Some travel for food, others to see wondrous sights… and others still travel great distances to see the filming locations of their favourite TV shows and movies. From Game of Thrones (Croatia) to Lord of the Rings (New Zealand), there is no location too far-flung or exotic for these “set-jetters”.
Closer to home, however, Korean dramas (or K-dramas) have gotten viewers all googly-eyed. According to a recent article by The Straits Times, the hyper-popular romance series Crash Landing on You was so widely viewed that Chinese video-streaming sites that broadcast the series crashed during the finale. Viu, a regional streaming platform that focuses on K-dramas, increased its 2018 viewership by 35% to a whopping 41 million monthly active users by the end of 2019.
So what’s the winning formula behind these highly addictive dramas? It’s hard to isolate any one factor but if you were to ask the fans, they’ll say it’s a mix of intriguing storylines, gorgeous leads and beautiful cinematography. Often filmed in picturesque locations, these shows are worth watching if just for the wanderlust factor. Here are six to put on your future travel itinerary.
Appears in: Descendants of the Sun (2016)
Capturing the hearts and imaginations of K-drama viewers around the world, this romantic drama is centred around Captain Yoo Shi-jin from the Korean Special Forces and Doctor Kang Mo-yeon, a surgeon at Haesung Hospital. The two lead actors, Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo, who married in real life shortly after filming wrapped up, may have since gotten a divorce, but you can still re-create their onscreen passion at Navagio Beach, off the coast of Zakynthos, Greece. Also known as Shipwreck Beach or Smuggler’s Cove, this arrestingly beautiful destination is where the romance between Captain Yoo and Doctor Kang first begins to blossom.
Appears in: Memories of the Alhambra (2018)
This sci-fi drama centres deals with mysterious incidents surrounding a new augmented reality game based on the 9th-century Alhambra Palace, located in Granada, Andalusia. While the latter part of the series was filmed in Seoul, a big part of the show was filmed in Spain, including Barcelona. In fact, the first episode features the iconic Barcelona’s Estació de França train station, known for its Art Nouveau architecture style. (While there, be sure to check out this cool neighbourhood at the Catalonian capital).
Lake Lungern, Switzerland
Appears in: Crash Landing on You (2019)
When this romantic comedy series first dropped on Netflix in December 2019, it seemed no one could talk about anything else. Everywhere you turned, there was chatter about the star-crossed lovers Jeong-hyeok (Hyun Bin) and Se-ri (Son Ye-jin). While the show was shot in several locations across South Korea and Mongolia, a fan favourite has to be Lake Lungern in central Switzerland, where the lovebirds settled in the finale. Surrounded by majestic mountains, the area around this natural lake is ideal for a spot of hiking or cycling.
Paju, South Korea
Appears in: Hi Bye, Mama (2020)
This gut-wrenching drama about a young mother who died but whose ghost is trying to reconnect with her family stars veteran actress Kim Tae-hee, known for her roles in hit TV series such as Stairway To Heaven (2003). The final – and probably most poignant – scene of the series where Tae-hee’s character (Cha Yu-ri) walks through a lane lined with cherry blossoms was filmed in Imjingak Falls Forest Camp in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. As a border city between the two Koreas, Paju is a historic place packed with monuments and art spaces where you can discover more of the country’s rich and complex narrative.
Appears in: Vagabond (2019)
In this nail-biting thriller, stuntman Cha Dal-gun (played by Lee Seung-gi) is investigating a mysterious plane crash that kills over 200 civilians, including his nephew. The deeper he digs into the truth, the more he gets entangled in a web of deceit and corruption. This award-winning drama has an eye-watering budget of ₩20 billion (S$23.3 million), which might explain why the crew has filmed in far-flung destinations such as Portugal and Morocco. The first part of the series was filmed in different parts of Morocco, including the coastal city of Tangier, well-known for its pristine white houses and rich history.
Busan, South Korea
Appears in: The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)
Billed as one of the year’s most anticipated series with its star-studded ensemble cast, this fantasy drama was shot in various scenic locations across South Korea, including the coastal city of Busan. One of the key locations is Ahopsan, a beautiful bamboo dreamscape that features as the portal between two worlds in the show. Ahopsan Forest also served as the backdrop for several other popular K-drama series including Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) and 100 Days My Prince (2018). While in Busan, be sure to check out these other great spots.