by Vincent Sung
A road trip through Jeju Island, also known as the Isle of the Gods offers travelers the chance to go off the beaten path and explore some of the island’s most fascinating and spectacular corners. From mountain sunrises to lava tubes, waterfalls and more, this road trip itinerary will show travelers the best of Jeju.
Pack a light breakfast – Leave from Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott resort
*distances are calculated leaving from Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott resort
Start your day at the Sunrise Peak (61 miles)
Wake up before dawn to watch the sunrise sitting on one of the 99 rocks surrounding the top crater at the Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchubong). One of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site located on the eastern tip of the island, Seongsan Ilchubong is an extinct volcano, which rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. From the sky, it looks like a gigantic crown with the 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater. On the Northwest side, a verdant grassy hill ridge leads to the quaint Seongsan Village. An ideal spot for walks or a scenic horse riding trail. Visitors during Spring will be rewarded with views of fields full of yellow colored canola flowers. The hike is fairly easy and takes about 20 min. to climb up the 182 meters to the top. Entrance fee is KRW 2,000 (approx. $2)/ adult.
Find the winding paths along the coast
Olle Trails Route 6 (23 miles): Soesokkak – Seogwipo Olle Route (walking trail 3,20 miles)
One of my favorite route, starting from the serene Soesokkak Bridge, you will continue along a stretch of the beautiful coastal road and pass through the seaside town of Bomok. From the coast, you can spot Seogwipo in the distance as well as islands such as Seop-seom. In Seogwipo, you can visit one of the picture-perfect waterfalls: Jeongbang and Cheonjiyeon waterfall. Falling directly into the ocean, Jeongbang Falls is situated at a high cliff by the sea and is one of the most famous waterfalls to visit on Jeju Island. Walking further and on the way to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, stop for a pause at Lee Jung Seob Street, an arty neighborhood packed with craft shops, chilled-out beer bars and Bauhaus-styled restaurants. It was named after the famous Korean artist whose dwelling has been preserved and its surroundings made into a park.
Cheonjeyeon Waterfall boasts interesting rock formations, pristine beaches, and breathtaking waterfalls. Known as the Pond of God, Cheonjeyeon Waterfall originates from the ceiling of a cave and it comprises three sections. In May, during the Chilseonyeo Festival, which celebrates the coming of the nymphs, you can actually have a soak in the falls. Seonimgyo Bridge has seven nymphs carved on both sides thus was nicknamed ‘The Seven Nymphs Bridge’ (Chilseonyeogyo). The nymphs symbolize the seven beautiful and legendary nymphs that would descend from heaven at night.
Olle or ‘a winding path to your front door’ in the local Jeju dialect, refers to the narrow path between the street and one’s doorstep. There are about 26 walking trails stretching around the entire coast of the island. The trails pass through various landscapes along the way. Each trail lengths vary between 4.5 miles to 14 miles long, offering a unique opportunity to soak in the beauty of Jeju and the island’s unique culture.
Head to the North of Jeju City, the mystical Dragon Head rock (18 miles) – Yongduam Rock
Created from the erosion of coastal rocks by strong winds over the course of thousands of years, Yongduam Rock promises spectacular views overlooking the ocean with strangely shaped rocks. Adding another magical scenery, Haenyo (sea-women divers) can be seen diving near the cliff where an abundance of sea urchins and abalone can be caught. The age of the women-only divers averages 65 years old. These renowned and respected icons of Jeju island can dive 32-65 feet without any breathing apparatus. They usually sell the freshest abalones, octopus, clams, and seaweed caught barehanded straight out of the sea.
To get a taste of the island specialty, try the seaweed and sea urchin soup at a local restaurant nearby. Other Jeju specialties include pheasant, whole grilled mackerel in sea salt and the famous barbecued pork from black pigs.
Meet Two Dragons at Ssangyonggul Cave (18 miles)
The cave got its name from its two branches, which looks like the paths of two dragons.
Designated natural Monument and one of the four lava tubes along with Socheongul, Hwanggeumgul and Manjanggul caves. The cave was created by lava that erupted from Hallasan Mountain around 25 million years ago. One of the unique features is that it features both a lava tube and a limestone cave. The entire area surrounding the cave is composed of fossil seashells and sand, while the interior is a mystical mix of stalactites and stalagmites. Similar to the strokes of an abstract painting, lime covers the cave walls in a series of natural swirls and streaks.
Sunset marvels at Oedolgae Rock (20 miles)
Fans of K-drama must visit the Oedolgae Rock which was featured in the iconic Korean drama
‘Daejanggeum’. Take a stroll along the Oedolgo walking treks to get breathtaking views of the sunset over the island of the Gods.