Hello everyone! This post is solely dedicated to the 5 days I spent on Jeju Island for my summer holidays. I was joined by Nicole, Bethany and Sam for this unforgettable trip! Enjoy!
Jeju Island Day 1: Arrival, Donnaeko Valley Waterfall
We awoke early on Tuesday morning and made our way to Seoul’s smaller airport- Gimpo. It was an easy subway ride, with no transfers and thankfully seats so we could sneak in a few more hours of rest. Our flight to Jeju was blissfully uneventful and took only 1 hour. As we stepped onto the tarmac into the blazing sun, our excitement was perceptible. We had set an important ground rule for this trip- no negative work talk- which made me giddy with positive intentions. So with bright eyes we jumped on a shuttle bus to the car rental shop and soon enough we were packed like sausages into our tiny, albeit adorable, KIA Morning. Nicole, having her international license, bravely agreed to drive the entire trip and thanks to her superb planning, we found the hotel easily. We stayed in Seogwipo which is on the Southern part of the island. The hotel graciously let us leave our luggage while we set off to fill our bellies and soak up some sun! We ended up in the Donnaeko Valley. After a 1 km stroll on a shaded forest path, we emerged into a clearing with a breathtaking waterfall. It was filled with laughter and courageous people somehow enjoying the icy water. Without a moment to spare we threw our belongings down and explored the giant rocks that hugged the water. When we felt hot enough, we too swallowed some courage and ambled in. I was last of course. We spent a few dreamy hours swimming, reading, and relaxing in this idyllic place. The rest of the evening was a blur- we enjoyed shabu-shabu for dinner and called it an early night in anticipation of the big hike we’d be doing the next day.
Jeju Island Day 2: Conquering Mt. Halla
After arising far too early, we hopped in a cab and were off to conquer the highest peak in Korea- Mt. Halla (1,950m). The plan was to hike up the steeper side and down the other however, life had other plans. We were told that there had been a landslide on the steeper side of the mountain so we turned the cab around and rolled with it. We started our accent at ~6:30am. The beginner section of the trail (~5km ) took us about 2 hours. Along the way we naturally divided into 2 groups- Sam+me, and Bethany+Nicole. Tortoises and hares, respectively. Sam and I took our time, stopping briefly and infrequently. The intermediate section (~3km) took us another 2 hours and by this time we were pretty spent. We rallied our spirits, steeled our nerve and embarked on the last section! This advance part (~1km) took us a grueling hour to complete but the view at the top was worth the effort. We expected Bethany and Nicole to be waiting for us at the top, but to our surprise we made it up before them! Sam and I had a good laugh; maybe fairy tales really do come true. Turns out they stopped at the rest station for an hour which is when we unknowingly passed them. The peak was incredible. Mt. Halla is a dormant volcano and is home to the magnificent Baekrokdam (lake-filled crater). After we shared laughs and congratulations at the top we made our slow and careful descent. It took another 4 hours to return to the base without any twisted ankles. That night we had well-deserved pizza and a hallabong (oranges from Mt. Halla) drink as a treat from the local market. Needless to say, we slept like the dead that night.
Jeju Island Day 3: Mt. Seong Ilchulbong Peak, Udo Island
Like masochists, we got up early again to do another hike! Grumbling and stumbling, we made our way into the car and off to the North-Eastern part of the island. We arrived at Mt. Seong with what seemed like half of the other tourists on the island. It was busy. Knowing it was only an ~20 minute hike, we slathered on some sun screen and hauled our asses up. I’d like to look back on this hike with rose-coloured glasses but I just can’t do it. The weather was unbearable- I was drenched in about 2 minutes, the path was packed, and the constant steps were killer on my already exhausted body. With all of that said, I will never regret the view that waited for us at the top. We saw Jeju sprawled out behind us, and Udo Island teasing us from a distance. Ilchulbong Peak is the iconic image of Jeju. Seriously, google it. When we felt our sun screen wearing off, we decided to descend and make our way to Udo (AKA cow island because it is said to look like a cow lying down… I didn’t see it). The ferry ride was short; ~10 minutes. We practically ran for the much anticipated and most famous restaurant on the island: Pungwon. After adding our names to a list, we dipped into the adjoining cafe to enjoy some peanut ice cream. Udo peanuts are widely acclaimed for their superior taste and texture. I thought they tasted normal, but the ice cream was still delicious on such a scorching day. A short while later, our number was called and we entered the crowded restaurant. We squished ourselves down onto mats at a traditional Korean table. The meal that ensued was both delicious and theatrical. The server used the food to tell us the story of Mt. Halla forming Jeju and Udo so many years ago. As the server intensely stared into my eyes telling the story, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was playful and definitely a highlight of the trip. Bravely, or perhaps stupidly, we left the wonderful AC to cycle around the island. The Jeju Olle Trail was 13km and took us ~ 3 hours to complete (with frequent water, picture, and sun screen re-application stops). The trail only had one hill (which was actually part of a wrong turn) and mostly paralleled the water. Despite the heat, I loved this part of our trip. Just look at my beaming smile in all of the photos. Having had our fill of sea-views we returned home to Seogwipo. Dinner that night was another first for me- BBQ lamb! YUM 🙂
Jeju Island Day 4: Folk Village Museum, Hyeopjae Beach, Jeju City
Finally we decided to treat ourselves to a little RnR. Well, that is after we strolled around the Folk Village Museum located on the South Eastern side of the island. Although I did soak up some historical facts, I was mostly concerned with not being in the sun and figuring out how to not sweat by just breathing. Driving back through Seogwipo, we arrived at Hyeopjae beach on the North-Western part of the island just after lunch. Feeling like old-pros, we rented an umbrella easily and set up camp for the remainder of the afternoon. The last time I went to a beach in Korea I got burnt to a crisp so I tried to be a bit more responsible this time. I patiently (*complained) while we waited for our sun screen to dry before jumping in the water. The tide was out, so we waded through knee-deep water for a while before submerging ourselves. For a while we were lone foreigners splashing around in a sea of Koreans on colourful flotation devices. It was a perfect afternoon. It was countless hours of repeated actions- swim, relax, eat- and though nothing eventful happened, these were my favourite moments of the trip. As the tide began to come in, we showered and set out for Jeju City. Still giddy from our day in the sun, we savoured mouth-watering pizza and refreshing beers from Magpie Brewery. Post-dinner we strolled along a seaside path beside a happening downtown rec area. Sleepily, we spent our last night in Jeju driving home late and collapsing into bed.
Jeju Island Day 5: Love Land, Departure
Exhausted from the past four days of intense activities, we took our last day nice and slow. Love Land is an outdoor sculpture park all about sex and was our last adventure in Jeju. For a country that is so conservative, this park is an extremely progressive oddity. The day was hot but overcast so there were few visitors besides us. As I would like to successfully get a teaching job one day, I’ve censored most of the pictures I took. If you do a little googling, you can have your fill of the funny, graphic and sometimes aggressive sculptures. The best part of this park was watching others interact and selfie with the art. Our last meal in Jeju was the renowned Jeju Black Pork. It was delicious but tasted a lot like the samgyeopsal we eat in Seoul. It may have been even fattier than what we usually enjoy so not really my top pick for best BBQ I’ve eaten in Korea. We dropped off the car earlier than expected so we had to entertain ourselves in the small Jeju airport. With another uneventful plane ride into Seoul, I was back home in my apartment for 9pm.
This trip was very go-go-go but I left Jeju doing and eating absolutely everything I wanted to. I probably won’t be back for a very long time, but I highly recommend this trip to anyone who happens to find themselves in Korea!