The sun rises on the southern tip of South Korea and the rays hit the modern skyscrapers of the coastal metropolitan city as it awakes.

It’s almost as sparkly as the bobbing waves that embrace quaint little fishing boats and car ferries to Jeju Island, a stone’s throw from Busan.

The ocean breezes aren’t the only attraction, either – it’s also an excellent base of operations for exploring memorable Busan day trips.

The south has something special going for it, and even one day in the setting can give a real sense that there is more to life here than meets the eye.

It’s the kind of place you can choose relaxing day trips from Busan to the various beaches, with amazing local food on offer, or take a completely different track in an immersive traditional experience that transports you into another era entirely.

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Busan essentials

 Check Momondo for cheap flights to Busan or read our article for several other interesting flight booking sites. 

Traveling independently throughout the country is much easier when you stay connected. Don’t lose time upon arrival at the airport and order your portable wifi device or SIM card in advance, so that it’s ready and waiting for you at the airport when you arrive. 

If you plan to come to Busan by train, preorder your discounted Korea Rail Pass here.

If you are looking for the best things to do in Busan, click here. Here you can find a complete Busan itinerary. 

Here you can find our detailed guide about the best places to stay in Busan. However, Busan has a lot of nice Airbnb’s too. If this is the first time you will be staying in an Airbnb, you can enjoy a great discount by signing up through this link.

Here is an overview of all our South Korea posts.

 

Last but not least, make sure you have travel insurance.

 

The best day trips from Busan

There’s a buzz in the atmosphere, no matter the season, and the city is awash with activity from dawn to dusk.

There are a plethora of amazing things to see, including some fantastic beaches, jagged islands with hidden European botanical gardens, tiny fishing villages, mountain-side temples, and a lifetime of insight into the Korean civilizations that have long since passed into tradition.

If you’re game for a little adventure while you’re in town, grab some of those triangular gimbap snacks (seaweed-covered rice with different fillings – a staple of Korean road trips and picnics) and a Jeju Spring Water (it’s supposed to be the best of the best).

Any local convenience store will have a selection of these picnic foods available, and there’s a store on every corner!

If it’s a hot summer’s day, you might also want to grab an iced coffee (literally, a plastic cup with ice blocks in it, that stays in the ice-cream freezer, to which you add a sachet of coffee bought off the shelf).

Then, head out to new and exciting sights around the Busan peninsula and be sure to take your new camera (or smartphone) along.

Here are our top  11 recommendations for the best day trips from Busan

Sunset on Wolji pond Gyeongju South Korea

Sunset on the Wolji pond at the Donggung Palace, one of the best day trips from Busan

1. Gyeongju

Perhaps, the most famous of all the ‘traditional’ destinations in South Korea from a tourist perspective is the city of Gyeongju.

It’s immensely popular with local travelers, and it is a stunning location, unexpected for a small town in the middle of nowhere.

What to See

Gyeongju is one of the most beautiful cities. A rich history is visibly evident on the streets.

If you want to see ancient Korea, as it might have been when Gyeongju was the Silla capital city (over a thousand years ago), this is the place.

Some of the must-sees for Gyeongju include:

● Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto (Korea’s most treasured sculpture for Buddhists)
● Tumuli Park
● Cheomseongdae Observatory (the oldest in East Asia!)
● Yangdong Traditional Village
● Gyeongju National Museum

Day trip tips

One day in Gyeongju is enough to garner mind-boggling insight into the traditional Korean culture that has been preserved so well here compared to the northern half of the country.

Gyeongju is filled with ancient ruins, caves, temples, museums, monuments, parks, and gravesites that tell the story of where Korea came from before the dawning of the technological era.

It really does have something for everyone, but the rich cultural and natural legacy is its greatest asset.

Walking down the main street is a little disconcerting. Where are all the obvious South Korean buildings that you find in every city everywhere else? Where are all the franchise stores, the drab apartment buildings, and the shiny modernity of Seoul, Incheon, Daegu, and Daejeon?

It’s what makes Gyeongju one of the most unique locations in modern-day Korea, transporting you back into a different time.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconGyeongju is only 80 kilometers from Busan, so any public transport is going to take between one and two hours. There are regular trains and buses departing for Gyeongju from central Busan. If you’re in the North Terminal (Nopo) Busan, a bus is more convenient.

Guided Gyeongju tour from Busan

If you don’t like going independently, you can also join a guided Gyeongju tour from Busan. 

