Trip planning can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you feel low on inspiration and not especially motivated to start a new adventure. It’s tempting to avoid all the stress of finding the right destination and the perfect hotel, or of booking your flight and packing just the right amount of clothes. However, traveling makes us feel alive and healthy, and we encourage you to cultivate the habit of discovering new places and experiencing different cultures. If you can’t quite muster the energy and excitement to get started, we’ve got you covered. Here are 7 ways to help you to find your travel inspiration again– and to get started with planning your next adventure.
1. Start your own travel journal.
If you feel less than motivated to start planning your next getaway, a simple way to put you in the right mindset is to start your own travel journal. This is essentially a diary where you can write down trips and tricks you’ve learned during your travels, describe the best places you’ve visited and why you’ve loved them. You can take notes about the activities that inspired you the most in your past travels and write about the food you’ve tasted.
There are notebooks especially designed to be travel journals, which you can buy in any stationary shop, or on Amazon, but it’s much more satisfying to create your own, using a diary you already had at home and personalizing it as you wish. You can also make a travel journal out of a photo album, inserting pictures, plane tickets and postcards into its pages. The best travel journals tend to combine photos and writing, and are an effective way to remind yourself of the excitement of your past travels, to reflect on the beautiful places you’ve seen, and to motivate you to start plotting your next adventure.
2. Plan your trip around activities that inspire and motivate you.
When you don’t know where to start with planning your trip, let your passion guide the way. Think about your favorite activities, hobbies and sports, foods you’d like to try or places that have always tugged at your heartstrings– and make a list. You can then choose one or more of the items you’ve listed and plan your trip around them. For example, let’s say you really enjoy eating pizza: you could plan a trip to four major cities in Italy and choose cities reputed for making some of the best (Naples, anyone?)
Or maybe you’re interested in the history of Buddhism and Buddhist art: you could plan a trip to Southeast Asia or Japan, choosing places in the region that harbor breathtaking Buddhist temples and art museums. Choosing an inspiring theme or two for your trip makes the hard work of planning your adventure much easier. It can also help you find the perfect destination or destinations.
3. Follow inspiring & colorful social media accounts with a travel focus.
Social media is an amazing source of inspiration for travel lovers. There are literally hundreds (or even thousands) of interesting accounts to follow and blogs to read, which can help you plan your trip when you don’t feel like it. YouTube is an excellent place to find different kinds of travel videos and documentaries. Travel vlogs are blogs that primarily use video to tell stories or offer tips, and are often inspiring and fun to watch. They’re a good way to get you started, when you feel low on ideas.
There are many different kinds of travel vlogs: some focus on the best activities to do in a particular destination, some on the best airline to get there, others still on typical foods from a given country or region. There’s plenty of choice and you can decide which topic interests you the most.
Instagram can also be a very good source of inspiration. Many travel writers and journalists have their own Instagram account, where they post pictures about their trips and where they offer tips and recommendations. Use the hashtag search function on Instagram to find topics that interest you and follow inspiring travel accounts.
4. Think about seasonal activities to plan the perfect trip.
Look again at the list of hobbies, activities and sports you love: which are best enjoyed during a winter trip? Which are ideal for hot weather or fall getaways? For example, if you enjoy taking in natural scenery during the fall, why not plan an autumn leef-peeping trip in Canada, Europe or even New Zealand?
How about a winter adventure? If you’d love to try snowboarding, you could start your trip planning with some research about the best places to go snowboarding during the winter holiday season. You could look for the best Christmas markets in Europe, and plan a trip to the cities that inspire you the most. Alternatively, if you don’t like the snow, plan a winter trip where the weather is hot in December and you can swim in the sea, enjoy the sun and go snorkeling. Greece, Southern Europe or even Central America might be just the ticket.
5. Look for your dream self-catered house or other accommodations.
Here at The Loftus Guides, we frequently recommend that you choose self-catered accommodations, because they allow you to experience your destination like a local. You can shop from local markets, learn to cook some local specialities, and even meet a neighbor or too.
