TAILOR MADE TRAVEL: Essential Japan and South Korea
Journeys Through Time in Japan and Korea
Japan and South Korea are often compared and while the two countries appear to share many similarities from a western perspective at least, both countries do in fact have very distinctly different and unique cultures.
For many years both South Korea and Japan were only for the more adventurous traveller. Very much destinations off the beaten path. But for the travellers who did make it to their shores, a wonderland of experience awaited them. It was truly immersive travel as the only way to travel within the country was as a local. With limited tourist infrastructure and language difficulties, travellers were forced to ‘go local’ and in this way the experience was all the more rewarding through the connections and friendships one made with locals as a result.
Times change and the tourism infrastructures of both countries have vastly changed, with language issues much less of a problem with bi-lingual signage and transport maps, and tourist offices with multi-lingual staff, and of course apps, but the sense of wonder and immersion into a very different and unique culture, in both countries, remains strong.
With a choice of readymade or tailor-made itineraries, over the years our local experts in both countries have prepared fascinating itineraries from 2-day city breaks to 1-week skiing holidays, to 2-week countrywide excursions. All Secret Retreats travel products are planned with supporting the local destinations in each case, culturally sensitive and working with local teams. Our goal is always to provide and support sustainable and regenerative travel. With Secret Retreats, you really can travel responsibly whilst enjoying authenticity with style – always.
If there is a destination that can provide a whistle-stop tour that can at once excite and relax in the same moment through the historic, the modern and the futuristic, then that destination would have to be Japan. Whether you are a seasoned visitor to the region or planning your first trip to Japan, Secret Retreats can take the hard work out of planning your holiday for you. Our holidays to Japan, and Asia, are all curated and designed by local experts, by our teams in-country in each case, who have first-hand local knowledge of the region, as it is their home. And they are keen to share the secrets of their home with you in our unique travel itineraries.
Twenty years ago, when people were heading to the more developed Southeast Asian tourist and travel destinations, planning a trip to South Korea might not have been at the top of any travellers to Asia wish lists. This Asian Tiger’s stellar development though has launched South Korea firmly onto the world’s stage, in business, in music and movies and in travel. South Korea now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of it’s more familiar neighbours as a great destination for leisure travel. And here at Secret Retreats we are pleased to share this amazing destination with you via our South Korea Tailor-made Journeys. From K-Pop to fashion and Gangnam-Style to ancient style, South Korea can hold its own on both the popular and ancient culture fronts. And it clearly doesn’t wish to mirror anywhere else in the region offering really unique travel experiences every step of the way.
Don’t just take our word for it though, why not step outside the usual, explore the unusual and book a visit to two of the most fascinating and unique countries in Asia.
On the Road from Tokyo to Kanagawa
3 days / 2 nights
A wonderful 3-day itinerary discovering the ancient culture of Japan while staying at a stunning luxury modern private ryokan. Leaving the modern metropolis of Tokyo you will first head to the foothills of the sacred mountain, Oyama in Kanagawa prefecture. A pilgrimage site for centuries the mountain is home to many shrines and temples, and the scenery is spectacular. After a guided trek on one of the many hiking trails in the region you will head to Kamakura and your home for the next 2 nights. With ocean views the Kishi-ke Luxury Ryokan is a harmonious combination of modern Japanese luxury and ancient tradition. During your stay you will enjoy unique experiences meeting the people that make Japan an unforgettable destination: from craftsmen including potters to Samurai Swordsmiths, chefs, and farmers to artists. An exclusive experience in a private ryokan in Kamakura, only 90minutes away only from Tokyo.
Kyoto and Nara, Cultural Capitals of Classical Japan
4 days / 3 nights
The imperial capital of Japan until 1869, Kyoto is located in the south of Honshu Island, and is a city that always tops the lists of Japanese and International travellers alike. In 1864, a rebellion against the Shogunate known as the Forbidden Gate Incident, resulted in parts of Kyoto being put to the torch and shortly after, in 1868, the imperial capital was founded at Edo, which was consequently renamed Tokyo and heralded the start of the Meiji era.
