We’re all still excited and rooting for Team U.S.A. as they strive for gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics. And for those visiting Pyeongchang, South Korea, not only will they enjoy the region’s contagious excitement, but also they will experience an immersive cultural experience. If you happen to be one of the lucky visitors, why not extend your vacation to include Jeju Island – just an hour flight south of Pyeongchang. Vacation reveals why the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula attracts thousands of vacationers and honeymooners every year.
What makes this island so special?
Think of this island as a tear-shaped tropical paradise, dropped off the end of South Korea and sitting off the peninsula’s coast between Korea, Japan and China. An intriguing volcanic island, Jeju boasts several UNESCO-rated geological sites, white sand beaches lined with resorts (like the Hanwha Therapy Resort), and it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Domestic travelers make up more than 70 percent of the visitors here, making it the perfect secret getaway for newlyweds who want to experience something different.
I’ve heard it described as the ‘Hawaii of Asia’. Is this true?
It certainly is. Jeju is emerald green with swaying palm trees, cactus plants and orange orchards together with thundering waterfalls, lush-rolling fields and popular stretches of beaches for swimming and surfing, such as Jungmun, Gwakji, Hamdoek and Shinyang beaches. Every year it attracts more than 10 million people, flocking here for the island’s warm weather and dramatic volcanic scenery, plus its laid-back vibe, which isn’t always easy to find in the Far East.
What else should I know about Jeju Island?
Jeju is sometimes referred to as ‘Samdado Island’, meaning ‘three of many’. The three things Jeju has in abundance are rocks, wind and women. The rocks are from the island’s past volcanic activity and the wind is from the year-round ocean breeze. Many fishermen were lost at sea, which may explain the large female population. And these women have kept fishing traditions alive – once Jeju’s main source of income. This is home to haenyo divers, elderly women who dive in the ocean for abalone, sea urchin octopus and seaweed. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to sample dishes prepared with their fresh catch at local restaurants and small eateries.
What are some things to do and see?
This island encompasses the good life and popular past-times include fishing, walking, hanging out on the beach, surfing and horseback riding. Quirky is also in the cards with a smorgasbord of odd museums and theme parks dedicated to esoteric subjects like teddy bears, female divers, sex and butterflies. And you can’t miss the island's curious volcanic creations and lava caves such as the Manjanggul Cave, an epic, 8-mile-long lava tube formed in the path of a molten river. So, don’t forget to add the world’s longest lava tube to the top of your things to see!
How is the local fauna for wildlife aficionados?
In one word – amazing. Jeju is home to a cornucopia of strange creatures, including sea urchins, the narrow mouth frog, the black-headed snake and the Jeju weasel. What’s more, it is considered a fantastic place for bird watching because of the flock of migratory bird species in the area, including coots, egrets, cormorants, herons and spoonbills. And don’t forget to take a leisurely hike among the springtime azaleas on Hallasan – South Korea’s tallest mountain – to see woodpeckers, chipmunks, butterflies and beetles. It’s a nature lover’s paradise!
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