June 25, 2024

InsideAsia Tours launches a food-focused holiday that offers a variety of dining and other cultural experiences in five locations across South Korea.

InsideAsia Tours has launched “Culinary Korea,” a gastronomic-themed 13-day itinerary traversing five destinations in South Korea.

“Designed to satisfy food enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, this new itinerary delves into the diverse flavors and mouthwatering culinary traditions unique to South Korea through a blend of hands-on cooking workshops, market visits and other culturally immersive experiences,” said Rebecca Barry, InsideAsia Tours’ senior South Korea product executive. “Korea’s culinary offerings go far beyond the well-known KBBQ and craft beer, and travelers will get to try the best of it as they sample the complex tastes and fresh flavors of meals, sides, snacks and beverages.”

With time spent in developed cities like metropolitan Seoul, the port of Yeosu and the coastal retreat of Busan, the “Culinary Korea” itinerary also shows travelers the charming Korean countryside in the historic enclave of mountainous Jeonju and on the remote island of Jeju. Throughout the tour, travelers will engage in interactive experiences with locals who will share not only Korean food, but also the broader Korean culture.

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Appreciation for Korean Culture is Growing in America

With the ongoing K-Wave sweeping the United States, the explosion of popularity for South Korea’s cultural exports, ranging from films, music, fashion and wellness trends, also extends to Korean cuisine. According to data from the Food Institute, interest in Korean cuisine spiked by 90% in 2022 compared to the previous year based on search behaviors.

America’s love affair with Korean culture is also reflected in travelers visiting South Korea for themselves, with the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) reporting a record yearly high of 1.08 million American tourists having visited Korea in 2023. Preliminary data indicates an over 30% increase in American tourists visiting Korea in Q1 of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

“The various aspects and quirks of Korean cuisine are best enjoyed in Korea directly, where historically-authentic preparation methods are practiced in venues ranging from fine dining establishments to street food carts, both of which utilize fresh and locally sourced ingredients harvested from the ground and the sea,” Barry said. “Beyond the food itself, there is something profoundly special about Korea’s communal dining culture, which cultivates a deep sense of interpersonal connection, a concept known locally as jeong. Travelers on the “Culinary Korea” itinerary will feel the spark of deep connection to their fellow travelers, Korean locals and the country’s rich and dynamic culture as a whole, elevating dining experiences to a truly transcendent, soul-nurturing experience.”

‘Culinary Korea’ Itinerary Highlights

  • Seoul: With three days in Seoul, travelers have plenty of time to explore iconic sites like Gyeongbok Palace and Namsan Tower as they get their first taste of Korean cuisine. With every meal there’s a chance to savor KBBQ or chimaek fried chicken dishes. The craft beers and unique brews in trendy Seongsu will satisfy the most discerning of beer aficionados. Coffee enthusiasts can indulge in Seoul’s innovative cafes and traditional teahouses, sampling world-class espresso, dalgona hand-beaten coffee, and gogooma sweet potato lattes.
  • Jeonju: Jeonju, South Korea’s culinary capital, is famed for its traditional dishes like bibimbap rice bowls and kongnamul-gukbap bean sprout soup. A city renowned for upholding traditional culture in all aspects, the Hanok Village features old-world cafes and food establishments serving traditional staples of Korean cuisine prepared using the time-tested methods that have been used by locals for hundreds of years. Clinking cups of fizzy rice wine in Makgeolli Alley will foster deep connections among travelers and locals, celebrating with the Korean cheers, “geonbae.”
  • Yeosu: On the less visited west coast of Korea, Yeosu offers a taste of port city life with its lively fish market and maritime cable car. Most notable is the Nangman Night Market, whose street performers and food stalls attract nightly lines of hungry patrons looking to enjoy spicy seafood soup and deep-fried fish, freshly caught within a few days of eating. Nearby, Seonamsa Temple’s preserved walled town provides a tranquil escape for inner zen in the middle of this gastronomic adventure.
  • Jeju Island: Known for its balmy climate and beautiful beaches, Jeju Island is South Korea’s top vacation spot. Guests can pick and taste the famous Jeju tangerines and experience the unique haenyo community of female divers who have harvested abalone, octopus and sea urchins for decades with their traditional bitchang spears.
  • Busan: At the culinary world’s forefront thanks to the city’s first-ever Michelin Guide published earlier this year, Busan is renowned for its modern seafront, crystal-clear beaches and colorful Gamcheon alleyways. The iconic Jagalchi Fish Market offers Korea’s freshest seafood, like nakji octopus and spicy maeun-tang soup among other delicacies. Within the winding footpaths of Jagalchi Fish Market, travelers will partake in a cooking workshop led by a Busan local, who will teach how to prepare a traditional Korean dish travelers can recreate once home.

Photos courtesy of InsideAsia Tours

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