• JEJU OLLE TRAIL PART IV

    Routes 13 to 18-1

  • JEJU OLLE TRAIL PART IV

    Routes 13 to 18-1

JEJU OLLE TRAIL PART IV

Routes 13 to 18-1

Jeju Island has many faces, and walking the Olle Trail reveals them in ways that nothing else quite can. As such, these routes offer different perspectives on Jeju and show sides to the island that are unique to this area. Heading up the west to Jeju City, this section is often focused on inland life, but it also has beaches and coastline to rival any other part of the Olle Trail. Then of course there’s Chuja-do, Route 18-1, a place like no other on the Olle Trail.

For us, our own Olle Trail journey had reached its final stage, and with just one more week to go, we could see the end in sight. But there was however, still so much to experience. Although tired from three weeks on the trail, we were still just as excited for what was to come next. Our love affair with the Olle wasn’t done yet.

CATCH UP WITH OUR OLLE TRAIL 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 fourth part of our Olle Trail guide, you’ll find an account of the six routes going clockwise from Route 13, plus Route 18-1 on Chuja-do. We also include times, distances travelled, food and accommodation options, a few thoughts and reflections, and the final video from our hike around Jeju Island.

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. 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.

Read through our account day by day, or jump to a particular section by clicking on the links below

OLLE TRAIL DAY 20: ROUTE 13
~
YONGSU JUNCTION – JEOJI OREUM

DISTANCE

12.4 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

7 hours (total)

4 hours 20 minutes (walking)

CAMP SPOT

Viewing platform
on top of Jeoji Oreum


Olle Route 13 is a green and pleasant one. It takes you inland through farms and forests, and offers insights into the quirky Korean character with street art and a ‘chair park’ in Nakcheon-ri. But the highlight of the whole route, and indeed one of our Jeju Island highlights, is Jeoji Oreum. Coming near the end of Route 13, this is an oreum like no other.

Our day began with a half hour bus journey from Moseulpo, where we’d been staying for the past two nights. Getting off at Yongsu Crossroad, we joined Route 13 where we’d left it, at the end of our long walk the day before. It was nearly eleven o’clock – not exactly an early start. That’s the trouble, for us at least, of staying indoors rather than out, and of having to get back to the trail by bus.

After an easy kilometre on narrow farm roads, we reached Yongsu Reservoir. Built in 1957 to provide water for the area’s rice paddies, it has since become a rich wetland ecosystem. The reservoir is home to migratory birds, insects, fish and a whole host of water and marsh plants. It’s also a popular spot for fishing.

A sleeping fisherman in a chair with an array of six rods on the grassy bank of Yongsu Reservoir on Jeju Island

A fisherman with an array of six rods, fast asleep on the edge of Yongsu Reservoir



A sleeping fisherman in a chair with an array of six rods on the grassy bank of Yongsu Reservoir on Jeju Island

A fisherman with an array of six rods,
fast asleep on the edge of Yongsu Reservoir



We took the opportunity to shoot the opening for our fourth and final Olle video, before continuing round the edge of the water and following the trail through nearby farmland. Here we met an extra large group of mostly middle-aged Korean walkers coming the other way, decked head to toe in the familiar neon hiking gear. They appeared to be on a company day out, and just when we thought they were past, another batch would appear, smiling and greeting us with an enthusiastic annyeong haseyo.

Before long we were turning off the road and into the forest. This section of the trail was restored by the Korean Special Forces. Continuing for a couple of kilometres, the forest path winds narrowly through beautiful old trees and over jumbled rocks, making you feel like you’re a world away from the nearby farmland.

Leaving the forest, the trail markers lead you down tree lined roads and into Nakcheon-ri (remember, ‘ri’ means village). The village is known, among other things, as the first place on Jeju to have had a blacksmith’s shop. Holes dug to scrape clay were turned into wells, today used for freshwater fishing and as a source of water for farming.

A greenhouse and green field inland on Jeju Island

A classic Jeju farming scene: green fields and greenhouses



A greenhouse and green field inland on Jeju Island

A classic Jeju farming scene:
green fields and greenhouses



Rich farmland can be seen all around as you approach, but on entering the village streets, what struck us was the interesting artwork adorning the walls. Much of it was in the form of carved designs, looking a lot like sgraffito.

Artwork carved into the walls on the streets of Nakcheon Village on Olle Trail Route 13

Artwork carved into the walls on the streets of Nakcheon Village on Olle Trail Route 13



Artwork carved into the walls on the streets of Nakcheon Village on Olle Trail Route 13

Artwork carved into the walls on the streets
of Nakcheon Village on Olle Trail Route 13



Hungry, we were drawn towards a small old house in the centre of the village with a 순두부 (sun-du-bu) sign and a handsome dog at the door. Welcomed in, we enjoyed a delicious bowl of sundubu jjigae (spicy tofu stew) in the garden. The stew was served with rice and as usual, plenty of sides, and after a chat with the charming owner, we headed back out on the trail well satisfied.

