Discover South Korea & Japan
- Duration15 Nights
- StylePrivate Tour
- When to GoFeb-May & Sep-Nov
- Price GuideFrom $7,240 Per Person
At a Glance
- Arrive Seoul Incheon and private transfer to downtown hotel
- Full day city tour of Seoul including Gwanghwamun, Gyeongbuk Palace, Bukchon Hanok village, and Korean Folklore Museum
- Private gimbap cooking class
- Semi-private day tour to the DMZ
- Half-day tour to Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, with Galbi lunch
- High-speed train to Gyeongju, Korea’s cultural capital
- Full day tour including the National Museum, Tumuli Park, Cheomseongdae, Bulguksa, and Seokguram
- Transfer to Busan with private driver-guide
- Afternoon tour including Gamcheon Cultural Village, Jagalchi and Gukje Markets
- Further half day tour including Haedong Yonggussa & Gichang
- Free afternoon to explore independently
- Fly to Osaka Kansai Airport and private car transfer to Kyoto
- Full-day private city tour including Ryoanji, Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle, Kiyomizudera, and a private tea ceremony
- Free day to arrange further activities or side trip to Nara or Osaka
Hakone National Park
- Transfer to Hakone by bullet train and then pre-booked taxi
- Two-night stay in ryokan accommodation, with breakfast and dinner
- Free afternoon to enjoy hot springs, hikes, and local attractions
- Scenic train journey from Hakone to Tokyo
- Tokyo street food & izakaya tour
- Half-day city tour including Hamarikyu Gardens, Meiji Shrine, and Omotesando
- Arts and crafts tour of Asakusa, including Senso-ji
- Transfer to Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airport by shuttle bus or train
Meet Our Expert
I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- 13 nights in 4-star city hotels including daily breakfast
- 2 nights in 4* ryokan accommodation in Hakone including breakfast and dinner
- 4x additional lunches and 2x additional dinners during selected tours
- Private arrival and departure airport transfers in Seoul, Busan, Osaka, and Tokyo
- Private road transport in Gyeongju and Busan
- Private taxi transfers between Odawara Station and Hakone ryokan
- All individual train tickets as described in Standard Class
- Pre-loaded local transport cards for use in Korea and Japan
- 3-day Hakone Free Pass
- Small group DMZ tour from Seoul
- All other tours & activities on fully private basis with private English-speaking guides
- All entrance fees and local permits
- Regional flight from Busan to Osaka in economy class
- Comprehensive self-guide travel pack and app
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
What's not Included
- International flights from your country of origin
- Tips or gratuities to guides, drivers, hotel staff
- Any meals, tours, or activities other than those specifically mentioned in itinerary
- Incidental local expenses - souvenirs, laundry, taxis, etc
- Travel insurance - we strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you have booked your trip.
Day by Day Itinerary
- Day 1
Seoul: Private arrival transfer to your hotel
Welcome to South Korea! On arrival, you will be greeted in the arrivals hall of Seoul Incheon International Airport by a private English-speaking assistant, who will then escort you to a private vehicle for your transfer into downtown Seoul. After arriving at your hotel you’ll have the rest of the day at leisure to explore the dynamic South Korean capital.
- Day 2
Seoul: Private city tour & gimbap cooking class
This morning you’ll be met in the hotel lobby by a private English-speaking guide for a full-day tour of the Korean capital. Traveling by private car, you’ll first be taken to the wide expanse of Gwanghwamun: Seoul’s most famous street, with its imposing statues of national heroes King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun Shin. Arrive at the top of Gwanghwamun for the 10am ‘changing of the guard’ ceremony at the entrance to Gyeongbok Palace, then head into the beautiful palace itself to explore in-depth, including a visit to the Korean Folklore Museum. You’ll then head towards the city’s north to the picturesque Bukchon Hanok Village, littered with traditional courtyard-style ‘hanok’ accommodation and fine hilltop views across Seoul.
During the tour you will break for lunch with a private cooking class in Seoul, focusing on the iconic dish of gimbap. Led by a skilled local chef, this hands-on culinary adventure invites you to immerse yourself in the flavors and techniques of traditional Korean cooking.
- Day 3
Seoul: Small group tour of Demilitarized Zone
Today you’ll be taken for a small group tour of the DMZ. After making your own way to the departure point, a few minutes walk from your hotel you will join your small group tour.
