Jeju Island: A New 7 World Wonders of Nature

With only 2 weeks in South Korea, we made out way to Jeju Island located in south-west of the South Korean peninsula. It is considered to be the Hawaii of South Korea possibly because of its mild island climate, and the many UNESCO world heritage locations on the island making it a favorite honeymoon/vacation spot for Koreans. We were in Jeju Island for 3 days, and we tried to make the most of out time there on this little island. Unfortunately I have not been to Hawaii (yet, I’ll be there in 2014!) so I can’t really compare. Update: Check out my Hawaii Itineraries (Oahu) and posts!

Getting to and Getting around Jeju

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There are 2 ways to get to Jeju Island from Seoul. Option 1) by air; Option 2) by land and sea. If you choose option 1, you would fly from Gimpo International Airport (make sure to tell your taxi driver that you are flying domestic). It is only a 1 hour flight. As for option 2, you will need to make your way to a port city in the south of South Korea and take a boat to Jeju. This is a much longer journey, but is a great option if you have the time and want to see more of South Korea. We chose option 1.

To save some money we did a little research and found several budget airlines that fly to Jeju from Seoul. We spend less than $100 per person for our round trip flight. But I have to admit, I had some trouble trying to book the budget tickets from the US. I ended up asking my friend who was living in Korea to book the tickets for me. I paid him back when I met up with him in Korea (that’s a way to force a friend to meet up with you..haha)

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In our rental car, ready to hit the road.

When I was doing my research, I found that public transportation was not as convenient as it is in Seoul. Typically there are 3 options: 1) by bus 2) by taxi 3) rental car. We chose option 3 because it would be the most flexible (just make sure you get an international drivers license). Make sure you get an English GPS system (its an extra charge) to get around. Check out my post on Driving in Jeju.

We wanted to make this a road trip all the way around the island. We started in Jeju City in the north (where the airport is located), and starting making our way towards the east to our first stop.

TIP: Got to Jeju before you turn 25, you can get youth discounts at many of the places in Jeju Island. (Unforunately, I’m a couple years past 25)

Day 1: Manjang-gul Cave

Tickets: Adults: 2,000 won. Youth/Children: 1,000 won

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a dark pathway inside the cave.

Manjang-gul Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage location (1 of several on Jeju Island). It is actually one of the few lava tubes in the world. Only 1km or the 13,422m (about 0.6 miles) of the lava tube is open to tourist. Source

This was the first UNESCO World Heritage locations we visited on Jeju Island. After getting our tickets, we made our way some steps to the entrance of the cave. As we walked down, you can feel the temperature drop. I think this would be a perfect place to go to on a hot summer day.

We were not sure how long this 1km walk was going to take (or whether we would even make it to the end) but it was a lot easier than we expected. Just make sure you are in some good tennis shoes (although we did see girls wearing high heels, I don’t know how or why they did it) because of the wet and rocky ground. It’s hard to believe that this big cave was created by lava flow.

That was the only thing we did on day 1 before checking into our hotel on the east coast of Jeju.

Day 2: Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)

Tickets: Adults: 2,000 won. Youth/Children: 1,000 won
Parking: 1,000 – 2,000 won

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Making our way up to the peak of Sunrise Peak to see the sunrise.

Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) is a crater which looks like a giant crown, located on the east coast of Jeju Island. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage location.

We woke up 4am on day 2 to see the sunrise at our second UNESCO World Heritage location. It is a 20-25 minute hike up stairs to the peak (so make sure you’ve been practicing on the stair master before coming). After making it the top, give yourself a moment to catch your breadth and wait for the sun to slowly make its way over the horizon. We spent several hours here, taking hundreds of pictures.

You don’t have to go to Sunrise Peak for the sunrise (especially if you’re not a morning person). The view from is still worth the hike any time of the day. Check out my full post on Seongsan Ilchulbong for more pictures.

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The sunrise we waited for.

Day 2: Seopjikoji

Parking: 1,000 won

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View of a little church

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Stairs that lead up to a beautiful light house and view point.

Seopjikoji is located on the east coast of Jeju that seems to just extend out into the ocean. This location provides magnificant views of the coast line. As you walk towards the light house at the end of the little peninsula you will walk by a little church (made famous from a Korean TV drama: All In).

I was actually a little disappointed being here. Although the views were beautiful, it was over crowded with rude tourists. I did not actually see the TV drama, so I didn’t bother to see the church (you also have to pay to get in).

