The Laidback Vacation in Jeju, South Korea.

Jeju Island belongs to South Korea and has long been the country’s favorite domestic holiday and also for travelers. What made Jeju become a popular destination is thanks to its beautiful beaches, freshest seafood, volcanic landmarks, green tea plantations, and its natural world heritage sites.  

Going to Jeju is easy since this place practicing a liberal visa requirement. All year round, Jeju has a moderate climate and even in winter, the temperature rarely falls below 0 °C.   

This island features a dormant volcanic Hallasan in the center of the island, a 224-kilometer semi-topical forested national park, a coastline filled with waterfalls and the longest lava tube in the world. With all these features, Jeju recently has been listed as one of the new seven wonders of the natural world.  

i) The Initial Preparation   

Our visit to Jeju Island happens to be between the six of us. Our mission while visiting Jeju is to cover all the top attractions on the island with our main highlight which is to hike Mount Hallasan.  

Before starting our journey to Jeju, we did some preparations beforehand. Since Jeju is a visa-free entry for most countries, applying a visa does not apply to us. Our next step is to book places for us to stay and also our mode of transportation.   

For places to stay, we choose to use booking.com to search for the best place for us to stay. And based on our needs, we divide our stay to be in two different locations which are north and south of Jeju. As for your information, booking.com right now has this neat feature whereby you can choose either to search for a hotel or apartment to stay during your vacations. This proves to be useful since now you can exactly plan which type of places might suit your budget and preferences.  

As for our transportation, we choose to rent a car for our stay in Jeju. But before we could rent a car, some requirements are needed. First is you must have a valid driving license from your original country (if you are from the United States of America, driving permit issued by The American Automobile Association is acceptable) and secondly you have to apply for the International Driving Permit issued by Geneva or Vienna Convention. Plus, they have certain age limits for a type of car for you could rent. As for an example, the age limit to drive a 4-seater car is 21 years old.   

I highly recommend you to choose Lotte Rent-a-Car if you decide to rent a car while in Jeju. Booking a car from them is easy and you could get up to a 60% discount when you register to be a member of their website at lotterentacar.net. And if you do have any questions, hit them an email ([email protected]) and they will get back to you in a jiffy. But if renting a car is not your cup of tea, using public transportation in Jeju is also doable. 

ii) Day 1 – Departing to Jeju Island  

Upon our arrival in Jeju Island, we immediately headed out to get our rental car. Just head out from the airport, go to the right side and hop on to the shuttle bus that will take you to the car rental house. Be sure to take the correct shuttle bus according to your rental car company.  

It took us around 15 minutes before we are ready to hit the road and head to check in to our first stay located on the outskirt of Seogwipo. It’s a beautiful villa with an enormous garden in front of it.  

Since its winter season, it will get dark quite early. After unpacking our bags and stuff, we go out and found a small local restaurant not far away from our house to fill in our tummy before getting our rest for tomorrow’s adventure.   

iii) Day 2 – Visiting Seogwipo  

  • Osulloc Tea Museum
  • Innisfree Jeju House
  • Yongmeori Coast
  • Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff
  • Yeomiji Botanical Garden
  • Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

First thing in the morning we get our prepared breakfast before starting our first place to visit which is to Osulloc Tea Museum and Innisfree Jeju House. These two places located nearby within each other with just 3 minutes’ walking distance.  

Here in Osulloc Tea Museum, you could learn about Korean tea history and its tradition. Inside here, there is an indoor garden, Tea Cup Gallery, Tea Stone, Tea Store, and Tea House.   

While over the retail area, you will see a lot of diversity of tea that you could buy. If you are lucky, some of the tea is offered for free and serve as a tester. And while you are here, please don’t forget to try the insanely famous green tea latte and green tea roll cake at the Tea House.  

After spending some time in Osulloc Tea Museum, we continue our tour to the Innisfree Jeju House. If you are wondering about Innisfree, here’s some insight about it. Innisfree is a South Korean all-natural ingredients cosmetics brand and originated from Jeju. All of their products are created with high-quality ingredients and sourced from Jeju.  

Other than offering you with Innisfree products line, the Innisfree Jeju House also offers natural soap making classes, cosmetic testing, making a face mask, free plain postcards for you to stamp on it and also Innisfree Café.  

