One of Asia’s most popular islands is one you might not have heard of: Jeju, off the southern coast of South Korea.
Created by volcanic eruptions more than 2 million years ago, Jeju Island, the UNESCO World Heritage Site has been likened to the “Hawaii of South Korea,” thanks to its black sand beaches, tropical climate, dramatic cliffs, and amazing lava tubes. And because of its beautiful natural landscape and 360 volcanoes dotted about the island, Jeju was named one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The diverse scenery lends itself to adventure seekers, who will appreciate the island’s excellent hiking, biking, diving, and fresh air. From South Korea’s highest mountain to the ancient volcanic craters and “Peanut Island” off the coast, here’s an action-packed guide to help you make the most of the island’s natural beauty.
Climb Mount Halla
Jeju is home to the tallest mountain in South Korea, Mount Halla (Hallasan), at 6,397 feet above sea level. It’s in the center of the pristine eponymous Hallasan National Park, which is worth a visit even if you’re not planning to hike to the top.
South Korea’s many attractions have flown under the radar for far too long, but all that is about to change with the 23rd Winter Olympics.
You could be excused for not knowing a whole lot about the Republic of Korea. This is, after all, a country that only rarely features in the news, a peaceful, safe place that is often overshadowed in the global consciousness by the “rocket man” to its north.
And even when you do hear about it, South Korea is a nation and a culture that can appear a little opaque. Its language is an impenetrable jungle of consonants and vowels. Its celebrities are K-pop stars and native-language actors whose fame rarely translates into the West. Its cuisine is little known beyond cook-your-own barbecues and fried chicken.
So yes, you could be excused for not knowing a whole lot about South Korea. That is, until now.
There’s a reason Seoul was the 10th most visited city in the world in 2016. (More like 50 reasons, as it turns out!) Here’s what helped draw an astonishing 10-million overnight visitors to the South Korean capital last year.
1. N Seoul Tower
Built in 1969, it wasn’t until 1980 that N Seoul Tower opened to the public. Since then, it’s become an iconic landmark and a point of pride on the Seoul skyline. It’s home to two restaurants and for about $10 CAD, you can venture up to the observation deck for a stunning 360-degree view of Seoul.
Location: 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
2. Locks of Love
Though it’s now a familiar sight in romantic cities around the world, Seoul can proudly say it was one of the first to play host to “Locks of Love.”
There’s something for every traveller at Jeju, South Korea – from scenic mountain and sea views to theme parks, unusual museums, markets and more.
When I first told my husband that I was going on a five-day assignment to Jeju, South Korea, his initial reaction was a surprised, “Huh? Five days? There’s stuff to do for so many days on that island?”
When I arrived in Jeju, I realised that there is just so much to see and do on what used to be known to the locals as “honeymoon” island. It is now an increasingly popular holiday travel destination, not just for Koreans but also international tourists.
In fact, it would take more than five days to check out everything!
Jeju is a paradise for those who enjoy the great outdoors.
Crisp clean autumn air, birds chirping at midday and the silvery blond rastafarian heads of pampas grass rising at least seven feet above ground along a hiking trail at Geomun Oreum makes you forget one key thing about the place: Jeju, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, is still considered a potentially active volcano site.
Fondly nicknamed by locals as the “Island of the Gods,” Jeju is a popular destination for Koreans, in particular, honeymooning newlyweds looking for a romantic getaway in a beautiful setting. The threat of volcanic activity is currently minimal, for although Jeju’s mountains may not be extinct, the most recent dynamic activity according to scientists monitoring Jeju’s volcanic movements, was estimated to be 5,000 years ago at Sangchang-ri.
FROSTBITE. I never truly understood the word until I got out of the warm bus and into the blustery cold winter of Gyeongju, South Korea. The temperature is in the minus and all I have on is a bomber jacket over a thin shirt and a single layer of jeggings.
Gyeongju is an hour’s bus ride north of Busan or a four-hour ride southeast of Seoul. It is widely known as a museum without walls because the entire city is populated by numerous historical structures, treasures and artefacts that aren’t confined in a museum box. Most of them date back to more than a thousand years. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage city, all that’s here are either in their original form, completely intact, or have been restored to their former glory.
Jessica Leow checks out Jeju Island’s top driving routes for an unforgettable experience.
One of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures is taking a nice car out for a spin and watching the world go by.
Better yet if you are on a road trip to extend that feeling of exhilarating freedom of going wherever you want, at your own pace. That alone is often the appeal for many intrepid travellers.
Now combine that with a destination that delivers all the best things about a vacation, and you have your ideal next holiday.
Jeju Island, Korea’s top tourist spot and Unesco World Heritage Site, offers plenty of peaceful drives traversing beautiful landscapes, and an excellent highway network including numerous scenic roads and two cross-island roads.
Here are 17 Things You Must See & Do In Jeju Island. Cater a day or two in your Korea itinerary to visit this drop-dead gorgeous Korean island.
As the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island—also known as the “Island of the Gods”—is a popular holiday destination for both locals and tourists. In addition, the island has also remained as a top honeymoon destination for Korean newlyweds.
But there is really no question as to why this is so. Jeju Island is bursting with endless scenic frames, their coastal line is dotted with picturesque waterfalls and there are various cultural attractions to immerse yourself in.
Just an hour’s plane ride away from Seoul, you really should cater a day or two in your itinerary to visit this drop-dead gorgeous Korean island.
There’s more to Jeju than beautiful tourist destination. Welcome to its overfilling sewage system, depleted groundwater, and bulldozed gotjawal forests.
2011 was a busy year for the civil servants of Jeju Island. South Korea’s most famous island — bar Dokdo — had made the shortlist for the so-called “new seven wonders of nature.” With no restrictions on the number of telephone votes cast by each individual, Jeju’s public officials were punching their phone keys like Las Vegas slot machine addicts, all day, every day. In the end, they clocked up a reported $20.3 million in international phone bills.
It worked. When voting closed, Jeju was named one of the new seven wonders of nature. The island had another shiny green label to join its UNESCO World Heritage inscription, its Global Geopark status, its Ramsar-listed wetlands and its UNESCO biosphere.
While taking the opportunity to hoard your fave K-beauty products at super cheap prices is a given, there is just so much more to see and do when you visit South Korea! Sure, it looks every bit as modern and hip as K-dramas show – after all it’s one of the world’s go-to inspirations for what is trendy in technology, entertainment, and beauty. After getting to experience it firsthand courtesy of the Korean Tourism Organization and Cebu Pacific though, I have to say that there are other elements that make the visit extra special!
Luckily, our tour group got to experience the vibrant colors of fall and the perfect sweater weather. It definitely added to the fangirl thrill of being in the birthplace of Hallyu and K-beauty! Being there and experiencing the energy of Seoul ultimately created a fondness for the country.