The advantage of starting your trip planning process this way? No one said you have to choose your dates and destination first. Instead, you could look online for your dream accommodations, then build your trip around them. Most vacation home websites are extremely easy to use these days, and you can refine your search according to country, city, price and other criteria.
If you’re interested in unusual experiences, why not stay in a lighthouse? How about a houseboat? There are so many interesting ways to feel at home away from home, these days.
Visit this page for some great tips on how to book a self-catered house or apartment online, including advice on the most trustworthy websites to book with. While Air b N B has become very popular, it’s not always reliable, depending on your destination, and in some countries it has run into complicated legal problems. We recommend you book with other self-catering companies if possible.
6. Visit the travel section of your favorite library or bookshop.
Reading books and travel guides is an effective and time-honored way to get you inspired for your next trip. A whirl through your favorite bookshop is often the best way to start planning your next journey. If you don’t have the time to read a whole book, simply look through the titles of the travel section. This could spark your interest in a country or a city you’ve never thought about visiting before. Take some time to go through the books that capture your attention. Photography books and travel essays can also be inspiring, giving you plenty of ideas and expanding your sense of what’s out there.
7. Ask yourself what was missing in your last trip.
Starting your own travel journal (see tip # 1) can also help you to think about what was missing in your last trip, providing you with some crucial inspiration for what to do differently next time. Go through all your memories, pictures, notes and tickets and then ask yourself a simple question: what was missing?
Maybe you would have liked to spend more time in the great outdoors. Perhaps you’re an art lover who didn’t see as many museums and galleries as you would have liked to. Or you didn’t sample the local delicacies you hoped to because you were staying at an all-inclusive resort where meals were all covered. This time, you’d like to experience your destination in a more authentic and local way.
Taking this sort of inventory is a good way to feel inspired again, and to start planning your trip around something you’ve never tried before. You may find out you’d like to try a new water sport, or a different kind of food, or even to explore a museum you didn’t have the chance to visit.
We hope these tips have been helpful– and that inspiration comes knocking again soon!
About the Author
Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her stories and photos.
As we sail into the fall season, one of the things many of us look forward to the most is the opportunity for leaf peeping. As temperatures begin to dip and deciduous trees change from summery green hues to fiery shades of yellow, orange and red, the splendor of autumn announces itself in a colorful show.
Haven’t we all experienced moments of joy on a quiet walk in a forest, perhaps with a loved one or even alone? There’s something about trees: they seem to act as a balm for body, mind and soul. Now, healing therapies are bearing this out.
Did you know that Japanese people (and specifically many Tokyo residents) have been indulging in a practice called “forest bathing” for decades? Called Shinrin-yoku and developed in Japan as a healing therapy in the 1980’s, forest bathing is a nurturing experience for the senses: a way to calm body, mind and spirit by spending time in wooded areas. It’s been scientifically proven to boost your sense of wellbeing, and even lowers blood pressure and stress hormone levels. In the autumn, of course, the colorful sights can enhance the soothing effects even more.
Destinations abound for viewing this autumnal tour de force from Mother Nature. When you think of magnificent fall leaves, what’s the first place that pops into your mind? England or New England? Canada or Australia? Depending on where you happen to live, you will no doubt have your own favorites. The truth is that there are many worthy destinations for an awe-inspiring autumnal experience, on almost every continent.
Read on for 8 of the world’s most stunning destinations for leaf-peeping. Take a drive, boat or train to any of these splendid places- and once there, make sure you have time to indulge in your own version of “forest-bathing”! Let us know if you have a personal favorite among them by leaving a comment below.
1. Agawa Canyon Park, Algoma Highlands, Ontario, Canada
This favorite fall destination in North America is best reached by train! Hop on the famous Train Tour through the spectacular Agawa Canyon in northern Ontario, Canada, which begins and ends at Sault Ste. Marie. There’s an hour-and-a-half stop along the way, allowing you to enjoy the surrounding wilderness trails and scenic viewpoints in all their glory.
