Journeys International, a tour operator specializing in small-group trips, recently added South Korea to its offerings, with the first departure set for Sept. 28.
The 11-day Discover South Korea tour, for groups of two to 12, includes stops in Seoul, visiting popular sights such as Gyeongbok Palace, the National Folklore Museum and Jogyesa Temple; Andong, a thriving agricultural area and home to Hahoe Folk Village, a Unesco World Heritage site; the volcanic island of Jeju, another Unesco World Heritage site; Busan, the country's second-largest city; and the demilitarized zone.
Already offering an extensive slate of tours throughout Asia — popular destinations such as China, Japan and Thailand as well as less-visited countries such as Bhutan, Ladakh and Laos — Journeys International decided to go ahead with a South Korea itinerary after finding partners that "really understood our small-group approach to travel and the importance of getting away from major tourist sites to understand the essence of a place," said Robin Weber Pollak, company president.
"We've wanted to build a program in South Korea for a long time and have heard interest from travelers who have wanted to go," Weber Pollak said, but the company held off because "the Korean approach to travel trends toward large bus tours and mass-market photo ops."
Seongsan Ilchulbong peak on Jeju; the island is one of the stops on Journeys International’s Discover South Korea tour.
"After some legwork, though, we are confident that we have a partnership in place that will lead to successful small-group trips, unique itineraries and meaningful experiences for travelers," she said.
Part of that legwork included finding appropriate accommodations.
"When determining lodging, we look at a number of factors, including location, comfort, cleanliness [and] local authenticity," Weber Pollak said. "We don't typically stay at the shiniest, five-star hotels — unless a client requests it — but aim instead to provide hotel choices where travelers are comfortable and content but don't feel like they've stepped out of their destination and back into the U.S."
Hotels on the Discover South Korea itinerary include the IP Boutique Hotel in Seoul, the Goryeo Hotel in Andong, the Commodore Hotel in Gyeongju, the Seacloud Hotel in Busan and the Ocean Suites Hotel in Jeju.
Journeys International specializes in customizable tours, and the South Korea trip is no different, according to Weber Pollak.
"We can work with clients to develop custom itineraries for any dates and length of time they prefer," she said. "In addition, we are in the process of developing a Seoul excursion as well as shorter tour options."
It's all part of the operator's efforts to create an itinerary for a clientele described by Weber Pollak as "curious travelers who know what intrigues them and who know that South Korea is a safe, developed, culturally rich country. Savvy travelers also know there is more to Korea than K-pop and tech businesses, and they are eager to explore deeper."
The Discover South Korea tour is $4,000 per person, land only, and includes double-occupancy accommodations, land transfers and entrance fees for parks and other attractions. Visit www.journeysinternational.com/southkorea.