Located just over an hour north of Seoul, the DMZ is an area of enormous historical and political area. To this day, no peace accord has been signed between North and South Korea; the two remain technically at war, and their border is the most heavily fortified on the planet. The exact schedule is always subject to change depending on local conditions, but stops typically include: Dora Observatory, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, the Imjingak Memorial the the Peace Gondola.
Lunch will be included during your tour, and you will arrive back at your hotel late afternoon, although your private guide will remain at your disposal – we recommend asking them to escort you to Gwangjang Market to dive into authentic Seoulite street cuisines.
- Day 4
Gyeongju: Visit Suwon Hwaseong Fortress then continue by train to Gyeongju
This morning your guide will take you out Seoul, heading south by road to the satellite city of Suwon. Here you’ll explore the immense & imposing UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hwaseong Fortress. Built in the 17th Century by Suwonite King Jeongjo, the fortress walls take around 2-3 hours to walk in full: you may choose to do the full circuit, or led by your guide’s suggestions, stop by a series of key structures and look-out points. At the center of the Fortress is a beautiful Palace – Hwaseong Haenggung – with a very interesting attached museum…plus an archery field where you can try your hand! For lunch you will be taken to a local restaurant to sample galbi: the Suwon specialty of marinated beef short rib, one of the most coveted BBQ dishes in all of Korea!
After lunch you’ll be dropped at Suwon’s high-speed rail station for your onward train to Gyeongju. On arrival you will be met by a private driver who will transport you to your hotel on Gyeongju’s Bomun Lake.
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- Day 5
Gyeongju: Full day guided tour
Set off after breakfast on a full-day private tour of Gyeongju in the company of your private driver-guide. Start with a visit to the National Museum of Gyeongju. This excellent museum showcases some of the city’s most treasured artifacts and provides a very effective primer on the history and scope of the Silla Kingdom. Next, you’ll head to Tumuli Park, where you’ll see the impressive burial mounds of Silla royalty. Adjacent is the Cheomseongdae Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical observatories in Asia. You’ll then break for lunch in a local restaurant (payable locally). In the afternoon, continue to the Bulguksa Temple: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered to be one of the most significant and impressive Buddhist temples in South Korea.
You’ll have plenty of time to explore the temple’s beautiful grounds and admire its intricate architecture. Finish the day with a visit to the Seokguram Grotto, another UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses a stunning Buddhist statue carved into the rock, then return to your hotel to rest.
- Day 6
Busan: Transfer by road to Busan & afternoon guided tour
After breakfast this morning, you’ll be picked up by your private driver-guide and then escorted by road to Busan. After some time to freshen up, you’ll set off with your guide to discover Busan. Your first destination is Gamcheon Village, a favela-like enclave of traditional housing known for its unique art installations where you’ll enjoy a leisurely walk through its narrow alleys and steep stairways. You’ll then leave the city center for a walk across the Songdo Yonggung Suspension Bridge.
Located around 20 minutes outside the city, this picturesque bridge links Amnam Park with the rocky Donseom Island, and offers excellent vistas of Busan’s skyline, the crystal-clear waters of the ocean, and the surrounding mountains. Back on land you’ll continue to the bustling Jagalchi Market: the largest seafood market in South Korea with its lively atmosphere and vibrant displays of fresh seafood.
You’ll then visit Gukje Market, one of Busan’s oldest and most famous traditional markets, known for its wide variety of goods, including clothing, accessories, souvenirs, and traditional Korean products. Your driver guide helps you navigate through the maze of bustling alleys, where you can shop for unique items, bargain with vendors, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere.
- Day 7
Busan: Guided tour of Haedong Yonggusa & Gichang
Meet your guide again this morning and set off to the city outskirts to visit the dramatically-sited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a stunning Buddhist temple situated on the eastern coast of Busan. Unlike many other temples in South Korea, Haedong Yonggungsa is located by the sea, offering breathtaking views of the ocean. You take a leisurely stroll through the temple grounds, admiring the intricate architecture, colorful decorations, and serene atmosphere. Along the way, you can light incense sticks and make wishes for good fortune at the temple’s various pagodas and statues.
Afterward, you head to Gijang, a picturesque fishing village on the outskirts of Busan. You have the opportunity to take a leisurely walk along the shoreline, feel the refreshing sea breeze, and soak in the natural serenity. Enjoy lunch in the village (payable locally) before returning to downtown Busan.
