The complete guide to Jeju Island: From nature to food and beyond

Welcome to Inside Jeju! We’re here to help you plan your dream visit to Jeju. Get started by reading our guide to the island.

It covers everything you need to know about Jeju and provides information about some of the essential things to see and do on the island. We’ve also included links to places where you can discover more. Let’s jump in!

About Jeju Island

Hallsan Mountain Featured image
Photo: Baengrokdam Crater at the summit of Hallasan Mountain.

Jeju is an island off the southern coast of Korea. It’s the largest Korean island covering an area of 1,833 meters squared. It’s around 31 km north to south and 73 km from east to west. If you wanted to travel around the coast, it’s around 220 km.

The island was formed due to volcanic activity, and you’ll see evidence of this wherever you go. Most notable is the volcano itself, Hallasan Mountain, which is the tallest mountain in Korea and dominates the center of the island.

The island is split into Jeju-si, which is the north side, and Seogwipo-si to the south side. Jeju-si is home to Jeju City, which is by far the largest settlement on the island. Around 493,000 people live here, with the vast majority living in the city.

Seogwipo City on the south side of the island, is the second largest settlement, although it’s much smaller than Jeju City. Around 184,000 people live on the southern side of the island.

Jeju is a Special Self-Governing Province, which means the island has some powers to run itself. Why is this important to you? Well, it means that tourists from many countries can visit the island without getting a visa in advance if they arrive directly via either Jeju Airport or Jeju International Ferry Terminal.

Getting into Jeju

Plan landing in Jeju
Photo: A plane approaching Jeju Airport as seen from Yongduam Coastal Road

The main way into Jeju is via Jeju International Airport. The route between Jeju and Seoul Gimpo is the busiest flight route in the world!

Flights make the trip every five or ten minutes from morning to evening every day of the week. This means it’s super easy and cheap to make the one-hour-ten-minute journey. Flights typically start at 50,000 KRW after tax.

Seoul isn’t the only domestic location you can fly in from, however. There are plenty of flights every day from Busan, and regular flights from Cheongju, Yeosu, Daegu, Gwangju, and other Korean cities.

Frustratingly for international travelers, there are currently no flights from Incheon to Jeju. You have to make the trip from Incheon to Gimpo yourself via either the subway or the airport limousine bus.

You can also get the ferry from mainland Korea to Jeju. Routes currently run from Busan, Yeosu, Wando, Mokpo, Goheung, and Incheon. Ferry times range from just 2 hours 40 minutes to go from Jeju to Wando, to 13.5 hours from Jeju to Incheon.

There are also international options, although these often change. At the time of writing, you can fly to Osaka, Singapore, Taipei, and Bangkok.

Read more: Find out how to get to Jeju Island for both domestic and international travelers

Where to stay in Jeju

There are hotels, resorts, guest houses, pensions, and camping sites all over Jeju. You can stay pretty much anywhere on the island. But, most people will want to stay in one of the following areas.

Jeju City is near to the airport and has easy travel links to the rest of the island. You get all the convenience of city life, while easily being able to spend your days seeing the sights in the countryside. Consider staying in Nohyeong in Shin Jeju or Tapdong in Gu Jeju City.

Seogwipo City is home to some of Jeju’s most popular natural sites, including Jeongbang Falls and Cheonjiyeon Falls. It’s easy to travel throughout the island by bus or taxi from this southern city base. The city is much smaller than Jeju City, but still offers plenty of conveniences.

Jungmun Tourist Complex is a resort destination on Jeju’s southwest coast. It’s filled with large resorts and has everything tourists needs to enjoy a relaxing trip, including the popular Jungmun Beach. Other places we think it’s worthwhile staying at include Seongsan, Hamdeok, and Shinhwa World.

Find out more: Read our detailed guide on where to stay in Jeju

How to get around Jeju

You can get around Jeju by bus, taxi, or renting a car. Just choose the option that suits your travel style and budget.

Buses

Jeju has a comprehensive bus system that will take you anywhere on the island. The buses are incredibly affordable, with the regular buses costing 1,200 KRW and express buses costing 4,000 KRW when paid in cash.

The system can be confusing for newcomers who don’t speak Korean, so we thoroughly recommend that you download either the Kakao Maps or Naver Maps app (both have English versions). From here you can enter your location, choose bus as your method of travel, and the app will highlight exactly how to get to your chosen location.

Car rental

You can also rent a car. There are English language options available including Kayak and Lotte Rent-a-car. You will need either an international driving license or a Korean driving license that was issued at least one year prior.

Taxis

Taxes are another good and affordable option. Prices start at 3,300 KRW for the first 2 kilometers, then go up by 100 KRW. You can hail taxis in the street or sign up for the Kakao Taxi app, which is similar to Uber, if you have a Korean phone number.

You can also rent drivers for an entire day and there are several companies on Google with English options and high star raitngs. .

Jeju time zone

Jeju is in Korea Standard Time, meaning it’s the same timezone as the rest of Korea and Japan. It’s 1 hour ahead of Singapore, Malaysia, and China.

Jeju nature

Jeju is known as a place of great natural beauty. If you come to the island, it’s almost certain that you’ll visit some of these spots. There are a ton of places that you could go and see, but here are the absolute highlights.

Hallasan Mountain

Hallasan Mountain
Photo: Hallasan Mountain with clouds around the summit.