Travelling to just over 100 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie and back via a breathtaking ride through the Canyon, this is definitely one for the bucket list. Of course, you can enjoy the vast pristine wilderness and its numerous provincial parks by car as well. The Train Tour simply adds a “truly extraordinary” element while you sit back and enjoy the unparalleled views of fall foliage.
When does it run?
The train runs from late June through mid-October. The last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October are the recommended times for leaf peeping. This time-frame varies with each year as it is dependant on seasonal conditions: in years when cooler temperatures arrive earlier, so do changing colors.
More famous for its cherry blossom season and its population’s general love for trees, nature and gardens, Japan is in fact equally spectacular in the fall season. Home to millions of maples and other deciduous trees, Japan puts on an autumnal spectacle that is among the world’s most extraordinary– and we highly recommend that you travel by train to take it all in. As for the inimitable style and diverse fauna found in Japanese parks and gardens, they can’t be beaten. You will revel in the seasonal enjoyment of neatly and precisely planned natural settings, some of which contain thousands of trees.
As temperature differences between mountainous and lowland areas vary and can greatly affect the best viewing times, possibilities for leaf-peeping in the country come as early as mid-September and as late as early December. The earliest times begin in the northernmost region and the latest are in and near Tokyo.
In the Kansai region, a unique Train Tour allows visitors to enjoy the autumn display of color (also recommended earlier in the year to gawk at breathtaking cherry blossoms). This is the Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as Kyoto’s “romantic train”, and viewing times for leaf peeping are from November into December. This is a one-way ticket– with the option of returning via a river cruise on the Hozugawa River to your point of departure at Arashiyama, a short distance from Kyoto. (Of course you can return by train, but you’ll need another ticket.)
Note: If you have a Japan Rail Pass, this will get you to and from Arashiyama, but the Sagano Scenic Railway is not included in the pass. Tickets for the Sagano Railway can be purchased on arrival at the Saga-Arashiyama Station or at any Japan Rail ticket office in the Kansai region. Pre-purchasing is recommended at peak times, as is checking available days for the Train Tour.
Love mountain landscapes? Add a crystal-clear glacial lake, and you have an idyllic autumn setting at Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, Canada.
This video speaks for itself and is likely to prompt you to put this part of the world on your bucket list!
Alongside Kootenay Lake and its pristine views, you can also bask in surrounding provincial parks, activities, artisan studios, cultural events and more. Even better: Plan to be there during the salmon-spawning season which runs from August through October. This is an incredible experience in and of itself. See this page for more details.
The problem with including New England on our autumn leaf-peeping bucket list? There are simply too many marvelous destinations in this part of the United States to properly account for. Places like Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and other New England states offer opportunities for viewing fall foliage at its most glorious.
Let’s face it: a spectacular autumn visit to Niagara Falls would be incomplete without some serious leaf peeping involved. Southern Ontario is yet another place to see the gorgeous colors of autumn burst into full expression. The protected Niagara Escarpment is wooded as far as the eye can see, and an uncountable number of maple trees, birch trees and other deciduous varieties offer up a feast for the eyes as you make your way to the world-famous Falls.
Further, surrounding vineyards provide a spectacular autumn vista, since the vines also change in hue as cooler temperatures set in. Better yet, it’s harvest time for the grapes– although this is closely monitored for each varietal and by each winery. Maybe you’ll be lucky, and get to observe as the grapes arrive ‘in the back’ to be crushed. This is yet another fall experience that’s both festive and fun.
Best Places to Leaf-Peep in Niagara?
For a superb vista of the Niagara River as it makes its way northward to Lake Ontario through a densely-wooded landscape, check out the Lookout Point just below Queenston Heights Park, about ten minutes north of Niagara Falls along the Niagara Parkway. The Niagara Parkway itself is a stunningly beautiful drive that takes you north to Niagara-on-the-Lake, billed as the prettiest town in Canada with its quaint shops, wineries and B&Bs. We think it’s true! This beautiful, tree-dense drive will not disappoint, as you take in rolling vineyards and a fall display unlike any other.
