It was brief, my days spent in South Korea, but it was one of those soul-changing adventures that stays with you forever. I visited Gwangju, Jeju Island and Seoul, with each destination offering sublime wellness experiences.
Most of your clients headed to South Korea will be doing a classic itinerary visiting the country’s most iconic tourism spots, so the best recommendation is to offer these rejuvenating experiences as a complement to that itinerary.
After landing at the Incheon International Airport, and spending the night in the very glamorous Paradise Hotel & Resort—which resembles a Las Vegas resort without the casino, with access to an array of entertainment offerings and restaurants—we headed by car to Gwangju, Korea’s sixth-largest city that is often considered the birthplace of Korean democracy. This busy metropolitan area is home to the Pyeonbaeknara Hyo So Gung spa, which offers a 5-step healing experience whose highlight is a cypress enzyme bath. This “immune-boosting” experience begins with your client covered neck deep in a dry enzyme-heated bath filled with cypress sawdust. It is said that the deep penetrating heat helps with blood circulation, and we were told that 15 minutes in the bath is equivalent to two hours of cardio workout (now we know their secret). And because this is Asia, and they don’t take wellness lightly, the bath was followed by a few minutes in a full-body massage chair, a dry cypress half-body course, a wax bath for the hands and a dry cypress foot bath. That was the beginning of an amped-up wellness getaway.
After a stroll through the local park with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, we headed to the airport for a quick plane ride to Jeju Island, a stop included in most traveler’s itineraries.
On Jeju Island, a must is taking a walk along the Jeju Olle Trail, which mostly straddles the island’s coastline along 21 numbered and connected main routes and five sub-routes. Part of the trail is course #8, where visitors will be able to view the stunning Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff, a cultural monument made up of stone pillars piled up along the coast that seems snatched from an alien planet. Recommend clients check out the scenery from the flipside by hopping on one of Pacific Land’s sailing excursions. We opted for the Yacht Tour Shangri-La and sailed along the coastline for about an hour. The El Marino Buffet restaurant is a good option between the walk and the sailing—it’s a premium buffet located at the marina.
For those clients who want to truly immerse themselves in the local way of life and be surrounded by nature while taking a restorative hike, suggest they head to the Seogwipo Healing Forest, made up of sub-tropical and temperate forests. Known primarily to locals only, this is a wonderful experience, and one of my favorites on the island. There are several trails—nine miles in all—clients can take, from as little as an hour or as long as three hours, and the hikes are led by a local healing guide (reservations are necessary). Along the way, the focus is to connect with nature and de-stress, with areas where one sits and looks up at the trees and the sky; other areas, where the guide will request the visitor to close their eyes and listen to the sounds of nature, or meditate; and even spots where
tree hugging comes into play. That’s topped off with a visit to the Healing Center located deep in the forest, where visitors can rest a while while enjoying some tea. Lunch boxes featuring local specialties can be pre-ordered as well—this is a great way to see a place not yet overwhelmed with outside tourists (when I visited, I only encountered locals).
The place to stay while on Jeju Island is the WE Hotel, a health resort surrounded by pine and Japanese cedar trees. There are guided early morning walks through the surroundings, but your clients shouldn’t leave this resort without partaking in the hydrotherapy experience, which includes a 40-minute massage in a pool that’s located in a large round chamber—imagine a planetarium shape—with soothing sounds and illuminated with orange, purple and green lighting. The spa director mentioned to me that people have told him the experience feels what they imagine being in a womb would be like.
After a full day experiencing the wonders of Jeju Island, we took an early morning flight to Seoul to experience three unique wellness offerings in the country’s capital.
Chic City Life
A top accommodation recommendation in Seoul is the Vista Walkerhill Seoul, a breathtaking property whose wellness facilities offer magnificent views of the Hangang River. One of the most impressive areas of the hotel’s wellness offerings is its Skyard, where guests will find yoga and meditation areas, as well as foot baths—all looking out over the city. In addition, there’s the V Spa, led by Swiss brand Valmont; a gym; an indoor pool; a sauna that uses hot spring water and offers a wide variety of medicinal herb baths and whirlpools, including an outdoor jacuzzi overlooking the river; a posture studio; a body-shaping studio; an aquatic exercise pool; a nutritional counseling office; a healing forest for yoga and meditation located alongside the hotel; and an array of wellness programs such as the 1-night Wellness Healing program that includes a consultation, sleep analysis, healthy meals, a spa treatment, exercise classes, and a yoga class.
When your clients have ripped themselves always from the hotel—and it’s hard to do as both the accommodations and wellness facilities are sublime—they should definitely head to the Sulwhasoo Flagship Store for top-notch beauty products, a lesson on the beauty brand’s long and fascinating history, and a “Crazy Rich Asians”-style private consultation. Let’s just say this is not your neighborhood Sephora.
And then top off the evening with dinner at the 1-Michelin star Balwoo Gongyang, a restaurant serving traditional temple food based on recipes handed down in Korean temples. It’s an intimate space with multi-course meals served in a private area, and for those interested in listening to the particulars of the cuisine, there’s a Beop course that includes a chef’s cooking demonstration and food explanation.
What’s In it For Travel Advisors?
Want to learn more about South Korea? Check out the “How to Sell a Niche Destination: South Korea” webinar presented by the Korea Tourism Organization, LA Office.
Korea Tourism Organization: