Today's post comes from our friends, Agness and Cez over at eTramping.com.
Unlike its northern neighbour, South Korea has a booming tourist economy, with many travellers citing it’s their favourite place in all of Eastern Asia. Backpackers teaching English abroad will be particularly familiar with this part of the world, as it’s an excellent starting point for earning money while on the road, or even putting down some roots to enjoy this diverse and welcoming country and culture for a few years.
South Koreans also like to enjoy their vacations, and with an island like Jeju on your doorstep, why wouldn’t you flock to it the second you get the chance? There must be a reason it’s known as “the island of the gods,” and “the Korean Hawaii.” It’s also the perfect size for a unique and unforgettable road trip, and traveller bloggers Agness and Cez are here to guide you to the best sights this fascinating island has to offer. Just watch out for all the honeymooners!
Looking for a complete itinerary for South Korea? 2 Weeks Itinerary for South Korea.
Jeju Island Road Trip Map
When to Go to Jeju Island
Jeju Island enjoys a humid, subtropical climate with temperatures that will rarely fall below zero in winter (32 °F). It's much warmer then than the rest of the country, which might explain why so many people flee here to escape the cold. November to February is ideal to avoid most of the heavy rain and thunderstorms. Springtime is pleasant from March until May, but the summer can get unbearably hot due to the humid, close conditions.
In Autumn, the colours of the island explode and with the mercury easing a little, it makes for a more enjoyable visit. Flip a coin between spring and autumn and you won’t be disappointed.
Where to Stay on Jeju Island
As a traditional bolt-hole for many Korean holidaymakers, Jeju is absolutely teeming with hotel and accommodation options. And with the influx of foreigners getting wind of the island’s delights, you’ll never be short on places to stay. Here’s a small selection to get you started – focussing on budget.
Jeju City - Rainbow in Jeju (Budget) - 16 USD/Night (Dorm) - Rainbow in Jeju offers comfortable accommodation that is popular with a backpacking crowd with a great location. Expect to pay around $16 for a bed in the 8-bed dorm.
Seogwipo - Island Guesthouse (Budget) - 22 USD/Night (Dorm) - Island Guesthouse is a cozy and chilled out place for people who aren’t looking to party. A great option if you’re tired of the hustle and bustle, or you want to use it as a base to explore the famous Jeju outdoors. A bed in the 8-bed dorm will set you back around $22 per night.
Seongsan - Kim’s Cabin (Budget) - 45 USD/Night (Double Room) - Kim’s Cabin is a great option for a friendly, homestay vibe. For the basic twin private you’ll be parting with around $45 a night.
How to Get Around the Jeju Island
You might need to jump through a few hoops before you get these.
First of all, a word on hiring a car. Unless you’re bringing one with you or buying one (both unlikely) you’re going to need to get hold of a vehicle for your road trip adventure. Thankfully, car hire is readily available, particularly in the main cities. A good place to start is in Jeju City itself – as this will be the jumping off point for most visitors. There are plenty of options available like in any modern city – ask at your accommodation or do some research online. Prices are comparatively similar.
You’re going to need a valid driver’s license AND an international driver’s license . You’re not allowed to drive in Korea solely with your own foreign license. Most care hire places will ask for both when you’re going through the paperwork – so make sure you have valid documentation before you embark on your trip. You’ll need to be over 21, have been driving for a year or above and have a valid passport and credit card. Hire companies won’t take debit cards for bookings – so don’t get caught out and stranded!
Hey – you’re in South Korea. It’s home of the world’s fastest internet, and Jeju Island is pretty much Wi-Fi heaven. It’s everywhere, but if you really need access round-the-clock you can pick up an inexpensive dongle to turn your device into a hot-spot. Basically – don’t worry about it. South Korea has got you covered.
One downside, however, is that Google Maps is restricted in South Korea. Obtaining driving directions isn’t possible – so you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way!
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to South Korea, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Jeju Island Road Trip Itinerary
The Manjanggul Cave
Jeju Island is bursting with geological wonders formed by volcanic activity 2 million years ago. Your first port of call and unmissable attraction is the network of astonishing lava tubes and caves – which are officially the largest and most spectacular in the world. They’re part of Jeju’s several natural UNESCO heritage sites, and can be located all over the island.
Perhaps the most famous is the Manjanggul Cave, which can be found in Gimnyeong-ri, about 30 minutes' drive from Jeju City as you travel clockwise around the island, off highway 1132. It's one to tick-off the bucket list for sure – so don't miss it. Entrance fees are 2,000 Won for adults and 1,000 Won for children.
Continue following the coast road and you’ll soon come to another natural wonder – known to non-locals as Sunrise Peak. As you might have guessed, this is a beautiful spot to watch the sun come up on your day – a stunning volcanic mass that rises from the sea and yet another UNESCO site on Jeju.
The crater-style formation is open one hour before the famed sunrise and will cost 2,000 Won for adults and 1,000 Won for children.
Folk Village Museum
Holding to the coast road once again you’ll pass some of Jeju’s best beaches where locals and foreigners alike will catch the rays. But it’s time to take in a bit of culture, so visit the Jeju Folk Village Museum for an educational and informative experience in a hands-on environment, located in Minsokhaean-ro.
Just one of several stunning waterfalls and features on the island, Jeongbang is a nice stop before turning for home. Its location right on the ocean ensures it is arguably the most famous on Jeju, and is the go-to waterfall for many visitors here.
Hiking lovers look no further! A day spent in the Mount Hallasan National Park is a must when visiting these shores and it’s located in the very heart of the island. A dormant shield volcano, the mountain itself is begging to be climbed, and it’s one of the country’s most famous and iconic landmarks.
Turn north and cut the country in half to take you to the edge of the park so you can enjoy some dramatic and beautiful scenery shaped over the course of millions of years. Entrance to the park is free.
To finish with something alternative (and more than a little risqué) visit the (in)famous Loveland – South Korea’s artistic (and controversial) homage to love and sex. You’ll have never seen anything quite like it, and it just so happens to be on your way back to Jeju City off highway 1139. Not suitable for youngsters or those easily offended!
A Whistle-Stop Tour
This is just a small selection of the delights you can experience during your Jeju Island itinerary with Etramping. Needless to say, you’ll be back for more – just like the countless numbers of locals and foreigners who return year after year. From quirky museums to spectacular waterfalls and everything in between, Jeju packs a big tourism punch. Make sure to book plenty of time to see it all!
Agness and Cez are best friends – and they would need to be after traveling around the world since 2011. Originally from Poland, they set up a popular travel blog called eTramping to inform, inspire and encourage people to pursue similar adventures. Follow their Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to stay up-to-date with their wanderings.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.