Read reviews and book: Guided Gyeongju Tour 
Duryu Park Daegu South Korea

Duryu Park in Daegu (Picture by Chris Anderson)

2. Daegu

One of the larger cities in South Korea, Daegu has plenty on offer from both a travel and a business perspective.

It’s one of the most popular southern cities with expats who teach English, for example, because of its proximity to so much natural beauty.

It is also widely known for the ancient oriental medicine legacy so prevalent in its traditional communities today.

What is there to see in Daegu

Put on comfortable walking shoes and take along the camera. The must-see attractions in Daegu include:

● Apsan Park (including the cable car experience)
● Seomun Market (Korean food) and Yangnyeongsi Market (Oriental Medicine)
● Daegu 83 Tower (in Duryu Park)
● Suseong Lake
● and the aquarium, museums, art galleries, and more!

The Hop on-Hop Off City Tour bus is an excellent gateway to all the major tourist hotspots in this sprawling metropolis. Stop in at the trendy Cafè Alley for a selection of amazing coffee shops, too.

If you’re a fan of beautiful Korean temples, Donghwasa Temple is about 45 minutes out of the city by bus with hiking opportunities and breathtaking views. Palgongsan Natural Park is also an amazing hiking location that rewards a 45-minute climb with a massive Buddha statue and gorgeous views.

Day trip tips

As an ancient trade center that has connected Seoul to Busan for the past few centuries, Daegu was the subject of much interest from local visitors.

Some of its markets were established during the ancient dynastic periods as sought-after destinations for herbal medicine and many other products.

These places have survived into modern-day South Korea, so the legacies scattered around Daegu are legendary.

Daegu Lantern Festival (April/May)

Daegu also happens to be the venue for the hugely popular Daegu Lantern Festival (Dalgubeol), held around Buddha’s birthday each year.

It’s a festival that’s replicated throughout the country, but the Daegu gathering is the largest and most impressive one. A festival of light, the celebrations take place mainly at night over ten days.

It’s a breathtaking celebration where lanterns are released into the night sky, floated on lakes and rivers, showcased in parades, and lit to the backdrop of captivating fireworks displays. It’s quite something to witness first-hand.

The two primary venues are the baseball stadium and Durya park, but festivities are not limited to these two areas so ask around and (in this context), it’s okay to go toward the light.

There are 6000 free tickets, so getting there early in the morning to secure one for later that evening is a great idea.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconDaegu is just over 100 kilometers from Busan by road, and the trains prove the simplest way to travel between Busan and Daegu. The slowest option will take about 1 hour 45 minutes (on the ‘slow’ train called the ‘Mugunghwa’).

Conclusion

Daegu is a quick and easy trip from Busan with a massive array of activities, sights, and fascinating experiences for the whole family. You won’t need to worry about return bus or train times as the transport links are varied and reliable.

Odongdo Island Yeosu South Korea

Odongdo Island seen from Yeosu Port

3. Yeosu

In the last decade, Yeosu has transformed from a sleepy coastal village into a magnificent city of innovation and beautiful modern architecture.

What to See

The local community is invested in maintaining the small tourist trade that’s a residual effect from recent events. It has some excellent places to visit with children, too.

Be sure to check out:

Hanwha Aqua Planet Yeosu aquarium (the transparent tunnel is especially captivating)
● Roller On Inline Skating Rink
● Trick Eye Museum
● Teddy Bear Museum
● The Big-O multimedia show (summers only)

For nature lovers, a walk across to Odongdo (Island) rewards visitors with over 70 species of indigenous flowers and the Dragon Cave which is open to the imagination. The breakwater runs from the Yeosu Port to the island, so it’s easily accessible.

Day trip tips

Yeosu is close to Suncheon. If you’re traveling with the whole family, there’s plenty to enjoy in both these destinations. For a sleepy coastal village, it sure has a lot on offer.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconYeosu is about 102 kilometers from Busan by road or rail. A bus or train will take about 2 hours 30 minutes from Busan, but only 20 minutes from Suncheon (less than 30 kilometers).

Consider joining a day trip to Yeosu with a stop in Suncheon to break the journey.

 

Suncheon Bay South Korea

Suncheon bay at Sunrise

4. Suncheon City

Home to temples, mountains, parks, and even the oldest Joseon dynasty castle, Suncheon is a bustling industrial city in Suncheon Bay (just north of Yeosu). It thrives on agriculture and industry and continues to develop rapidly as the local economy takes off.

