I came, I saw, I did not conquer: Korea’s Jeju Island

Originally I wanted to visit Jeju Island over September, during the five-day “weekend” of Chuseok. Back in June, I checked for flight tickets and was slapped with reality when there were literally no tickets to be purchased. Not a single seat on a single plane. Sold out.

Koreans are serious about their Jeju Island trips, apparently. So, a random weekend later in the year, it was. The weekend straddling November and December was chosen, tickets were successfully found and purchased and off the Jeju I went! Getting to the airport took some time, seeing as I live in a very rural area, but once on the plane, the trip was short. The actual days themselves were also short, and suddenly the ambitious sightseeing plans proved to be not only ambitious, but undoable. There is just too much on Jeju Island for a weekend trip, I’d need to stay a week to see everything I wanted to see.

So this post will be a list: what I saw and what I put on next trip’s itinerary, because yes, I’ve already planned my next trip. If you’re planning to visit Jeju, hopefully this will help you to see the places that I wish I could have seen and skip the ones that were hyped up. Links go to information, pictures and the addresses of the locations. (Photo posts, stories and food are all still to come. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about them!)

I came, I saw:

Hyeopjae Beach (협재해수욕장)
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This beach is apparently quite famous and is dotted with weird naked statues, white sand and black rocks. It’s likely better in the summertime (it is a beach), but it was pretty enough in winter to be worth the visit.

The Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art Grounds and Area (제주현대미술관)
Meh

museum contemporary art statue korea jeju
There were some statues hiding in the bushes. I found them.

While I didn’t go into the museum, I did walk around the grounds and look at statues and some strange houses. Apparently only artists live in the neighborhood behind it and they spend all of their time making… well… art.

O’Solluc Tea Museum (설록차 뮤지엄 오설록)
Meh

pour tea museum osulloc jeju korea
A member of the staff pouring sample cups of tea for visitors.

The actual museum part was closed for cleaning/updates, so I missed out on the cool exhibitions of pottery. I did, however, sit down and eat some yummy green tea ice cream, try freshly brewed mandarin green tea and walk to the roof to see a not-that-impressive view.

Songak Mountain / Olle Trail #10 (송악산 / 화순모슬포 올레 #10)
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goats olle trail 12 jeju korea
Clearly I wasn’t on the walking trail, but the goat trail. Sorry for intruding, goats.

I couldn’t walk too far on this trail, time was short, but what I saw was pretty and interesting. Japanese military dug bunkers into the mountain to prepare for war back in the day, the view of the ocean and nearby island were gorgeous, and I spotted some wild goats.

“Daepo Columnar Joint” aka Interesting Volcano Rock Cliffs (대포주상절리)
Meh

lava column water jeju korea
Beautiful? Absolutely. The same picture as every single other person on that same platform? No doubt.

Honestly, this would have gotten a thumbs up if there weren’t so many damn people on the same tiny platform, staring at the same rocks. Try to avoid the crowds (early morning, weekdays) and you’ll be able to appreciate the strange beauty of these cliffs.

Jeongbang Falls (정방폭포)
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haenyeo 해녀 female diver jeju korea
What waterfall? I’m creeping on the female divers, thanks.

The waterfall isn’t so spectacular, it’s just a small waterfall, but nearby there were famous female divers, Haenyeo (해녀), pulling the day’s catch of octopus out of the water. It was worth it just to see them hauling giant heavy nets over their shoulders. (However, if you have any kind of physical handicap, climbing over the giant shoreline rocks for a good view will be a trial, so this wouldn’t be worth it for you.)

U-Do / Cow Island (우도)
Seven hundred thumbs up

udo cow island welcome jeju korea
Yes, this is the ugliest picture from the entire island. I don’t want to ruin the future photoessay for you, right?

I fell in love with this little island off of an island. Renting a scooter and zipping around the perimeter was the highlight of my trip. The scenery was breathtaking, the homes rural, yet there were several cafes and one of them served giant, delicious-looking burgers (and coffee of course). Super beautiful, super relaxing, super worth your time to see and yes, there is definitely a Cow Island photoessay in the future.

Manjang Cave (만장굴)
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manjanggul cave jeju korea
Sorry, this is the best I could do in low lighting / while very badly needing to pee.

Many people say this is an overrated place to go, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps because I’m more fascinated by/obsessed with volcanoes than most people. If you want to learn about the science behind the lava tube and its formation, then this will be fun for you. The “big reveal” at the end? Meh.

To Be a Whale Cafe (고래가 될 카페)
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to be a whale cafe view ocean jeju korea
The view of the ocean from the back porch is pretty spectacular, yes?

Apparently this cafe is very famous among Koreans and if you want any evidence that hipster, pretentious Korean culture does indeed exist, then this is the place to see it. They also make incredible drinks: I had a Joeulba Coffee (조르바 커퓌), or black coffee with cloves, cinnamon and other crazy spices, and it rocked my world. So hard.

I did not conquer:

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak / Sunrise Mountain (성산일출봉)

I KNOW, I know. I didn’t go to the most famous UNESCO Heritage site in all of Jeju Island. Hit me over the head a couple of times, I know I’ve already done it myself. Seeing the sunrise from the top of this peak is on my list of things to do next time along with getting to bed early enough that it’s possible, next time.

Halla Mountain Hike (한라산)

Seeing as this was a weekend trip, a five-hour mountain hike didn’t fit very well into my plans. But it’s something I want to do next time I’m in Jeju, since Mt. Halla is also an extinct volcano and I’ve already mentioned how much I love volcanoes, right?

Olle Trail #12 (무릉용수 올레 #12)

I really adore long, beautiful walks and Jeju Island might be the perfect place to do that, though sadly it didn’t fit into the schedule this time. Most of the Olle trails are beautiful, and they all hug the coastline, but I’d love to do this one that crosses part of a beach, has a cool view of some windmills and generally just looks spectacular.

Samyang Black Sand Beach (삼양 검은모래해변)

Technically I was here, but it was too dark to see anything, including the fact that the sand was black. But the area looked clean and pretty, so I want to give it another shot. Apparently ajummas also like to bury themselves in the sand for the therapeutic effects, and that’s a sight I don’t want to miss twice.

Kayaking in Soesokkak Estuary (쇠소깍)

Technically I was here as well, but it was also at the end of a day and I couldn’t see a thing. The sand here is also black, I was able to make that out at least (so cool!), but what I most want to do is take one of the clear kayaks into the ravine and weird crazy blue-green water.

Jeju Dinosaur Land (제주공룡랜드)

Look, I just have a weird thing with dinosaurs and I can’t explain it. I need to go here.

Overnight on U-Do (우도)

I fell so in love with U-Do that I want to do an overnight, instead of just a morning trip, next time. My pictures of hermit crabs got messed up and I wasn’t hungry when I went to the cafe with giant burgers, so those situations must be rectified.

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Have you ever been to Jeju Island? What did you see and what did you miss? Am I an idiot for missing sunrise mountain like an idiot, I’m an idiot?

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