Hallasan Mountain sits in the center of the island, and you can see its silhouette no matter where you are, as long as the weather is clear. The mountain is a shield volcano and its eruptions are responsible for much of what you see on Jeju today. It’s also the highest in Korea, with the Baekrokdam Crater at its summit reaching a height of over 1,950 meters above sea level. Two paths go to this summit, as well as several other hikes you do in the area.

Read more: Hiking Hallasan Mountain: All you need to know

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak

Photo: Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, also known as Sunrise Peak, is a tuff cone and crater at the island’s easternmost point. It was formed by volcanic activity 5,000 years ago and the structure rises dramatically out of the sea reaching a height of 180 meters above sea level. You can climb to the top, where you’ll see a giant crater, as well as panoramic views out around Jeju.

Read more: The complete guide to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak

Sanbangsan Mountain

Sanbangsan Mountain 3
Photo: The south-facing side of Sanbangsan Mountain

Sanbangsan Mountain is a bell-shaped lava dome on the southern side of the island. It rises up to 395 meters above sea level, which is especially noticeable thanks to the flatness of the area that surrounds it. The mountain is home to a temple with a giant Buddha statue, and you can climb up to cave situated halfway up the mountain.

Read more: Sanbangsan area guide: What to see when visiting

Waterfalls

Cheonjiyeon Waterfall
Photo: Cheonjiyeon Falls on a sunny day

Despite having almost no running water, Jeju is known for its waterfalls. The three most famous waterfalls on Jeju are Jeongbang Waterfall, which is famous for being the only waterfall in Korea that falls directly into the sea, Cheonjiyeon Falls, which comes at the end of short and relaxing river walk, and Cheonjeyeon Falls, a tiered waterfall in Jungmun Tourist Complex.

Oreum

Oreum are the volcanic hills that dot the island’s landcape. These are parasitic cones formed by volcanic activity on the island. There are more than 360 of them around the island and you can find them in every corner. They are great places for short hikes and they tend to offer outstanding views of the surrounding area.

Beaches

Hyeopjae Beach 2
Photo: Hyeopjae Beach when the Tide’s out

With around 220 km of coastline, it’s no surprise that Jeju has plenty of beautiful beaches. There is plenty of variety, from the white sand and turquoise ocean of Hyeopjae and Gimyeong to the golden sand and waves at Jungmun and the bustling seaside atmosphere of Hamdeok.

Next up: The complete guide to Jeju’s best beaches

Olle Trails

Jeju’s Olle Trails are a system of coastal walking paths that circumnavigate the island. There are 21 main routes as well as six sub-routes that offer alternative paths around some of Jeju’s most popular spots.

The majority of the routes are around 15 km, with the longest being 20.9 km and the shortest being the stroll around Gapa-do, a small island off Jeju’s southwest coast. Each trail has its own character, but they all typically include sections along the coast, through rural villages, and into the island’s inland forests and countryside.

Jeju culture

There are many differences between Jeju’s culture and that of mainland Korea. Those interested in experiencing the culture of Jeju should look out for following highlights.

Haenyeo divers

Haenyeo Divers are women that dive in the waters around Jeju to collect shellfish. They are free-divers, meaning they do so without breathing equipment. Many of the divers ar middle-aged or older, with oldest being in their 80s. You can see Haenyeo Divers working in areas around the island.

Dolharubang stone grandfathers

Dolharubang stone grandfathers are statues that you’ll see all around Jeju. They’re a popular symbol of the island and the statues come in all shapes and sizes, usually being placed outside gates to act as guardians and protect the homes inside.

Traditional markets

Dongmun Market Chocoloate
Photo: Souvenirs in Dongmun Market

Jeju’s has two types of traditional markets. First are the permanent markets that open every day. Second are is the five day market, which opens on every fifth day at various points around the island. Each market sells everything from fresh produce to souvineers and street food. The Jeju City 5-Day Market is the biggest market. Dongmun Traditional Market in Jeju City and Seogwipo Maeil Market are the other notable markets in the northern and southern cities.

Jeju language

While the vast majority of people on the island speak standardized Korean, Jeju has it’s own language, called Jejueo, which still lives on. It’s especially prevalent among the older generation in rural areas, so if you speak Korean but don’t understand what someone is saying to you while visiting a rural village, it could be because they’re speaking a different language.

Jeju food and drink

You can find all the standard Korean favorites on Jeju, as well as plenty of restaurants selling high-quality foreign fare. But, the island does have some dishes that it is especially well-known for.

Black pork

Jeju Black Pork
Photo: Jeju black pork barbecue

Jeju black pork is perhaps the most well-known Jeju food. It comes from pigs with black skin and fur, although the actual meat looks the same as standard pork. You can buy black pork around the island, usually at a slight premium compared to regular pork. The most famous black pork dishes are barbecue and Gogi Guku, a type of noodle soup.

Seafood

As an island, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that Jeju has a lot of seafood. You can try raw shellfish freshly collected by Haenyeo divers, giant abalones either grilled or served up in rice porridge, and cutlassfish served either in a clear broth or a spicy stew.

Gamgyul mandarins

Walk around Jeju in late fall to mid-winter and you’re sure to fields full of mandarin trees. These fields with their bright orange baubles don’t just look pretty, they are also a sign of one of Jeju’s most well-known food types, the Jeju mandarin.

There are various types of fruits from smaller mandarins, to the large Hallabong’s with their distinctive button at the top. There are also several new varieties such as Red Hyang and Cheonhye Hyang which are sweeter, juicier, and genuinely among the best fruit I’ve ever tasted.

Next up: Must try Jeju food: What to eat during your trip