One of the main reasons people go on vacation is to get rid of stress. The stress-relieving powers of simple things such as enjoying a good meal or buying some new shoes are amplified when on vacation! Everything tastes better and looks better, even your home. Jeju Island is the perfect place to relax, with a natural environment, delicious local foods, and unique shopping opportunities. Set out now for your very own stress-relieving trip to Jeju-do!
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There are a number of smaller islands around Jeju, including Udo and Marado Islands. These days, Gapado Island, the fourth largest island, has become a popular day-trip destination. The island resembles a swimming ray when seen from above. The island is most visited during spring, when the fields of green barley are waving in the sea breeze.
The ferry to Gapado Island departs from Unjinhang Harbor in Hamo-ri, Seogwipo-si off the southwest coast. The ferry from Unjinhang Harbor operates from 09:00 to 16:00, although the last ferry back from Gapado Island is at 16:20. Tickets are purchased as a round-trip set, so if you leave after 15:00, you’ll have to spend the night on the island and return the next morning. Tickets must be purchased at least 40 minutes before departure, in order for all passengers to be recorded. On-site ticket purchase is available but you may have to wait a few hours until the next ferry if you visit during the peak season. It’s recommended to reserve tickets in advance, either online or over the phone. Foreigners must submit their passport for verification when purchasing or picking up their ticket on-site.
The best way to see all the island has to offer in a short amount of time is by renting a bicycle. The bike rental is located right at the harbor, so you can’t miss it! There are both regular and tandem bicycles for rent, at a rate of 5,000 won and 10,000 won respectively. Payment is only accepted in cash, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to rent one.
There is a circular road around the coast of the island that offers beautiful sights of the sea, but don’t forget the interior of the island. One place you must see is Somang Observation Deck. Located at the highest point of the island, both Marado Island to the south and Hallasan Mountain to the north can be seen from the observation deck. The railings of the deck are decorated with many ribbons with wishes and hopes, somang in Korean, written on them, giving the location its name.
Another attraction on the island is Pang Gallery, dedicated to the unique painting style of women in the Mithila region of the Indian subcontinent. The art is created with natural dyes and pigments, using fingers and twigs as brushes. The paintings generally focus on nature, daily life, or Hindu gods and goddesses.
There are a number of local specialties on Gapado Island, foremost of which is green barley ice cream! This soft serve ice cream is popular among all ages, and the pale green color makes for beautiful photos. The ice cream can be ordered in a cup or cone, both of which are served with a small ppeongtwigi (rice puff) snack.
Other snacks on the island include green barley makgeolli (rice wine) and green barley misutgaru (roasted grain drink). All these treats can be found at the convenience stores and snack bars around the harbor. We recommend buying snacks to enjoy while you wait for the ferry to return.
Being an island, it’s obvious that some of the best foods you’ll find in Jeju are seafood dishes! If you’re looking for a dish favored by locals, try the red-banded lobster jjim (steamed lobster) from Pier 22 near Geumneungeutteum Beach. Red-banded lobsters are a unique species of lobster with a hard, sharp shell, found only the in southern sea around Korea. Because of the hard shell, the restaurant gives each diner a small wooden hammer to crack the shell! The sweet lobster meat tastes great dipped in ranch dressing.
Umu Pudding is a special dessert found only on Jeju Island! The name umu comes from the Korean word for red algae, umutgasari. When it is boiled, it releases a gelatin substance, known as agar. The red algae used at Umu Pudding is harvested by haenyeo, female divers of Jeju. You can choose from three flavors, the standard custard, matcha-flavored, or chocolate pudding. The shop also sells products with an Umu character design that make for great souvenirs. Before leaving, be sure to get a few pictures of the sweet interior!
The most famous food from Jeju is heukdwaeji, otherwise known as black pork! Jeju’s local black pigs have played an important part in the history, culture, and livelihood of the island. Grilled black pork tastes best after being dipped in meljeot (salted anchovy) for about 20 seconds. To eat like a Korean, wrap the meat and some pamuchim (spicy spring onions) in a lettuce or perilla leaf.
You can eat guksu (noodles) anywhere in Korea, but gogi guksu (pork noodles) is a specialty of Jeju! Each bowl is filled with noodles and pork slices for a filling meal. The pork adds to the powerful flavor of the broth. The dish is served plain but chili pepper powder can be added to taste. Even if you add a lot to make it super spicy, the broth maintains its flavor.
Before leaving Jeju, you have to try galchi (beltfish) or godeungeo (mackerel). These two fish can be served a variety of ways, although the most common are stewed and fried; spicy stewed beltfish is the most popular. The taste of stewed beltfish will vary slightly by restaurant, but they are all marked by their strong seasoning. The spicy yet slightly sweet flavor is addicting! Most restaurants in Jeju use a local silver beltfish, which has an even stronger taste. Radish and potatoes are also stewed with the beltfish for a full meal.
Sumokwon Night Market is the latest trending location for nightlife in Jeju! Located near Halla Arboretum, the market draws in as many tourists as the popular night markets in Seoul. The entire area is decorated in cute photo zones and features both local specialty products and handmade items. Purchase some of the foods available from the food trucks, such as giant turkey drumsticks, black pork ribs, or fresh pineapple juice, to quench any late-night cravings!
Jeju has developed a unique culture due to being so far separated from the Korean peninsula. Thanks to this, there are plenty of local products that will please anyone who receives one as a gift! The best place to visit for these special souvenir items is the Jeju Local Products Exhibition & Sales Market. The market has over 2,200 items created by 138 individual shops! You’re sure to find something for everyone here; just be sure you don’t forget a gift for yourself!
* This column was last updated in June 2019, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details before visiting.