Located at a distance of 455km from the buzzing South Korean capital, Seoul, lies the country’s largest island surrounded by the sparkling waters of the East China Sea and the South Sea.
Jeju Island or as the locals call, Cheju-do, is soon gaining popularity among local and foreign travellers as a perfect escape destination from the pali-pali culture of the mainland peninsula.
Jagged coastlines, scenic roads, hidden white sand beaches, lush country-sides, fields of rape flowers and the ever-towering presence of Mount Hallasan adds more allure to the already picturesque landscape of Jeju Island.
Although the island is loaded with top-notch resorts, museums, restaurants and cafes; the real beauty lies in exploring its natural bounty. For the avid holiday-goer, here’s our pick of not-to-be-missed activities for your surreal trip to Jeju Island.
Hike your way to the top of Mount Hallasan
At 1950 metres, Hallasan is the highest mountain in South Korea. This once active volcano rewards hikers with the view of a freshwater lake formed in its volcanic crater at the end of the trail. Not recommended for the faint-hearted, the hike up the mountain takes nearly 5 hours and can be quite a challenging task. But the panoramic views of the valley, meadows of azaleas and the occasional deer make the hike worth the effort.
Catch the sunrise from Seongsan Ichulbong peak
Resembling a gigantic ancient castle, the Seongsan Ichulbong peak is a forested high-tuff volcano and is one of the most impressive sights in the island. Watching the sunrise over the 99 rocks surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage cliff is a morning treat at its best. Come spring, the fields around the crater are covered in yellow canola flowers creating a visual you will never get enough of.
Visit Jeju’s many waterfalls
Wrought with tropical beauty, it is no surprise that Jeju has in its wake some worthwhile waterfalls. Whether you opt for the more mainstream Cheonjiyeon waterfalls or the iconic Jeongbang waterfalls, that fall directly into the ocean, both offer tranquil views and flora found specifically on the island.
Discover illusory white sand beaches
There’s nothing more rewarding on a holiday than a cup of Joe, your favourite book and a white sand beach with coral blue waves splashing the periphery of your feet. For a likewise experience, our top recommendation would be the Woljeongri beach. A cosy less populated stretch, the beach is lined with chic coffee houses for supplementing your every caffeine desire.
Spend your afternoon at a green tea plantation
With products available on popular e-commerce sites like Amazon, this particular brand claims to churn out the best green tea latte. While you can witness the entire manufacturing process of green tea products, at O’Sulloc Tea Museum leave some time aside to sip tea at a terraced tea house and to visit the gift shop which is a miniature version of Willy-Wonka’s chocolate factory, just more green!
Catch a glimpse of some fantastic volcanic formations
Being a volcanic island, you will witness some of the most bizzare yet stunning volcanic formations all over Jeju. Ones that bring much wonder and awe are the Manjanggul lava tube caves and Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff. While the former is known as the one of the finest lava tunnels in the world, the latter is known for its peculiar vertical columns of molten lava along the coast that give the island its jagged coastline.
Treat yourself to a day of horse riding
One of the absolute must things to do in Jeju is to go horse riding! Imagine green meadows, an emerald bay and the wing gushing through your hair. Relive an episode of Downton Abbey as you explore the scenic Jeju countryside on horseback. If you are a beginner, you can even sign up for riding lessons with a professional at one of the many horse parks scattered throughout the island.
Step back in time at the Jeju Folk Village
Ever imagined what Korea was before the K-craze came in? The Jeju Folk Village is the island’s prime point of attraction for culture geeks as it takes visitors through various communities that first inhabited the island, giving it its distinct traditions and beliefs.
Jazz up your Instagram with crazy backdrops to flaunt your #OOTD
With an island so scenic, there’s no way you can return without a serious photography session. Take a random road trip and pit-stop at spots you consider Instagram-worthy. From green pastures, camellia flowers, yellow canolas, clear skies and barley fields to the iconic Jeju Stoneman, there are loads of options to choose from!
Relish in the famous Halla tangerines
Beside its charming milieu, if there’s another aspect that Jeju is known for, is its abundant fields of tangerines! If you happen to visit at a time between summer and winter, you can see trees laden with fruits almost everywhere; whether it is a hiking trail or the backyard of your hotel. Take a little walk through a tangerine field if you happen to feel the blues and you’ll be surprised at how much better you can feel in the vicinity of fresh tangerines.
Dig into some of the freshest seafood possible
One of the best parts about island life beside the sun, sand and the beach is of course – the seafood. Feast your way through some tantalising seafood preparations at the many local restaurants, the best being in Seogwipo. Whether you decide on fresh sashimi, whole grilled mackerel, spicy fish stew or abalone porridge each bite will take you through a fine Korean culinary adventure.
….And don’t miss out on the women divers
Don’t be surprised if you come across a group of ajummas dressed in black rubber bathing suits. These women divers also called as haenyeo are a community of free-divers that dive up to 2-3 metres without any equipment to catch seafood, mainly shellfish and seaweed and are found specifically on Jeju island. You are likely to witness the divers around the Ichulbong cliff coast.
If you are up for something truly adventurous, ask for a serving of their produce and make a meal of raw abalone and seaweed soup along the coast!
For your next Korean food craving, make a trip to one of these 5 hot-smoking korean BBQ restaurants in Ampang.