With the summer finally rolling in, many locals and travelers in Korea have their eyes set on Jeju Island. Although it’s famous for its crystal blue waters and incredible seafood, others come for the lush, green hiking trails. There’s a whole culture of hiking to explore on Jeju Island and we’re excited to share it with you here.
1. Sunrise Peak | 성산 일출봉
When we talk about Jeju mountains, they’re practically synonymous with the word ‘volcano’ or at least ‘volcanic’. That’s because the biggest and the best hikes in Jeju are inactive volcanos or are made from volcanic rocks. I want to start by introducing everyone to the most famous hike on the eastern side of the island, Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산 일출봉) aka Sunrise Peak.
Sunrise Peak was formed around 5,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption under the sea. It has a top that is bowl-shaped, with jagged edges all the way around. The word ‘seongsan’ means ‘castle mountain’ and ‘ilchulbong’ is a high point with beautiful views. Understanding the name can kind of help those who haven’t been there to visualize how beautiful and towering this short hike is. The best way to appreciate the mountain is at its opening time: an hour before sunrise. You’ll be able to watch the gorgeous start to the day over the perfectly blue sea The best part? There are no apartment buildings to obstruct your view. That’s not something living in Seoul can typically offer you.
It only takes one hour to hike to the top if you’re walking at a leisurely pace. Walking to the top is a tradition that has been around for centuries among Jeju people. The most popular time of the year to come is New Year’s Day in order to see the first rays of sunrise and enjoy the festival that has been occurring since 1994. Locals and visitors alike believe this view will bring them good luck in the following 365 days, and it’s here that you can participate in various activities and eat fresh, local food. If you’re unable to reach the top, you’ll also be able to see and hear local fishermen blowing their whistles off the coast to greet the new year.
It’s a really special sight to see and one that I think a lot of people don’t get to experience during their first few trips to Korea. Most people go to Jeju during the warmer months, so it might be an opportunity that you’ve overlooked. Be sure to put it on your calendar for next year.
There are many ways to reach Sunrise Peak from Jeju City. You can take a direct bus from the Jeju City Old Bus Terminal, Jeju Airport, or the southern city of Seogwipo. Most journeys last slightly over 1 hour. We suggest using Naver or Kakao Maps.
Address: 284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do | 제주특별자치도 서귀포시 성산읍 일출로 284-12
Opening Hours: 09:00-18:00
Telephone: (+82) 064-783-0959
Entrance Fee: Adults 5,000 won / Teenagers & Children 2,500 won
Accessibility: Viewing platform, handrail provided up the mountain
Website: Click here
2. Hallasan National Park | 한라산 제주도 국가지질공원
I mentioned before that mountains were synonymous with ‘volcano’ in Jeju. I think there’s one mountain in particular that popped into everyone’s minds upon reading that statement.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Jeju without mentioning Hallasan National Park. Hallasan Mountain is the main feature on the island, arguably the biggest tourist attraction, and it rests smack-dab in the middle. Even if it’s not someone’s favorite spot on the island, I think it’s safe to say that Hallasan is the most important. The former volcano has another name, Yeongjusan (영주산), which means ‘mountain high enough to pull down the galaxy’.
Hallasan National Park has an enormous cultural significance as well as scientific significance. From a geological perspective, there are over 360 parasitic cones called ‘oreum’ (often translated to ‘peak’) around the main mountain. It also has a huge ecosystem of plants and wildlife that stem from the mountain’s varied climates. Trying to get a better picture? There are nearly 2,000 species of plants here alongside 4,000 species of animals and insects. Can you visualize it better now?
There are a lot of different walking trails here ranging from semi-easy to difficult. You can access Hallasan from nearly all sides of the island, so it’s best to do a bit of research online and see which walking path is good for you physically, as well as which will be the most convenient from your accommodation. Hiking trails range from around 2km to 9km – that means from around three hours all the way up to nine hours.
I hate to say it, but there’s no direct connection from Jeju City to the mountain. There’s also no signature Korean cable car. However, you can take the 181 Bus to Jeju International University and then take a taxi to the park entrance. Use Naver or Kakao Maps for local bus information.
Address: 2070-61, 1100-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do | 제주특별자치도 제주시 1100로 2070-61
Opening Hours: N/A
Telephone: +82-64-756-9950 (Campground)
Entrance Fee: N/A
Accessibility: Mountainous terrain
Website: Click here
3. Olle Walking Trail | 제주올레
There’s one more trek you can make that’s not exactly in the mountains, but not exactly along the coast either: the Jeju Olle-gil, or Jeju Olle Trail as it’s popularly known in English. ‘Olle’ is a Jeju dialect word that means ‘the small path between the street and your doorstep’. You’ll need a lot of time to complete this entire walk, but it offers great scenery all over the island and is MOSTLY flat if you’re someone who hears the word ‘peak’ and runs.
The walking trail goes along the entire coastline, passing through villages, seaside cafes, farms, forests, mountains, beaches, and everything else Jeju has to offer. The best part is that most of these places aren’t flooded with tourists, so you’ll get to enjoy the natural scenery alongside the peaceful sound of Jeju wildlife.
You can break up the entire route into 26 sections to get a better understanding of how massive this trail is. Additionally, they have varying levels of difficulty so you should check which route is best for you before setting off. The shortest route takes around three hours, while the longest takes around eight hours. Don’t worry about getting lost – there are colorful ribbons marked ‘Olle Trail’ throughout the path.
I discovered the Olle Trail by accident because I saw the ribbons first and then looked it up. I had been walking on the trail and I didn’t even know it! That being said, I’ve never consciously tried to finish an entire trail. What I was able to see was absolutely breath-taking and I know that I’ll be including the Olle Trail on all of my future visits to Jeju Island.
You can also take guided tours for around 70USD and 80,000 won. It includes an English-speaking guide, transportation, lunch, and a cultural activity in one of the local villages – this is a great option for families or larger groups! For information about booking, please follow the link below.
Opening Hours: N/A
Parking: Available for specific paths (check official website)
Entrance Fee: N/A
Accessibility: Some paths paved, others mountainous terrain
Website: Click here
I think Hallasan will always be my favorite of the three. It’s so spacious that it’s easy to get lost in the scenery by yourself or with your group. It’s also just this huge, towering force that’s reminiscent of the Pacific Islands (some people say Jeju is the Hawaii of Asia, but I wouldn’t go quite so far). I remember the first time I ever saw it, I had to do a double-take. You can’t see it from all sides of the island, but when you do it’s bigger than you can even imagine. Do you have a favorite hike on Jeju? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!