Korean City Guides: Jeju Island & Seogwipo
Seogwipo/Jeju (Cheju) Island 서귀포
A favourite of honeymoon couples, Jeju City, is the main base for visitors to the island. The downtown area is a short bus or taxi ride from Jeju International Airport.
Attractions in Jeju City (Jeju-si) include Yongduam ("Dragon Head Rock") on the coast - an evocate rock formation that is illuminated at night and set in Yongduam Park. Jeju Hyanggyo is a Confucian Shrine and school that dates back to the late 14th century. Mokgwanaji is a restored area of the Joseon dynasty (1992-1910) containing the Gwangdeokjeong Pavilion.
Dongmun Market is an interesting place to stroll to see the fish and meat stores and stalls selling Jeju's signature oranges, tea and chilies. North of Dongmun Market is a series of bridges crossing the Sanjicheon River as it flows to the sea. At the top is a replica of a Chinese junk that arrived here in 1950 carrying around 100 Chinese refugees.
Heading away from the sea is the Samseonghyeol Shrine and the Folk & National History Museum in Sinsan Park. Jeju National Museum is of moderate interest and displays Korean calligraphy, ceramics and early painted maps. Jeju Love Land is a bizarre sex theme park south of the city and well worth a visit.
Things to see and do in Jeju
Jeju-do is blessed with a mild climate, good beaches, hiking and trekking, golf and water-sports all in an idyllic volcanic setting. Mt. Halla, Korea's highest peak is located in the center of Jeju and makes for a magnificent sight.
Visitors to Jeju can enjoy delicious Korean food at various local produce markets, as well as casinos and Jeju Trekking tours on foot or horseback. Jeju has become a favorite for rich Koreans to buy a second home or a retirement villa and the island has a completely different, relaxed feel from the busy mainland.
Most visitors to Jeju are from the rest of Korea, China and Japan, though a growing number of other nationalities are discovering the island's special charms.
A view of the sea from the beach on Cheju Island, South Korea
A beach with lovely clear water on the north coast of Cheju Island, South Korea
Besides the impressive Mount Halla, which dominates the center of the island, Jeju is blessed with some remarkable beaches and features formed by the island's volcanic past.
These include the UNESCO World Natural Heritage listed Manjanggul - an underground cave formed by lava flows and one of the longest such in the world. Visitors can visit a 1km part of the estimated 13km of the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System in the area south of the small port of Gimnyeong.
Also accessible is the nearby Geomunoreum Volcanic Cone (456m) which is a popular hiking spot for its unique vegetation and geological features. Close to Manjanggul is the popular and tricky Kimnyoung Maze Park, constructed by a retired American professor Dr. Frederic H. Dustin and made in the shape of Jeju Island.
Manjanggul Cave and Sangunburi Crater are two of Jeju's many natural attractions
Sangunburi Crater south east of Manjanggul on Highway 1112 is a picturesque volcanic crater, known as a Marr Crater, produced by an explosion in a flat area. The crater is 2km in circumference and 132m in depth.
Seongsan Ilchulbong (aka Sunrise Peak) is on the east coast south of Udo Island and another UNESCO World Natural Heritage listed site. Seongsan Ilchulbong is a 90m tall volcanic crater rising out of the sea in spectacular fashion.
Udo Island is peaceful, small island reached by a short ferry ride from Seongsan and is known for its haenyo female divers and its black, volcanic stone batdam walls. Things to see on Udo Island include the Udo Lighthouse Museum and Udo Museum, which has exhibits relating to the island's natural history and the haenyo female divers.
Kimnyoung Maze Park contains seven symbols of Cheju Island within its Leyland Cypress hedges, South Korea
Jeju has a large number of theme parks and museums scattered around the island. There are at least three museums dedicated to sex including Jeju Love Land, with 140 pieces of art showcasing the artists' take on sex and eroticism. The Museum of Sex & Health (Tel: 064 792 5700) on Highway 1132 near Daejeong displaying erotic art from around the world and the smaller World Eros Museum at Seogwipo Stadium.
Hallim Park on the west coast is an interesting theme park containing various gardens including a subtropical garden, a plum garden, a stone and bonzai garden, a water garden, a palm avenue, an aviary and the Hyeopjae and Ssangyong Caves - volcanic lava caves that also contain stalagmites and stalactites - considered a rarity in lava caves. Throw in the thatched cottages and low stone walls of the recreated, traditional Jae-am Folk Village, various eateries and cafes and hallim park makes for a fun half day tour. Close by is Geumneungseokmulwon (Geumneung Stone Garden), a stone garden featuring hundreds of Grandfather (hareubang) stone statues as well as works depicting Korean legends.
