South Korea - Getting to know Jeju Island
The pinnacle of the chain of islands that festoon South Korea’s southern coast is Jeju Island (often referred to as Jejudo). It’s easy to see why this island is enduringly popular with both local and international tourists alike: it offers volcanic crags to explore, innumerable palm-fringed beaches, lush paddy fields interspersed by tangerine groves and an idyllic rural life. If you think Hawaii or Bali, and add a large splash of South Korea, then you’ll probably already be adding Jejudo to your bucket list!
The majority of sights and activities on the island are accessible by day trip from anywhere on the island, and the scenery as you travel can be stunning. For walkers there is the Jeju Olle Trail that pretty much covers the whole of the island in a series of short, accessible hikes. Travel to the islands’ more remote areas and you will feel that little has changed in decades, and you will escape the crowds that can congregate in high season.
Dry stone walls parcel up the land in an atmospheric and distinctive way; equally unique are the ancient statues made of volcanic rock, known as hareubang, that crop up all over the island. Scale a caldera, marvel at the caves and lava tubes, admire the waterfalls, take in the breathtaking fields of tricolour cosmos flowers or just lie back on a beach and enjoy the sun.
What to do on Jeju Island
- Explore the vibrant but relaxed Jeju city where you will find more than half of the island’s population, as well as the best museums, hotels and restaurants. For an Asian metropolis Jeju is remarkably low-rise, which only emphasises the dramatic sight of the extinct volcanic cone of Hallasan that shadows it.
- Scale the highest point in South Korea by tackling the 1,950 metres of Hallasan. The volcano is covered by pink azalea in spring and crisp, white snow in winter. There are four hiking trails to take the hardy to its peak.
- Discover the tranquil delights of the east of the island in the delightfully rural retreat of Seongsan, which is dramatically shadowed by the green caldera of Ilchulbong (or ‘Sunrise Peak’). A short ferry ride and you could be enjoying the stunning beaches, green fields and stone walls of bucolic Udo.
- Marvel at the landscapes and beaches that can be found near the island’s second city of Seogwipo. This laid-back place, surrounded by waterfalls and tangerine farms, is just a stone’s throw from the beautiful beach and exclusive resort of Jungmun. Here you can enjoy what many consider to be the best spot of sand in South Korea - but take care of those Pacific rollers that can crash against the shore.
- Visit the windy southwest and be blown away by its rock-cut temple. Sangbanggulsa is a temple that has been hewn out of the peak of a mountain. From here you can enjoy views of the the rugged and photogenic coastline of Yongmeori where the waves pound against the shore.
Unique to Jejudo, but rapidly dying out, is the tradition of haenyeo. These female divers plunge into treacherous waters without scuba gear in search of shellfish and sea urchins.
Weather on Jeju Island
The weather may be warmer off the southern coast than on the mainland but Jeju Island also receives its fair share of rainy days. Be sure to pack for wet as well as hot weather! Read more on our South Korea weather guides, here.
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