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Trip to Japan and South Korea: 3 weeks memorable itinerary

A trip to Japan and South Korea is something that has long filled the dreams of travellers eager to explore rich cultures, stunning landscapes, and unique cuisine. After our second trip to Japan in April 2023, we decided to extend our adventure to South Korea. We opted for an independent approach, booking everything on our own and building a personalized itinerary based on our interests. You can find more information on how to plan a trip to Japan here. In this post, we share our 3-week journey to Japan and South Korea, filled with memorable moments, surprising discoveries, and unforgettable experiences that shaped our view of these two fascinating countries.

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Week 1: Tokyo and Hakone

Night market in Tokyo, one of the must-visit places in your trip to Japan

Tokyo (4 nights): No trip to Japan is complete without visiting Tokyo. We immersed ourselves in the bustle of Tokyo, exploring everything from the iconic Shibuya crossing, and the Tsukiji Market to the spectacular district of Asakusa. We indulged in the wonders of Japanese cuisine and marvelled at the vibrant neighbourhoods that define the city’s dynamic landscape. Tokyo is a city that never seems to end for those who visit. We’ve been to Tokyo 3 times already, and there’s always something more to see or do.

View of Mount Fuji, one of the must-visit places in your trip to Japan

Hakone (1 night): A train journey took us to Odawara where we activated the Hakone FreePass and caught another train to Hakone. In Hakone, you can enjoy views of Mount Fuji, visit an old teahouse, and take a walk along one of Japan’s oldest and best-known paths. The Hakone FreePass gives you access not only to the train but also to the bus within Hakone, cable cars, and a boat cruise on the lake.

Week 2: Kyoto, Nara, and Fukuoka

Kyoto (4 nights): We fell in love with Kyoto’s historic temples and the charming Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama, creating magical memories in the heart of Japan. A day trip to Nara where we had the opportunity to mingle with and feed the deer added a special touch to our trip.

Deer in Nara, one of the must-visit places in Japan

Fukuoka (2 nights): The high-speed train took us to Fukuoka, a city that combines tradition and modernity. We explored street food markets and relaxed in the serene Ohori Park.

Week 3: Busan, Jeonju, and Seoul

Ferry to Busan (4 nights): We boarded a scenic ferry that took us to Busan’s vibrant markets, serene beaches, and rich Korean cultural tapestry, highlighting the interculturality of our trip. It was the first place where we tried Korean barbecue in a very typical setting and we fell in love.

Jeonju (2 nights): Known for its Hanok Village and delicious bibimbap, Jeonju charmed us with its history and gastronomy.

Seoul (4 nights): In Seoul, we explored ancient palaces, and dynamic neighbourhoods like Insadong, and indulged in vibrant street food.

Additional tips for a trip to Japan and South Korea

  • JR Rail Pass: We used the JR Rail Pass to travel between cities in Japan, ensuring a smooth and cost-effective experience. Pass prices have recently changed, so before you decide to buy a pass, check if the planned trips are worth it.
  • Hakone Pass: The Hakone FreePass was essential for exploring the region, offering access to exclusive attractions and stunning views.
  • Ferry to South Korea: We recommend the ferry from Fukuoka to Busan for a scenic and unique experience. We used the Queen Beetle.
  • Travel Insurance: When travelling independently to a remote destination, we always recommend travel insurance. Check out more details and information on travel insurance here.
  • Train Travel: High-speed trains are efficient and fast, allowing you to explore multiple cities in a short amount of time.
  • Food Safety: Try all the street food; it’s hygienic and safe, and offers unique experiences.

How much does a trip to Japan and South Korea cost?

A 3-week adventure trip to Japan and South Korea can cost from €3,500 per person in a group of 2, depending on choices of flights, accommodation, meals, and activities. We recommend early bookings, especially during peak seasons.

Best times to visit

The best times to visit are in the spring (April and May) and autumn (September to October) when temperatures are mild and the landscapes stunning. Summer (June to August) offers vibrant festivals, while winter (November to March) brings a unique atmosphere with holidays and special activities.

Entry requirements for Japan and South Korea

Entry rules in all countries depend on the traveller’s country of origin and passport nationality. We always advise checking information with consulate authorities or embassies.

Many countries, including Portugal, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, grant visa exemptions for stays of up to 90 days for your trip to Japan.

For South Korea, visa requirements also vary depending on the country of origin, and a K-ETA may be required.

Our trip to Japan and South Korea was an enriching and unforgettable experience. We discovered the true essence of these countries, immersing ourselves in local culture, exploring stunning landscapes, and savouring unique cuisine. We hope our itinerary inspires your adventure and that you make the most of every moment, just as we did.

Planning your trip to Japan?

If you are planning a trip, check our resources page.

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