In the afternoon you’ll take a pleasant walk around Dongbaekseom Island. Located at the far end of Haeundae Beach, this coastal park offers several enjoyable walking trails through the forest and along the cliffs. You can also visit the Nurimaru APEC House and Dongbaekseom Lighthouse which sit at the far southern end of the park.
- Day 8
Kyoto: Fly to Osaka and private transfer to Kyoto
After an early breakfast you will be escorted privately from the hotel to Busan Gimhae Airport in time to check in for the short onward flight over the sea to Osaka.
On arrival in Osaka, you will be met in the arrivals hall by our local representative, who will welcome you to Japan and go through any immediate questions you might have. You will then be assisted to a private car in which you’ll enjoy a relaxed, hassle-free transfer to your hotel in Kyoto. Dependent on traffic, this transfer will take around 75-90 minutes.
- Day 9
Kyoto: Private city tour
This morning you will meet a private guide for a half-day tour of Kyoto, using public transport and taxis to discover the city’s rich array of cultural treasures. Head north of the city and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. The final stop of the morning can be Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden. Originally served as an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period, the site was later on converted into a Zen Buddhist temple in 1450. Now it belongs to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.
Later visit Kiyomizu-dera or ‘pure water temple’. From the 13-meter high veranda jutting out from the main hall, enjoy amazing views of the whole of Kyoto whilst pondering the fact that both the main hall and the veranda were built without the use of nails. Finish off the day with a stroll through the atmospheric Higashiyama district, where busy lanes lead up to Kiyomizu and are filled with quaint shops selling souvenirs such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, and pickles.
The afternoon is then free to explore Kyoto as you wish. There is so much here, from stunning gardens and ancient temples to winding alleyways. Perhaps head out early to shop in Nishiki Market, gathering up local goodies for a later picnic in the grounds of the Imperial Palace. You can also continue to the Tenryuji Temple and Okouchi Sanso Garden, or Nijo Castle with its spectacular gardens and famous nightingale floors, an anti-ninja security measure designed to make chirping sounds when walked upon.
- Day 10
Kyoto: Rickshaw ride through Arashiyama Bamboo Forest & Evening dining tour
This morning you will make your own way to Arashiyama, a beautiful area on the western edge of Kyoto city, known for its evocative traditional architecture and soaring bamboo forest.
Arrive at the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, where you’ll meet your rickshaw driver for a two-hour tour of the area. After capturing photos of the wooden bridge and serene Katsura River, you’ll set off in a traditional Japanese rickshaw during which your knowledgeable driver will guide you through the main highlights and hidden gems of the area. The rickshaw allows you to cover more ground than walking while savoring the sights and sounds of this charming town.
Explore local neighborhoods and admire traditional Japanese houses (machiya). Pass by Nonomiya Shrine, the backdrop of The Tale of Genji, known as the world’s first novel. Conclude the tour by returning to Togetsukyo Bridge, bidding farewell to your rickshaw driver as you head back to central Kyoto.
This evening you’ll be picked up from your hotel by a passionate Kyoto food guide for a voyage of gastronomic discovery. Your guide will be taking you on a food-influenced walking tour of the historic Gion district. This is Kyoto’s traditional heart, and for many visitors the most enticing neighborhood in the city: a network of tight cobbled streets lined with wooden machiya houses and stores, and an entrance into the world of the geisha.
- Day 11
Hakone National Park: Transfer by train and taxi to your ryokan accommodation
After breakfast you will check out of your Kyoto hotel and make your own way over to Kyoto Station in good time for your onward bullet train to Odawara. From Odawara you’ll be transferred by pre-booked taxi up to ryokan in Hakone National Park. Journey time by private car will be around 25 minutes.
Hakone National Park, part of the wider Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, is a famous resort area known for its stunning views of Mount Fuji and its natural hot springs. A popular weekend or day trip from Tokyo, visitors can take the Hakone Ropeway, climbing 3,425 feet to soak up a spectacular view of volcanic activity. Sightseeing cruises on Lake Ashi are also a favorite way to enjoy the gorgeous vistas, and there are plenty of art galleries and museums to explore too. Hakone is home to a wealth of excellent ryokan accommodation – a great option to relax and unwind while enjoying hot springs and traditional Japanese cuisine.
- Day 12
Hakone National Park: Full day to relax or explore
You’ll have a full day to spend as you choose in Hakone. A few suggestions including taking Hakone Ropeway (cable car) to Owakudani, known as the “Valley of Hell” during the Edo period. Formed by 3,000-year-old volcanic eruptions, the crater is still active today, with white smoke billowing out across the landscape. While you’re here, try one of the sulphur-blackened hard-boiled eggs, which are said to prolong life by seven years. Alternatively, take a pirate-themed sightseeing cruise across Lake Ashi, visit Gora’s Open Air Sculpture Park or Venetian Glass Museum, or hike one of the many scenic trails which crisscross the park.
We are supplying you with Hakone Free Pass tickets, covering all forms of transport into and around Hakone National Park – including local trains, buses, the Hakone Ropeway, and even Lake Ashi’s pirate ship sightseeing cruise.
- Day 13
Tokyo: Scenic rail transfer to Tokyo & evening izakaya tour
You’ll have time for one last onsen (hot spring) soak before it’s time to return to Tokyo. Take the hotel shuttle to Hakone Yumoto Station, from where you’ll board the ‘Romance Car Express’. This stylish train is fitted with extra wide observation windows, from where you can watch the mountains and forests of Hakone slip into the suburbs of Tokyo, and then the gleaming skyscrapers of Shinjuku.
This evening you’ll be picked up by a private food-loving local guide. Be sure to bring an appetite: This is one Tokyo street food tour that is sure to please the taste buds! Set off into the streets for a Japan-style food crawl. Veer off into the maze of laneways that fill the capital, passing street carts selling enticing snacks and diners perched on small metal stools. Stop to sample some of the items on offer, from barbequed meats to sweet desserts. Then enter an izakaya for a distinctly Japanese experience. These small, Japanese-style pubs are popular gathering places for friends and colleagues to gather after work for a beer. The food on offer is meant to be shared and is thus served almost like tapas. The guide will order up a few traditional izakaya favorites such as fried chicken wings or cold edamame. Sample the dishes and wash them down with a cold, local beer.
- Day 14
Tokyo: Guided city tour & art & craft tour of Asakusa
This morning you will discover Tokyo with a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, getting an in-depth orientation that will allow you to discover the best of this enthralling city. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and you will then head out together to explore. Start by visiting the home of the Imperial family, the Imperial Palace and then explore the traditional side of the city in Asakusa, including a visit to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most popular temple. Continue by subway to the Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji, and then if time allows, take a stroll down Omotesando shopping street, lined with the flagship stores of some of the top fashion brands in the world.
In the afternoon you will head into the traditional heart of Tokyo – Asakusa – for a hands-on experience of Edo-era arts and crafts. First discover Edo Kiriko glass cutting. This traditional method of cutting glass creates intricate patterns on cups and bottles. Choose the shape of your glass and receive instruction on cutting techniques from the artisans. Afterward, explore the crafts shops of Denobin-dori and visit the local arts and craft center that showcases traditional handmade goods from Tokyo’s Taito ward. The exhibition space and gift shop display around 250 items from 48 different craft industries. The next stop is Matsuchiyama Shoden, a temple dedicated to daikon, a Japanese radish used in many Japanese dishes, and Imado Jinja, a shrine home to one of several competing legends about the famous Japanese beckoning cat statue.
Finally, bid farewell to your guide and return to the hotel or continue your sightseeing at Asakusa’s iconic Sensoji Temple – the most famous in Tokyo.
- Day 15
Tokyo: Day at leisure to explore independently
Today you are free to explore Tokyo at your leisure. Armed with your transport cards, and having had a thorough orientation with your guide the previous day, you should feel ready to dive and explore one of the world’s most enthralling capital cities.
Tokyo is a city of neighborhoods, each of which has its own character and appeal. Shinjuku and Shibuya are the commercial heart of the city, packed with skyscrapers, shopping, and busy nightlife and dining districts. In contrast, the highly attractive Sumida Park spans the banks of the Sumida River, and is a jumping-off point for gentle river cruises. Further south is Akihabara, Tokyo’s ‘electric town’ packed with electrical superstores, arcades, and pachinko arcades, and a little further down the tracks is the Ginza, destination of choice for high fashion and luxury shopping.
For a more laidback side of the city visit Roppongi, which draws Tokyo’s expats to its numerous international restaurants and has a thriving contemporary art scene, or fashionable up-and-coming neighborhoods such as Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro, or Shimokita.
- Day 16
Tokyo: Private departure transfer
It is sadly now time to say ‘sayonara’ to Japan. At the appropriate time you will be picked up from your Tokyo hotel for a private transfer direct to Narita Airport, timed to have you at the airport in good time to check in for your onward flight. Transfer time will be around 75-90 minutes.
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