The area just near Niagara Falls has many parks and gardens, all of which afford opportunities for lovely strolls and something to see outside the Falls themselves. Free to visit, the Niagara Botanical Gardens— a 99-acre year-round marvel that is vastly appealing in the fall– is well worth adding to your list.
For those visiting from Toronto with a wine tour in mind, there are certain tours that will drive you there and back for a day-long outing. The drive takes you along part of the magnificent Niagara Escarpment: all you need is the right time of year and, ideally, a sunny day. Fall foliage colors truly come alive against the backdrop of a bright blue sky.
Toronto’s iYellow Wine Club offers an annual Niagara Harvest Tour that will take you to three wineries as you are driven through the beautiful landscape of this viniculture region. Check their page for dates and information on how to book.
If you’re already in the Niagara Region and want to take a wine tour, with leaf peeping as an added bonus, there are several companies to choose from. Click here for a number of options from Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, including a half-day wine and cheese tour, an evening wine tour with dinner, design your own private tour and others.
Last but not least and for something truly out-of-the-ordinary, consider this: fly down from Toronto’s downtown airport to Niagara and be whisked away in a private car to one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s premium winery estates, the Two Sisters vineyard. Take in the escarpment’s gorgeous fall colors from the air, then enjoy a VIP tour and luncheon in their famed Kitchen76 restaurant, or on the patio for the very finest Italian fare. Romantic, much? We think so! Click here for all the details and to book your tickets.
Famous for its many elegant parks, Paris is a city that’s glorious in the fall. if you’ve already planned your trip there for around the end of September or early October you’re in for a treat, as its many trees transform to show glorious autumnal hues. Whether it’s the Jardins des Tuileries and Luxembourg, the vast Bois de Boulogne or simply a window-shopping wander along the Champs-Elysées you’re after, cooler temperatures and perhaps fewer tourists are all added bonuses.
If you’re planning on a day trip or weekend whirl through the Loire Valley and its iconic châteaux, you’ll be equally amazed by the fall splendor of vast, sprawling parks and ancient trees that abound there. Vineyards bursting with autumn colors only adds to the overall charm. The autumn season really is one of the best times to visit– we highly recommend it!
7. Patagonia, Argentina
An increasingly popular tourist destination, Patagonia has an autumn season running from March through May, due to its location in the far southern hemisphere. Here’s a leaf-peeping opportunity for the more adventurous and intrepid among you: this remote location has an incredible array of its own distinct flora, as the world’s most southerly forest of the “subantarctic” variety.
Last but certainly not least, New Zealand is another intrepid destination for the ambitious autumn traveler. Here’s the consensus on the best time to visit: mid-April. Offering more yellow hues than fiery reds because of the varieties of trees most commonly found here, the contrast provided by pristine landscapes and waterscapes makes it all worthwhile. The best recommendation we can find is for Lake Tekapo on the South Island with its turquoise blue glacial water and yellow-hued leaves. There are a number of reasons many choose to visit Lake Tekapo, as outlined here, including the striking blue color of the lake, a whimsical statue of a dog gracing the shore and the opportunity to stargaze into the light-pollution-free night sky.
This list isn’t exhaustive, of course- but represents some of our favorites, and will go a long way in giving you a bit of inspiration for your next autumn adventure. Do you have other leaf-peeping spots you love and recommend? Feel free to tell us about them and share them with others by leaving a comment below!
Join renowned energy healer and Egyptian mysteries expert Beverley Howarth on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to hidden sacred sites and temples
See the end of this article for a discount offer from Beverley Howarth, exclusive to The Loftus Guides
The phrase “once-in-a-lifetime-trip” is thrown around quite a bit in the travel world, but we can certainly say that Beverley Howarth’s Alchemical Masters Nile Journey has earned the right to use the phrase.
Step back in time and radically transform your consciousness with this tour through some of Egypt’s most sacred sites. This small, select group of like-minded journeyers is headed by Beverley Howarth, a healer and guide who will lead you through Egypt’s Nile and temple regions on this unique tour.
