Just off the south coast of South Korea, and only an hour’s flight from Seoul, Jeju Island is unlike anywhere else in Korea. Our Jeju itinerary covers all corners of the island and gives you everything you need for the perfect trip.
Featuring a breath-taking abundance of spectacular natural beauty, a mouth-watering array of the freshest seafood and some of the friendliest people that you could ever wish to meet, there are plenty of things to do in Jeju Island to fill a week.
Formed by a huge volcanic explosion over two million years ago, Jeju’s hugely diverse landscape has something of everything. Mount Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea, towers over the island, surrounded by dense forests and hiking trails.
Admiring the view at Bubjungak Observation Platform, and Jeju’s dol hareubang, or stone grandfathers
Jeju’s dramatic landscape reaches all the way to the rocky coastline, where heavenly beaches decorate the shoreline. Jeju’s iconic free-diving senior citizens, called haenyeo, plunder the island’s heavenly sea waters for fresh squid and abalone. Meanwhile, away from the coast, winding country lanes cut through endless fields of orange trees.
Many people visit Jeju either on a long weekend from Seoul or from the city of Busan on the southern coast of South Korea. Here’s how to get to Jeju Island from either.
Jeju Island is a quick 1 hour 10 minute flight from Seoul, or a 50 minute flight from Busan.
Be aware that all flights to Jeju Island from Seoul depart from the city’s smaller Gimpo airport, not from Incheon Airport. If you’re flying into Seoul from overseas and then on to Jeju you’ll most likely need to transfer from Incheon to Gimpo airport.
A frequent train service connects the two airports and thankfully the transfer is pretty painless. The train journey between the two airports is around 45 minutes.
A ferry also runs from Busan to Jeju Island, however there are only three services a week to and from the island and the journey takes twelve hours. More information on ferry services to Jeju Island from Busan can be found here.
There is a wide variety of accommodation available in Jeju Island, from large seaside resorts and hotels to cosy B&Bs and hidden homestays.
There’s a greater selection in and around the large cities of Jeju and Seogwipo, but if you have access to transport there are a lot of great options dotted around the entire island, which is perfect if you prefer to be amongst Jeju’s orange groves or closer to the mountains.
You can search for a wide range of accommodation on Jeju Island by clicking here.
If you need a few suggestions here are a few places that we recommend:
If you’re looking to keep an eye on costs then the Golden Park Hotel is a very good affordable hotel. Located close to the centre of Jeju and convenient for the airport, this is the ideal place for the cost conscious traveller.
The Golden Bridge Hotel is located in Seogwipo, the main city on the south coast of Jeju Island. Along with super-friendly staff, the hotel’s comfortable rooms come with great views of Seogwipo harbour
Top of the Range
If you’re looking to stay in Jeju in style there’s plenty of choice on the island. The Grand Josun Jeju is one of the most luxurious hotels on the island, with gorgeous rooms and a multitude of top-end facilities.
By far the easiest and most convenient way to get around Jeju Island is with your own transport. You’ll be able to add a lot more to your Jeju Island itinerary if you have your own set of wheels.
Thankfully there are a number of hire car companies based in Jeju, especially near the airport and the port.
If relying on public transport there are several bus routes that cover a large percentage of Jeju Island, including Jeju airport and all of the main tourist sites.
A complete bus route map for Jeju Island can be found here.
From hiking mountain trails to finding the best seafood, here’s everything you need for the perfect Jeju itinerary.
Any Jeju itinerary is more than likely going to be centered around many of the island’s natural wonders. The domineering peak of Mount Hallasan, right in the centre of Jeju, is visible from most parts of the island (weather permitting), and the huge national park that surrounds it is a wonderful place to explore.
A trek to the summit of Mount Hallasan (and back) will take up the most of a day, with those reaching the top rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Baengnokdam Lake, the crater lake that sits in the middle of the mountain.
Several shorter trails can be found amongst the enchanting forests of Hallasan National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Over 300 additional volcanic peaks surround Mount Hallasan, and there is much to explore for either the committed or the casual hiker.
A shorter and easier alternative is a stroll through the gorgeous forest trails at Seogwipo Natural Recreation Forest, found just off Jeju’s most beautiful stretch of highway, known as the 1100 Road (which, confusingly, is officially called route 1139).
Follow the forest path up to the Bubjungak Observation Platform for a spellbinding view over the forests and mountains and as far as the sea.
The view on the ascent to Sunshine Peak, and one of Jeju’s many orange trees
Jeju Island’s second most famous landmark is Seongsan Ilchulbong, the huge green crater moored off Jeju Island’s east coast. Also known as Sunrise Peak, Seongsan Ilchulbong is over 180 metres high and another volcanic creation.
