A natural paradise of waterfalls, caves, beaches and forests, best explored by bike or foot
Jeju Island on South Korea’s south west peninsula is Korea’s largest island and a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The island is one of the most relaxing and romantic holiday destinations in South Korea thanks to its unique local atmosphere and beautiful natural environment. Volcanic lava tubes make up nearly 10% of the island’s area along with waterfalls, pristine forests, national parks and volcanic cones.
1. Take A Hike! – Explore the Jeju Olle Trail
Perhaps the best-known walking trail in South Korea is the Jeju Olle Trail that takes you around the circumference of the UNESCO Natural Heritage Listed island. Broken down by 26 individual hikes, you can collect a stamp in your Jeju Olle Trail Passport as you complete one of the routes each day. Jeju Island has a number of natural highlights. Firstly, the three-tiered Cheonjeyeon Waterfall surrounded by lush forest, then for serious hikers, take one of the four trails to the top of the extinct volcano - Hallasan Mountain (1950m), South Korea’s tallest peak. Once at the top you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Jeju Island down to the coastline. Don’t miss the caves of Bengdwigul, Manjanggul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul and Dangcheomuldonggul which form part of the Geomun Oreum Lava Tube System.
2. Five Day Bike Route – Fantasy Bicycle Path
The Jeju Fantasy Bicycle Path is approximately 234 km long, consisting of 10 courses that can be completed in five days. The trail winds its way along the coast, past beaches and cafes, and natural beauty spots. The recommended time for a day’s travel by bike on Jeju (which along the coast is quite flat) is between 4 and 8 hours. Experienced cyclists can circumnavigate the entire island in 9-16 hours, but not at a relaxing pace. Each course along the Jeju Fantasy Bicycle Path has a stamp station so you can collect all 10 stamps. The trail will take you through Jeju City, Hyeopjae Beach, Songaksan Mountain, Jeongbang Waterfall, Seongsan Ilchulbong and Udo Island. Affordable guesthouses and eateries can be found all the way.
3. A sensory natural experience - Arte Museum
Arte Museum in Jeju is a unique exhibition space that uses projections and mirrors to create unique spaces under the overarching theme ‘Eternal Nature’. Opened in an old speaker-production factory in October of 2020, the museum offers ten exhibition spaces complete with sounds and scents that pull you deeper into the light displays. Highlights include experiencing scenery including waterfalls, beaches, and a star-filled night sky.
4. Cave exploration - Geomun Oreum Volcanic Cone
You can’t say you’ve been to Jeju Island without visiting one of the manyoreum, Jeju dialect for volcanic cone. There are approximately 360 oreum scattered throughout Jeju. Of all the oreum on Jeju,Geomunoreumis the only volcanic cone to be designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. The oreum holds over 20 caves within its body, although onlyManjanggul Lava Tubeis open to the public. With its profoundly mysterious and grand appearance, taking a step inside the cave is like stepping into Hades’ underworld. Follow the tunnel of lava rock formations, and you will soon reach a giant rock pillar that indicates the end of the cave. The cave’s temperature fluctuates within 11-21℃ regardless of season, allowing visitors to enjoy the magnificent cave all year round.
5. Romantic walks - Gosalli Forest Trail
The Gosalli Forest Trail is a beautiful walk along a stream through a pristine forest. It offers an opportunity to enjoy the natural environment of Jeju, including plants listed as endangered species, diverse vegetation, Jeju’s wild forest, called gotjawal, and the island’s stone walls, called jatseong. Thanks to the area’s well-preserved environment and ecology, it has been designated as a natural ecology village by the Ministry of Environment in 2013. Gosalli Forest Trail, created by stones and wind, is a romantic trail where you can listen to the sounds of water and birds. The route is 2.1 kilometres long and it takes roughly one hour to complete it one way.
6. Fantastic Festivals – Jeju Fire Festival
The Jeju Fire Festival is a traditional field-burning ceremony to pray for health and a good harvest in the coming year. The festival offers a range of activities within the program so all visitors can experience Jeju’s traditional culture. Held every March at Saebyeoloreum Volcanic Cone, the night sky lights up turning fire red. The festival features a torch march, fire show as well as various programs and food trucks.
7. White sandy family beach - Hyeopjae Beach
Hyeopjae Beach is a white sandy beach set on clear turquoise water 32kms from downtown Jeju. Nearby Biyangdo Island can be seen from the beach and looks to be appearing to float just offshore, so close you could almost wade there! Low-tide is particularly beautiful and the brightly coloured umbrellas dotted along the beach make it picture perfect. The beachside restaurants offer delicious seafood dishes using freshly caught produce likejeonbok(abalone) andsora(horned turban).
8.Perfect summer dish – Mul-hoe
A favourite delicacy of summer on Jeju is mul-hoe. It is called mul-hoe as it is prepared by pouring water and spices over fresh raw fish. There are many varieties such as jari-mul-hoe, sea cucumber mul-hoe, turban shell mul-hoe and mitra squid mul-hoe. All the ingredients are fresh so just pick the one that you like best. To prepare, cut vegetables such as parsley, pears, cucumbers, sesame leaves, green pepper and carrots into thin slices, season them with spiced seafood and pour water with ice over them all. The role of the ice is to make the soup cold and keep the seafood and vegetables fresh. After eating all the seafood, adding rice to the leftover soup makes another delicacy.
9. Underwater foraging – Haenyeo Diving School and Museum
Discover the rich tradition of the Haenyeo women divers who free dive and farm the sea floor. Now inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage the need was to preserve that tradition and hence the creation of a Haenyeo Diving School and Jeju Haenyeo Museum have opened to the public so they may learn the ways and the stories of the Haenyeo women divers. With knowledge of the sea and marine life, the Jeju haenyeo women divers harvest for up to seven hours a day, 90 days of the year holding their breath for just one minute for every dive. This community of women from Jeju Island range in age, some women in their 80s.
10. Most picturesque temple entranceway - Gwaneumsa Temple
Gwaneumsa Temple is located at the foot of the northeast side of Hallasan Mountain. The temple is believed to have been first built during the Tamra dynasty (BC476-AD1005), which was prior to the Goryeo dynasty (AD 918-1392). It has a picturesque long entrance lined with cedar trees with numerous stone statues of Mireuk-bul (The Future Buddha) in front. There are many places of interest near the temple including the wooden seated Buddhist goddess statue that was designated a tangible cultural asset of Jeju Island in 1999, a cherry blossom tree habitat and the Gwaneumsa Trail. The steep walk runs up the side of Halla Mountain and is known for colourful autumn foliage and breathtaking scenery of endless gorges. The temple also participates in the Temple Stay program.