Jeju Island was formed from volcano and is a beautiful island for honey-mooners, romantic holidays or just plain relaxing get-aways with 2-3 days being sufficient to see the place and relax a bit. We did a lot of sight seeing here and loved every bit of this place. Highlight of our trip and we recommend going here if you come to Korea.
We took an afternoon Korean Air domestic flight from Gimpo domestic airport in the heart of Seoul. The airport can be pretty crowded. The flight was about 1.5 hours and is indeed a pleasant journey and the view from the plane quite awesome. The airlines itself is nice and comfortable although food on flight in this particular sector was hopeless (international sector flights are awesome, though!). Asiana Airlines is better overall, but pricier on most days. Scenic views aboard – loved every bit of the flight.
Jeju Airport at the north end of the island has several hotels nearby but we preferred to stay at the southern tip (Seogwipo) due to being less commercial and serene. Airport transfer to the southern tip is easy with comfortable buses taking you to the hotel of choice and takes about an hour from/to hotel and airport.
Seogwipo has several good hotels although some of the lesser known ones have a bit of language issue. Click here for more info on Jeju Airport.
Sightseeing – quick tour in one day
Yeha Tour is the most popular group tour here but not available on Sunday. We were late for Saturday booking and it was full, so we hired a taxi for a full day (9am to 6:30pm) from our hotel in Seogwipo for W180,000. This actually works out better as the whole of East/West tours being offered by Yeha were not exciting to us and took the best of those two one-day tours to see in one day and we saved a lot doing this as well.
We were fortunate to find a good english-speaking driver but otherwise, take a Jeju map and finalize the itinerary through hotel reception and the driver. In our case, the hotel also got the taxi and we suspect he took some commission but was worth it as we could not have got a taxi so easily at first place.
Quick detour towards West of Jeju Island
This one is for adults only. It was indeed an interesting place to see and well, can say that it shows the broad-minded nature of the common people there. Would say it was worth a trip and the visit through the museum can be done in not more than 30min.
A beautiful waterfall site and a must-see place in the island. We spent some 1-1.5 hours there and took loads of pics of a pretty place. Beautiful fishes, turtles etc can be found in artificial ponds built to compliment the natural falls. We took ticketing, timings and other details from here.
Next we wound up our West tour by visiting these cliffs which are made from volcanic rock formation and were an absolute beauty to see and enjoy. We spent about an hour at this place to take loads of pictures and walk around.
Thereafter, we took a U-turn and sped our way towards the East tour, and the well-maintained and smooth roads helped keep up our pace… well, we do not expect anything less from a A1/A rated country as Korea anyway!
Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)
While having lunch in the car (to save time), we went to the extreme right of tip of the island to Seongsan, at the foot of a specacular exteinct volcano Ilchulbong. We could not make the journey to the top as it takes approx. 4-7 hours to do the trek (182m high) and we didn’t have much time next day.
So we took some photos from the foot of the otherwise magnificent place and continued our journey.
Enroute while doing this tour- there are some other wonderful stop-overs you can take for photographs … a lot of these were ideal spots for honeymoon pictures…
Talking of volcanoes, it is indeed interesting that like numerous scenic islands around the world, Jeju island was also formed from volano. The link here gives a detailed account of the same.
Manjanggul Lava Caves
Finally, our last stop for the day was the Manjanggul Lava caves which again, was the highlight of the Jeju tour day. The caves are natural heritage sites and very well preserved despite being formed 200-300k years back and the largest lava column of 7.6m is the longest in the world.
It can get bit cold inside – 11ºC (and wet from water drops) so recommend a thin jacket inside. You can spend as much time in the caves as you want but about 1 hour is sufficient to have a tourist-level look. Oh, and there are some bats flying around inside but the caves are very high in height and none comes even close.
- Shot taken outside the Manjanggul caves, taken from Canon 550D with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Seogwipo – Good place to relax
Being the lazy bums we can be on some days during travel, we spent one whole day just chilling out at the beach in Seogwipo. The place as seen below is a bit of a walk from the hotels, but quite an easy one and not like a trek, although there is some climbing to be done, nonetheless. Apart from the beach, there are also some restaurants, sea lion shows and other entertainment activities to be done there.
The hotels are at a good height from the beach and offers excellent view as seen below. Also, all the hotels in Seogwipo are quite close to each other, FYI.
Also recommend to try some of the Chinese/Thai restaurants at Seogwipo market – they are great, especially one called Chinatown which not surprisingly, serves Chinese cuisine.
Next day afternoon (after chilling out at the hotel swimming pool), we took the return bus from our hotel to airport (hotels have timings when they come) and then to Seoul. From there, we took the subway train, which comes to Gimpo airport and straight to the International airport at Incheon.
Quick review on Hana Hotel
We stayed at Jeju Hana hotel. The hotel is located in the middle of the “hotel complex” in Seogwipo area and somewhat connected to the airport/other transportation in the area. By saying somewhat, I mean that for example, the airport pickup bus comes at a nearby big hotel (i am forgetting the name of that) and is a 5min walk from Jeju Hana. Also, other public transportation will be called by the airport usually and it is bit difficult otherwise to get taxis there, though that is true for most hotels in the region.
The hotel itself was decent, had a decent lobby, the interiors looked modern and clean. Would put the hotel in the basic stay category as there is not much to talk about in terms of amenities etc. The staff was ok at best, though selectively, some did try hard to help you. Language was not a big issue in the hotel itself, though again, it can be an issue dealing with locals in the island, otherwise.
The rooms were decent sized for the price and clean. Again, basic amenities in the room but service is not much to be talked about. Food was one thing we were pleasantly surprised with. They had some nice food for breakfast and lunch. We didn’t have dinner in the hotel itself as the restaurant used to close down pretty early. (check if things have changed now though)
There are some nice restaurants in hotels nearby, do try those out. They were bit pricey though. Local restaurants are outside the hotel complex but since we were less adventurous on food experiments in that trip (just recovered from stomach problems before this trip), we stuck to the hotels’ restaurants
However, on the last day, we did go to the Seogwipo market (famous by just this name) where we tried food at a Chinese restaurant, that was only one in that market. The food was above average and portion was actually quite big, we had a hearty meal and topping with good service (for a change for Jeju trip), we had a great experience here. Recommended.
So, the big point being – Jeju island trip is all about the natural beauty of the island. It is so good that despite the hiccups such as language, service etc. we had at the place, we loved it completely. This is one Asian destination which is still not very popular in non East-Asians. I hear that SK is increasingly trying to market that island as a tourist destination (rightly so) and there are more and more direct flights from big airports in Asia, making connectivity to the island better.
If you are planning a trip to Korea and you like natural beauty added with optionality of hike to top of volcano crater for a magnificent view, this is a highly recommended place.
Note that all the above is written as of our experience in 2010. Things can and obviously will change over time and your experience could differ. Happy to know your comments below.