We arrived back on Jeju with much anticipation, looking forward to completing a full circuit of the island, on foot, by tackling every single Olle Trail. Our seven days on the Olle in 2017 had lingered long in our minds, and we were excited for the journey ahead.
WANT TO CHECK OUT THE OTHER PARTS OF OUR JOURNEY?
What is the Olle Trail?
The Jeju Olle Trail, if you don’t already know, is a 425 km network of trails that circumnavigates the whole of Jeju Island. There are 21 routes (two with differing inland and coastal options) plus five side routes, giving 28 in total. While some people walk a route here or there, an increasing number choose to tackle the Olle Trail as a thru-hike, and over the course of a month, that’s exactly what we planned to do.
Where to start?
As we were flying in and out of Jeju City, it seemed like the natural starting point for us. You can of course begin at Route 1 on the northeast corner of the island, following the trails sequentially. Another option is to start and finish in Seogwipo on the south coast. The Jeju Olle Centre in Seogwipo is now the only place to get a certificate for completing all the trails, so it’s worth considering if you’d like such a memento. It also feels like the true Jeju Olle Trail hub, with the pub, guesthouse, office and three routes starting or finishing there. Planning on going full circle like us? The excellent bus system will get you easily to your starting point of choice.
What to expect in this guide?
In this, the first of our four part Olle Trail guide, you’ll find an account of the six routes going clockwise from 18. We also include times, distances travelled, food, accommodation and camping options, a few thoughts and reflections, and the first of four videos from our hike around Jeju Island. For a fully inclusive Olle Trail camping guide featuring a detailed map, check out this post.
WATCH THE VIDEO
THE JEJU OLLE TRAIL
As we camped more often than not, our days on the Olle Trail didn’t neatly follow the official routes. Having identified a good place to camp, we would often stop before or after the stamp spot that marks the route change. And some trails such as Route 1, when we travelled to Udo in between, were split over a few days. As such our account of the Olle Trail is broken down into our own day by day experience.
If you’re looking for a detailed account of each official route, the Jeju Olle Trail Guidebook is an excellent reference. It’s available for free at Jeju Olle Centres but there aren’t always English copies around. A full PDF of the guidebook is available for download. It can be tricky to view on your phone though so it’s handy to have the actual book. More importantly, don’t forget to pick up your Olle Trail Passport. You can self stamp your progress along the way at the beginning, middle and end of each route, and claim your official certificate when all are completed.
Finding Your Way
Navigating around the Olle Trail isn’t particularly difficult. Wooden arrows on poles or plastic ones on walls lead the way: blue in a clockwise direction, orange for anti-clockwise. Between the arrows you find the frequent red and blue trail ribbons, hanging from tree branches, lampposts or anything else available. One point to note here is that the arrows and trail markers are sometimes easier to spot when travelling in a clockwise direction.
Now while the trail is well marked, a good way to supplement this is by using Korean Map apps. Don’t bother with Google Maps, it’s nowhere near as good. All the Olle Trail routes are marked on both Kakao Maps (iOS/Android) and Naver Maps (iOS/Android). To easily find the route you’re looking for, for example, search for Olle Course 18 on Kakao Maps and Olle 18 on Naver Maps. We recommend trying both apps to see which you prefer. A combination of the two worked well for us.
A Note On Times
The daily times mentioned below are split into total time and walking time. The total time is everything from start to finish with all stops, sometimes including both lunch and dinner. Walking time is the amount of time (roughly) that we spent on the move. As we carry big bags and take a lot of photos and video, this is longer than many would take to walk these routes.