What to See

As one of the premier ‘eco’ destinations in South Korea, this growing city is filled with different attractions to other coastal Korean cities.

Take a day and explore:

● The Suncheon Mud Flats and Suncheon Bay
● Munhwauigeori art area (not open late on Sundays)
● Suncheon Drama Set
● Seonamsa Temple or Songgwangsa Temple (or hike between the two)

Naganeupseong Folk Village is a unique ‘Fortress Village’ that’s incredibly well-preserved compared to other sites in Korea.

It offers the same cultural experiences as similar locations around the country, but there are also a few extras, like traditional weddings, etiquette classes, and military music performances.

If you want a scenic walk with ocean views, Hwapo beach is also worth a visit (for the seafood, not the sunbathing).

Day trip tips

The city of Suncheon is geared towards eco-travelers and continues to evolve. It’s an exciting atmosphere and has plenty on offer for all types of visitors.

Suncheon is also just down the road from Yeosu, so combining the two destinations makes a great day trip from Busan.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconFrom Busan, it’s easiest to take a bus to Suncheon. Leave from the Busan West Bus Terminal (Sasang Station) on one of the regular buses. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes.

Check on the bus return times to Busan before you head out and leave enough time to return to Suncheon from Yeosu.

Botanical Garden Oedo Island South Korea

The botanical garden on Oedo Island

5. Oedo Island

Do you remember the hidden European botanical garden hidden on an island we mentioned earlier? That is a precise and unembellished description of Oedo Island.

It’s part of Geoje municipality, so Oedo is a hop-skip-and-jump (and boat ride) away from Busan.

What to See

Oedo is definitely the right place to escape into a fantasy for a morning. It’s almost impossible to imagine unless you’ve seen it for yourself, but it is literally a privately-owned island which the family has developed into a European-style garden vista (with an Asian twist).

Atop sheer cliffs and overlooking the ocean on all sides, this stunning botanical garden now includes over 3,000 plant species.

Expect stairs and crowds, especially during a long weekend or national holiday. Otherwise, it’s a quiet, contemplative atmosphere that’s at its peak beauty in the springtime.

Day trip tips

Oedo is such a unique phenomenon in South Korea that it is certainly worth seeing while you’re in the area.

There are eight paths onto the island, all only accessible by ferry.

The island fee and ferry fee are combined, and you can get there from several boarding points.

 Most visitors are allowed 90 minutes on the island before their ferry ride returns to the mainland. Take note of your arrival and departure information before you disembark.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconFrom Busan (Seo Gu), take a direct bus to Jangseungpo Port (a launching point for the Oedo ferry). It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes. Head to Oedo first, and then to one of the other destinations you’d like to explore, like Geoje or Namhae.

Guided Oedo Island Day Tour

You can also visit Oedo Island with a guided day tour. 

Read reviews and book your tour: Guided Oedo Island Day Tour 

 

Boriam temple Namhae Island South Korea

The Boriam Temple is surrounded by dramatic mountains

6. Namhae Island

If you want panoramic views and ocean vistas, Namhae Island will not disappoint.

It’s like a mini version of Jeju Island, but you don’t need a ferry or a plane to get there.

What to See

Namhae is an excellent summer destination for hiking, swimming, exploring, and relaxing. It also has pockets of culture, art, and cuisine.

Namhae must-sees include:
● Boriam Temple
● Mijo fishing port
● Sangju Beach
● The International Villages (American and German)
● Rice terraces at Darangee (and its Seaside Bridge)

Day trip tips

Namhae is one of the most beautiful areas of South Korea AND it’s so close to Busan. The bonus? It’s less popular than Jeju Island, for example, so you don’t have to fight all those crowds to enjoy this hidden gem.

Public transport is less frequent but not impossible to find. If in doubt, ask a local and keep some cash on hand for possible taxi rides.

If you don’t want the hassle of taking public transport or taxis, you could always join a guided Namhae Day Tour. 

How To Get There From Busan

Like Yeosu, Namhae is only accessible by road or bus.

Bus iconFrom Busan, depart from the Busan West Terminal (Sasang Station) on one of the regular buses that takes you directly to the island. Prepare for a journey of about 2 hours 30 minutes.

 

Boseong tea plantations, South Korea

Boseong Tea Plantations

7. Boseong

Boseong is one of the lesser-known areas as far as mainstream tourism goes – an attraction for those who enjoy going off the beaten path in South Korea.

