Long layovers are boring but not always. We discovered the free city tour that Incheon Airport offers to passengers on a layover when booking a flight to Bali. There was a 15 hours layover in Seoul so we choose to go this route due to the fact that we get to see Seoul using their free city transit tours.
There are eight free tours of the city that are offered from Incheon Airport. Ranging from one- to five-hours, you can pick the tour that is most suitable for your transit time.
The free city tours, aka “Transit Tours,” provided by the airport doesn’t cost anything except admission to tourist sites and meals. Reservations are required, and are on a first-come, first-serve basis. A couple of the Seoul City Tours are $10 to cover the entrance fee to the Royal Palace and the meal. They provide transportation and guide. You will have the opportunity to visit temples near the airport or some other popular attractions in the city of Seoul and surrounding areas that absolutely does not require you to have a tourist visa.
HOW TO SIGN UP
For signing up, information or questions on transit tours before the flight, you can stop by the Transit Tour Desk at Incheon Airport. You can choose the tour with diverse activities, from visiting Temples, Cave, Korean historical treasures to shopping in the most famous districts. Each transit tour is led by an English-speaking tour guide and you can also be signed up for in advance online or upon arrival in the case of available seats.
You can also sign up through their website and pick an activity you wish to take. It’s also possible to reserve a spot right at the airport, but because these tours operate in small groups, there’s a good chance that your preferred tour may fill up by the time you land at Incheon Airport.
All tour participants must present their passport with valid visa (if applicable ) along with their flight ticket when signing up for the tour. If you’re US citizens, all you will need are your passports and connecting flight tickets to sign up for the tour. Otherwise, check with the tour desk at the airport. The agents were helpful and will be able to answer your question.
TOURS THAT ARE OFFERED
• Yonggungsa Temple (1 hour)
-Paradise city Art-Tainment ( 1 hour)
– Songdo Hanok Village & Triple Shopping Street (2 hours)
– Gwangmyeong Cave (4 hours)
– Worldcup Stadium & Hongdae Street ( 4 hours)
– Gyeongbokgung Palace & Insa-dong ( 5 hours)
– Myeong-dong & Namdaemun Market ( 5 hours)
We went with Yonggungsa Temple and Gwangmyeong Cave Tour.
Yonggungsa Temple is not far from the airport and sits on the northeastern slopes of Baegunsan Mountain. The temple was first built in 1376 and was first named as ‘Baegunsa’ during the reign of King Munmu of the Silla Kingdom. After that and during Joseon Dynasty, the temple became a temporary residence for Heungseon Daewongun ( the Great Archduke). When his son came into throne, the temple was named as Yonggungsa Temple. The temple consists of various buildings such as Gwaneumjeon (re-constructed by Heungseon Daewongun), Yosachae (home of the monks), Chilseonggak, and Yonghwanggak.
The area is small but was very peaceful. In Yosachae, the writings of Heungseon Daewongun are hung on the wall and recently, an 11 meter-high statue of Maitreya was put in place. Maitreya was believed to ascend to earth as the future Buddha in 56 million years according to Korean Buddhists. Also in front of the temple are two 1,300 year-old Zelkova trees. Zelkova trees are elegant trees commonly used for bonsai because of its attractive colors and shape.
Gwangmyeong Cave Tour
It took about an hour and half to reach there. It is located on the far southwestern outskirts of Seoul. History has it that the cave was used when Korea was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945 for mining purposes and was staffed by forced laborers. It now serves as a place to commemorate the memories of coal mining workers. It is a large themed cave park with aquariums, sculptures, historical exhibits, children’s amusement and other attractions.
Inside the cave, attractions include Wormhole Square (light theme experiences in cave), Cave Underground Lake, Cave Underground World (underground passage that miners once carried the mined ore), Golden Road (road of ‘Long Life, Happiness and Peace’), Modern History Museum, Aqua Cave World on fishes and many more. In addition, there is a Wine Cave where 170 types of wine from around South Korea are sold. Wine tasting is conducted every Saturday and Sunday at 12:00 to 16:00.
If you have time enjoy local wine at the wine cellar and tasting room. Outside the cave are traces of the miners like ‘Seongwangjang’ (Ore Separation Site), ‘Dogonae’ (The Road of Salt), Girl Statue of Peace, Miner Stone Statue, and ‘Sky View’ Cave Observation Platform. Not to mention there were many food trucks outside serving delicious food and drinks which I really enjoyed.
There is not a whole lot of time to see everything but if you do, there is a romantic restaurant called Maru de Cave (high-class wine restaurant) that is now open serving Korean beef steaks cooked by the leading chefs of high end hotels. Other eateries at Gwangmyeong Cave include the Cafe Cafe and Open-air Cafe.
You can leave your luggage at the Free Transit Tour desk before joining a Korea transit tour. All luggage needs to be picked up before 6 PM every day.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN INCHEON AIRPORT
Incheon Airport is one of my favorite airport. Layover here is certainly not so boring here. It is spacious, bright, clean and has fantastic services and free things to see and do such as pine, cacti and rock gardens are just some of the seven gardens to explore.
Korean Cultural Museum with an array of art spanning 5,000 years may be small but has impressive collection of ancient relics is a great way to pass time. Check out the Traditional Korean Cultural Experience where you can make your own handicrafts such as traditional Korean paper (Hanji) or fans. You can even listen to traditional Korean musical performances and 12-string. You can view Korean art in the Traditional Cultural Centre which is open 24 hours a day and sometimes offering craft sessions.
These tours/programs are subject to change and so is eligibility and visa requirements. Make sure to verify what works for you.
Have you been to Incheon? What did you like about this city? Let me know in the comments!