Another of Jeju’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the climb to the top is arduous but fairly brief, taking around 30 minutes to complete. Thankfully there are plenty of places to pause for breath along the way.
The sensational views over the crater at the centre of Sunrise Peak and of the surrounding seas, as well as far back across the island way below, makes the effort all worthwhile.
A cat lives the dream on Hyeopjae beach, Hyeopjae’s turquoise waters and locals fish at Hamedeok beach
Jeju’s dramatic coastline is also littered with a countless number of stunningly beautiful beaches. Two of the finest on Jeju Island are Hyeopjae beach and Hamdeok beach.
At Hyeopjae beach, the beautiful soft golden sand mingles with craggy black rocks and the stunning aqua marine turquoise water of the sea. The green peak of Biyangdo Island sits in the waters just off in the distance.
Hamdeok beach is just as heavenly. A small pier parts the beach, and at the far end an arching bridge leads out onto the familiar black rocks that line the pristine shoreline.
Jeju’s most famous residents are the all-female free-diving grandmothers who scour the seas all around Jeju for fresh seafood for several hours a day.
Called haenyeo in Korean, the all-female divers are mostly over the age of 60 and are an iconic part of Jeju’s history.
Despite their advancing years, haenyeo free dive for up to six hours a day, hunting for a variety of seafood, including abalone, octopus and squid.
A group of haenyeo free divers in the sea near Namwon and a catch of squid drying in the sunshine
The small port below Sunshine Peak is one of the most popular places to watch them in action. A group of haenyeo prepare for a dive here twice a day during summer, at 1.30pm and 3.00pm.
Haenyeo can also be spotted all around Jeju’s coastline, and spotting them dive ought to be on any Jeju itinerary.
Follow any stretch of the coast road and keep your eyes peeled for heads bobbing or a pair of flippers descending into the sea. The south coast, especially around Namwon, is a popular diving spot and a good place to go if you want to catch haenyeo in the action out in the wild.
The haenyeo are such an iconic part of Jeju culture that there’s even a museum dedicated to them on the island.
The excellent Jeju Haenyeo Museum is about a ten minute drive north of Sunshine Peak and gives a fascinating overview of the history and the lives of these incredible women.
Women have dived for seafood around Jeju for over a thousand years. Though their numbers may be in decline, there are still around 5000 haenyeo divers in Jeju, and over 95% of those are aged 50 or above. Many are well into their eighties.
Statues and a memorial to Jeju’s haenyeo free divers outside the Jeju Haenyeo Museum
One of the best things to do in Jeju is to eat as much of the island’s mouthwatering food as possible. Besides the island’s ubiquitous oranges, Jeju is famous for black pork and copious amounts of fresh seafood.
Jeju’s black pork is made from (and named after) the black pigs that are reared on the island. The pork is served smoked, which creates a unique flavour that differs from traditional types of pork meat.
Jeju’s other speciality is seafood. A huge variety of fresh seafood is caught in the waters around the island each day. The local mackerel is especially delicious, either grilled or served as sashimi.
Another speciality is the long and silky hairtail fish. Hairtail doesn’t stay fresh for long so needs to be eaten soon after it’s taken from the sea, making it one of the freshest dishes you’ll find on the island.
As is tradition, all meals are served with banchan, the almost endless array of Korean side dishes that nearly constitute a whole meal by themselves.
Another example of Jeju’s volcanic beginnings can be found below ground at Manjanggul cave. Manjanggul cave was created by the lava tubes that once flowed underground hundreds of thousands of years ago.
In their wake the flowing lava left behind a huge open cave, almost 9 kilometres in length and in some places over 30 metres high, though only a one kilometre stretch is open to the public.
Deep inside Jeju’s Manjanggul caves
The size and scale of Manjanggal cave is magnificent; a huge open chamber of stalactites, stalagmites and patterned rock formations (including one that resembles a scale model of Jeju Island) leads to a cascading solidified lava tower at the far end of the cave.
On the far west corner of Jeju’s phenomenal south coast is Mount Songaksan, another jut of jagged land surrounded by an equally beautiful natural landscape.
A walking trail follows the perimeter of Mount Songaksan, along the East China Sea before returning through a beautiful pine forest.
A number of Korean dramas have shot scenes along the path around Mount Songaksan, making it a popular place to visit for young Koreans.
The views from Mount Songaksan
The Yongmeori Coast is one of the most beautiful sections of Jeju Island’s entire coastline. At Yongmeori Coast a dramatic stretch of swirling yellow cliffs meander around the coastline, shaped over centuries by the sea’s waves.
