Welcome to my article on the hidden gem of Asia: Jeju! Before I tell you all about this beautiful island, let me briefly introduce myself. I’m Dr El Zenati Yasmine. I was born and raised in Romania, and didn’t travel much when I was a kid – so I wasn’t exposed to this lifestyle. I only started traveling when I was around 20 and discovered a passion for exploring new countries, meeting new people and trying new cuisines. Soon it became an addiction.
Photography has always been a part of my life as well, and therefore it was easy to braid content creation with traveling. On my various social media pages I aim to inspire people to travel more, and encourage them to believe that travel doesn’t have to be expensive, and that with the proper research and planning you can explore the world without breaking the bank.
Four Special Nights on Jeju Island
The reason I visited Jeju was because I was on an extended trip around Asia. While in Japan, I was looking for countries to fly into. I then ended up finding a cheap flight to Jeju. South Korea wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list before leaving home but I am so grateful for that cheap flight!
I stayed for four nights and while I would suggest spending more time (probably seven days would be ideal), I still visited a lot of places. I mostly explored the southern coast of the island and it is a really spectacular area. I’m not even sure what is in the other regions because the time we had on the island was short, but the southern coast was incredible nonetheless.
I don’t think I have ever met someone who has traveled to Jeju – it was a mystery for me when I first heard of it. As I mentioned, this was the best flight connection to get to South Korea from Japan – so this is how I first found out about the island. Of course, I checked online before booking and thought it looked interesting. All in all, Jeju Island is absolutely worth a visit!
Highlight: Seongsan Ilchulbong
I think my favorite part of Jeju was Seongsan Ilchulbong. It’s a volcanic cone formed around 5,000 years ago, with a not too difficult climb to reach it and amazing views of the ocean. Here, in the area, by the ocean, you can watch the “haenyos”: the women divers (some older than 80).
They dive into the sea to collect seafood and can hold their breath for more than three minutes! The “haenyos” have been recognized by UNESCO with the identification: Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Also, around this area you can go horseback riding and take a speedboat trip.
Top 5 Things To Do on Jeju Island
- Try the Seafood: You have to taste the seafood here! They have the freshest seafood I have ever tried and the prices were really reasonable.
- Visit Seogwipo Olle Market: For an authentic, local experience, I would highly recommend you visit Seogwipo Olle Market. You will find every street food you need to try, and a lot of seafood and fish restaurants.
- Interact with the Locals: They are the friendliest people in Korea. Even though they don’t speak English – they are sociable, curious and kind!
- Hike Up Hallasan: If you like to go hiking, you can hike up the highest mountain in South Korea – Hallasan. The summit stands at 1,947 meters.
- Visit the Most Popular Places: Of course, visit the most popular places on Jeju Island because they are worth the hype: Seongsan Ilchulbong, Jusangjeollidae, Yongmeori Coast and the Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls.
Staying at the Grandmillions Hotel
We stayed at Grandmillions Hotel in Seogwipo, in the south of the island. The area is calm, with restaurants and shops around, and the hotel was clean and comfortable considering it was so affordable. There are many options of accommodation for every budget, but we enjoyed our stay.
Tips for Visiting Jeju Island
It’s cheap to fly from the mainland to Jeju and vice versa. We took a one way flight from Jeju to Busan for around $30 per person. I’m not sure if there are any ferries, but the flight option is affordable and fast. I suggest renting a car to have more freedom because Jeju is worth exploring.
My boyfriend and I spent five days here and traveled around with the local buses, which to be honest was a bit of a struggle. They don’t really run on time and are quite slow. We were slowed down by this and since we depended on the public routes, we couldn’t venture far from our hotel.
Regarding the costs, I didn’t find Jeju to be expensive: the accommodation was affordable, the ticket entrances to the attractions were cheap, and the food was around $10 a dish and it was usually a huge portion. Indeed, the food in Jeju is fantastic if you like seafood – the local specialty. You’ll find food for every taste but I would suggest you try the seafood soup. Delicious!
As I have said before, the locals of Jeju Island are friendly and outgoing. The social interaction component might seem a bit odd since they don’t speak much English, but don’t be put off by that – they are great people, and you can always communicate well with a smile and hand gestures.
Best Memory from the Trip
To finish, allow me to share the best memory from my trip. We were going back to the hotel at around 8:00 pm from the bus station, and walked by a park where we saw a lot of people and heard music. We checked it out and found a group of elderly women (around 80 years old) dancing zumba.
They invited us to join them and showed us the moves, took pictures with us and we had a good laugh together. At the end of the class, two ladies (sisters) of 85 and 86 years old, came to talk to us and told us their life story. It turned out they dance every night in the park, and are volunteers at a nursing home. It was inspiring! We loved Jeju Island and will definitely return one day. In the meantime, you go visit while it’s still a hidden gem!