You will be accompanied by two guides at all times: an Egyptologist and a docent who handle absolutely every detail, from meeting you at your arrival all the way to the airport dropoff for your return home. You will be amazed by the closeness formed within the group as the trip unfolds.
With an emphasis on personal growth and spiritual development, this trip will put you in touch with the universal spirit in all of us. Click here to see the full description of the tour on Beverley’s website, or read on for our breakdown of this remarkable tour.
About Beverley Howarth
Beverley hails from Brisbane, Australia, where she has been honing her expertise on ancient Egypt, its rituals, and its gods and goddesses for many years. She has led people on tours for the past 12 years, and is an esoteric healer with a graduate degree from the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. Her profound compassion brings her clients and students to new heights and understanding, and many report this tour as being a profound and life-changing experience.
Dates for the 2018 Tour
When: 15 October 2018 – 25 October 2018
Travelers meet up and depart from Cairo, Egypt
You are fully escorted from your arrival at Cairo airport to your departure at the airport
An intimate, comfortable 7-day Nile cruise on a traditional dahabeya sailing boat
Fine Egyptian and Middle Eastern cuisine
Private temple visit at the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx enclosure
Camel Ride on the Giza Plateau
Overnight Camping in the White Desert
Shopping in Cairo
You’ll Learn About:
The Relationship to the Divine Heart of Compassion
Energy Portals and Opening the Heart Chakra and Merkaba
Activation of the Elements
Here’s a breakdown of the philosophy behind Beverley’s technique.
A Merkabah is a divine light used to connect with the higher realms. “Mer” means light, “Ka” means spirit, and “Ba” means body; so a “merkabah” is a spirit and body surrounded by fields of light that connect your body to a higher dimension. Beverley explains that our merkaba is our light body, a star shape that looks a bit like two three-cornered pyramids that help us move between realities. Beverley’s trip harnesses the energy portals that travelers visit, connecting you to energy portals on the River Nile and surounding areas. Developing and nourishing your own sacred geometry (your light pyramid) is a deeply personal experience that can help you access the Divine, both during your tour and beyond!
Beverley studied Unified Physics, which looks at the world from the point of view of a connected universe. It asks questions about how we relate to each other and to the earth, and how our views impact everything, from our creativity to our potential. From black holes to Spacetime, Unified Physics presents and elegant answer to some of science’s unsolved questions.
On this unique tour, you can expect to see some of the world’s most ancient, scared, and fascinating sites during your journey. Here are a few of the stops you’ll make on this trip, along with some historical context.
Day 2: The Sun Temple of Niuserre at Abu Ghurab
One of only two surviving sun temples, the Sun Temple is dedicated to the sun god Ra and features eight alabaster basins used during offering ceremonies by ancient Egyptians.
At Sakkara, you’ll visit Djoser’s step pyramid. Built in 2667–2648 BC, this is the earliest large-scale cut stone pyramid. The temple is associated with the North Stars, and although the tomb was robbed and the burial chamber emptied, five pointed stars were once carved into the ceiling: symbols of rebirth and eternity.
Day 4: El Kab
At El Kab, you’ll visit a prehistoric Egyptian settlement featuring rock-cut tombs and temples from the Early Dynastic period. The village was dedicated to Nekhbet, a goddess who took the form of a white vulture.
Day 7: Hathor Temple
Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love, joy, and motherhood, had her religious center at the temple complex at Dendera. Hathor’s temple is the largest and most impressive structure at Dendera, and her temple is one of the best-preserved temples in Egypt. Carvings, hieroglyphs, and colored statues await your exploration!
Day 9: The White Desert
A few hours outside Cairo, the White Desert features unique calcium rock formations. The landscape looks almost lunar, and the tour spends the night camping among these naturally formed sculptures. Sunsets there are beautiful, and the calcium formations look different depending on the time of day.
This trip is highly focused on personal and spiritual development, so you may want to reach out to Beverley yourself to decide if it’s the right tour for you. She’s a lovely person, and you can contact her at this email address: email@example.com
Beverley is a registered travel agent, and you can rest assured that you will be in safe and capable hands on your journey. She works exclusively with a registered agency in Egypt where she knows everyone very well, and can vouch for every aspect of the trip.
