I first heard of Jeju in the context of honeymoon and thought it’s probably a place that I should avoid for a few years. But after a quick trip to google, I realised the extent of things that this beautiful island has to offer.
Jeju is South Korea’s biggest island, known as a bit of a Mecca for Korean skincare given that it’s home to South Korea’s tallest volcano, Hallasan, and it’s also the birthplace of the bibimbap, which in my opinion is reason enough to visit. Here you might also be lucky enough to catch the haenyeo. These are female divers who enter the water without any kind of breathing apparatus in search of sea urchins and other seafood – not an easy task.
There’s no denying that a lot of people do indeed go here to honeymoon. There’s no shortage of resorts and it’s home to a couple of beautiful beaches, blue water and is in fact the perfect stop for a wedding photo. But actually, if you’re the outdoorsy sort, this place could also suit you well for a quick trip. I wouldn’t say that it was a backpackers haven. Korea in general is quite expensive but I don’t think Jeju is really geared towards this market at this point. That being said, don’t avoid it either.
There are regular flights to Jeju from mainland South Korea, or companies such as Jeju air, Korean Air and Air China fly direct from all over Asia.
Once landed, you can either jump in a taxi or get the airport limousine to your destination. Both are located at the exit of the airport and you’ll have no trouble finding them.
Without a car, the bus is the best way to get anywhere on this island. Fortunately, it’s not overly big either so it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to get anywhere. Taxis are also not a rarity.
What to do…
If you’re lucky with the weather then there’s a lot more to do here than just be happy on your honeymoon. Beaches, markets and hikes galore – these are a couple of things you shouldn’t be missing.
Top tip: living in Asia has definitely opened my eyes to the world of Korean skincare. Loads of local people I met in Hong Kong literally swore by it and so I gave it a try. There’s no denying it’s pretty gorgeous on your skin so don’t be shy of picking up a bottle of something when you visit Korea.
Hallasan itself is a pretty straightforward climb. Besides reaching a certain point by 12, you can easily get it done by the afternoon and have time for other activities afterwards. You get a pretty glorious view of the island from the top. It’s not a difficult walk at all, just a leisurely gradient so you have no excuses not to do it.
There are a couple of trails to the summit. The Seongpanak trail to the east is a steady incline all the way to the top and mostly shaded, which is great for those of us who’s noses burn at even a glimmer of sunlight (speaking of nobody in particular). This trail is great for beginners.
Alternatively you can take the Gwaneumsa from the North, which is a far more interesting route in terms of views and terrain. There are also a couple of trails that won’t take you to the top, in case you’re feeling super lazy.
The trails are easily accessed by bus or have parking facilities at the bottom. From Seogwipo to the east trail take bus 782. From Jeju city, take bus 781 to the east trail or 740 to the North trail. It’s pretty easy to figure where to get off, not to mention that there will probably be a bunch of other hikers along with you.
For some easier hiking than a volcano, you can choose from 26 Olle trails that spiderweb all the way across and around the island. There are 21 main routes and 5 sub routes to choose from, ranging from 7km to 25km and of varying difficulty, so there really is a hike for everybody. All trails will give you the opportunity to get a glimpse of either local villages, beaches or stunning cliffs, to name a few. So choose one and get going…
Have a day at the beach
Given that it’s a volcanic island, a lot of the beaches have pretty stunning rock formations to accompany them and even black sand a lot of the time. Try Jungmum, Hyeopjae, Hado and Iho Tewoo – to name a couple. Jeju is also an awesome place for surf if that’s what you like to do – but you’ll require a storm for the waves to get to an exciting level.
Mountain for sunrise
For another hike, which barely qualifies as a hike because it’s approximately a 20 minute ascent, head to Seongsan Peak for the sunrise.
Hit a market
Seogwipo olle market and Jeju City market are not short of some pretty delicious food and drink for pretty cheap. Don’t be shy of visiting them.
Besides the markets, I wouldn’t say that Jeju offered you anything special in terms of restaurants or must eats. Korean food is quite delicious in general, and this certainly doesn’t fall short on that front in the street markets, but I was a bit disappointed by the extent of it beyond this.
Make sure you munch on…
All Korean food is delicious – but don’t miss out on gimbaps, bibimbaps and kimchi whilst here.
Little oranges, similar to mandarins and tangerines, are the speciality fruit here, so pick up a crate of them or find a good juice In the market.
Also, KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is the best fried chicken you’ll ever eat – there’s a lady in Seogwipo market who fries her chicken with the oranges and it tastes borderline heavenly – plus this counts as healthy right?