South Korea has more than 30 islands, each one offering unique beauty and adventure. In this post I’ll share where to go and what to see on S. Korea’s most popular and the largest island, Jeju. It offers stunning views from coast to coast, as well as many places to explore such as the tallest mountain in S. Korea Hallasa (한라산), beaches, waterfalls, and unique places like the Sangumburi (산굼부리) Crater, Teddy Bear Museum, and outdoor park called Love Land.
Keep in Mind
Jeju Island has 4 seasons, so choosing the right season is important because the activities you can do on the island will vary depending on the season. According to the holiday weather website, the average weather on Jeju is as follows: December – Match it’s anywhere between 5 to 10 Celsius, April – June is 15- 20 Celsius, July and August are the hottest months, averaging 25-30 degrees Celsius. September – November it starts to cool usually about 25 to 15 C. The rainy season starts in April and can last till the end of September.
Hallasan Mountain is in the middle of the island, so everything is relatively far. Renting a car is the best way to get around and maximize your time on the road. There are buses of course and taxis, but they are not as convenient as having a car. Also, the taxis on the island are a bit scarce, and they don’t want to drive further than 20 minutes, so getting to and from places like Hallasan becomes a hassle without a car. The bus system works a bit differently as well. Instead of scanning your metro card when you get on the bus, you tell the driver where you are going, then before you get off you can scan your card. You pay the amount based on how many stops you go.
Okay, let’s get to the exciting things about Jeju! The island is absolutely breathtaking everywhere you go. Water is beautifully blue with nice beaches; the nature is green and lush. You almost forget that you are in Korea. There are some things you should definitely not miss while in Jeju such as, hiking Hallasan, enjoying the beach, seeing the crater and the real-life mermaids, seeing the waterfalls, as well as enjoying the delicious and famous black pork barbecue.
Not only does hiking Hallasan earn you bragging rights that you have hiked the tallest mountain in S. Korea, but you get to enjoy the beautiful view on the way up as well as get a certificate of completion to commemorate the trek. In order to get the certificate you must get a picture at the top with the mountain then visit the visitor’s center at the bottom of the mountain and for 1,000 won they will make you a certificate. You bet a got it!
There are more than 10 beaches on Jeju, so do your research and go to the one that best suits your itinerary and adventure style! Personally, I went to the Jung-mun Beach and even though the weather wasn’t really good for a day at the beach, as it rained earlier and was cloudy for most of the day, it was still beautiful.
Sangumburi Crater is definitely a place to visit if you want to see beautiful scenery, enjoy nature as well as a nice hike. Before heading to the top of the crater, check out the haenyeo, or the real-life mermaids of Korea. There are generations of women who have been diving in the cold water of Jeju to catch sea food without using any breathing equipment. It’s amazing because they dive down to 65 feet under the sea and wear lead weights around their weist, which most people can’t pick up, due to how heavy they are. Most of these women are in their fifties, and it’s dying trade. The tradition dates back to around 18th century when women started diving and becoming primary breadwinners for their families. The number of “sea women” in Jeju is drastically decreasing because young women are not interested in being real-life mermaids, so I don’t recommend putting this off to another time just in case you don’t return to the island.
Seogwipo Area on the island is where you can find the three famous waterfalls: Jeongbang, Cheonjeyeon, and Cheonjiyeon. Even though they all sound very similar, they definitely don’t share the same characteristic when it comes to their appearance. The more rain there was on the island the more beautiful the waterfalls will be, so if you go during dry season, you might not see the beauty this place has to offer after some rainfall.
Seogwipo Area is also where the famous black pork barbecue restaurants are. Black pig meat has a different flavor due to pork being smoked over burning hay, allowing the smoke to penetrate the meat juices resulting in unique flavor according to Wiki. I do have to say that I felt the pork had more flavor and was somewhat chewier than regular pork. If pork is not your desired meat, you can always enjoy fresh and delicious seafood in Jeju, as that is also famous and is plenty on the island.
I’d like to point out few more destinations on the island that are worth mentioning like The Film Museum, The Chocolate Museum, The Teddy Bear Museum ( which was by far my favorite of the three, and is totally worth checking out). Love Land is another popular place on the island, and it is a sculpture park based on sensuality and eroticism. The park was built in 2004 in hopes to increase birth rate in S. Korea as it has been declining since 1980, and the lowest number recorded was in 2016 according to Korean news article. It wasn’t my favorite destination on the island; it takes about 30-40 minutes to walk the entire park, so if you have plenty of time on the island you can check this place out.
As always, happy travels everyone!