Jeju Island is an island in the Korea strait. It is a self-governing province and is considered as one of the 9 provinces of the Republic of Korea.
The island itself is large and has two major cities- Jeju City and Seogwipo City. They are situated on the coast, one on each side of the Island. In the middle of Jeju island is Hallasan National Park and Mount Halla, the largest attraction of the Island. The Jeju International Airport is located in Jeju City, but many of the tourist attractions are in the Seogwipo area and the midlands.
Jeju is known for its horses, citrus, chocolate, and black pork. Horse meat (the neck part) is served raw/tartare style with sesame oil and green onion. Seafood is found in abundance, and Abalone Juk (rice porridge) is one of the main local dishes.
Jeju is also known for Haenyeo – the diving ladies/ Jeju mermaids. These are old women who free-dive without any oxygen tanks to search for abalone, clams, and seaweed. They swim in the ocean area close to rock formations. These ladies don’t go out on boats and have no special equipment.
Here is the breakdown of our Jeju Island trip, with some useful information on where to stay, what to see and how to use the local transport.
Traveling to and in Jeju
To travel to Jeju you can go via Air, or with one of four ferries. The ferries leave from Mokpo Port, Usuyong Port (Haenam), Wando Port, and Nokdong Port. For information on ferry schedules and prices, visit the official Korean tourism site – Imagine your Korea. For us, it was just easier to fly from our local airport, Cheonju International, to Jeju Island. The price is reasonable, and the flight is only 45 minutes.
In Jeju, you have numerous buses, and traveling by taxi for shorter distances are also quite cheap. From the airport to our hotel we took a taxi, it is just more convenient when you have luggage (and I had my camera equipment and heavy snow jacket). Traveling in Jeju City is fairly easy, with digitized bus schedules at every bus stop (at least one per street). There’s also a number of ‘hop on hop off’ tour buses. This is convenient since your day pass will give you access to a bus route with all major tourist attractions.
Intercity buses are best taken from the Intercity bus terminal in Jeju City. To get there, take buses 5, 17, 26, 31, 70, 95, 100, 200 and 502. From the bus terminal, you can take numerous intercity buses to Seogwipo or outlying areas for as little as 1200 Won. To go to Seogwipo, take buses 701, 702, 730, 781, and 782. But the fastest routes to Seogwipo would be 781 (eastward) or 782 (westward). The same applies going back to Jeju City. To take the bus, go to the Seogwipo intercity bus terminal (close to E-mart). Alternatively (and much easier) take the Airport Limousine (Bus 600, it is red and white, and clearly marked). Be sure to check with the driver whether the specific bus goes back to Jeju City, or if you can read Korean, check the bus schedule board to see which time the 600 will go to the Jeju Airport, and take that bus. To read the Hangul: 제주공항 / Jeju Gonghang. The Airport Limousine leaves from most bus stops in Seogwipo close to hotels and tourist attractions (like the casino, Teddy Bear Museum and Ripley’s).
To travel to other outlying attractions, it’s best to leave from the intercity terminal – this way you are sure that you are taking the correct bus. Beware that these are usually very crowded since it is the most popular form (and only form) of transport for many of the locals in the rural areas of Jeju Island. The buses also stop on the main road, and you will have to walk to get to your attraction (about 1- 2 km’s). Taking a bus back to the city is also complicated since you will have to go to Seogwipo Bus terminal, and take the bus from there to Jeju City. At the end we resulted in taking a taxi, it cost us 30 000Won, but we got back to the city in less than 50 minutes. I have to add that we would have waited for the bus under regular circumstances, but it was late and extremely cold and also our last night in Jeju.
Things to do and places to visit
Jeju Island is a popular tourist attraction. Many Koreans go there during vacation times, and the island offers a lot to entertain people of all ages.
My first recommendation is that you go to the tourism booth at the Airport/bus terminal. There you will find a lot of brochures for all the attractions in Jeju. This way you can tailor-make your own tour and skip things that do not interest you. We’ve picked up about 15 brochures but did around 5 of those at the end. You will also be able to get an English map of the Island from the tourist information booth, but you’ll have to ask for it. Most brochures include a small map with one or two nearby attractions indicated on it.
Things we did:
The Golden Bus Tour. These tickets cost 12 000 Won per person for a day pass. There’re 22 stops on the bus route, and you can get on and off as much as you’d like. The bus will pass each designated stop once every hour.
