The campaign to get Jeju recognised as one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” has got me thinking about the time that I spent there.
During my year of teaching, I only got ten days’ leave: five in the summer, and five in the winter. For my summer holiday, I toyed with travelling to Japan, Thailand or the Philippines, but in the end, decided to go to Jeju-Do, due to it being consistently recommended with extremely high praise by Korean friends and colleagues.
When I arrived, I could see the appeal right away. Jeju has a real tropical island / holiday destination feel, with stunning mountains, picturesque waterfalls, gorgeous uninhabited beaches, and great weather. It’s no wonder, then, that mainland Koreans refer to it as “honeymoon island”. So if you visit the island in the summer months as I did, don’t be surprised to see a newly-wed Korean couple around every corner, complete with “couple tees” and filming every second of their honeymoon.
Despite its popularity, Jeju is full of rare and unpredictable beauty, and remains as one of my favourite places.
Including the weekend, I spent 7 days in Jeju, and each day brought new and unforgettable wonders:
Day 1: Waterfalls and Coastline
My first day on Jeju took me on the prettiest and most photogenic sightseeing trips I have ever encountered. Here, waterfalls (including the famous Chunjiyeon) tumble as the sun sparkles on the water and birds sing. It really is heavenly!
For more rugged, dramatic scenery, I took a short walk to the nearby beaches, where waves crashed against rocks that had been mutated into unusual patterns through years of weathering.
I could sit and gaze at such scenes for hours on end. These breathtaking views ensured an unforgettable first day on the island.
Day 2: Folk Museum
A must-see tourist attraction for any Jeju visitor, Jeju folk museum gives a snippet of ancient and traditional Korean ways of life. This was a very interactive experience, with animals, traditional games, and even replicas of torture implements to fascinate visitors.
I can imagine this being a perfect place to take kids, although I must say we had just as much fun ourselves!
Day 3: Sanbang-gul Temple Cave
The only temple cave on Jeju makes for an intriguing trek. The walk up Mount Sanbangsan is short but steep, with wildlife such as goats, as well as scattered temple art to greet you as you make your way up. When you reach the top, you have the chance to take in another amazing view, as well as to enter the cave and embrace its spirituality. The temple’s attendant will give the opportunity to pray, light a candle, and drink natural water that is supposed to have healing qualities.
Far more than just a tourist attraction, this really was a day out with a difference.
Day 4: Secret Beach
It seemed unlikely that on such a “touristy” island, in the heart of summer, and on a beautiful day, that we would be able to stroll from our hotel room to a nearby beach, and find it completely uninhabited. However, this discovery proves the unpredictable mystique of Jeju.
We played on the sand, swam in the lovely azure waters, and even had a shower in a naturally occurring waterfall, all with the entire beach to ourselves. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where this would have been possible.
Here’s a little snippet of the paradise that was ours for a day:
These caves are actually a colossal lava tube system; providing visitors with a dark, fascinating labyrinthian underworld.
As it was so dark, I’m afraid I only have the above photo from the top of the cave, but I can assure you that the colourful and misshapen lava is a weirdly enchanting sight, and the entire walk through the caves a haunting yet enthralling experience.
Completely randomly, there is also a maze outside the caves, which was fun to try to tackle. As you can see, I was completely lost, so don’t fancy my chances at the new “World’s Longest” maze that has recently opened in Jeju: http://korea.net/news.do?mode=detail&guid=54429
Another extraordinary sight of Jeju’s, the lava caves are a geophysical and aesthetic treat.
Day 6: Samyang “Black Sand” Beach
This is ultimate relaxation, with a twist! Who said that blue seas go best with white sands? Samyang Beach gives a great argument for an alternative.
The black sand here is supposed to be a natural treatment for your skin, providing anti-ageing and detox-ing qualities. Everyone on the beach was patting the sand onto their bodies, or simply burying themselves in it.
When you decide that the “treatment” is over, dipping into the sea is the perfect way to cool off. It’s not your stereotypical tropical beach, but then that’s what makes Samyang so special.
Day 7: Seongsan Ilchubong (Sunrise Peak)
This was my favourite day in Jeju, as it took me to the most beautiful place I have ever been. Again, this required a bit of an upwards trek, but such a fun and calm one, against the surroundings of interesting wildlife and striking scenery. The huge, bright butterflies and cute white rabbits hopping around were particularly delightful.
Once at the top, the reward is immediate and astonishing. This spectacular view was the ultimate highlight to a perfect holiday.
Whilst in Jeju I rode a horse for the first time, ate a burger the size of a dinner plate, screamed at the biggest spider I have ever seen, drank rejuvenating water, marvelled at volcanic craters, showered in a natural waterfall and enjoyed a beer in a straw-hut bar. For these reasons and so many more, I truly believe that Jeju is one of the world’s greatest wonders, and that is deserves to be recognised as such.
Vote for Jeju as one of the “New 7 Wonders” by visiting the official website: