Jeongbang waterfall by pebble beach in Jeju Island in South Korea

Jeju Island Adventure

Jeju Island, the largest among Korea's thousands of islands, stands out as the nation's top vacation spot, and for good reason. Jeju boasts a balmy climate, juicy tangerines, beautiful beaches, Korea’s highest mountain, and a rich, indigenous culture all of its own.

It’s hard to overstate the popularity of Jeju Island among Koreans. Jets from Seoul touch down as frequently as every five minutes, making this the busiest flight path in the whole world (and, by extension, the known universe). Despite this, make sure it’s on your Korean to-do list – once away from the airport, Jeju Island gives off a tantalizingly natural feel, and in some areas, it feels as though time has stood still for decades.

Jeju Island is best known for its startlingly beautiful countryside, which all races up to Korea’s highest mountain – 1,950 meter-high Hallasan, which isn’t all that hard to climb if the weather agrees. You’ll see picturesque walls of hand-stacked volcanic rock lining fields across the island, while some of the larger chunks have been fashioned into hareubang – jolly-looking “stone grandfathers” you’ll see almost everywhere, evidence of an animistic tradition that continues to this day. Nature lovers might like to descend into the 30 meter-high Manjang Lava Cave, trek to the top of the crown-like Sunrise Peak, or see Jeju Island’s very own Giant’s Causeway at Jusangjeolli. The O’sulloc Tea Museum is also a highlight, housed in a series of striking buildings surrounded by lotus ponds and tea fields.

Your island adventure need not start and finish with Jeju Island; a short ferry-ride away is Udo, which somehow contrives to be even more bucolic, and makes a grand place for a bike or buggy ride. Connected to Udo is the tiny islet of Biyangdo (current population: two), which was once a base for the haenyeo, Jeju Islands’s most famous residents: the famous, free-diving “sea women”, some of whom still ply this perilous trade well into what most would call retirement years.

Landscaped gardens filled with cacti and bonsai, museums dedicated to everything from teddy bears to sex to modern art, a volcano to climb... honestly, we could go on and on about Jeju Island. Even the two cities, Jeju City and Seogwipo, are lovely.

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