Cactus House at Hallim Park on the west coast of Jeju Island
Other museums and attractions in western Jeju including the Jeju Peace Museum, occupying the former headquarters of the Japanese military on the island during World War II. The tour of the museum starts with a short video introduction to the occupation of Korea by the Japanese and the history of the Pacific War. There are then exhibits of weapons, documents and uniforms before visitors head out to see the tunnels dug by Korean slave laborers. The setting is incredibly peaceful belying the horrors that took place here as the tunnels were dug out.
Close to the Peace Museum is the O'Sulloc tea plantation where visitors can walk through the tea fields and sample green tea and green tea ice cream in the pleasant cafe. South of here off Highway 1132 are the Chocolate Museum, Chusa Exile Site and Jeju Art Park. The Chusa Exile Site is dedicated to the calligrapher Kim Chun-hee (aka Chusa), who was exiled to Jeju in 1840. His most famous work Sehando is on display at the Jeju National Museum, with a replica on show here. The Jeju Chocolate Museum (Tel: 064 792 3121), which claims to be the world's second largest chocolate museum, reveals the entire process of transforming cocoa beans into chocolate. Jeju Art Park is a mainly outdoor museum of contemporary Korean art and sculpture with 160 pieces by over 100 Korean artists. East of the Peace Museum is Jeju Glass Castle (Tel: 064 772 7777), which claims to be the largest glass theme park in the world with a glass maze, glass cafe, glass pumpkins, glass shoes, glass cactus, a glass garden, glass crafts and even glass toilets!
Also west of an imaginary line from Jeju city to Seogwipo are the Miniature Theme Park, Aligator Town and Jeju Dream Land along with the majority of the island's many golf courses. Miniature Theme Park or Jeju Soingook Theme Park (Tel: 064 794 5400 ) near the junction of Highways 1135 and 1136 has around 100 scale models of such famous buildings as Tower Bridge, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Bulguksa Temple, Sacre Coeur, the Taj Mahal and, of course, Jeju International Airport.
Geumneung Stone Garden and the Jeju Peace Museum are both located in the south west of the island
Eastern Jeju's museums and theme parks east of the north south Highway 1131 that skirts Hallasan National Park include the above mentioned Maze Park near Manjanggul Cave, Jeju Mini Mini Land, Seongeup Folklore Village, Jeju Trick Art Museum, Jeju Folk Village Museum on the coast near Pyoseon Beach, Jeju Sinyeong Film Museum, Ilchul Land, and the Jeju Women's Divers Museum.
Just as the western side of Jeju has Jeju Miniature Theme Park, the east has Jeju Mini Mini Land, which predates it and has over 100 scale models of the world's most famous structures including the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Bulguksa Temple, the Statue of Liberty, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.
Seongeup Folklore Village is a "living" village of traditional houses subsidized by the Korean government where you can wander around the thatched cottages and stone walls and see Jeju's famed black pigs rooting in their pens.
Jeju Trick Art Museum (Tel: 064 787 8774) is another must-see Jeju museum up there with the Teddy Bear Museum in Jungmun in terms of popularity. Divided into seven themed sections, the Jeju Trick Art Museum renders two-dimensional art into "three dimensions" through optical illusion.
Ilchul Land (Tel: 064 784 2080) has the usual Jeju theme park mix of folk museum, the 365m-long Micheon Cave, a stone sculpture park, bonzai park, palm avenue and an art center.
Jeju Folk Village Museum is an artificial but interesting construct of traditional Jeju Island stone and thatch cottages on the coast at Pyoseon Beach.
The Jeju Sinyeong Film Museum (Sinyoung Film Museum) opened in 1999 and is housed in a strikingly-designed modern building with superb views of the ocean. The Sinyoung Film Museum hosts a Korean cinema Hall of Fame, an Animation Gallery, a Special Effects Room and an Experience Room where visitors can try their hand at film-making.
Traditional stone and thatch house and black pig in its stone wall pen at Seongeup Folklore Village in the east of Jeju-do
Seogwipo is the main tourist resort on Jeju Island. Attractions in Seogwipo include a submarine tour and boat trips along the coast.
Seogwipo is known for its many waterfalls as the rain tumbles down the slopes of Hallasan to the north. Jeongbang Waterfall cascades 23m directly into the sea; Cheongjiyeon Waterfall is shorter but wider and almost directly in the center of town. There are great views of both Mt. Halla and out to sea from the center of town.