After spending ample time in both of these places, we head out to Yongmeori Coast. Yongmeori which means dragon head got its name because the beach looks like a dragon jumping into the ocean with its head raised.   

In here, you will see a sandstone bed created by layers of sand that have been deposited for ten million years. It is highly advisable before you come here to check the tides since visitors are only allowed to walk along the Yongmeori Coast during low tides only. Nevertheless, this place will also be closed during high tides, high winds, high waves, and any dangerous weather conditions.  

Our next stop will be to Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff. This place offers you a view of stone pillars piled up along the coast that is formed when the lava from the Hallasan Mountain erupted into the Sea of Jungmun.  

There is nothing much to do other than viewing the Jusangjeolli Cliff and taking pictures of this spectacular place. We did spend around 30 minutes in this area and quickly hop on to our next stop.   

Next on our list is Yeomiji Botanical Garden. This place is without a doubt is a place for those who love gardening and photography. Yeomiji Botanical Garden is one of the best botanical gardens in Asia. This place divided into two spaces to explore namely;  

i) Indoor Garden  

These three acres glass greenhouse have a divided section which is Mystery Garden, Central Hall, Flower Garden, Aquatic Garden, Cactus Garden, Jungle Garden, and Tropical Fruit Garden. While at the center there is a 35-meter tall observation tower in which you could take an elevator to go all the way to the top.   

ii) Outdoor Garden  

A 24-acres big land that holds various kinds of warm temperate and temperate zone plants in various gardens including Japanese, Korean, Italian, French as well as Jeju Natives Garden.  

During our visit to Yeomiji Botanical Garden which is in the winter season, the condition of the outdoor garden was not very overwhelming. Although the indoor garden was still spectacular to see, our overall expectation for this place gets tarnish with the presentation of the outdoor garden. Well, what’s more, to expect for us to have when you have a 6°C temperature outside. Perhaps when it is during summer or spring season, this place was worth the time to visit, if not, might as well skip it.  

The last stop for us today will be to Cheonjeyeon Waterfall which means “the ponds of God”. It is located just a 2-minute drive away from Yeomiji Botanical Garden. Before reaching any of the waterfalls, you will cross the Seonimgyo Bridge which means seven nymphs bridge. Cheonjeyeon Waterfall could be divided into 3 sections of waterfalls;  

i) The First Tier Waterfall  

The first-tier waterfall runs from the floor of the mountain on the upper part of Jungmun –dong and pours which create fall for 22 meters. The waterfall in this area could only be seen when there are rains.   

ii) Second Tier Waterfall  

 From the first tier, the waterfall will fall again creating the second-tier waterfall (30 meters).  

iii) Third Tier Waterfall  

Finally, the water flows into the ocean after falling from the third-tier waterfall. The trail to the third-tier waterfall is the longest which requires you to climb stairs for about 10 – 15 minutes. 

iv) Day 3 – Hike to Mount Hallasan  

Our main highlight for our trip to Jeju is to hike Mount Hallasan during winter. As this is our first-time hiking during winter, here is our best recommendation for those who wish to do the same. Click on this link to read further; Winter Hiking: Useful Tips for Beginner.  

Mount Hallasan has four to five trails for you to choose from. However, there are only two trails that will lead you to the summit of the mountain which is Gwaneumsa Trail and  Seongpanak Trail.   

i) Gwaneumsa Trail   

  • Gwaneumsa – Dongneung Peak  
  • 8.7 km distance one way  
  • Take about 4 to 5 hours one way  

Gwaneumsa is a shorter and steeper trail but will offer a more scenic and making it well worth to get here.   

ii) Seongpanak Trail   

  • Seongpanak – Dongneung Peak  
  • 9.7 km distance one way  
  • Take 3 to 4.5 hours one way  

Seongpanak is the longest trail but it is also the easiest trail to get to the summit of Mount Hallasan, making this trail to be the most used trail by visitors. This trail usually gets busy at the weekend and could be reached via public transport.  

Both of these trails start at different spots. Usually, most of the hikers choose to climb using Seongpanak Trail and descent using Gwaneumsa Trail since it is easier using this way and you get to experience both trails in one climb.  

