I cannot believe it’s been over five months since our trip to Jeju (I feel like I could say that about everything that’s happened this year). It was our first stop on this whirlwind adventure after leaving our teaching jobs on the mainland of Korea. It was a time to devour our favorite Korean treats, taste the last of any soju (thankfully) and practice speaking Korean one last time. I thought five days was the perfect amount of time.
Jeju is big, but not that big. It’s easy to get around thanks to the buses running throughout the day and it’s one of the easiest places in the country to navigate without any language skills needed, making it a great place to experience a bit of Korean culture without the barriers you’d come across on the mainland.
We spent five days there and they went a little something like this.
The Arrival – Day Zero
We arrived in the evening, just in time to watch the sunset over the sea. We stayed in the same place for our entire five days in Jeju, B&B Pan and I can’t recommend it enough. Martin, the owner, is constantly on hand to give top notch tips on where to go and on hiking Mt. Halla. He also offers tours around the island which we took advantage of on our first day.
Then we ate our body weight in Jeju Black pork and went to bed.
Day 1 – East Coast
After a huge breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, yogurt and Brazilian coffee (which we proceeded to have every morning), Martin drove us down the center of the island past Mt. Halla before turning East down Cherry Blossom Street. We were about a week too late for the pretty pink flowers, but the road shortly turned into Rapeseed Lane, for which we were right on time. These tiny yellow petals were everywhere.
We stopped at Seopjikoji Beach, Seongsan-Ilchulbong, or Sunrise Peak. We carried on along the coast heading north stopping at a few of the beaches along the way until we finally made it to Manjang cave. This long lava tube ends with the largest gest ever discovered. A gest is a lava column and this one is 7 meters tall! It was pretty cool and definitely worth the long walk to the end.
They lit this one up in true Korean fashion – with neon lights.
Day 2 – West Coast
On our second day in Jeju we looked at our map of the island and chose a random point along the East coast that looked like it would have lots to see. My only requirement was that we were next to the ocean. We took the bus to Hyeopjae Beach walked south from here past several small parks, a shrine and stopped for a while at the Wollyeong-ri cactus grove. It was a stunning boardwalk that wound along the coast, monochromatic blues on one side and bright green cacti on the other. We hopped back on a bus to the city along this road and in the evening ate our body weight in fried chicken.
Day 3 – South to Seogwipo
We hopped on bus 780 all the way to Seogwipo. We asked the bus driver to let us know when we needed to get off for Jeongbang waterfall. He forgot. Luckily it was only a short walk once we realized we’d gone too far. From there we visited nearby Sojeongbang and Cheonjiyeon waterfalls.
Then we continued on Olle 6 trail towards Oedolgae, a rock stack along the coast. It might very well have been my favorite place on the entire island – vendors selling fresh Jeju orange juice, stony cliffs with mossy green tops jutting out of electric blue seas. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore carried across the whole park.
Day 4 – Loveland
It’s a completely unnecessary stop on a tour of Jeju, but Luke and I always had it on our list of must-sees. It’s completely over the top, cringe worthy and naughty in so many ways. We giggled, we took lots of photos, we watched other people’s reactions and giggled some more. There are sculptures and mosaics, paintings and water features. There’s even a gift shop. Buses don’t run that frequently down this road, so be sure to check the times for both directions so you’re not waiting for ages for the next one.
Day 5 – Jongmun Village and Resort
On our last day in Jeju, we hopped on a bus to Jongmun village. We got off outside Cheonjeyeon waterfall (not to be confused with Cheonjiyeon) and walked through the parking lot to the entrance. The crystal clear pool at the top of the stream drains into two dramatic falls. We walked on the wooden path that takes you past both. There are a lot of steps to climb, so wear comfy shoes.
Five days felt like enough time, although we could definitely have filled another day or two if we had them. There are so many parks, small towns, beaches and hikes to explore around the island. We didn’t even scratch the surface of the Olle trails.
What Could we Have Done Better?
– If budget allowed, I would have rented a car. Although the island is well connected, you have to time your day around when the buses run and you don’t just get to get on and off wherever you fancy. If you’re looking to do the same, be sure to bring an international license.
– Be in shape. I wish we had been in at least decent shape to climb Hallasan. We were both pretty upset to have left without reaching that famous peak we’d seen photos of all year. If you want to climb Mt. Halla, check out Lauren and Ben’s Guide to hiking the mountain, bring plenty of warm layers, and be prepared for an 8-10 hour up and down hike.
– Go when it’s warm. April was rainy, overcast and cool. The positives? It meant there weren’t many tourists, we had a lot of places to ourselves or with very few people around. But if you want to enjoy the beaches and climb Mt. Halla without a winter coat and wooly hat, then come in the summer.
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