With a rich culture dating back more than 4,000 years, South Korea has a lot more to offer than kimchi and "Gangnam Style".
For most visitors the main attraction is Seoul, an ultra-modern metropolis home to 10 million people and some of Asia's best music, fashion and food. While the capital is certainly worth a few days of shopping at its 24-hour street markets, checking out the latest K-pop clubs, exploring historic palaces and seeing the view from Seoul Tower, the country's natural wonders require leaving the city.
Thankfully, South Korea's small size and lightning-fast rail system (trains reach speeds of up to 300 km/h) means that no destination is too far-flung. Armed with a Korea Rail pass, travellers can take in most of the country in two weeks.
For nature lovers, national parks like Jirisan and Seoraksan offer spectacular hiking through pristine mountain landscapes and are home to secluded Buddhist retreats. In the snowy winter months, Koreans flock to the mountains to ski at resorts like Alps Seoul and Yongpyong Resort. In the summer, beach bums should make their way down the west coast to Daechon Beach, famous for its mud festival, or take a quick flight to semi-tropical Jeju island, the country's southernmost point, for sun-bathing and scuba diving.
In terms of costs, South Korea falls right in the middle -- it's more expensive than Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, but a bargain compared to neighbouring Japan. Dorms bed are available in Seoul and cost about 20,000 won (about US$19) per night, while a budget room starts from 50,000 won. South Korea's street food is as delicious as it is affordable and you can snack on gimbap (Korean sushi) or mandu (dumplings) for about 2,000 won ($1.75) per plate.
Save for the occasional language barrier -- many Koreans do not speak English, but young people usually do -- travelling in Korea is hassle-free. Transport is fast, accommodation is modern, food is delicious -- and the internet speeds are among the fastest in the world.