Sweeping patterns and smooth edges have been sculpted into the sand-coloured cliffs, alongside huge chunks of fallen slabs of stone. It’s a magical corner of Jeju’s incredible coastline and an essential inclusion to any Jeju itinerary.
Jeju’s incredible Yongmeori Coast
Just opposite the entrance to Yongmeori coast is the grand Bomunsa Temple and Sanbanggulsa Grotto. Sat at the foot of Sanbangsan Mountain, the vast Buddhist Bomunsa Temple consists of large ornate prayers halls guarded by a number of domineering Buddha statues, most notably the striking gold statue that faces the sunset to the west.
A steep and exhausting trail behind Bomunsa Temple leads up to Sanbanggulsa Grotto, another Buddhist shrine concealed within a cave high up into the mountainside.
The Bomunsa temple next to Sanbangsan Mountain on Jeju Island
Back towards the southern city of Seogwipo are the Jusangjeolli Cliffs, another of Jeju’s natural phenomena.
Jusangjeolli Cliffs are a collection of tightly packed, black hexagonal columns, a result of volcanic lava solidifying to form staggered pillars that look like they protrude from the sea bed.
Nearby is another Buddhist temple, the enormous and elaborate Yakcheonsa Temple. Featuring a colossal and highly ornate main hall and huge manicured grounds, Yakcheonsa Temple claims to be the largest in Asia.
Further along Jeju’s south coast are Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang waterfalls. Cheonjiyeon waterfall is located next to Yeomiji Botanical Garden and stands at over 20 metres high. The waterfall is a popular tourist spot and particularly spectacular when light up at night.
The colourful Seonimgyo Bridge that passes over the waterfall is almost as much of an attraction, decorated with the depiction of seven nymphs carved along its sides.
Also over 20 metres tall, the spectacular Jeongbang waterfall is famous as the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the sea.
The Jusangjeollie cliffs and watching the sunset over Jeju
Across Jeju Island are a number of excellent outdoor museums and gardens. Two that are not to be missed are the Jeju Folk Village and the Spirited Garden.
The Jeju Folk Village is a huge open air site where over 100 historic homes and buildings have been reconstructed and grouped together in themed villages.
Jeju Folk Village is one of the most visited sites on the island and is an essential addition to any Jeju itinerary for those wishing to discover more about the unique history of Jeju Island.
On the opposite side of the island, the Spirited Garden is a wonderful place to spend a peaceful couple of hours. The Spirited Garden has been a labour of love for its creator, Seong Beomyeong, for over 50 years.
The immaculate gardens house a beautiful collection of perfectly manicured bunjae trees (Korea’s version of bonsai), along with blossoming orange trees, waterfalls, and ponds filled with enormous multicoloured carp.
On an island filled with natural beauty the Spirited Garden stands out as one of Jeju’s most spectacular spots. This is a great place to spend a relaxing hour or two and is easily one of the best things to do in Jeju Island.
The Spirited Garden, Jeju Island
Somewhat surprisingly for such a small island, Jeju Island is also home to a truly bewildering number of museums.
For some the term ‘museum’ might be a bit kind (a collection of things might be more accurate), and the reason for their existence may be financial rather than purely artistic.
Yet Jeju Island features museums dedicated to a variety of baffling and assorted topics, including seashells, K-pop, teddy bears, chocolate, tea and even Zippo lighters. Other museums are dedicated to Greek mythology, African art and citrus fruits.
Some of the exhibits on display at Jeju Island’s Love Land
Perhaps the most well known of Jeju’s less traditional attractions is Love Land, the theme park where the artworks are devoted to all things to do with sex, and where subtlety is abandoned and nothing is left to the imagination.
The colourful exhibits range from the suggestive to the graphic to the comical. Entrance is only allowed to those aged 20 and over.
It’s worth noting that there are small entrance fees for almost all of Jeju’s natural tourist sites, even though they would appear to be public places.
For example, the Jusangjeollie Cliffs, the Yongmeori Coast and Jeongbang waterfall each have a 2000 won entrance fee. Whilst it won’t break the bank it may come as a surprise if you’re not expecting it.
These sites also have operating hours and last admission can be weather dependent, so be sure to check in advance of the opening and last entry times if you’re running short on time.
There are few guides specifically for Jeju Island, which tends to be covered in detail in guidebooks that cover all of South Korea. If you’re planning on seeing more of South Korea buying a guide to the whole country is a good idea.
» If you only need a guidebook to compliment your Jeju Island itinerary, the Complete Guide to Jeju Island by Beautiful World Escapes is perfect and can be found on Amazon here.
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