Many people do not consider South Korea as a holiday destination of choice, but they should.
With so many areas of natural beauty, the Land of the Morning Calm has a lot to offer; from lucious green national parks, snowy mountains with panoramic views and beautiful golden beaches. What better place to start, though, than the “Hawaii of South Korea” – Jeju Island.
Jeju lies in the Korean Strait and is only a one-hour flight from the country’s capital city, Seoul. Korean culture is fascinating in general, but due to the relative isolation of the Island, Jeju has developed its own cultural identity and dialect, which only acts as another reason why it is worth a visit.
We spent most of our time in Seogwipo, a city on the south side of the island and home to many beautiful, natural attractions. The waterfalls in this area are stunning, particularly Cheongiyeon and Jeongbang – where the water flows straight into the ocean. Here you can pick up fresh seafood from female divers who have literally just plucked it out of the water.
If beaches are your idea of a vacation, Jungmun beach is the place to be. Lined with palm trees, its golden sands and clear blue water make it very popular with surfers and swimmers alike. For a spectacular sunset, head over to the hexagonal volcanic rock formations of Jusangjeolli cliffs – but get there early, it gets very busy.
For the more active amongst you, spend a day hiking Hallasan – South Korea’s highest mountain and the centre piece of both the national park and Jeju Island itself. Leave early as there is a checkpoint half way that you need to reach before 12:30pm or you’ll not be allowed to continue up. If you do miss it though, or you’re after a shorter hike, Saraoreum is a more accessible peak but still has great views.
After all your activities, you’re going to be hungry, and what better to fulfill your needs than Jeju’s speciality – black pig. Smokier and chewier than pork, the meat is great barbecued and served with an assortment of Korean side dishes. The best place to try it is on Black Pork Street, as you’d expect, in Jeju City, the province’s capital.
This is just a taste of what Jeju Island has to offer; with traditional markets, UNESCO world heritage lava tubes and much more awaiting your arrival. The food, the sights and the people are amazing. It’s not often a destination has the perfect mix of being both tourist-friendly and authentic, but Jeju Island has got it right.