Beverley’s site is easy to navigate, and you can find even more information direct from the source! Check out her website to learn more or register! This tour has just six spots, so if you’re interested, it’s in your best interest to reserve early.
Special Discount For Readers of The Loftus Guides
We have a special gift for you, which Beverley has generously offered to our readers: receive $200 off the cost of your tour!
Simply mention The Loftus Guides when you book the tour to receive your discount. This is a time-sensitive offer, so be sure to get in touch with Beverley to lock in your spot and discount.
In the past decade, there have been some exciting developments in how health and well-being are conceived. More than ever before, many people strive to strike a balance between traditional medical treatment and holistic solutions. We eat kale and do yoga, aim for a good work/life balance, and go to therapy to cope with our problems.
However, one of the underrepresented facets of a well-balanced life is regular travel.
There are many benefits to taking a vacation, ranging from concrete perks like weight loss and better cardiovascular health, to more abstract concepts like expanding our minds and increasing creativity and tolerance.
Simply put, there are many good reasons why traveling is good for you! Here are some of its major benefits– and our favorite reasons why you should make it a priority for your wellbeing.
Traveling promotes goal-setting and long-term thinking
Even before you take your vacation, the planning, budgeting, and excitement of the coming trip forces you to focus on the positives coming your way, set long-term goals, and sort out a budget. You have to plan itineraries, travel arrangements, hotels, and activities. Even before you leave, you’re learning skills that help you better manage your own life. And having that trip to look forward to, no matter how far away it is, is a useful way to help you feel more cheerful on days when you’re feeling down.
Traveling can be a great workout
While you’re on your trip, you can bet you’ll be walking all over the place. From the bustle of the airport to those endless museums and hikes, you will most likely be on your feet and getting lots of cardiovascular exercise, which reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease.
The Framingham Heart Study, conducted over the course of 20 years, found that women who vacationed as little as every two years were nearly eight times less likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than women who vacationed only every six years or less.
If your local gym offered travel as an exercise class, you can bet you’d be taking it, because you get a genuinely awesome workout in even as you’re experiencing the world and broadening your mind.
Even if you have reduced mobility or disabilities, you can still enjoy some fresh air during your trip, and move around using whatever means you can. For example, many of the world’s biggest cities are increasingly more accessible to visitors with wheelchairs, offering ramp access to popular sites and attractions and public transport facilities.
Travel lowers stress levels
Vacationing offers an important mental break from our everyday lives. Seeing new things and focusing entirely on enjoying yourself can really help you shake off accumulated mental fatigue and stress. Being removed from your usual environment and transported to a new place helps break the cycle of anxiety and stress that goes along with everyday life. While travel certainly can’t cure all your problems, it can give you a nice break to recuperate, which can make it easier to face stressful situations when you get back to them. Plus, the physical activity of traveling boosts endorphin levels and psychological functioning, which is a nice perk.
Travel keeps the mind sharp
Aside from the physical benefits it offers, travel also promotes mental acuity and sharpness. Your brain is, in a lot of ways, a bit like a muscle. You need to be constantly thinking and exploring to keep your neurons in tip-top order– and the onrush of new experiences, challenges, and joys that you often feel during travel promotes good cognitive health.
Learning is just good for you, plain and simple– and travel is one of the most fun and adventurous ways to stretch your mind. And I’m not just talking about learning in museums! Meeting new people, trying new foods, and experiencing new cities expands your understanding of the world and keeps your brain sharp and focused.
Dealing with these problems in a foreign environment teaches you resilience and strength. When you’ve resolved everything, you’ll have more confidence in your ability to problem solve in your regular life.
Travel lends perspective
One of the most talked-about benefits of travel are the mind-broadening experiences that make you a more open-minded person. This might sound corny, but hear me out: travel often fosters empathy and greater understanding of those who are different from you. The more you experience of life outside your home culture, the better you’ll be able to understand your own experiences.
