Road Trips

Road Tripping Through Jeju Island — South Korea’s Isle of the Gods

A road trip through Jeju Island, also known as the Isle of the Gods, offers travelers the chance to go off the beaten path and explore some of the island’s most fascinating and spectacular corners. From mountain sunrises to lava tubes, waterfalls and more, these road trip itineraries will show travelers the best of Jeju.

Start Your Day at the Sunrise Peak

Distance: 61 miles from Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort

Make your base at Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort, tucked into the heart of one of South Korea’s most popular theme parks. Wake before dawn to travel to watch the sunrise while sitting on one of 99 rocks surrounding the crater at Sunrise Peak (Seongsan Ilchulbong). A UNESCO World Natural Heritage site on the eastern tip of the island, Seongsan Ilchulbong is actually an extinct volcano, which rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption more than 100,000 years ago.

From the sky, it looks like a gigantic crown with the 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater. On the northwest side of the crater, a verdant, grassy ridge leads to the quaint Seongsan Village and is an ideal spot for a walk or a scenic horse ride.

Visitors who arrive in the spring will be rewarded with views of fields teeming with yellow canola flowers. The 200-yard hike to the crater is fairly easy and takes about 20 minutes. Entrance fee is KRW 2,000 (approximately $2) per adult.

Take a Winding Walk Along the Olle Trails

Distance: 23 miles from Sunrise Peak

The Olle Trails are a series of walkable and scenic winding paths along Jeju’s coast. Drive to the Route 6 trail and look for the Soesokkak – Seogwipo Olle Route (3.2 miles).

Start the walking trail from the serene Soesokkak Bridge. Then continue walking along a stretch of coastal road and pass through the seaside town of Bomok. From the coast, you can spot the village of Seogwipo in the distance, as well as islands such as Seop-seom.

Walk toward Seogwipo, where you visit one of two picture-perfect waterfalls, Jeongbang and Cheonjiyeon. Falling directly into the ocean, Jeongbang Falls tumbles from a high cliff into the sea and is one the most famous waterfalls on Jeju Island.

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Jeongbang Waterfall (Photo: Getty Images)

As you continue to walk the trail toward Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, you’ll pass Lee Jung Seob Street, packed with craft shops, chilled-out beer bars and Bauhaus-styled restaurants. It was named after the famous Korean artist whose dwelling has been preserved and its surroundings made into a park.

Once you reach Cheonjeyeon, you’ll find interesting rock formations and pristine beaches. Known as the Pond of God, Cheonjeyeon Waterfall originates from the ceiling of a cave, and it comprises three sections. In May, during the Chilseonyeo Festival, you can actually have a soak in the falls.

Walk over the Seonimgyo Bridge, which has seven nymphs carved on both sides and thus was nicknamed “The Seven Nymphs Bridge” (Chilseonyeogyo). The nymphs symbolize the seven legendary nymphs that would descend from heaven at night.

Head to the Mystical Dragon Head (Yongduam) Rock

Distance: 18 miles from the Route 6 trail

After departing the trails, make your way to Dragon Head Rock. Once there, walk toward the coast to see the spectacular erosion of coastal rocks created by strong winds over thousands of years. Adding to the magical scenery, haenyeo (women divers) can be seen diving near the cliff where an abundance of sea urchins and abalone can be caught.

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Dragon Head Rock (Photo: Alamy)

The age of the women-only divers averages 65 years old. These renowned and respected icons of Jeju Island can dive 32 to 65 feet without any breathing apparatus, and they catch everything barehanded. They usually sell the freshest abalones, octopuses, clams and seaweed straight from the sea.

You can try the island specialty, seaweed and sea urchin soup, at Sea Scenery restaurant. If you are not into seaweed, other Jeju specialties include pheasant, whole grilled mackerel in sea salt, and the famous barbecued pork from black pigs that can be tried at 돔베돈 Black Pork Street.

Meet the Two Dragons at Ssangyonggul Cave

Distance: 18 miles drive from Dragon Head Rock

From Dragon Head Rock, make your way to Ssangyonggul Cave. The cave is actually one of four lava tubes, including Socheongul, Hwanggeumgul and Manjanggul, and has two branches, which look like the paths of two dragons. These were formed by lava that erupted from Hallasan Mountain approximately 25 million years ago.

The Ssangyonggul lava tube is unique because it features both a lava tube and a limestone cave. The entire area surrounding the cave is composed of fossil seashells and sand, while the interior is a mystical mix of stalactites and stalagmites. Similar to the strokes of an abstract painting, lime covers the cave walls in a series of natural swirls and streaks.

Watch the Sunset at Oedolgae Rock

Distance: 20 miles from Two Dragons

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End your day watching the sunset. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fans of K-drama must visit the Oedolgae Rock, which was featured in the iconic Korean drama “Daejanggeum.” Take a stroll along the Oedolgae walking trails for breathtaking views of the sunset over the Isle of the Gods.

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