Jeju Island is a popular destination for sun, sea and sand. This is one of the reasons that Jeju has the title as the busiest flight route in the world. Every year millions of Koreans and international tourists flock to the volcanic island for an island getaway.
Not much is written about the island in the winter however. Although milder than the icy north of the country, Jeju isn’t exactly a tropical paradise in the depths of January. We decided to spend our winter vacation here for 5 days to see what the island could offer us in its low season. We were pleasantly surprised by the abundance of activities, both indoor and outside that the island had to offer. If you want to learn about the best snowy sights, different activities and good food, keep reading!
Where to stay
Although in the summer, it is likely you may want to stay at a hotel or resort close to the beach, in the winter, we felt it better to base ourselves in one of the two main cities on the island. Jeju City is the biggest city on the island and is where the airport is based. It is situated in the North and although seemed to have a lot to do, wasn’t close to what we wanted to do and see during our trip.
We instead opted to stay in Seogwipo, a coastal city in the south of the island. The city had amazing views over the harbour, outlying small islands and the ocean. There were also a lot of good eateries and bars. There were also a few small museums within the city and more a short drive away.
We stayed at Eins Hotel and Gudeok Guesthouse.
Eins Hotel is a three star property on the main strip of Seogwipo. The room was comfortable but the main attraction of the stay was the stunning view from the breakfast room. The view looked over Seogwipo Harbour and the ocean and was the perfect place to watch the sun slowly rise. The breakfast was the same each day but had enough selection to keep us happy. Overall, it was a good budget hotel stay and the breakfast view was worth it.
Gudeok Guesthouse is great for a hostel budget stay. The owners were friendly as was their adorable dog! The rooms were simple but comfortable and the highlight here was the rooftop area for socialising. We met some great people on the rooftop in the evenings and it was fantastic to have this space to hang out in after the 9pm curfew. The hotel and hostel were very similar in price for a double room in both but of course the guesthouse was more suited for a social atmosphere.
The South of Jeju is home to waterfalls, museums and orange farms.
As said above, we really liked Seogwipo for the good bars and restaurants in the area as well as the few museums and art galleries. It was also a great place for the avid hiker or walker. We spent a day visiting Jeongang Waterfall, Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and Saeseom Island which made for a great day of sights but quite a lot of walking!
We started at Jeongbang Waterfall which is worth the small entrance fee. It was snowing when we visited which made it quite atmospheric. The waterfall was also running well due to the snowfall in the higher areas of the island. After visiting here we continued along the path slightly which hugged the coast to a coffee shop (허니문하우스) This has to be some of the most expensive coffee and cake of our trip but the view was pretty looking out over the ocean so it is still worth a visit!
Cheonjiyeon Waterfall is within Seogwipo Chilsimni Poetry Park and is an impressive sight. We failed to find the entrance to the foot of the falls despite looking but found a good lookout where we could get a great view of the falls. The park surrounding was also a great find with picturesque lakes and interesting sculptures.
Following the park down to the coast, you will arrive at Seogwipo Maritime Park. This connects to Saeyeongyo, an attractive bridge that gives access to a small island. Across the bridge are not only good views of Seogwipo and the neighbouring small islands but also has access to a circular walk.
Outside of the city, for more walking we visited Gogeusan. Although originally we hoped to hike up Hallsan, with snowy weather over the dormant volcano during the entirety of our stay, we decided to do a much smaller walk where the snowfall wasn’t quite as heavy. This was a short climb but gave good views of Seogwipo and the ocean.
Aside from walking, the South of the island is also home to Jeju Folk Village which we thought was a great winter activity. The village was a good depiction of life in Jeju during the Joseon Dynasty and showed various aspects of the society. It was quite interactive and we enjoyed exploring the different homes and deciding which one we would each want if we were born during this part of history.
One aspect I found really interesting was that the signs were often written in standard Korean as well as Jeju Satoori. This made it a lot easier to see the differences in the two dialects and made me understand how someone from Seoul would struggle to fully understand this thick satoori! For example thank you in standard Korean is 고맙습니다 (gomapseumnida) whilst in Jeju dialect it is 고맙수다 (gomapsuda).
Although everything is outside, it was not uncomfortable to walk around whilst it may be unbearably hot in the summer. An added bonus of going in the winter is that the Jeju Oranges (hallabong) are in season so the Folk Village was covered in hallabong trees.
Next to the Folk Village is the stunning Pyoseon Beach. The water was so clear that it was tempting to take a dip. So we did! We only lasted one minute in the water but it was still exhilarating!