Being reminded that life is a huge, colorful experience and that people are complicated, wonderful and full of contradictions is a fundamentally life-improving experience. From the distance of a foreign country or a new environment, you can learn things about yourself, your life, and your problems that you wouldn’t have been able to see without being removed from your routine. Plus, you’ll get to meet new people who teach you about what they’ve learned along their own journey.
My bottom line?
If bodily health is the key to a long life, then emotional growth is the key to a fulfilling one! Travel supports personal growth on almost every level, and it does it much more quickly, efficiently, and delightfully than any other method I know of. If that’s not a good reason to ditch work and get on a plane, I don’t know what is.
Seoul, South Korea is a huge, vibrant city that is home to more than ten million people. With a population that size, it’s no surprise that there are endless things you can do while vacationing there. From its historic palaces, serene gardens, vibrant shops, incredible food, and some of Asia’s coolest night spots, this capital has pretty much everything you could want and much more you never knew about. If you’re looking for a good Seoul travel guide for the curious beginner, you’ve come to the right place.
In no particular order, here are 7 key sights and attractions you should check out if you’re visiting South Korea’s largest city. These are essential, but also original and intriguing: the perfect places to encounter the city for the first time in an authentic way.
Once the site of a protective city wall, Namsan Park is famous for its incredible city views over Seoul. Palgakjeong viewing pavilion is a free spot to appreciate the view, but it’s definitely worth it to buy a ticket to the viewing platform of N Seoul Tower. At 1,500 feet in the air, the views are breathtaking, and lovestruck couples can attach padlocks to the fence to celebrate their love. On Saturdays, you can stay on the observation deck until midnight, and the night views are incredible. Bring a jacket: It can get windy at the top! If you feel like a treat, there’s also a restaurant in the rotating platform at the very top of the tower.
Though this palace isn’t the largest one in Seoul, it’s my personal favourite for its incredible landscaping and architecture. As Korea’s longest, continually inhabited palace, and its most intact royal residence, Changdeokgung has well earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Aside from the stunning, colourful architecture, the real treat at this palace is the incredible “Secret Garden” that takes up about 2/3 of the property. Traditionally reserved exclusively for the monarch, visitors can now take guided tours of the garden, which features a model nobleman’s home, some incredible scenery, fountains, and even a lotus pool!
The Secret Garden tour and the palace tour require two separate tickets, but they’re inexpensive and well worth the price. English tours run Tuesday through Saturday, and the palace is closed on Mondays.
If you want a taste of Korean youth culture, Hongdae is the neighbourhood for you. Located around Hongik University, this area is a great place for tourists to stay because of its incredible night life, street food, and art. If you’re a night owl, Hongdae is one of the best places to go! Hongdae’s “Club Day” on the last Friday of each month gets you access to the hottest area clubs and music venues for around $14 USD, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.
But if you’re looking for something a little less festive, don’t miss the weekend markets near the university on Sunday. Hongdae’s student-heavy population means shops here are a bit cheaper than the rest of Seoul on average.
This neighbourhood is the place to be if you’re hunting for traditional Korean goods. Tea, ceramics, calligraphy, and wooden carvings are all popular wares, making this area a perfect place to hunt for souvenirs and local art. Plus, the whole neighbourhood is picture-perfect and full of windy, adorable alleys lined with street merchants, musicians, and street performers adding a lively energy. Come on weekends to experience the area without any vehicle traffic, and you can almost imagine you’re back in the Joseon Dynasty! Weekends do tend to be a bit more crowded, so for a more laid-back experience, come on a weekday.
Bukchon Hanok Village
To get a glimpse at the traditional style of a Korean home (called a hanok), Bukchon is a beautiful neighbourhood to check out. Located in the hilly north-central area of Seoul, Bukchon Village is comprised of around nine hundred privately-owned hanoks that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Visiting here is free, though you can stop into some of the hanoks that have been converted into coffee shops or art galleries to take a look inside! Additionally, you can rent a hanok as your home base while you travel.