Kyoto today is celebrated as the cultural capital of Japan and retains its ancient charm and character, with much of the city’s architecture, palaces and temples, and street plans, remaining unchanged in centuries. Kyoto and its people passionately preserve the culture and traditions of classical Japan making this city both a very beautiful and a very fascinating city for visitors. With more than 1,600 Buddhist Temples and 400 Shinto Shrines, Kyoto is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A journey with Secret Retreats will share with you the pick of the city’s architectural treasures. An extension to another of Japan’s ancient capitals, Nara, which was the capital of Japan prior to Kyoto, between 710CE and 794CE, makes for a wonderful addition to any traveller’s discovery of Japan and is easily and expertly arranged with the Secret Retreats Japanese team.
The Rakkojae Journey
4 days / 3 nights
Korean traditional culture is beautifully shared with guests on this 3-night 4-day itinerary journeying from modern Seoul to Andong. Starting in an ancient hanok home in the old residential quarter of Seoul you will experience both the old and the new of this incredible city. From Seoul you head to the countryside and a region where time has stood still for centuries. Staying in a beautifully renovated traditional hanok in Hahoe, the itinerary here includes visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites including a village that has preserved its 700-year-old architecture to this day. Wandering the streets of this ancient village is like stepping back in time. This journey to the heart of the traditional Korea is a rare opportunity to encounter a ‘secret’ Korea, unavailable elsewhere, through the traditional cuisine, immersion in South Korea’s magnificent natural scenery, and experiencing an ancient and traditional Korean home in staying at our comfortable Hanok accommodation.
From Seoul to the DMZ – The Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea
2 days / 1 night
This 2-day 1-night trip includes a trip to Korea’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ); the weapon-free buffer zone between North and South Korea. The area was established on July 27, 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed between the warring sides after the Korean War. It is a 2km-wide stretch of land on either side of the border between north and south Korea. The zone has been protected from human disturbance for more than 6 decades and has unintentionally become a haven for wildlife, making it a popular destination for nature lovers and bird watchers. A fascinating day trip from Seoul with a guided tour of the sights along the south side of the DMZ before heading back and checking in to your beautiful traditional Korean hanok for a night in Seoul. The following day a walking tour has been prepared for you that will explore the ancient streets of this once royal area of Seoul, taking in the sights of the homes of noble families, palaces and gardens.
Travel through Time, from Seoul to Suwon Hwaseong
2 days / 1 night
This 2-day 1-night journey takes you back in time exploring the history of the Joseon Dynasty kings and the lifestyle and culture of the period. Famed also for its handicrafts, most notably ceramicwares, the trip includes a visit to a Ceramic Art Centre and Museum. Staying in a stunning traditional Korean hanok, on day one you will visit the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace and gardens, set in the countryside 20miles south of Seoul. Day 2 takes you to the Dae Jang Geum Park in Yongin to learn about the lifestyles and culture of the Joseon period. Built as a film set for Korean historical dramas, the park’s attention to detail is incredible making it almost like a living museum on a grand scale. From here you will also visit Wawoojongsa Temple located within the beautiful scenery of the Yeonhwasan Mountains. This Buddhist temple is famed for its 3,000 Buddha images and an 8-meter-high statue of the Buddha’s head, set at the temple’s entrance. Taking a stop at the Ceramic Art Centre on the way back to Seoul completes this fascinating insight into Korea’s classical period.
And this, the Secret Retreats difference, is where we excel, in sharing our homes and the secrets within, with our travellers, both sustainably and responsibly. We can offer the best of Asia luxury travel that combines authenticity with an eco-friendly and sustainable style, with all services tailored to your own preference for your travels to Asia. In choosing a Secret Retreats Journey we will ensure that you experience the best Asia vacation on offer however you choose to spend it.
We look forward to helping you plan and enjoy your holiday of a lifetime in Asia with Secret Retreats
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