Korea’s Island Paradise: JEJU-DO

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A paradise it is indeed. We kept commenting: ‘it feels like another foreign island destination, but just with all the Koreans here too’!

If you know nothing about this island, here’s the lowdown:

  • it’s south-west of the most southern province, Jeollanam-do, of the South Korean peninsula
  • it’s a volcanic island with temperate climate
  • Hallasan is the main attraction, and it’s the highest mountain in South Korea at 1,950m high
  • to understand the size of the island: approximately 73km from east to west, and 41km from north to east
  • it owes its existence to volcanic eruptions that happened roughly 2 million years ago
  • it is the most popular honeymoon destination for newlyweds in Korea
  • get in and out: regular flights (domestic and some international) depart for Jeju-do, or you can take the ferry from the mainland (around 4 hours)

We went there over the Chuseok (추석) holidays (Korean Thanksgiving), for 2 nights/3 days. We took our car over on the ferry, and also our bikes on the back.

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Lunch on a cliff with a view (north coast)

We arrived at the Jeju City ferry port around noon, and just drove a bit along the coast to find a nice picnic spot to have lunch.

After lunch on the cliff we proceeded to the Manjanggul Lava Tube. It’s in the north east of the island, and is 8km long with about 1km accessible to the public.

It was quite amazing walking down the JeJu_[Sep2015]_0008dimly lit lava tube, walking on the rough stone, water dripping from the ceiling, and just imagining the magma that flowed through that passage so long ago…

When finished, we drove east along the coast to find a nice camping spot for the night. And did we find an awesome spot! That night’s sunset has been the most beautiful we have witnessed this year so far… We had a lekker braai and sundowners, and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our trip!

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Camping with no one around – Gimnyeong Seongsegi Beach

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Skies on fire – breathtaking sunset

Alarms were set to wake up early the next morning. We packed up quickly, and with a lot of excitement, set off to Seongsan Ilchulbong (aka Sunrise Peak) to witness the sunrise (which is one of the ‘must do things’ on the island). The ride there was a quick 20-30 minutes, and then we started the steep ascent. We must’ve set a record (thought we’re a little late to see the sunrise), because we climbed to the peak in 15 minutes – be warned, it’s quite strenuous.

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We were treated to some beautiful views from the top of the peak. The tuff cone is 180m high, and its huge bowl-like crater is about 600m in diameter. This hydromagmatic volcano with its well preserved tuff cone was designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site due to its unique scenery and scientific value.  Unfortunately for us, it was a bit cloudy around sunrise, and only about 15min later did the sun peak out… That’s the weather for you.

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That’s sunrise peak up there…

It was still early, so we drove a short ways away, and found a nice spot next to the ocean with a nice view of Seongsan Ilchulbong to have breakfast. The sun still rising and the rays coming through the clouds during breakfast was quite dramatic, and it was just beautiful to be there in that moment!

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After our brisk morning hike up Sunrise Peak, and our breakfast, we headed to the ferry terminal to hop over to the close by Udo island. ‘Udo’ literally means ‘Cow island’ in Chinese and has this name because it looks like a cow that is lying down… (we failed to see the resemblance though).

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Beautiful coastal scenery on our bike ride

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volcanic rocks used as ‘fencing’

The main reason for bringing our own bikes, was to ride it around Udo. We got our tickets, and waited in the line for the next ferry (they are very frequent). The ride over is only 15 minutes – too short to even get seasick (IMHO).
We got off, and drove past all the shops at the port where you can rent ‘transportation’. You have a few choices: bicycles, tandem-bikes, electric bicycles, scooters, and then these funny looking three-wheeled electric scooters (popular choice).

We started off and decided to circumnavigate the island in a clockwise direction from the port. We just stuck to the roads next to the gorgeous coastline, and just took it all in as we lazily paddled along. We took a break at one

peanut ice cream and iced peanut latte

peanut ice cream and iced peanut latte

coffee shop (there are many along the way) and tried the ‘famous’ peanut ice cream, on top of the shop’s roof with a nice view.

We eventually arrived in the south east of the island (started in north west), with the headland jutting out into the water. We hiked up Udobong peak, and were treated to some awesome views!
When visiting Jeju-do, make sure not to miss out on the opportunity to visit this quaint little island – highly recommended by yours truly.
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Udobong Peak – hiked up and over…

beach on the south east of Udo island

Seobin Baeksa beach on the west coast of Udo island

We still had the whole afternoon ahead of us, so the plan was to drive down to the south coast of Jeju-do, exploring and sightseeing on the go, and finding our final camping spot for the trip. We took the ‘coastal roads’ as much as possible – a little slower, but way more scenic!

We spent some time on Jungmun beach – really nice, and best spot for surfing on Jeju.

Jungmun beach - popular amongst surfers and beach lover alike

Jungmun beach – popular amongst surfers and beach lovers alike

 We were losing sunlight, and we have yet to secure a nice camping spot for the night. We drove a little more to the west looking for a spot, but had a difficult time finding ‘the’ spot for us… We ended up basically ‘giving up’, and settled for a small dirt/grass road leading a ways into an area with some pine trees, right off of the main road next to the ocean. This was kind of a blessing in disguise. As we were pitching our tent, and getting the braai ready for the night, looking back down the way we came, perfectly framed by the trees we drove through, the full moon sat there looking at us – fat and beautiful!
Early night means early wake-up; we were just in time for the sunrise, and was it something to behold… Sunsets are cool and all, but there’s something much more special about a sunrise in a beautiful setting – must be the promise of a fresh new day with endless possibilities, and just being in the moment then and there.
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last morning’s sunrise

This spot is almost exactly halfway between Mt. Sanbangsan and Mt. Songaksan. Across the road, there’s even a little black pebble beach with lots of driftwood. That night, we took a bottle of red to the beach and basked in the full moon, planning our future and recounting the day’s little adventures…
breakfast with a view once again

breakfast with a view once again

We drove back east for a short while again, to visit the Jusangjeolli Cliff (주상절리). It was cool to see the volcanic rock formations – it is rock pillars shaped like hexagons or cubes of different sizes.

Jusangjeolli cliff - note the cube-like shapes of the stone pillars

Jusangjeolli cliff – note the cube-like shapes of the stone pillars

Want more solitude? Head to the west coast. Huge areas of farmland, loads of open space, and natural beauty to boot!

Chagwido island

Chagwido island

When there’s a port in Korea, there are the ‘squid ladies’…

squid lady hanging out the squid to dry

squid lady hanging out the squid to dry

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fresh squid hung out to dry

Beaches in the west are gorgeous, although it might be a bit windier.

Picnic spot to take a break from the driving

Picnic spot to take a break from the driving

The last stop on the way back to Jeju city, was Aewol in the north-west of the island. We were blown away by the beauty of the coastline here – it truly felt like we were on a tropical island.

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Tropical waters of Aewol

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Paradise right here!

It has taken us five and a half years to get here (which is a shame), but we are so happy that we had the time and made the effort to visit this piece of Korean paradise. Until next time…

-Kürt

PS travel film to follow – watch this space.

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3 thoughts on “Korea’s Island Paradise: JEJU-DO

  1. Regtig n land met baie verrassings wat baieeee mense nie weet van nie ! Lekker storie om te lees, even, ek wat nie van Engels hou nie , like jou skryfstyle!!!!

  2. Jul is al solank daai kant – en kyk wat ontdek julle nog steeds. Lieflike fotografie soos gewoonlik. Kry vir julle n stainless steel koffie press. Yuppie Chef het 2 oulikes om uit te kies.

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