in September (not sure yet!) to Gyeongju, so if you’re free you should come with! I’d love to re-see everything again! It really is such a beautiful place. And feel free to visit Namwon :) It’s awesome!

  13. August 7, 2016 / 5:51 pm

    Gwanghallu is gorgeous! Great capture and anything in Gyeongju just holds my heart!

  14. August 5, 2016 / 7:32 am

    Nice shots, I;ve been to several places you mentioned here and yes, these images really make us even more in love to Korea. This country is not just all about K-pop and shopping and Gangnam, there’s more to it than we ever know. I think I will do something like this on my own blog. I just have to check my photos though.

    • August 7, 2016 / 10:53 am

      Thank you :) Haha I’m glad you like the photos! Yes, definitely! I think the more we spread the different aspects of Korea, the more love it’ll get from the travelin’ community!

  15. August 3, 2016 / 7:46 am

    Looking at these photos made me feel nostalgia! I love #18 quite a bit. Love your style of photography. Nailed it!

    • August 3, 2016 / 7:58 am

      Thanks so much, Laura! :) Haha it’s definitely been a work in progress!

  16. August 3, 2016 / 2:30 am

    You really did fall in love with Gyeongju! I couldn’t fit all my love for the area into just one post. You’ve actually managed to open my eyes to a couple of new places, plus I’m kicking myself for not making it to the secret garden in the spring…

    • August 3, 2016 / 5:30 am

      Haha I did! I’m headed back in September too! Most of my photos came out crap since a setting was messed up, so I’m determined to go back and recapture all I saw the first time. And don’t worry, I’ve seen pics and it looks even prettier in the fall!

  17. August 3, 2016 / 1:55 am

    Beautiful photos! With fall coming soon, this will be the perfect time for me explore the areas you mentioned, especially Gwanghallu and Tongyeong! I also agree, Changdeokgung is much more prettier than Gyeonkbokgung.

    • August 3, 2016 / 5:29 am

      Thank you! Definitely come visit Namwon and Gwanghallu in the fall, especially with all the leaves! It’s seriously gorgeous, I used to take the long way home from work just to walk by the river!

  18. August 2, 2016 / 12:16 pm

    Yes I am in love! Korea is high on my list of places to visit. I have a Korean student who came in dressed in a hanbok for a special occasion. I agree that they are beautiful!

    • August 3, 2016 / 5:29 am

      Yes, definitely come visit! Ahh I do love the hanboks so much. There’s this new trend called the “modern hanbok,” and I’ve been endlessly searching for one to take home with me.

  19. August 2, 2016 / 9:16 am

    Korea is really lovely and looks very nostalgic. I love your photos and I cannot wait for my first trip to Korea on January. It makes me really excited.

    • August 2, 2016 / 10:35 am

      It is! Especially the more traditional areas ☺️ You’ll definitely enjoy this country! Since you’re coming in winter you should try going to Daedunsan! The bridge and winter scenery is supposed to be gorgeous!

  20. August 2, 2016 / 5:40 am

    What a great selection of photos to showcase Korea! Some of these places I haven’t even heard of or I didn’t know the proper name! I love that you have been featured on all those IG accounts on the bottom! Way to go girl! Keep up the awesome work!

    • August 2, 2016 / 6:51 am

      Haha I had to do some googling to find them! And thank you :) It was super exciting when I got those notifications!

  21. August 2, 2016 / 3:39 am

    This is a really fresh perspective of Korea and a beautiful one at that. Loved all the pictures, the one of Gwanghallu is out of this world.

    • August 2, 2016 / 5:14 am

      Thank you so much! Korea is definitely gorgeous, and while the fast city life thing a lot of tourism is promoting is awesome, it definitely overshadows some things I think more outside travelers would be drawn to!

      And yes, it’s a beautiful area! We had been wanting to take photos in the snow all winter, but the storms were either too small or kept melting before had time to!

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