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A First-Timer's Guide To Jeju Island In South Korea

Where you can go from flower festivals to trendy cafés by the beach real quick.
PHOTO: (LEFT) Instagram/jungeun0302, (RIGHT) Instagram/filiaparamita

Aside from being a popular K-drama filming destination (remember that orange-picking scene from My Girl or that unforgettable church scene from Boys Over Flowers?), the island destination of Jeju is home to a treasure trove of sites and explorations. Hiking trails, dormant volcanoes, sunsets by scenic beaches, and a taste of fresh seafood make the country’s biggest island an ideal summer affair. Many of its visitors have even dubbed it the “Hawaii of South Korea.”

In line with recent news announcing that Southeast Asian nationals might be given visa-free privileges to enter the country—with the requirement that they are visiting the country’s biggest tourist attraction via Incheon or Gimhae airports—that trip to Jeju Island is well within reach.


WHERE TO GO:

Witness the Jeju Flower Festival

You need not travel to Japan just to glimpse a floral spectacle courtesy of its famous cherry blossoms. The small town of Seogwipo holds yearly celebrations for a flower festival, featuring endless fields of yellow canola flowers. The best time to catch it is from March to April. The festival also serves as the perfect opportunity for taking selfies and OOTDs that spark major FOMO.


Journey to Hallasan Mountain

Not everyone may be able to complete the five-hour, 1,950-meter hike up to the summit of this mountain—the country’s highest peak—but other trail options range from 30 minutes to 3.5 hours.


Get a tan in Hyeopjae Beach

Visitors and locals alike tend to sunbathe by the shore and witness the magic of dusk while lazing on the sand. While there are a number of beaches to choose from, Hyeopjae Beach spans nine kilometers and boasts of black lava rocks and cobalt blue waters.


Choose between the Teddy Bear Museum or Hello Kitty Island

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This isn’t exactly a natural wonder like the others on this list, but these two popular museums are where your childhood dreams come true. From galleries, to cafés, to gift shops for pasalubong, these museums are just two of the quirky, themed museums native to the island.


WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK:

A trip wouldn’t be complete without fully experiencing the fare special to that destination.

Feast on black ogyeopsal and fresh seafood

According to the Korea Herald, Jeju’s black pig is a source of the most prized pork in the world. Considered the “wagyu beef” of the pork world, thick slabs of black ogyeopsal are grilled over hardwood charcoal and flavored with pork rind. Similar to the samgyeopsal we all know and love, you wrap the pork strips in leaves and have it with sauces, soju, and banchan.

Apart from this, Jeju also offers a fresh array of seafood.


Try the O’sulloc tea

One of the most popular tea brands in South Korea, O’sulloc sources and grows their tea leaves on Jeju, famous for its particularly fertile soil and low pollution.

If you love tea so much, the O’sulloc Tea Museum is not only equipped with indoor gardens, a tea cup gallery, and tea stone, it’s also been named one of the top 10 museums in the world by designboom, probably because of its beautiful ~aesthetic~ and the fact that it’s close to the picturesque Seokwang tea fields.


OTHER TIPS:

  • As a number of Korean beauty products are infused with natural ingredients from Jeju Island, a trip here would give you the best chance to go straight to the source. You may hoard face creams and face masks with produce grown on the island, such as tea or lotus flowers. 
  • Make sure to visit the trendy cafés dotting the island.  Some of these cafés also come with majestic views. Btw, Café Aewol Montsant is run by Big Bang’s very own G-Dragon. 

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