Guest Post by Leah, The Vegetarian Traveller:
Jeju Island is said to be the paradise of Korea, and the number of tourists that flock here only supports that sentiment. Seogwipo-si sits on the southside of the island, less than an hour’s drive from the main city of Jeju-si. It has a small town feel with the amenities of a larger city, making it an awesome place with something for everyone. Although there are plenty of museums and indoor attractions in the area to keep anyone entertained, the best spots to visit are definitely the natural wonders. Below is a guide to the best outdoor spots to hit when visiting the south side of Jeju-do.
Jeju does many things exceptionally well, and waterfalls are just one of them. There are four popular waterfalls in the Seogwipo area. They will most certainly be filed with tourists in the summer months, but if you go during the off-season or very early in the morning, you might luck out and hit less walking traffic. Jungbang and Cheonjeyeon are right on the coast in central Seogwipo, and signs will easily direct you to the entrances. Cheonjiyeon is in the Jungmun Tourist Complex, a 15 minute drive west of Seogwipo on the 1132; the 600 and 780 bus from Seogwipo will also drop you in the complex. This area is home to all the major resorts, meaning that there are signs for anything and everything that you’ll need. The falls are right next to the Yeomiji Botanical Gardens.
2. Yeomiji Botanical Gardens
This is one of my favorite places on the whole of the island. For 9,000won, you can take a stroll through Korean, Japanese, French, and Italian-themed gardens, before walking across a flowered meadow and into a glass bio-dome; really, it’s a series of separate biodomes with exotic plants under a single roof. From the top of the glass dome, you can take in a gorgeous view of Jungmun, the sea, and Hallasan (the tallest mountain in Korea) behind you.
3. Visit the famous Oedolgae Rock
Oedolgae is one of the more famous rocky cliff sites in the Seogwipo area. From the cliffs, you can gaze out at Oedolgae rock, piercing through the surface of the sea and acting as a beautiful addition to any sunset. From the parking lot, you can find a staircase that descends to a few great swimming holes, perfect for snorkeling, cliff jumping, or a quick dip in the sea. It also sits directly on the junction of the Olle Trails six, seven, and seven-one, making it an ideal spot to begin or finish a trek. Follow Taepyeong-ro west for about two kilometers, past Geolmae Eco Park, and you will see signs. The 780 and other local buses will take you there, but walking or taking a cab is probably more time efficient.
4. Olle Trails
Hiking an Olle Trail (or several) is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Jeju. There are more than 20 of them, with four passing through in Seogwipo (5, 6, 7, and 7-1). The trails are typically not very difficult and are considered more of long (19ish kilometers) walking trails than hiking, but there are several points that get steep and require some athletic maneuvering. Jejuolle.org is a great site that allows you to explore the different routes, get information on the terrain, and find out how to get to the starting points.
The wooded area at Donnaeko is a beautiful area a few kilometers inland. Here, visitors can hike part of Hallasan, picnic, camp, and climb down to the peaceful waterfall and swimming hole. Be forewarned: that mountain water is icy cold, so swim with caution. To get there, take the 1131 north until you hit Donnaeko-ro – there will be signs to turn left. A cab will cost you 5,000won at most, but the 780 bus from Jungang Rotary or Dongmun Rotary will also get you there.
6. Every day Market and the Five Day Village Market
Since Seogwipo is essentially surrounded by farms, it comes as no shock that it would have great farmers markets. In the center of the city, on the Olle six, sits the Every Day Market (Mae-il shi-jang). Here, you can stroll the corridors and taste fruits and Korean street food made in front of you. If you’re visiting the city on a date ending in 4 or 9, you’re in luck. On these days, the Five Day Village Market is held. In this large open market, you will find everything from produce and clothing to animals and crafts. It’s great to walk around for a few hours and get a sense of what the rural scene is all about- a truly authentic old-school “market day”. The Five Day market is in the east of the city on the 1136, so you can take any bus that runs along that road or take a 3,000won (max.) cab. Again, there is a big sign and an arch on your left- you can’t miss it.
For most places in Seogwipo, it’s best to take a cheap taxi or take the 780 bus. The local buses can be confusing, as there are rarely any maps at the stops. To get to more remote areas, go to the Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal, located next to EMart on the 1132, just 3 km west of the city center. There you will find a comprehensive map of the island and all the routes. There is also a small terminal in the city center (Jungang Rotary). Saying, “Bus terminal?” will get you down the right side street. You can also use bus.jeju.go.kr, but it is only completely compatible with Internet Explorer.
About the Author:
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Leah lived a very average American life. A few years ago, she quit her job and her life in search of something that made her feel alive. Her passion for travel flourished while hitchhiking, cycling, and rafting around Europe. After some major life changes and a new free-spirited outlook, she became determined to be a, “Yes” person and to experience all that this crazy amazing world has to offer. She now shares her adventures and culinary experiences on her website, www.thevegetariantraveller.com. Leah is currently teaching English on Jeju Island and is planning to hit the road again in November 2014.