We woke up early this morning. Around 05:30 am all of us are already woke up and ready to go. The journey to the starting point will be at Gwaneumsa Camping Site. The night before, all of us agree to choose Gwaneumsa Trail for our hike today. We agreed to do this since we are already in Jeju and why not challenge ourselves and see how far our body can go. It is once in a lifetime experience and we need to savor every minute of it.   

Do take note that if you wanted to hike using Seongpanak Trail, the starting point will be at Seongpanak Trail Information Center, which located nearby Seogwipo.   

We start our hike around 06:30 am. Although it’s still dark, a lot of hikers already start their hiking way ahead of us. Along the way, you’ll see signage and approximate kilometers on how far to go making getting lost while hiking Mount Hallasan is almost impossible to happen.   

Based on our experience, although the official website and all the signage shows us the total kilometer for you to hike Mount Hallasan is 8.7 km, my fitness tracker recorded otherwise. Total we hike from the starting point to the summit of Mount Hallasan is actually almost 12.5 km. Way more than what they claimed.   

The first hour of our hike went smoothly. The trail is fairly easy and there are no snows in our ways. After the first 3 km of our hike, things start to get tough for us. Most of the time, we need to ascend and the terrains are getting harder for us. The cold weather added with snows making our journey even harder.   

During our hike, the snow falling on us making the temperature drop to –7 °C. With our limited water and food supplies that we bring, it even makes our hike even challenging that what we anticipated.  

The first checkpoint before climbing to the top of Mount Hallasan will be at Samgakbong shelter. Here is the point where you need to arrive before 12:30 pm or else you are not allowed to climb to the summit of Mount Hallasan.  

According to them, hiking at night is not permitted because it is dangerous to do so. And for us, we manage to arrive at Samgakbong shelter around 11:30 am. There is a small shelter for us to rest together with other hikers.  

A toilet is also available here with a heater inside it. Unfortunately, there are no sellers that could be found in Samgakbong shelter. In our imagination, there will be sellers selling snacks, foods or drinks so we could replenish our energy but sadly none of it could be found.  

Around 12:30 pm, we resume our journey to the top of Mount Hallasan. Along the way, we met a lot of other hikers who are using Gwaneumsa Trail to descend and using Seongpanak Trail to climb to the summit of Mount Hallasan.   

At this hour, although we are tired, we have to push ourselves to the top because after 01:30 pm the ranger at the top of Mount Hallasan will start to ask all hikers to begin clearing the area and start descending from the mountain.  

Using all our effort, we manage to reach the summit at 01:20 pm. The view was breathtaking and with our little preparation, we finally manage to arrive here at the top of it. Something that we could proud of.   

There is a frozen lake at the center of the crater. The wind blows heavily while we taking our pictures. And right at 01:30 pm, the ranger sounds the siren indicating all hikers to hike back down.   

To us, the view from Samgakbong shelter until the top of Mount Hallasan is the best view that we see. At 05:30 pm, we end our hike with the new experience gained.   

We believe our time spend to hike in Mount Hallasan could be better if we did our homework and prepare properly beforehand. And if you are happened to be a first-time hiker during winter, please do read the guide here at Winter Hiking: Useful Tips for Beginner, so that your next hike during winter will sail without a problem.  

After we had our dinner, all of us called it a day as we deserved an early rest. 

v) Day 4 – A Trip to Jeongbang Waterfall and Manjanggul Cave  

After getting enough rest, today, most of us are already fully recovered from our hike yesterday. Today is also our last day staying in Seogwipo before we will be moving on to the cabin house by the lake located in West of Jeju Island, Gujwa – eup.   

We purposely start our day a little bit late than usual since today our list of places to visit is not a lot. Our aim is to visit Jeongbang Waterfall and Manjanggul Cave.  

At 10:00 am in the morning, all of us are ready to start our day. Our first stop for today is Jeongbang Waterfall. This waterfall was chosen as one of the Ten Scenic Sights of Jeju with the name of “Jeongbanghapok”.   

What makes Jeongbang Waterfall even special is because it is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. After paying for the entrance fee, there is a platform to walk down to take us to the whole scene of 23 meters high waterfall shooting over the cliff and falling to the rocks below that lead to the ocean.  

Just nearby the Jeongbang Waterfall, you can see a group of ajummas under the small tent. They are Haenyeo which means sea divers; diving for seaweeds, sea cucumbers and abalone. It is possible to try and taste fresh abalone sashimi by directly buying from them as they are more than happy if you do so.  

