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Jeju Island, South Korea: A traveller’s guide

By Alicia Corbett 8 January 2022

Jeju Island—or Jeju-do (제주도) as it is known to the locals—is one of the first destinations that come to mind when visiting South Korea, and with good reason. The largest island in the nation offers a plethora of attractions to suit different tastes—from restaurants offering authentic local delicacies to pristine beaches and endless sea. As the “Hawaii of South Korea,” Jeju is sure to be an idyllic visit with drama locations, stunning scenery, and scrumptious eats.

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Getting there and around

It is best to visit Jeju in a group to keep costs down. Frequent flights operate to and from Jeju, especially from Seoul. Renting a car is highly recommended as the island is difficult to navigate by public transport—there are many car rental dealers to suit your needs. However, bear in mind that South Korea follows right-hand traffic, and you will have to prepare an international driving license if necessary.

Where to stay

Jeju is home to many quaint guesthouses. For those who prefer luxurious stays, Lotte Hotel Jeju and Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort are perfect choices. For guests who prefer closer contact with beautiful nature on the island, the Seaes Hotel & Resort is the ideal tranquil holiday destination for those with a little extra budget, as it offers sprawling grounds right next to the ocean and is located in the Baeritnae Sea Village.

For accommodations with an authentic slant, Kasan Tobang offers the unique experience of staying in a hanok (한옥), a traditional Korean house. Its rooms are cosy and equipped with ondol (온돌), the underfloor heating system that is sure to keep you warm in winter.

Things to see & do

Seongsan Ichulbong (성산 일출봉)

If you have ever wanted to see something created by a volcanic explosion, Seongsan Ichulbong is the place to go. Formed by a volcanic explosion upon the seabed approximately five thousand years ago, it is an exquisite scenic destination.

The Seongsan Ichulbong Tuffcone is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is said to have the best view of the sunrise on the island. Getting to the top involves a good climb, so be sure to wear proper shoes. Admission fees are charged upon entry.

Catch the haenyeo (해녀), the Jeju women divers’ performance, a representation of the strong women of the island who dive into the sea to catch seafood.

Seongsan Ichulbong, 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do | (+82) 64 783 0959

Photo: Visit Jeju

Hallasan (한라산)

Jeju’s most memorable landmark, Halla Mountain, has different charms, no matter the season. Its winter foliage is breathtaking, with rows and rows of trees blanketed with snow, while in fall, the mountain is flushed with different shades of orange and red.

The distinctive profile of South Korea’s highest summit can be seen from most points on the island and is worth a hike. Visit the crater lake on the summit and enjoy the low-lying forests on the way and the craggy landscape.

Hallasan, 2070-61, 1100-Ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do | (+82) 64 710 3945

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Cheonjeyeon Waterfall (천제연폭포)

Legend says that the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, known as “God’s pond,” derived its name from the seven fairies serving the King of Heaven (하늘님) who came down to bathe in its clear waters. Do not confuse it with Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, also located nearby. The waterfall is easily reachable and is a 10-minute leisurely stroll from the entrance.

It’s clear and deep waters are great just to gaze at, besides being surrounded by a variety of rare plants. Keep an eye out for the “Face of Cheonjiyeon,” which, in a certain light, resembles a person’s appearance.

Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls, 132, Cheonjeyeon-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 760 6331

Teddy Bear Museum

The name says it all—this museum hosts a wide range of teddy bears, from the most expensive bear in the world, a Louis Vuitton bear, a Breakfast at Tiffany’s bear, and even bears dressed in hanbok.

Some of the exhibits have moving parts placed in fascinating backgrounds, so you could definitely spend all day looking at each one. Also nearby are Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! Museum, the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, and the Yeomiji Botanical Garden.

Teddy Bear Museum, 2889 Saekdal-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 738 7600

Manjanggul Cave (만장굴)

Marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites and look out for bats hanging from the ceilings. The natural formation of The Stone Turtle is unique as it forms the shape of the reptile and the structure of Jeju Island.

Pack extra socks for this walk because the twelfth-longest lava tube in the world is almost nine kilometres long, although only one kilometre of it is open to tourists. It gets cold and damp, too, so make sure to pack a lightweight jacket.

Manjanggul Cave, 182, Manjanggul-gil, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 710 3945

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Where to eat and drink

Black Pork (제주흑돼지)

If you love Korean BBQ, Jeju black pork will bring your love to another level. Cooked over a charcoal-fuelled grill, the emanating smoke gives the red meat a unique flavour and fragrance. The word “black” actually refers to the colour of the pig’s hair rather than the meat, which is bright red. Wash it down with shots of soju for the perfect meal.

Dongmun Traditional Market (비짓제주)

Jeju’s largest market combines a street market, a night market, a traditional market, and a seafood market all in one. Try a little bit of everything here with modern street market stalls set up at night. They serve up not only Korean fare, but also those from other countries such as China and Japan. Snack on some egg-wrapped kimbap or abalone kimbap.

Dongmun Traditional Market, 20, Gwandeong-ro 14(sipsa)-gil, Idoil-dong, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 752 3001

Yellow Café

Banana milk is a signature drink in South Korea, and in Jeju, you can actually visit the café from the popular brand Binggrae! Here, you will find banana milk-related products such as ice cream, beverages, desserts, and larger-than-life banana milk bottles you can strike a pose with. Adorable souvenirs are also available at the store.

Yellow Café, 2877-13 Yerae-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 739 1140

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Where to shop

Mementoes are a must for every trip and Jeju is a great place to pick up unique items that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

Green tea

Green tea fields form a remarkable scenery on the island, such as the Seogwang Tea Field with O’sulloc Tea Museum located right next to it. Take home some Jeju premium green tea powder, premium loose leaf tea like the red papaya black tea, or less conventional items such as the green tea milk spread.

Osulloc Tea Museum, 15 Sinhwayeoksa-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, South Korea | (+82) 64 794 5312

Dol hareubang (돌 하르방)

Jeju’s iconic grey stone sculptures—the dol hareubang—can be seen dotted across the island and are often found in souvenir stores in the form of keychains, figurines, and more.

Mandarin chocolates

If keychains are not quite your thing, then mandarin chocolates are the way to go. Jeju mandarins are one of the island’s representative agricultural products. Since it may be difficult to bring home actual mandarins, chocolates are a great alternative. They will melt in your mouth, combining the richness of chocolate to balance with the citrus flavour.

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Alicia Corbett

Contributor

Alicia is a freelance writer and the lead content writer for one of the top resorts in Asia. She’s a sucker for cafes with a great aesthetic and when she’s not traveling, she’s searching for the next one to visit in Malaysia, where she’s based. Her dream is to be a professional food critic but she’s happy digging into a bowl of macaroni soup with ham. She loves working on travel journals in her free time.

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