Located just off the coast of South Korea, Jeju Island — a lush outpost that’s a perennial favourite with Koreans and tourists alike — is three times the size of Seoul, and has far fewer inhabitants. Yet despite its relaxed vibe, there’s plenty to see and do on the island.
One of the best ways to explore Jeju Island is on two wheels. It has a circumference of about 200 kilometres, a distance you can break up into shorter trips over the course of a few days. You can easily hire a bicycle from the several rental shops dotted around Jeju City. Some of the shops provide drop-off points in the second-largest city, Seogwipo, and at Jeju International Airport; simply check with the bike-rental staff for the exact locations before setting off.
Ready for your adventure? Here’s a bucket list of Jeju highlights you can’t miss out on.
1. Bijarim Forest
Start your journey in Jeju City and wander in the direction of Hamdeok Beach, located about 14km east of the city. This stretch is famed for its calm, turquoise waters and makes a good spot to refuel before pushing on to the must-visit Bijarim Forest. This woodland is home to more than 2,800 nutmeg trees aged between 500 and 800 years old. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll on a specially installed walkway, and take in the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful forest. As you luxuriate in the vast greenery, feel energised by the ancient nutmegs, which give off plenty of phytoncide — an organic compound said to strengthen your immune system.
2. Jeju Sunrise Peak
On your second day, make your way to Jeju Sunrise Peak. Also known as Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, this towering landmass — known as a tuff cone — emerged from under the sea in a volcanic eruption more than 100,000 years ago. Because of its scientific significance and sumptuous scenery, this has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and as its English name suggests, sunrise views from this peak are truly a sight to behold. Watch as extravagant swathes of orange and gold paint the sky; you’ll be grateful you chose not to hit the snooze button that morning.
3. The Famous Waterfalls of Seogwipo
Seogwipo holds two of Jeju’s three famous waterfalls — Jeongbang and Cheonjiyeon. Jeongbang is the only waterfall in Asia to cascade directly into the ocean, creating a majestic sight that you’ll definitely want to immortalise in a photograph. For a more immersive experience, you can get up close to the waterfall and feel the water’s mist against your face. A stone’s throw away, Cheonjiyeon translates to “sky connected with land”. Because its summit is shrouded with vegetation, the water appears to fall from the heavens, lending the waterfall its name.
4. Jeju World Cup Stadium
In 2002, Jeju was among the host cities of the FIFA World Cup, and the magnificent World Cup Stadium is open to tourists to this day. As a nod to its natural environment, the stadium is designed in the shape of a volcano’s mouth, while its roof emulates the nets of traditional fishing boats in Jeju. The stadium — which has a 35,657-person capacity — was built 14 metres below ground level so as to withstand strong winds. Stop here for a quick meal at one of the many top-notch Korean restaurants in the vicinity before continuing your journey.
5. Hallim Park
Round off your cycling adventure at the exceptionally gorgeous botanical wonderland of Hallim Park. The gardens here are spread out across 100,000 square kilometres, so take your time to indulge in the astonishing variety of flora and fauna. While in the vicinity, you should also make time for Hyeopjae and Ssangyong Caves. The former has Korean Natural Monument designation, and contains a breathtaking mix of stalactites and stalagmites. Ssangyong, meanwhile, is the only two-dimensional cave in the world — a cave within a cave. Before you leave, find time to soak in the stunning scenery of the surrounding Biyangdo Island, Hyeopjae Beach, and Geumneung Beach. Such opulent scenery doesn’t come by every day, so give yourself over to the natural wonderment.