The Kimchi-ite: Jeju Island, An Escape From The Metropolis

In many corners of the world, winter offers nothing but a biting cold that demands we stay indoors until the flowers start to bloom. But with spring stretching its legs, it’s time we start to do the same. The best way to mentally prepare for spring and summer is to reminisce about trips from the past and to plan a new travel adventure built around shorts and sandals.

Here in Korea, Jeju Island is one of the first places that come to mind when seeking warm weather travel. A popular honeymoon destination, Jeju Island is a small, volcanic isle just south of the Korean peninsula, famed within Korea for its beaches, seafood, unique mountains and tangerines. It’ll be hard to miss the tangerines; they are sold everywhere on the island and are in anything that you’d consider edible.

A sparsely populated, laid-back island, Jeju is the perfect escape from the Seoul megapolis.

Its craggy, volcanic coast is not lined with unlimited sandy beaches like some tropical islands; however, the beaches that it does have are what I consider to be perfect, with large areas of warm, shallow, postcard-worthy, blue water.

Hyeopjae Beach, a gorgeous beach that many Koreans can’t believe is in their own country.

My favorite beach is Hyeopjae (pronounced Hyup-jay). It is far from a well-kept secret but thankfully not quite the “must-do” like Haeundae Beach back on the mainland. The view of the island mountain just across the water is a sight to behold. When I would show my Korean friends back in Seoul photos from the beach, they had a hard time believing that this was in their own country.

Seongsan, a beautifully unique rock of a mountain, known for its sunrise views.

Seongsan Ilchulbong
is a bizarre looking dormant volcano that juts out of a flat landscape, seemingly placed there by accident. It’s a great place to catch the sunrise, lending to its other name, “Sunrise Peak.”

Formed by the now dormant volcano, Hallasan, Jeju is a smattering of volcanic rock.

The most well known of all points of interest, however, is Hallsan, South Korea’s tallest mountain and one of the islands three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s an odd looking mountain that in some ways is actually the entire island itself. Hallasan is an extremely popular hiking spot offering some very accessible trails for beginning hikers.

Fishing is a part of everyday life on Jeju and raw fish is a common part of most meals.

Going hand in hand with fishing, boats can be seen at all times when near the water.

The beautiful Manjanggul Lava-tube is great for a summer day, with temperatures inside dropping to the 50s.

Manjanggul Lava-tube is one of the largest in the world and with Hallasan now dormant as a volcano, it serves as an impressive cave system. Upon first descending down into the tube system, the temperature instantly drops down more than 20 degrees, a welcome bit of natural air conditioning. Beautiful rock formations, rare animal species and awe-inspiring preservation contribute to it, too, being listed as a World Heritage Site.

The sunsets on Jeju, one of the quietest, most laid-back places in Korea.

Jeju Island is the perfect weekend getaway from the city’s mess of towers and people. It is just a short one-hour flight away from Seoul and during the right time, tickets can be in the $200 range. It’s a great place to hop on a bus and get off when something out the window looks interesting. The island doesn’t have a wealth of things to do or see, but sometimes that is the point.

To see more posts on the life, culture, food and excitement of South Korea from “The Kimchi-ite” click here!

[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]