We spend almost an hour in Jeongbang Waterfall before we moving on to check in to our second stay which is a cabin house located at Gujwa – eup. This time in front of our house the view has changed to a beautiful lake view that flows into the ocean.   

There are a lot of cranes, ducks swimming in the lake adding a bonus to the serenity and peacefulness of this place. Later in the evening at 03:00 pm, we made ourselves available for our second place to visit; Manjanggul Cave.   

Manjanggul Cave is a UNESCO World Heritage, which was formed by volcanic lava. The total length of the Manjanggul Cave is about 7.4 km but only 1 km is open to visitors. The main tunnel width is about 18m and its height is about 23m.   

Manjanggul Cave is one of the largest and well-preserved lava tubes in the world. Along the way inside Manjanggul Cave, we learn a lot from the information board that is available for visitors to read.   

There is various cave formation made from the lava flows such as stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones, lava tubes, lava shelves, and lava rafts. At the end of the visitor area, there is a lava column which is 7.6m high and known to be the highest lava column in the world.  

After spending some time in Manjanggul Cave, we head out to get our dinner before going back to get our rest.  

vi) Day 5 – Sunrise in Seongsang Illchulbong Peak  

  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
  • Seopjikoji
  • Jeju Folk Village Museum
  • Jeju Loveland

Today, we woke up early at 04:30 am in order to catch the sunrise in Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. It is wise to check what time the sun will rise before planning for the day. And for us, google told us the sunrise will happen at Seongsan Ilchulbong exactly at 06:20 am.  

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is made from a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. The huge crater of 600m in diameter and 90m tall could be observed at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak.   

In 2011, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is named as one of the seven wonders of nature in the world. Plus, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hence, no trip to Jeju Island will be complete without a hike up to the Sunrise Peak.  

We give ourselves ample time to hike to the top. There are two hiking trails available. One trail leads uphill while the other path is downhill.   

Hiking up to Seongsan Ilchulbong is not hard. Usually, it takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk up to the Sunrise Peak without taking a rest. We took exactly 20 minutes and get a front view to sit and wait for the sunrise.  

We then return to our house shortly after that and get our quick shower before heading for our second location; Seopjikoji. This coast located at the end of the eastern shore of Jeju Island. What makes Seopjikoji different from any other coast in Jeju Island is because this coast is made of red volcanic ash and possesses strange rock formations which are very unique.   

The entrance for this place is totally free and the activities that you can do here is to walk along the coast while viewing the nice view Seopjikoji could offer you. The walk along the coast is easy and with the nice view surround you, most probably you will never realize how far you already walk and how fast the time passes by.   

Our next stop is at Jeju Folk Village Museum. Here is the place for visitors to learn and explore more about Jeju’s traditions and culture. There are over 100 houses and facilities that were once actual residences are being displayed here.   

The Jeju Folk Village Museum displays scenes of Jeju’s village from the year of the 1890s. This place is so huge covering a 4500 – hectares site holding places like mountain village, fishing village, botanical garden, market place and old government building and also an authentic shamanistic rite.   

With over 8,000 pieces of folk articles explaining things such as household equipment, farming instruments, fishing tools, furniture, and earthenwares; we learn so many things about Jeju’s past.

Our last stop for the day is to Loveland. This place opens from 09:00 am until 12:00 am so it’s best to place Loveland to be visited last since you could visit this place even late at night.  

Jeju Loveland is a theme sculpture park based on sensuality and erotism. It took 30 to 40 minutes to look around the park. This park holds around 140 sculptures and it’s a piece of land art. Although Jeju Loveland always being associate as a site for couples, but for us, it is also best for a group of friends going together and experience the art, unlike the others.   

Soon after that, we end our day by enjoying our dinner and ready to get our rest.  

vii) Day 6 – Farewell Jeju Island  

As today is our last day in Jeju, all of us spend our morning just enjoying the lake view in front of our cabin house while enjoying our breakfast.  

We head to the airport later in the afternoon to get ready for our flight in the evening. And before that, we need to return our rental car at Lotte Rent – a – car. The returning process is such a breeze. They only ask about the car keys without any other questions asked.  

Our last moments in Jeju are filled with our flashback on how good Jeju treats us and all the memories will surely stick to our mind until the rest of our life. 

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