Its claim to fame is the stunning tea plantations (Green Tea), the largest of its kind in the entire country.

What to See

Tiered slopes of unique Boseong Green Tea as far as the eye can see – a breathtaking sight. The quality of the region’s tea products can be attributed mostly to the excellent altitude and rainfall that brings the most out of the carefully tended crops.

You can visit:
● Botjae Dawon Tea Plantation and Boseong Tea Fields
● Bamboo forest
● Yulpo beach
● Korea Tea Museum

No trip to Boseong is more memorable than the annual Boseong Green Tea Festival. Held in May each year, it attracts revelers from all over the country to the region.

If you’re interested in tea in any measure, it’s well worth a visit.

Imagine anything you can about tea (or that combines tea in the title), and you will find it here, including picking, making, learning, producing, trekking, competing, and stamping Green tea. We may also need to throw the words ‘Pansori’ and ‘Astrology’ in for good measure.

Day trip tips

Boseong is also a wonderland for hiking with nature trails, spectacular views, and meandering rivers. If you aren’t much of a tea aficionado, there’s plenty of rugged Korean beauty to enjoy here.

Grab a picnic lunch and head up Mt. Hwangseong for the most famous panoramic views of the tea plantations.

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconThe bus or Saemaeul train both take about 4 hours to Boseong, so bring a good book.

Hiring a car or signing up for one of the day tour packages that are available might be quicker for this day trip.

 

Korean ski resort

In Winter you can go skiing in Eden Valley

8. Eden Valley

The ‘Alps of Korea’ houses a spectacular ski range at Eden Valley with plenty to do for the whole family, summer or winter.

What to See

There are seven ski slopes, horse riding activities, and a waterpark. The world’s longest luge track should also keep you occupied.

Winters are all about skiing, and summers boast a Kart track and other activities, like the scenic 18-hole golf course.

If you are in Busan during wintertime and you love skiing or snowboarding, you can book a great all-inclusive ski package tour here.

Day trip tips

A short trip from Busan, Eden Valley offers a day out of the city with endless relaxation and entertainment on the slopes.

You could also join a fun guided day tour that combines a Busan city tour with 2 rides at the Eden Valley Luge. 

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconEden Valley is an hour from Busan by shuttle bus.

 

Mireuksan Mountain Tongyeong South Korea

Tongyeong is also a nice place to go hiking if climbing several flights of stairs doesn’t scare you

9. Tongyeong 

If a rich political history has you drooling, head over to Tongyeong for a day of education, insight, food, and sightseeing.

You can plan a trip to Tongyeong with military precision, just the way that the famous Admiral Yi Sun-shin would have liked it. It used to be called Chungmu, but the story is another gripping tale in itself (we’ll leave you to explore that mystery as you tour the small coastal city and uncover its secrets).

What to See

The most famous attraction in Tongyeong is the Hallyeo National Marine Park and the cable car that people are willing to wait hours to board.

For Koreans, this is quite a remarkable case in point – the ‘ppalli ppali’ (hurry up!) culture doesn’t do well with queues, so the views must be truly worth the wait.

The harbor is another attraction, said to be the most beautiful port in the whole country. It’s a gateway to over 150 islands and houses the Turtle Ship replica and some of the quaintest traditional restaurants.

Day trip tips

Tongyeong is a quick bus ride from Busan.

Military buffs will appreciate all the fortresses, monuments, and stronghold legacies so prevalent in this coastal community whose title translates directly to ‘command post.’

Families and couples will be able to see Tongyeong’s beautiful views, eat fantastic traditional meals, and explore the port, the cable car, the parks, and the beaches.

How To Get There From Busan

From Busan, Tongyeong is only 88 kilometers away by road. You can get there on an intercity bus in about 1 hour 30 minutes (from the Busan West Terminal at Sasang Station, or the Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal at Nopo Station).

If you don’t want to travel independently you could always join a guided day tour. 

 

Ulsan South Korea

Daewangam Park is a great place to enjoy the sunset

10. Ulsan

Ulsan is no small city. With over a million residents, it does make for a fascinating day trip from Busan, especially if you’ve never seen the magnitude of the industrial progress that has put South Korea on the world stage for manufacturing and technology.

What to See

Hyundai thought Ulsan was perfect to showcase the might of Korean industrial prowess.

