When you ask Korean people which is the most beautiful place in Korea then the answer that you probably will get is “JEJU-do“. For a long time JEJU was a top destination for Korean couples to celebrate their honeymoon. These days tourist from all over the world come to here to explore the hidden beauty of JEJU. Especially Chinese tourists like to come here, since they don’t need a visa here.
As Korea’ s largest island, Jeju is located 130 km south-west of Jeollanam-do. It is the smallest of the 9 provinces of South-Korea, but the only autonomous province, therefore officially named Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. The province has two big cities, Jeju-city in the north and Seogwipo-city in the south.
JEJU is well known for its natural beauty and volcanic landscape, and the whole island is listed as UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage. All over the island you can find the most amazing natural attractions created thousands of years ago by the eruptions of a sub-sea volcano . On 11 November 2011 Jeju was selected as one of the 7 New World Nature Wonders.
Every time when I visited Korea before, people suggested me to visit JEJU island but I never had the time to get there. Thanks to my brother in law we finally visited this beautiful place last year in autumn. As he studied on JEJU for 3 years to become a veterinarian, he was our perfect guide to show us around. He did a wonderful job to give us a good impression during our 4 days stay. Immediately after we came back to the Korean mainland, we already decided to visit JEJU again this year, and so we did last week.
We booked an online ticket on saturday, only the day before we left, and we were lucky to get one of the rare empty seats on the airplane that took off at Gimpo national airport on sunday morning. Several airline companies offer daily flights at a reasonable price from Gimpo airport to Jeju island. We also booked a rental car tin advance.
After a bit more than one hour flight we arrived at JEJU International Airport where we picked up our rental car at the parking lot. Renting a car and driving around is probably the best way to explore the island. At JEJU airport there are many rental car companies offering their services. Foreigners, non residents, need a copy of their International drivers license as well as a copy of their national drivers license.
We drove all the way to Phoenix Island resort in Seongsan-eup, the west part of JEJU island, located near Seongsan Ilchulbong, the famous volcano crater and probably the most visited natural attraction of JEJU. It is also the best place for photographers to capture sunrise. From our room we had a nice view on the crater and we were quite happy to start our daily trips from here.
JEJU is called the “Island of the 3 abundances”, … wind, women and rocks. The wind from the ocean blows steadily throughout the year and typhoons can occur. Due to past volcanic activities you can see black rocks and lava stones all over the island. The island’s reputation of having an abundance of women dates back to the time when fishing was the primary source of income and many men were lost at sea.
JEJU is located in a subtropical zone and has a mild oceanic climate with the smallest temperature range in Korea. Therefore it is often called “the Hawaï of Korea”. This climate makes it quite interesting to visit JEJU all year around. It is also a good place for many species of plants and animals. I’ve never seen so many different butterflies before.
Amazing turquoise ocean water, beautiful beaches, amazing rocks and cliffs are a common view on the island. Mount HALLASAN, with its 1950 meters the highest mountain in Korea, is a favourite spot for trekking and hiking all year around. In wintertime mount HALLASAN can be covered with snow.
In our 2 Jeju trips we discovered already many natural phenomena all over the island. Among the 7 Natural wonders the Seongsan Ilchulbang crater and Yeongmori coast were our most impressive places to visit.
Yeongmori coast is the place where Hendrick Hamel, a Dutch bookkeeper of the Dutch East Indian Company, got shipwrecked in August 1653 on his way to Japan. He was the first foreigner to report about Korea to westerners. Nearby is also the Sanbangsa cave temple where you have an amazing view on Yeongmori coast. Other places you must see are definitely Yongdoam (dragon’s head rock), Manjanggul cave, Sangumburi crater, Cheonjiyeon waterfalls, Oeldolgae rock, Jusangjeollidae.
Beside those natural attractions there are many outdoor activities. You can walk for hours and days on the Olleh trail, a more than 400 km long-distance track or you can rent a bicycle or a vespa scooter to explore the island. When the weather conditions are really bad there are still a lot of museums to visit. Don`t forget to visit Jeju ’s Folk art museum and the Haenyo museum. If you would like to know more about green tea then you should visit the Green tea farm not far from Hallasan. There you can try their own harvested tea in the cosy teahouse. More information on this green tea farm will be posted later.
If you like to meet local people it’s a good idea to visit the local restaurants or just walk around in the small alleys. Strolling around in the streets near Samyang Black sand beach, we were invited by a nice old lady to take a look in the garden of her vacation house. She was so kind to serve us coffee, fresh pears and figs while we had a nice talk with her. She was also happy to get on the picture with us, but she prefers not to be seen on this blog. We experienced that local people on JEJU speak a dialect that differs greatly from the Korean dialects on the mainland. Jeju`s dialect is also on UNESCO`s heritage list as a `critically endangered language`.
JEJU is also very famous for fresh octopus and fish, tangerines and even more for it’s haenyo, the renowned female divers. You can see them here and there, but Yongdoam, located nearby the airport and the ferry terminal, and also Seongsan Ilchulbong are good places to spot the diving Haenyo. At those places you can also eat fresh seafood that they caught straight from the bottom of the sea.
Good souvenirs to bring from JEJU are Dolharubang figures, tangerines and chocolates and even fresh or frozen fish.The fish you buy at the local market or at the airport can be delivered in an ice packed box by the Korean post to any place on the Korean mainland.
Every time when I leave Jeju I wonder how it is possible that I didn’t visit this beautiful island before. Coming to Jeju is probably the best choice to escape from the busy Korean cities. Jeju is wonderful and peaceful place to chill, to enjoy nature, to eat delicious and fresh seafood, and finally to refill your energy before you go back to the Korean mainland.
If you had any doubts about visiting Jeju or not, I can tell you … Just do it, you will not regret !
JEJU can be easily reached from the Korean mainland whether you live in Seoul, near Daegu, Busan or any other place. Korean transportation is just great and you can get to almost everywhere in a quite comfortable way, also to Jeju. The shortest way is by airplane, but a trip by boat, like we did last year, is also recommendable.
More of our JEJU pictures can be found on https://www.flickr.com/photos/k-mood/sets/