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South Korea & Japan Highlights 2019

13 days with Monograms   Rating: First Class

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  • Monograms Journeys Club members save $150 per person off trips. Click here for eligible departures.

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Welcome to South Korea’s capital city. Hotel rooms are available for mid-afternoon check-in.

Day 2 SEOUL. 
Your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE, built in 1395 during the Joseon Dynasty that ruled the country for five centuries. Gyeongbokgung was the primary residence of the royal family and considered the most magnificent of the “Five Grand Palaces” built in Seoul. The palace complex was razed by the Japanese invasion of 1592. It sat abandoned for nearly 300 years until the mid-19th century when the complex was rebuilt and expanded. You will also stop at the NATIONAL FOLK MUSEUM to learn more about Korean culture. Before leaving the complex, watch a re-enactment of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE. Here, you can see hundreds of hanoks (traditional Korean houses) dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. Walk along the quiet alleys lined with restaurants and tea houses. Travel to nearby Insadong for lunch at a local restaurant featuring Korean cuisine. A highlight is bibimbap, a signature dish of warm rice topped with sautéed vegetables, sliced meat, chili paste, and a fried egg. Afterward, stroll along Insadong Street, a center for traditional arts and crafts. The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. (B,L)

Day 3 SEOUL.
Enjoy a full day at your leisure to explore this exciting city. (B)

This morning, board a HIGH-SPEED TRAIN bound for Gyeongju, capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, which ruled much of the Korean Peninsula from the 7th to 9th centuries. Upon arrival, a PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR features TUMULI PARK to see several tombs from the Silla period, including King Michu. Also visit ANAPJI POND, where the Silla royal family spent their leisure time, and GYEONGJU NATIONAL MUSEUM, which houses artifacts found around the pond during renovations. (B)

Today, visit two fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites during your PRIVATE GUIDED TOUR. Start at YANGDONG FOLK VILLAGE, one of the best preserved historic villages dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. The village features clusters of houses with mud walls and thatched roofs, faces a river, and is surrounded by forested mountains and open fields. Next, visit BULGUSKA TEMPLE with its ancient wooden pavilions and pagodas built on lush, forested hills. Within the temple complex is stunning SEOKGURAM GROTTO, one of Asia’s finest Buddhist shrines, with its large Buddha statue looking out over the Sea of Japan. Continue to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. (B,L)

Day 6 BUSAN.
Your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at JAGALCHI FISH MARKET, Korea’s largest and most famous seafood market. Here, most of the vendors selling fish are Jagalchi Ajumma, meaning middle-aged or married women. Afterward, visit UN CEMETERY which honors soldiers from 16 countries that were killed during the Korean War. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through GAMCHEON with its colorful homes built on a hillside. Originally founded by refugees of the Korean War, this neighborhood has been transformed into an artistic center with galleries and cafés. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B)

Fly to Tokyo, Japan’s capital city. (B)

Day 8 TOKYO.
Today, hop on Tokyo’s subway system for a PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING TOUR of the city. First, stop at MEIJI SHRINE, a magnificent 20th-century Shinto monument set in a man-made forest. Next, stop at the SAMURAI MUSEUM to learn about their history and see authentic period-specific swords, armor, and helmets (kabuto). You will even have the chance to have your picture taken wearing a helmet and armor! You’ll also stop at SHINJUKU GYOEN GARDEN which dates back to the early 1600s. Lastly, visit bustling NAKAMISE SHOPPING ARCADE and ASAKUSA KANNON TEMPLE, the oldest of their kind in Tokyo. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. (B,L)

Day 9 TOKYO.
Today, enjoy a full day at your leisure. Your Local Host will have suggestions. (B)

Today, transfer to the train station and board your BULLET TRAIN to historic Kyoto, former capital of Japan. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure. (B)

Day 11 KYOTO.
This morning, your PRIVATE GUIDED SIGHTSEEING starts at stunning Kinkakuji, TEMPLE OF THE GOLD PAVILION, covered with shimmering gold leaf. Next, take a WALKING TOUR through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, which is also known for its high concentration of machiya-style merchant houses. Continue on to SANJUSAGENDO TEMPLE, famous for 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Flanking the main statue are 1,000 life-sized statues, covered in gold leaf, with 40 arms said to have the power to save 25 worlds. Finish with a visit to FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE, renowned for the thousands of brightly colored Torii Gates. (B,L)

Day 12 KYOTO.
A full day at leisure to explore more of Kyoto’s historic temples and shrines. You may consider an excursion to nearby Nara to visit Todaiji Temple, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha. (B)

Day 13 KYOTO.
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. Homebound flights from Kansai International Airport in Osaka should not depart prior to 11 am. (B)
All This Included
From the preserved historic village of Yangdong to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, East Asia is an experience unlike anywhere else on Earth. See for yourself on this 13-day vacation. With hotel accommodations, private guided sightseeing, transportation, and daily breakfast coordinated for you, Monograms makes it easy to explore South Korea and Japan. Plus, we provide you with a Local Host® who can provide suggestions about what to see and do during your stay.

