The pride and joy of South Korea, Jeju Island stands proudly in the Korean strait, the revered treasure of the Korean people. It is little wonder, when you see the spectacular natural attributes it possesses, that this unique location is referred to by the locals as the "Hawaii" of South Korea, the ideal honeymoon destination.
The biggest island in South Korea, just bigger than Geoje Island, Jeju is one of the nine provinces in South Korea, with Jeju City as its capital. A projected economic growth of 3.00% in 2013 puts Jeju well ahead of the national average of only 1.10% average annual economic growth; showing how much the local authorities are doing to expand the Jeju province.
The unique Jeju traditions sets it apart from the mainland and gives one insight into the slightly different take on Korean culture that can be found on this beautiful island. Jeju and Udo islands are also the only places where you can still find the last remnants of the fishing women, or “Haenyo”, who brave the seas, free diving up to 20m to collect sea creatures from the rocks and sea bed. Traditions like these are what make Jeju special.
Overall, the place is considered to be the top tourist destination of South Korea. Its charm and beauty lingers in the minds of its visitors long after they leave, beckoning to travelers to return to this eutopia. Heed the call.
Where is Jeju?
This beautiful island is the southern-most territory of the Republic of Korea. Located approximately one hundred kilometers off the mainland, the island is situated in the Korean strait and is approximately seven-three kilometers by forty-one kilometers.
How to get to Jeju?
Gimpo Airport, the main departure point for domestic flights, offers regular flights to Jeju International Airport. Incheon International Airport has direct express busses, conveniently linking it to Gimpo Airport. Flying directly to Jeju Airport, or going via Gimpo airport, would be the recommended routes.
How to get around in Jeju?
The world-class transportation systems of the mainland extend to Jeju in the form of reliable and user-friendly bus system, as well as an abundance of taxis. Bus tours and leisurely bicycle rides are other options for inner city transport.
Here, it is a great option for international visitors to hire a car; the traffic is a little easier to navigate and it gives one an ability to map out your own exploration of the island. It is small enough to drive around the entire island in one day and is equipped with modern infrastructure that ensures well-maintained roads and easy access to service stations.
Attractions in Jeju
Sightseeing & Museums in Jeju
The many tourist attractions on Jeju leave one wondering where to begin. Other than the stunning natural wonders to be discovered in the Hallasan National Park, the island also boasts an impressive array of other tourist sites including museums, theme parks, sculpture gardens, scenic golf courses and the largest aquarium in South Korea, aptly named Aqua Planet.
Nearer to Jeju City (the closest point to Jeju International Airport) there is the Teddy Bear Museum and the Ice Museum, both well worth a visit. For those interested in an “adult only” museum, take a taxi to Loveland, the outdoor sculpture park themed completely around sex and sex education. On your way around the island, don’t forget to pop in to Hyeopjae Beach, on the west coast, which is known for its exquisite turquoise and cobalt blue bay and white sandy beach.
Nearer to Seogwipo, spend a day exploring the many wonderful sights of the Jungmun Tourist Resort Complex, located on the south-western part of the island. First-class hotels, botanical gardens, museums and a beautiful beach bring one closer to nature, yet still affords visitors access to the luxurious comfort of modern amenities. Here, you can also view the sparkling Cheonjiyeon (“God’s pond”) for a spectacular view of this ancient waterfall.
The East Coast of the island also holds many interesting attractions; like the Gymnyung Maze Park with its impossible labyrinth, the Women Diver’s Museum, the Chefline World theme park housing over-sized kitchen utensil statues; and the wonderful Cave Café, literally inside a cave, where you can also find green tea plantations. The Jeju folk village museum is also another fascinating point of interest in this area and shows the traditional way of life on Jeju in times gone by.
Shopping in Jeju
The traditions of the Jeju people and beautiful surroundings of this paradise island, has produced innovative artisans who use locally sourced materials, to make unique products. At the majority of the tourist sites, you will find curios and quaint gift shops selling goods that are specific to that attraction. At these different tourist spots, you can find everything from fresh fruit, unconventional chocolate flavors, a varied abundance of Asian teas, special crafts, traditional Korean snacks and naturally dyed clothing.
Dining and Nightlife in Jeju
Jeju Island is certainly not short of exciting attractions and the recent drive to attract a more upmarket clientele, has seen vast development of luxury accommodation, five-star resorts and a wider range of fine dining eateries.
In the city, Tapdong-ro is the place to be when the sun finally goes down. Near the port of Jeju City, Tapdong-ro boasts mid-range restaurants, karaoke bars, theme parks, a romantic boardwalk, friendly local street vendors and a few small market lanes.
Shin-Jeju shopping street is also a favorite with tourists hungry for excitement. Jeju Aroma Super Dome Nightclub is the most popular nightclub in this area and opens from 7 o’clock in the evening; it proudly flaunts its huge dome and flashing lights, luring you in to its eccentric all night party.
If you are looking for more high-end entertainment, the Jungmun Tourist Resort Complex, on the south coast, offers five-star hotels, trendy restaurants and bars. There are also a few casinos to be found here (strictly prohibited for native Koreans), where a passport and handful of chips will get you a prime spot at the table.
Excursions in Jeju
If you feel the need for freedom, it’s easy to hire a powerful convertible and race off to explore the magnificent coastline of Jeju island, as the wind blows through your hair. The sparkling, blue ocean and black basalt cliffs provide breath-taking scenery along the entire coastal highway. The roads are in good condition and far less congested than those on the mainland, ensuring a calm and pleasant driving experience.
There are also luxury bus tours available; simply buy a day pass and hop on and off of the busses to attractions of your choice; or choose a themed bus tour and let the tour guide do the hard work for you. For the more active among you, it is possible to enjoy the sights and sounds of Jeju on a bike.
Event Tourism in Jeju
Jeju becomes the center of many international congresses, conferences, symposiums, exhibitions, fairs and trade shows every year. When the beauty of the city is combined with the quality of the hotels and convention centers, it becomes easier to understand why Jeju is one of the most convinient cities in South Korea to host these sort of large scale events.