You will be able to identify the bus and the bus stops by the above-shown images. At the bus stop you will find the bus schedule times, and on entering the bus you will get a printed schedule and information on each of the stops. You will be able to pay on the bus for your ticket with cash/card. We did the bus tour two days in a row since there have been too many things we wanted to do to fit into one day (and we only started around 11h00 and ended at around 18h00 on account of the winter schedule).
We did the following stops:
2. Baozhen Street
Baozhen Street, also known as Shopping Street, has a lively atmosphere and lots to do. From Restaurants, Bars and Coffeeshops to cotton candy and street food vendors you are sure to find something you like here. This is also a good place to shop for Jeju souvenirs, although all the major attractions have tailormade souvenirs as well.
3. The Shilla Duty-Free
It’s worth a mention, even though we could not buy anything since we were not going to leave Korea and could not provide a flight ticket. The Shilla is a huge complex filled with designer and luxury items which can be purchased duty-free. This is also a great place to buy Jeju Chocolates in bulk.
7. Jeju Folk Museum of Natural History
This is a must see stop, especially if you are into leisurely garden strolls and museums. This Museum consists out of two parts, the garden exhibits, and the Folk Village. Walking through the garden you will find many statues and historical references unique to Korea. The Folk Village gives you an insight into the development of Korean culture and heritage. Traditional drumming and singing performances can also be viewed here.
7. Noodle street
Looking to satisfy your craving for Korean Noodle dishes? Look no further. Jeju Island has a whole street dedicated to Noodles. Noodle street can be found at the same stop as Jeju Folk Museum.
9. Sarabong Peak
This Lighthouse is about a 500m uphill hike from the bus stop. The lighthouse is small, and you cannot go inside. It does offer a pretty view of the harbor and the Jeju skyline. There’s also a small temple you can visit. The whole visit took us about 35 minutes, which left us with a 25-minute wait before the next bus came by.
Tip: Take some snacks and drinks and have a little picnic at the lighthouse to pass the time.
10. Dongmun Market
The market sells all things Jeju at very reasonable prices. The market is also in a busy shopping district. Walk next to the beautifully decorated river (I don’t know how else to explain this, Korea has a knack for beautifying everyday things), and you’re sure to find a lot of interesting shops filled with local designer wares. Right across from the Dongmun Market entrance (basically where the bus stops), you will find a corner cafe selling AMAZING black pork dishes.
12. Hotel Ramada Entrance
Honestly, we just went here for the seafood. Right across the street from the bus stop you will find the best seafood restaurant. We had Abalone Juk (my favorite Korean seafood dish) with banchan. The prices are reasonable, the staff is friendly and you will be able to eat your food and have one or two drinks before the bus comes by again.
15. Yongduam Rock
This is a very Korean tourist attraction. It is just a rock, which faintly resembles a dragon. It wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen, but the scenery was breathtaking and it’s a stone through away from a hip and happening eatery which serves pretty good burgers and coffee.
16. Yonghae-ro (Coastal road)
Here you can take a nice beachside stroll, collect some seashells and see the Jeju Mermaids in action. There are a number of seafood restaurants and coffee shops along the way. We were also very fortunate and saw a school of dolphins traveling by.
19. Jeju Museum of Art (Love Land and Mysterious Road)
Be careful about the information leaflet for the Golden Bus, older leaflets refer to this stop as 19, newer ones as 20.
Jeju Love Land was quite and experience. I thought the best part was watching all the giggling Korean ‘Young adults’, and also the interactive displays. Be sure to check your modesty at the door and explore your inner sexual goddess. All the giggles and joking aside, Jeju Love Land displays beautiful works of art and gives us a great insight into Korea’s view on sex and sexuality.
19. Jeju Black Pork Street
Enjoy some scrumptious black pork on Jeju Island. Try to score some Horse Tartare whilst you’re at it- it is the sweetest meat you will ever eat.
20. Halla Arboretum
Calling all nature lovers! If you like hiking and botany, this is the place to go. Unfortunately, we went on a very rainy day and ended up spending our time in Angel-in-us drinking coffee and chatting.
This concludes part one of JEJU Island (Jeju City and Main Area). Part two will explore Seogwipo and the rest of Jeju Island.