The area is very hilly, so wear walking shoes and expect to be on your feet for a while. Since it is also a neighbourhood where people actually live, remember to obey noise rules and be respectful of the people who live there.
Korea started the cat cafe trend, so you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting one! Visitors to cat cafes can hang out with a small herd of beautiful, friendly cats while drinking coffee or tea. For sanitary purposes, you sanitize your hands upon entering and you usually take your shoes off and replace them with slippers. Then you order your drink or food and take it into the cat section!
You can hang out with the cats as long as you like, and the owners and workers are usually characters who have a lot of passion for their feline friends, so it’s a great place to people-watch. And cat-watch.
Cat cafes are a great place to rest on a busy trip. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed with a cat on their lap and a hot drink?
There are a ton in Seoul, but here are a few recommendations:
Y Cat Café: 3F, 358-125, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
Café Café MyeongDong : 8-5 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Built in the 14th century, this incredibly well-preserved Confucian royal shrine was once the worship place for the Joseon Dynasty rulers. The original temple was destroyed during the 16th century Japanese invasion, but the 17th century rebuilt temple still stands today. The main shrine and the Hall of Eternal Peace are the notable buildings on the site, and every year the Jongmyo Jerye ritual attracts huge crowds to honour rulers of the Joseon dynasty.
Except on Saturdays, you can only visit the site through a guided tour, so remember to think ahead. A tour is really the way to experience this place; the peaceful atmosphere and restrained decorations might make wandering around here without any context a little dull.
Still, the shrine is incredibly beautiful and relaxing in and of itself, so it’s worth a visit for the peaceful atmosphere alone.
Here at the Loftus Guides, we don’t like to generalize. From our experience, one size rarely fits all. Really, one size doesn’t even fit most. Everyone’s different, and whether we’re talking about your choice of dinner or your vacation destination, you shouldn’t put yourself in a box. And the same goes for travel preferences: everyone has their very own. This is the beauty of travel – to expand your horizons and experience a trip that you will remember for a lifetime.
Choose a travel style that suits your preferences, passions and habits, and you’ll find your experience to be more relaxed, personal, and experiential. Here are some different travel styles you should consider! Which one suits you the best?
Small Group Travel
For some, touring around the world on a guided tour is the ideal way to travel. With built in structure and a whole new set of like-minded fellow travellers to get to know, small group tours are intimate but still highly social.
Great for: People who enjoy structure but aren’t afraid to make new friends!
If you love getting lost in the majesty of nature (but hopefully not on the trail), you may be an environment-oriented traveller! This type of touring will take you to some of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights and remind you of your place in the ecosystem of our planet. These trips range from the rustic hiking tours across mountains and plains, to more easygoing trips that bring you to more easily accessible destinations.
Great for: People who love nature and own decent hiking boots.
If you love a good adventure, you may be among those who choose to approach their vacations as experimentation in the extraordinary. Why have an ordinary vacation when you can have a once in a lifetime experience? Sky diving, cliff jumping, zip lining, you name it, travelling for adventure is a surefire way to make memories you’ll never forget.
Great for: People who will try anything once and have an open mind!
Urban environments are home to some of the best food, the coolest art, and the most diverse culture. You can have access to a huge range of activities without having to move hotels all the time. Galleries one day, flea markets the next; city touring is a great way to get an energetic sampling of everything.
Great for: People who have a good grasp of public transport, a love of culture, and a thick skin.
Faith Based Exploration
For the modern pilgrim, visiting sites of religious importance can be an experience that touches every part of their life. Touring temples, churches, and religious historical sites can bring your faith to life and make your spirituality even richer and more personal.
Great for: People who want to experience a religion with every sense they have!
If you have a civic-minded heart, travelling to a destination and supporting a local community with sustainable volunteer work can combine a love of people with a love of seeing the world! Trips that focus on community development and assisting underserved communities can change you forever.
Great for: People who aren’t afraid to put their back into helping others.
Share with us which type (or types) or traveller you are!