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Please help me plan 3.5 weeks in South Korea

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I’m in the early stages of planning a trip to South Korea and could really use some help, as there is WAY too much I want to see and do in a 3.5-week journey. 

My goal is to have as diverse a range of experiences as possible, including cities and towns, different styles of architecture, varied natural scenery, etc.

FWIW, here’s a bit about me:
- I typically enjoy art, architecture, museums, temples and shrines, parks and gardens, natural scenery, castles, markets, picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk customs, traditional performances, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world.
- I’m a woman, will be traveling solo, and generally prefer to proceed at my own pace (rather than with a tour).
- I don’t mind changing hotels frequently, even every night or so. In contrast, I hate backtracking if I can avoid it. 

- I’m not seeking down time (except, perhaps, for a brief soak in a Korean spa); I’m sure I’ll have enough time to relax while dining or in transit. Instead, I hope to take full advantage of the time I have to see and experience things. (OK, I’m unlikely to get up at the crack of dawn every day, but will do so when necessary to see or experience something that I would otherwise miss).
- I’m not seeking sporting activities, with the exception of a few easy, scenic hikes of no more than about 4 or 5 hours duration.

I have not been to Korea. My only trips to the Orient include 3 weeks in Japan and 4 weeks in northern China. I don’t currently speak any Korean except “thank you”; I’ve ordered my Pimsleur lessons and, if experience is any guide, I should be able to at least learn some civilities in advance of my trip.

I’ll be traveling in May, and – if I’m reading schedules correctly – I expect to be in Seoul for “Buddha’s Birthday”, maybe Dano-je, and probably the Jesa at Heoninneung. I believe there are a number of other festivals that I may be able to catch in various locations and will keep those options in mind as I plan. Please let me know of any special events that might influence my plans!

The places that are currently on my wish-list are, in no particular order, as follow:

• Seoul + (here and elsewhere, the + means “and nearby sites”)
• Suwon +
• Buseok-sa
• Andong +
• Gyeongju +
• Daegu +
• Busan +
• Tongyeong +
• Suncheon and Yeosu +
• Jeju-Do
• Gwangju +
• Jeonju (thursdaysd, I read your warning! But I keep reading and hearing positive comments, so I haven’t ruled it out yet. I hope to learn more through responses to this post.)
• Gongju +
• Daejeon +
• Cheongju +

I welcome any comments you care to offer. I am particularly interested in suggestions for how to trim this wish-list, but will (of course) also appreciate comments about places you think I should add to my list.

One last thing: I think everything I’m considering can be visited by public transportation, but will consider renting a car for part of my travels if doing so will substantially enhance my experience. Thoughts?

Thank you all in advance!

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