[WEEKEND GETAWAY] Take a winter break on scenic Jeju Island
Jeju Island’s reputation as Korea’s top summer travel destination means the island often gets overlooked in the winter. But there’s plenty of reasons to visit during the off-season when the number of tourists dies down and visitors can get a real glimpse of island life. Here are some of the best activities to try on a winter trip to Jeju Island, as recommended by the Jeju Tourism Organization.
As tangerines are ripe during winter, tangerine farms and cafes are a popular spot for tourists who want to pick their own tangerines to take back home. There are several tourist-friendly tangerine farms located across the island, often offering plenty of unique photo opportunities.
While tangerine picking, you can eat as many tangerines as you like and take the rest back home. Some farms also run exotic cafes with tangerine-flavored desserts that are sweet and tangy.
If you miss tangerine picking season, don’t worry as you can also try other varieties of citrus fruit grown on Jeju Island. Besides tangerines, there are also hallabong, cheonhyehyang, hwanggeumhyang and redhyang, which are all citrus hybrids available for picking from January.
Driving along the coast
During the winter, the fine water spray thrown up as the waves crash against Jeju’s rocky shores looks even more spectacular. The Island’s beaches in the winter possess a charm of their own that can be enjoyed from afar on the coastal roads or up close if you’re willing to brave the cold and take a stroll.
Woljeong-ri Coastal Road connects Gimnyeong and Seongsan Ojo-ri and is also called the “Sunrise Coastal Road” and “Windmill Coastal Road” because of the big wind power generator that you can see while driving along it. Drivers can truly take in some of the island’s key tourist attractions while examining a few quiet fishing villages nearby.
Hagwi Aewol Coastal Road is located merely 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Jeju International Airport and is considered a hidden gem of the island. The rocky cliffs that line the road, which have been weathering strong waves for centuries, provide a dramatic backdrop that is also popular with cyclists and walkers on trails that run alongside the road.
Hiking Mount Halla
A hike up Mount Halla could be the highlight of a winter trip to Jeju. There are a total of five hiking trails, and for beginners, the Yeongsil Trail is the perfect fit. The course stretches for 3.7 kilometers, starting at Yeongsil Rest Area and ending at the Witse Oreum. The duration of the course is relatively short and it only takes up to three hours.
For those who are up to the challenge, Seongpanak Course is recommended. It is a challenging course as it requires hikers to walk around 20 kilometers in total. However, it is the course that most people decide to take as it will take you to the Baengnokdam. If you choose to take this course, you must make a reservation through their official website. If there is too much snow, mountain climbing is prohibited.
Regardless of which course you choose, it is safe and recommended that you bring enough water, snacks and crampons.
Mount Halla National Park
15-1 Topyeong-dong, Seogwipo, Jeju
Opening hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Green tea fields
Green tea fields in Jeju Island are just as green in the middle of the winter. There is nothing like a hot cup of green tea to warm your cold and tired body on a winter trip. At Osulloc Tea Museum in Jeju Island, visitors can examine the exhibitions, take a rest at the tea lounges and even take classes related to tea brewing.
At Seongeup Green Tea Village, located at the eastern foot of Mount Halla, you can enjoy a similar experience to Osulloc Tea Museum, but with less crowds. The village boasts an impressive view of Mount Halla and Yeongju Mountain. The so-called Green Tea Cave located in the middle of the green tea fields is also a famous photo spot. At A Cup of Green Tea Today cafe, you can taste a variety of green tea drinks and green tea flavored desserts. Visitors can also receive a foot bath in green tea for 9,000 won ($6.60) with a prior reservation.
Osulloc Tea Museum
15 Sinhwayeoksa-ro, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo, Jeju
Business hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Phone number: 064) 794-5312
A Cup of Green Tea Today
4772 Jungsangandong-ro, Pyoseon-myeon, Seogwipo, Jeju
Business hours: Café: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (last order at 5:30 p.m.) / Foot bath: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Reservation link: https://naver.me/5RcqYHuL
Phone number: 064) 787-6888
Camellias bring life to Jeju during the cold winter season. In Jeju Island, there are many attractions where you can see camellia flowers, including Wimi Camellia community, Jeju Camellia Arboretum, Camelia Forest and Hueree Nature Life Park. At Wimi Camellia community and Camelia Forest, camellias have already begun to bloom. At Camellia Village located in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, the flowers are expected to bloom around the end of December.
Even though Canopus is one of the brightest stars that shines in the southern hemisphere, it is not easy to spot in Korea. According to old literature, the canopus star is considered to be so auspicious that the king was notified of the area where the star was seen.
It is said that if an individual looks at canopus at least once in their life, they will live a long and healthy life. As the star can only be observed at a lower altitude it is known to be a constellation that can be found only at Seogwipo during winter. In the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, it is written that canopus can be seen at Mount Halla, and that the people of Jeju Island live long lives due to the canopus’ spirit.
While the canopus can only be seen at dawn in November, it can be observed in the evening toward the end of February. If you wish to see the canopus at night, Sammae Peak at Seogwipo is recommended. Sammae Peak has been transformed into a civic park and has been an observatory where people can see the canopus for a long time. But if you wish to see the constellation in warmer conditions, visit Seogwipo Astronomical Science and Culture Center. The center has a variety of facilities that make it perfect to observe the night sky, such as astronomical telescopes.
Seogwipo Astronomical Science and Culture Center
506-1, 1100-ro, Seogwipo, Jeju
Opening hours: 2 p.m. – 10 p.m. (closed every Monday)
Phone number: 064) 739-9701
Yellowtail fish can be found near Mara Island and Gwantal Island, located off the coast of Jeju Island. The winter season is the best time to eat yellowtail as they get fatter, which means you get to enjoy more meat.
At Moseulpo Port, which is one of the yellowtail distribution ports, a yellowtail festival is held every year. This year, this event will be held from Nov. 24 to 26. A yellowtail tasting event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, allowing visitors to taste a variety of yellowtail dishes, such as hoe (raw sliced fish) and twigim (tempura).
Even if you miss the event, a variety of yellowtail dishes can be tasted from November to February.
Near Moseulpo Port, there are a variety of restaurants that serve yellowtail belly, flank, back and tail meat as hoe. The taste and texture of each body part is different, which makes tasting this dish even more interesting. As the yellowtail’s belly meat is greasy, it is usually eaten with gim (laver) or baekkimchi (cabbage kimchi without red pepper). The flank of the fish can be eaten after dipping it in gireumjang (oil sauce).
BY LEE JUNG-JOO, BAEK JONG-HYUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]