Situated off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula, Jeju island – also known as Island of the Gods – enjoys a reputation as South Korea’s honeymoon capital. Lush emerald countryside, jagged coastline and miles of stunning shoreline fringed by sapphire seas make this the perfect spot for couples that enjoy active outdoor pursuits, and even those that simply want to lie around on the beach and relax.
The island is well set up for tourism, and has long enjoyed supreme status amongst honeymooners travelling from the South Korean mainland. Thanks to its blissful scenery, it has also become a favourite setting for popular Korean dramas as well. The island also boasts a unique seafood culinary experience somewhat separate from its mainland counterpart, including produce caught by one of the island’s female free divers. As a result, there is plenty to offer couples in search of a romantic getaway.
A hike to remember
As well as being South Korea’s largest island, Jeju is actually home to the nation’s tallest mountain peak. Standing tall at 1,950m high, Mount Hallason is nestled within the exquisite Hallasan National Park, positioned at the centre of the island. For couples that enjoy the physical challenge of a good hike, there are five routes up and down this dormant volcano. However, be aware that only two of the routes – Gwaneumsa and Seongpanak – actually go to the mountain’s peak. The scenery is densely wooded and from April and May the slopes are lit up with the vivid colour of flowering azaleas. For visitors that don’t want to over-exert themselves, the Yeongsil trail offers the shortest hike at 3.7 kilometres. It winds up a steep path and past several waterfalls, providing plenty of opportunities for superb honeymoon photographs.
For couples that want to explore more of Jeju’s delightful coastline, the island’s extensive network of Olle trails criss-cross stunning natural scenery and take in stupendous vistas of the shoreline, cliffs and mountains. There are around 25 walking paths in total, most of which take around three to eight hours to complete, so you are free to select a trail that suits the time slot you have available and your level of physical fitness. Helpfully, the routes are organised by level of difficulty so it is straightforward for visitors to choose the trail that will suit them best. Each course is dotted with helpful guide posts so trekkers can find their way onwards through wild natural landscapes and charming local villages and farms.
If a gruelling hike along one of Jeju’s Olle trails simply isn’t for you and your significant other, perhaps an afternoon spent lazing on one of the island’s many gleaming golden sand beaches will do the trick. Jungmun Beach and Hamdeok Seowoobong tend to be the busiest coastal hotspots with the greatest range of leisure activities for couples that want to tie in a spot of sunbathing with a fun cruise on a local banana boat. However, there are plenty of tranquil coastal spots for couples that simply want to relax and soak up the splendid scenery and laid-back, beachy atmosphere. On the eastern coast of the island, Seongsan Ilchul-bong is accessed via a long staircase that leads down to an exquisite crescent-shaped cove. Visit between 1:30-3:00pm and you will be able to see the island’s famous haenyeo free divers in action. Also on the eastern side of the isle, Woljeong Beach is fast becoming a favourite hotspot for young couples looking for good swimming and a hip selection of cafes and restaurants.
Land of the morning calm
For many centuries, Korea has enjoyed the moniker of “Land of the Morning Calm”, which has worked in parallel to Japan’s signature nickname “The Land of the Rising Sun”. As such, getting up bright and early to hike up to one of the country’s many mountainous viewpoints to watch the sun rise from the Eastern Sea has long been a popular pastime with Koreans. If this is something you and your loved one fancy doing in Jeju, a hike up Seongsan Ilchul-bong – a 182-metres volcano – is a must. A hike to the peak of the forested crater only takes about 20 minutes, and is something that plenty of the locals do. Spend the night in Seongsan-ri to get to the volcano in time for sunrise.
And for those that can’t get up in time…
If setting your alarm clock for 4:30am to hike up Seongsan Ilchul-bong and marvel at the sunrise simply isn’t something you’re going to do, then fear not – Jeju’s stunning sunsets offer a natural performance that is equally as beautiful. The white sand of Hyeopjae Beach offers the perfect place to sit and marvel at the wonders of nature as sunset dresses the sky in peachy pink hues that set the tone for the perfect romantic evening. Located in Hallim Village in the northwest of the island, Hyeopjae Beach does tend to get quite busy during the summer time, but it remains fairly quiet throughout the rest of the year for couples searching for a tranquil spot to get away from it all.
- A day trip to one of the enticing islands off the coast of Jeju is popular with many visitors. Pheonix Island is one option, or take a ferry from Seonsangri Harbour over to Udo Island. Step back in history to explore the winding lanes of the old town before enjoying yet more stunning coastal scenery.
- As if the superb natural scenery of Jeju simply wasn’t romantic enough, the island is also home to the World Eros Museum – a funny trip for couples that want to dial the romance up a notch.
- Intrepid explorers won’t be able to resist an excursion to Manjang-gul – the entrance to the world’s most extensive network of lava-tube caves. The caves stretch onwards for 7.4 kilometres with labyrinthine corridors ranging between 2 metres and 23 metres in height.
- For a taste of local culture, head to Seonsup Folk village and explore the traditional thatched homes that fringe the lava rock walled lanes of this settlement. Seonsup is home to plenty of the phallic basalt old grandfather statues that have become one of Jeju’s most famous icons.
- While May through to July offers the warmest weather, there are plenty of attractions all year round, depending on the activities you want to accomplish on Jeju. April is popular for those that want to partake in the cherry blossom festivities, and October is the perfect time to see the splendid autumn foliage.