Island Getaway - Jeju-do
I finally am starting to get out and about around Korea and my first-weekend getaway could not have been more fantastic. I loved Jeju (제주도) and would seriously consider having a beach house there later in my life. It is everything that I could want in an island - long bus rides, beautiful beaches, fruit trees, tea plantations, museums for absolutely anything, and cute coffee shops. I traveled to Jeju from Seoul which is a quick flight from Gimpo Airport and stayed in a wonderful hostel called Rainbow in Jeju.
I went all around the island on the local buses because they use the same transportation card as the rest of the country so transportation is super easy. Basically, everything is an hour bus ride from Jeju-si which is the big city on the island and where the airport is located. There are definitely plenty of taxis if you are less inclined to take public transport - but honestly, the bus is the easiest. And, you are able to see so much more of the island.
Jeju is basically beaches, mountains, orange trees, tea, and seafood so it definitely has something for everyone. The beaches are extremely well maintained from what I saw and the water is actually pretty warm - even for mid-October. You can also usually see the women divers (Haenyeo - 해녀) out diving which is a unique part of the island's traditional culture. These women have a lovely museum in their honor that describes their life and the role that they have played in the development of Jeju. The Haenyeo museum is a must-see if you are interested in knowing more about the history of the island.
Just west of the Haenyeo museum is Seongsan (성산) - a mountain that rises out of the sea and is hollowed out from an eruption. I climbed the mountain in just a few minutes. Anyone that can do a lot of stairs can easily make it to the top and will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the sea. And, looking west you can see a huge expanse of Jeju including the peak of Hallasan (한라산) which is the mountain in the center of the island. It is also possible to take a ferry to Udo (우도) island which is a small island next to Jeju. One warning about Seongsan is that it was quite busy when we arrived in the late afternoon so maybe arriving in the morning before most travellers have gotten their days started would be best.
On the south side of the island is the town of Seogwipo (서귀포) which is the other large town on the island. Honestly, I preferred Jeju-si over Seogwipo in terms of what the town had to offer. But, there are a lot of cool hikes that start in the area around Seogwipo. The Sojeongbang Pokpo Falls (소정방폭포) are located in the south of the city and are just a short trip down some stairs. I think these falls are a good sight to visit because they fall straight into the sea and it is not a huge time commitment if, like me, you are trying to see a lot of the island in a short period of time.
I loved my time in Jeju and if I were to do it all differently the only thing I would change would be the length of time that I was visiting. Three days is just not enough time to really enjoy everything that the island has to offer or take some time to relax on the beach. I think that if you get the chance to spend a long time in Korea, Jeju is definitely a place you have to see.