Now, the city is home to the world’s largest automobile assembly plant and shipyard! It also has an enormous oil refinery, the third-largest in the world, so Ulsan is competing on a different playing field from any other city in Korea.

These industrial feats give life to the region, but the history of Ulsan is just as captivating. It’s been a key port since the ancient Korean dynasties were still serving hundreds of banchan (side dishes) to their royal rulers every day.

Ulsan has quite the reputation as a prime food destination with everything from family-owned one-room eateries to the latest international cuisine trends in flashy new restaurant locations.

Ulsan loves sports, too. It’s the home stadium for K League 1 football team, so why not catch a game if you’re there on the right day?

Here are some more interesting sights:

● Daewangam Park
● Jangsaengpo Whale Museum
● Taehwa River Grand Park and Bamboo Grove
● Seoknamsa Temple
● Ulsan Museum
● Ilsan Beach

How To Get There From Busan

Bus iconUlsan is only 70 kilometers from Busan, so a bus or train ride will be just over an hour.

Tsushima Shrine Japan

The Tsushima Shrine

11. Tsushima Island

If you’re thinking of popping into Japan for a day, Busan is only 50 kilometers from the group of islands known collectively as Tsushima (which is technically in Japan).

What to See

The islands are a preserve covered in natural bush and beautiful mountains. The fauna and flora are stunning if you have the providence to glimpse a few creatures among the forests. There’s even a venomous pit viper and a leopard cat that are both endemic to the region, found nowhere else on the planet.

Traditional Japanese restaurants abound, and the views are spectacular.

If you want a break from Korea and a glimpse into the natural beauty of lonely Japanese islands, Tsushima Island is an escapist’s dream.

How To Get There From Busan

The journey to Tsutshima takes between one and three hours, depending on the route you choose via Hitakatsu Port or Izuhara Port. The high-speed ferries include JR Beetle, Miraejet Kobee, and Daea Express Ocean Flower.

There’s also a cheap day bus pass available for tourists and driving from one end to the other takes at least two-and-a-half hours.

Festival Day Trips from Busan

If the idea of traditional Korean festivals is appealing to you, the following events are easy day trips from Busan that are sure to leave an impression:

Gwangyang Maehwa Festival in Spring South Korea

Gwangyang Maehwa Festival (Picture provided by the Korean Culture and Information Service)

Gwangyang Maehwa Festival ( March )

Centered around the Seomjingang Maehwa Village in Gwangyang, the plum (maesil) festival is all about the photo ops and the organic plum samplers that line the stalls. It’s the brainchild of Hong Ssang Ri, a mystery on her own.

Bus iconGetting here from Busan isn’t as straightforward as you might like, but you’re heading past Jinju to Ha-dong by bus. From Gwangyang Bus Terminal, it’s about thirty minutes by bus.

A day tour is also highly recommended if you want to fit in the Boseong Tea Fields.

Cherry Festival Yeojwacheon Stream Jinhae

Korea is extra cheerful during the cherry blossoms.

Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival ( April )

Jinhae blooms beautiful pink and white for several weeks at the beginning of spring. 

Busloads of onlookers descend to this area of Changwon city every year.

There are several hot spots for the best cherry blossom viewing, but the entire area is dressed for the occasion, especially the trees.

Bus iconJinhae, for sure one of the best places to visit in South Korea is only an hour by bus from Busan.

The Jinju Namgang Yudeung Lantern Festival (photo by Weli’mi’nakwan)

Jinju Lantern Festival ( October )

Jinju means ‘pearl’ in Korean, and this popular festival in Jinju city is a hidden gem of light and display.

The Tunnel of Wish Lanterns is probably the most spectacular thing to see, but there’s also traditional food, lantern activities, and fireworks to enjoy.

Bus iconJinju is about an hour-and-a-half from Busan by train or bus.

 

Conclusion

We hope this guide ignited some ideas for the next time you’re in Busan. The region is truly filled with fascinating sights and sounds that will build memories for a lifetime in the land of kimchi and rice.

If you have a few more days to spare, why not try our Busan itinerary and explore the city in more detail. There’s so much to see, so put on your walking shoes and be sure to charge the camera battery the night before!

But Busan also has a lot to offer after dark. From bustling markets to popular clubs and luxurious spas. Here you will our list full with amazing things to do in Busan at night.

For more information on the Busan bus schedules to various day trip destinations, click here.

Categories: South Korea