Although I was disappointed, I definitely see why it is such a big tourist attraction. There are horses roaming the open fields in the area (for a small fee, you can even ride the horses), beautiful pathways along the coast, and interesting rock formations off the coast. I want to give place another try if I have the opportunity to go to Jeju Island again, I just need to prepare myself to be around some interesting (maybe a little rude) tourists which definitely helped with the rest of my Jeju Island experience.

Day 2: Jeongbang Fall

Tickets: Adults: 2,000 won.

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Jeongbang Waterfall flowing into the ocean

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A little bit of yoga next to an amazing waterfall.

This one is my second favorite spot in Jeju Island after Sunrise Peak. This is 1 of 3 waterfalls in the Seogwipo area; the second largest city in Jeju Island.  One minute we were in Seogwipo and the next we are staring at a big waterfall flowing right into the ocean.

There are stairs that will lead you down towards the bottom of the waterfall, but you will have to brave these boulders to get any closer (it was amazing seeing some women wearing high heels on these boulders). And it was a bit of a waiting game to get any pictures of us in front of the waterfall. There were plenty of couples and families with their tripods trying to get a good picture.

We even made it out to the ocean and dipped our hand into the East China Sea. We oddly never made our way to a beach, so this was the only time we touched the water.

Day 2: Suwolbong

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Sunset at Suwolbong

After checking in at our guest house on the west coast, our host recommended the near by Suwolbong to see the sunset. It was in fact a good view, but the area had quite a few little bugs flying around (I think they were mosquitoes). We snapped a couple pictures of the setting sun and headed out in search of a good dinner. Good dinner = Samgyupsal (Korean BBQ)!

Day 3: O’Sulloc Tea Museum

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Me and my O’Sulloc tea cup in front of the green tea fields.

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Green tea ice cream, and green tea cake

Getting to O’Sulloc Tea Museum was a bit of a drive from our guest house and to back to town, but is worth a stop if you like tea. Although it is called a museum, the exhibition area is actually very small. What takes up the bulk of the building is a cafe that sells over priced drinks and desserts but definitely worth getting. My favorite was the green tea cake. Just have a seat and enjoy the views around the first floor. After loading up on sugar, you can head up to the second (indoor) and third (outdoor) floor observatories to see the green tea fields.

The gift shop lets you smell all of the different types of tea they grow at O’Sulloc. There were tons of variations of tea, and it sure was fun trying to pick out my favorites.  This was actually where we got most of our souvenirs for friends and family.

Quick tip: If you you need to get more tea after you leave Jeju, you can still visit their stores in Seoul and some of their products can be found in the big chain grocery stores in Korea.

Day 3: Cheonjiyeon Falls

Tickets: Adults: 2,000 won. Youth/Children: 1,000 won

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Taking a quick break on a bridge before leaving Cheonjiyeon Falls.

130910CheonjiyeonFalls1Chenjiyeon literally means “God’s pond” because legend has it that seven fairies came down to this the pond on stairs of cloud and bathed in its clear waters. Source

We didn’t get as close to this waterfall as we did at Jeongbang Fall, but I don’t think the waterfall was the focal point here. Cheonjiyeon is actually known to house several natural monuments: that include several types of trees and plants as well as Mutae eels that inhabit the clear waters (best to not jump in the water).

As we walked through the entrance we were greeted by many Jeju stone statues called Dolhareubang. These statues are guardian gods (and symbolize fertility). We continued to walk along a stream toward the waterfall. It was nice stroll through a pretty park with with big mountains and bridges along the way.

Day 3: Saeyeongyo Bridge

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Left: View of bridge the ground. Right: Me and V being silly taking pictures on the bridge. Its not a very big bridge.

Saeyeongyo Bridge is simply a pedestrian bridge that connects to Saeseom Island (Birds Island) which allows visitors to take its 1.2 km hike around the island. Source

Saeyeongyo bridge is right next to Cheonjiyeon Fall and was therefore worth a quick stop for pictures.

Day 3: Oedolgae Rock

130910Oedolgae2Oedolgae Rock literally means “lonely rock”. The area around Oedolgae rock wraps around the rock, giving us a (approx.)180degree view. Making the that trail a popular hiking spot.

This was our final stop in Jeju before we headed north (an hour drive) back to the capital of Jeju to grab some dinner, return our rental car, and check-in at the airport to fly back to Seoul.

We’re city girls, and were definitely in great need of city life!

Overall, I would say Jeju was worth the time to effort to see. There are quite a few beautiful places to go see and has a little bit for almost anyone.

Update: Although, I have now been to Hawaii I find it really hard to compare. The weather can be comparable I guess, but Hawaii never reminded me of Jeju (I went to 2 islands: Oahu and Big Island). I also never made it to the beach in Jeju.

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