Your vacation begins when you arrive in South Korea, as we can pick you up at the airport and take you to your chosen hotel. Your Local Host will greet you with a warm welcome and help get you settled. The next morning, after an included breakfast, you will embark on a private guided tour of the city, starting at Gyeongbokgung Palace, the former residence of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty. You will visit the National Folk Museum to learn more about Korean culture and to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony, and take a walking tour through Bukchon Hanok Village, where you will be able to see hundreds of hanoks (traditional Korean houses). This afternoon and the following day are yours to explore Seoul.

Then, you will take a high-speed train to Gyeongju, the former capital of Silla, the kingdom that ruled the Korean Peninsula for three centuries. Visit Tumuli Park to see tombs from the Silla Period, Anapji Pond, where the Silla royal family spent their free time, and the Gyeongju National Museum.

Next, you’ll visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Yangdong Folk Village, one of the best preserved historic villages, and Bulguska Temple. The complex is home to Seokguram Grotto, one of Asia’s finest Buddhist shrines. You will then continue on to South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, where you will visit the Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest and most famous seafood market. Experience Un Cemetery, honoring soldiers from 16 countries that were killed in the Korean War, and take a walking tour through Gamcheon, where you will see colorful hillside homes, art galleries, and cafés.

Hop on a short flight from Busan to Tokyo. The next morning, after an included breakfast, embark on a private guided tour of the city by subway. You will see the Meiji Shrine, a 20th-century Shinto monument built within a man-made forest; the Samurai Museum, where you can learn about Japanese history and see authentic swords and armor; visit the bustling Nakamise Shopping Arcade; and one of the city’s most colorful temples, the Asakusa Kannon Temple. Enjoy the afternoon and the following day at your leisure. Your Local Host will have suggestions about what to see and do during your stay. Perhaps take an excursion out of the city to Mount Fuji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s most iconic landmarks.

A thrilling bullet train (Shinkensen) ride brings you to Kyoto. The “cradle” of Japan’s cultural heritage, Kyoto, the “City of Ten-Thousand Shrines,” was the country’s capital and residence of the emperor from the 8th until the 19th centuries. Monograms take you on a guided sightseeing tour that includes visits to Sanjusagendo Temple and the beautiful Temple of the Gold Pavilion. Built on a lake and surrounded by a thick forest, the image of the temple’s reflection in the water is a must-take photo. You’ll also explore the thousands of Torii Gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine and the geisha district of Gion. In your free time, join a Japanese cooking class, visit nearby Nara, attend a sake tasting, or indulge in some of the country’s finest Japanese cuisine.

Between the transportation we’ve arranged, sightseeing we’ve included, and the hotels we’ve booked, all the details are taken care of. With all the time and hassles saved and the comfort of knowing you’ll have a Local Host to help you during your vacation, you simply relax and enjoy!
  • American breakfast daily; 4 lunches
  • High-speed train from Seoul to Gyeongju and from Tokyo to Kyoto; transfers to/from train stations.
  • With Monograms, we make your journey easy, because we’ve included private guided tours of Seoul, Gyeongju, Busan, Tokyo, and Kyoto with a host of inside visits to the must-see sights, ensuring your visit to South Korea and Japan is the best it can possibly be!
  • Local Host In each city
  • Private guided sightseeing with your Local Host as outlined in the day-by-day itinerary; inside visits, and special features are shown in UPPERCASE
Seoul: Courtyard Seoul Namdaemun
Gyeongju: Hotel Hyundai
Busan: Haeundae Grand Hotel
Kyoto: Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
  • For singles traveling alone, a supplement will be quoted at the time of booking. Single rooms are available at a supplement; triple rooms are available at some hotels.
  • 2019 departures are subject to itinerary and price modifications. Details will be available in August 2018.
  • Hotel upgrades are available.
  • Please ask your Vacations To Go travel counselor for more information.
Terms and Conditions
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.