Seogwipo's main bus station is opposite Seogwipo Stadium and an e-mart shopping center.
Jungmun is an exclusive beach resort west of Seogwipo with surrounding golf courses. Of interest are the quirky and interesting Teddy Bear Museum and another waterfall - Cheonjeyeon. North of town is the Yeomiji Botanical Gardens. Take a trip east to Jusangjeoli where columns of basalt rock rise from the sea.
The modern Yakcheonsa Temple was built in the 1990s on a huge scale and is a short taxi or cycle ride from Jusangjeoli. Jungmun's other attractions include the World Automobile Museum (Tel: 064 794 6100) with over 70 classic cars, the Sound Island Museum and Jungmun Miro Park.
The Teddy Bear Museum (Tel: 064 736 7600) has quickly become a favorite must-see of many visitors to Jeju since it opened in 2001 and the museum traces the history of the teddy bear, teddy bears in art and an outdoor section. The success of the museum has spawned several other Teddy Bear Museums in Seoul, Gyeongju and Hawaii.
Grandfather Statue, Cheju Island, South Korea
View from Gwakji Beach, Cheju Island, South Korea
Nightlife & Eating Out on Jeju-do
Jeju city on the north of the island is the largest town or kick-back at your resort hotel on the coast. Jeju is famed for its delicious seafood as well as Black Pig pork barbecues.
The area near the Ferry Terminal in Jeju City contains the West Wharf Premium Sashimi Restaurant Street with a number of eateries serving raw fish and fish soups. Quite a few restaurants have English and Japanese menus as well as pictures to help you choose.
Pig out on delicious seafood and Black Pork Yakinikku with garlic on Jeju, South Korea
Hotels in Jeju
Hotel Accommodation in Jeju is mainly found in Jeju City within easy reach of Jeju International Airport, Seogwipo on the southern coast or the resort area of Jungmun nearby.
Recommended places to stay on Jeju include the Ramada Plaza Jeju in Jeju City, the Lotte Jeju Hotel, the Hotel Sun Beach Seogwipo, the Jeju Songak Resort in Jungmun and the luxurious Seogwipo KAL Hotel. Jungmun boasts some of Korea's finest hotel accommodation including the Shilla Hotel, Lotte Hotel, Hyatt Regency Hotel, CS Hotel, Hana Hotel, Suites Hotel and the Hankook Condo.
Or see here for a full listing of hotels in Jeju in Jeju City, Jungmun and Seogwipo.
Budget accommodation in Jeju and throughout South Korea can be found with Hostels in Korea with Hostelworld.
Seogwipo World Cup Stadium
Tel: (064) 739 2002 more Seogwipo stadium info
Seogwipo Stadium is a 42,256 seater with one curving roof. There are great views of the sea from the top tiers of the stadium. Buses from Jeju & Seogwipo go to the stadium, which is west of Seogwipo-si just off Highway 1132, and adjacent to Seogwipo's main bus station.
Seogwipo Stadium was purpose-built for the 2002 World Cup and is now the home stadium of K-League team Jeju United
There are direct flights to Jeju from both Gimpo (the domestic airport in Seoul) and Incheon International Airport as well as Busan. International connections include flights from Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Beijing, Shanghai Pudong, Changchun, Shenyang and Dalian.
The overnight ferry from Busan (Pusan) was discontinued in 2012 but there are regular ferries to Mokpo (5 hours), Nokdong and Wando.
Visitors to Jeju-do can get around the island by local bus, taxi or bicycle. Regular buses connect the two main towns of Jeju City and Seogwipo to the south and run out to the major attractions from Jeju City.
However if you cannot read Hangul and do not speak Korean you may be best hiring a car, joining a tour or negotiating with a taxi driver for a half day or full day of sight-seeing. Current going rates are around 60,000 won for a half-day taxi tour or 100,000 won for a full-day tour. Negotiate the price with the driver before you start and point out on a map of the island the places you would like to see.
Walking and hiking are popular on Jeju Island and there are a series of clearly marked walking paths stretching over 200km known as olle paths. Blue or yellow ribbons sign the various inter-connected trails which stretch through some beautiful countryside.
Bus or taxi are the best ways to get around Jeju-do
Tourist Information Centers
There are tourist information centers at Jeju International Airport, Jeju Ferry Terminal, in Jeju City near the e-mart shopping center on the main road running parallel to the sea, in Jungmun and in Seogwipo near the Chonjiyeon waterfall.