The South of Jeju also has numerous museums to explore. These include but are not limited to Alive Museum, Teddy Bear Museum, Podo Museum, World Vehicle and Piano Museum (cos these two go perfectly together) and OSULLOC Tea Museum. We only visited the latter and found there was a lack of museum but an abundance of tea. The island has so many museums for a cold or rainy day you’d be spoilt for choice!
Where to eat in the South
Loving Hut - Seogwipo Branch
This came highly recommended but we didn’t get a chance to eat here as it is open Wednesday - Sunday. Hard to park and smaller menu than other branches but great vegan Korean food.
Aenaui Sup Brunch Cafe
Nestled in Seogwipo city centre, this hidden gem is the perfect lunch stop. The soup is delicious and the cafe also has board games. The perfect place to spend a few hours.
A hotel but we enjoyed our meal here and it was veggie friendly which was the main draw. We had nachos, pasta and pizza.
West Coast Jeju Island
We spent a day on this side of the island and centred our day around the Hallim Park area. The first thing we noticed here was how stunning the ocean was. It was a light blue and looked so inviting if it wasn’t for the fierce wind battering the coast that day. Thankfully Hallim Park offered some relief from the elements.
Hallim Park is a botanical garden which has a huge amount of variety. The walk amongst the grounds starts with tropical plants and slowly lets you make your way around the world in plants. My favourite areas were the Bonsai trees and Cactuses. The park is also home to a few lava made caves. We were hoping to visit some caves whilst on the island but many are closer to Jeju City. However, these three caves in the park were impressive to visit and a refreshing break from outside!
Although I am sure like any garden Hallim Park would be more beautiful in the spring, it was still a nice area to visit. From the garden we walked along the beach and into the small towns on either side of the park. For lunch, we went to Parato Dos which appealed because of the views of the icy blue sea. We had Pulled Pork Sandwiches here. It was easy to take the pork off for the veggies and the meat eaters didn’t complain of more meat on their plates!
For coffee there are loads to choose from along the beachfront. We went to Groove which was three stories and made amazing croffles.
Although we didn’t go there, Camellia Hill was recommended to me as a great place to visit in the winter as the camellia flowers are in bloom. There are many photo opportunities here as well!
I would love to come back here in the summer and enjoy the beach properly. Our stay on the west coast was short but I will be sure to return in the summer months.
East Coast Jeju Island
Arguably the highlight of the East Coast of Jeju, we had to take a trip to Seongsan Ilchulbong to take in the view. This is a large cliff face surrounded by water. It is popular for sunrise hikes and although we came with the intention of catching the sunrise, the uncertain weather and cold led to us deciding to visit in the day instead. Hiking to the top costs a small fee but the path is well maintained and the view is worth it.
This area is also home to the Haenyeo, female free divers who have traditionally fished in this area for hundreds of years. There are only a few left now but they continue to do twice daily shows to show their expertise. We arrived at the beach at the correct time but it seemed they weren’t diving that day. We had no idea why as there was nowhere online that said they take particular days off but we still enjoyed seeing the beach and their equipment. The beach was also amazing in that it had a huge amount of unclaimed shells littering the shoreline. All of these shells were perfectly preserved and untouched. We marvelled and took a few pictures.
We had Willara fish and chips here for dinner which was delicious. We chose to eat out but by the time our food was ready the wind had picked up. We ended up eating behind a bench to break the wind. We were very windswept but it was delicious.
On the East Coast we also drove up to Woljeongni Haesuyokjang Beach. This beach was again stunning with clear water and bright white sand. We came here with the intention of trying Woljeong Taco Massim. However, we came too late and they were sold out. Be sure to come here early to try out the variety of authentic tacos. On the East Coast there is also a Museum dedicated to the Haenyo Divers and their livelihood. Udo Island is also on the East Coast of Jeju and is a great day trip. If the weather is nice, take the ferry and hire bikes to cycle around the island.
Our time in Jeju was short but enjoyable for winter. Although it snowed a few times, we still continued to explore outdoors as it was so much warmer than Seoul and Daegu. I wish we could have hiked Hallasan which seemed stunning in winter with a crisp layer of snow over the highest mountain in Korea. There is also enough on the island to keep you occupied if the weather was not so good as well with an abundance of art galleries and museums. We did have our fair number of hurdles along the way - mainly with attractions and restaurants being shut but we managed to make it a memorable trip nonetheless.
I hope this is useful in planning your own Jeju Winter trip and I can’t wait to explore the island again in different seasons.
Hi! I'm Holly, a twenty something traveller from the UK. Over the years I've been lucky enough to live and travel in many countries. I've studied in America and working holidayed in Australia and New Zealand! I currently live in South Korea. Learn more about me below!
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