Before leaving the village, the route takes you through Nakcheon Chair Park where the mid stamp spot is located. The park features various art installations built by residents, most of which are formed using chairs. This kind of local art is a thing you encounter all over Jeju and Korea, and while it undoubtedly adds colour to a place, we found the chair park to be a bit naff.

Continuing from Nakcheon the path is bordered by thick stone walls, with trees and fields of barley lying on either side.

A person with a big backpack walking the forested stonewall paths outside of Nahcheon on Jeju Olle Trail Route 13

Blue and red Olle Trail markers showing the way along the stonewall path outside of Nakcheon-ri



A person with a big backpack walking the forested stonewall paths outside of Nahcheon on Jeju Olle Trail Route 13

Blue and red Olle Trail markers showing the way
along the stonewall path outside of Nakcheon-ri



Giving way to more narrow farm roads, the trail then leads up a constant incline, becoming more steep and less gradual the closer you get to Jeoji Oreum. This, coupled with the hard paved roads, makes for an energy sapping part of the journey. By the time we’d walked the 4 km from the village, we were both feeling a little weary, especially after the previous day’s exertions. Such feelings were soon dispelled though, as we entered the seductive forested slopes of Jeoji Oreum.

After a short initial climb, we reached a broad path running around the base of the oreum. We had a quick rest on one of the welcome benches and admired the light filtering through the tall trees, before climbing the picturesque stone steps to the top. The mood of this forest felt quite different to others we’d experienced on the island, and a feeling of calm peacefulness pervaded.

Reaching the top of the steps, the trail circles round a wide crater, although as yet, not much is revealed through the dense forest. It’s about 700 m before you get to the viewing platform, and we enjoyed the gently rolling path after all the climbing, excited to see the crater and the views.

At the platform, we weren’t disappointed. Climbing the wooden steps to the top, a 360° panorama of land and sea was spread out before us. Hallasan was lost in the cloud, but Sanbangsan and Sagye Beach were glinting in the magic hour glow.

Sanbangsan and Sagye shining in the late sun on the south coast of jeju Island

It was cloudy inland but the afternoon sun was shining on Jeju’s southwest coast



Sanbangsan and Sagye shining in the late sun on the south coast of jeju Island

It was cloudy inland but the afternoon
sun was shining on Jeju’s southwest coast



A wooden staircase leads down into the crater itself. Keen to see it, we dumped our bags and headed down. The steps lead to a small wooden viewing platform; deep within the crater, you feel completely immersed in your surroundings. The dense vegetation, with more than 200 species of tree, is a haven for bird life; their calls provided a peaceful soundtrack, reminding us of Tawi Atair Sinkhole in Oman.

A person walks down the wooden steps into the forested Jeoji Oreum Crater on Olle Trail Route 13

Heading down into the amazing surroundings of Jeoji Oreum’s crater



A person walks down the wooden steps into the forested Jeoji Oreum Crater on Olle Trail Route 13

Heading down into the amazing
surroundings of Jeoji Oreum’s crater



Back on the crater rim, we continued the debate we’d been having all day: where to camp? We’d been contemplating staying on Jeoji Oreum but were short on supplies – there are no convenience stores between the start and end of Route 13 and we’d chosen not to pack extra food that morning. In the end, after a quick inventory, we decided there was enough snacks and water to keep us going till the morning, and felt that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to camp in such an incredible spot. It was the right decision.

Pitching up on top of the viewing platform itself, we settled in to appreciate a succession of stunning scenes. We gazed back towards the east coast, standing spellbound as the setting sun shimmered on the water, guarded by a long line of wind turbines. As darkness fell, the bright lights of fishing boats illuminated the horizon out to sea.

Beautiful colours as the sun sets behind
wind turbines on the west coast of Jeju



Setting our alarm for a quarter to five, we went to sleep with fingers and toes firmly crossed, hoping for a magical sunrise.

ROUTE 13 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

 Nakcheon-ri
Sundubu Jjigae
(spicy tofu stew)
at 연두 (Yeondu)

CAMP SPOT

Jeoji Oreum

(33.3340, 126.2511)

ACCOMMODATION

Near End Stamp in Jeoji-ri

 Jeju Oreum Pension
Eco Green Pension


FIND ROUTE 13 ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

OLLE TRAIL DAY 21: ROUTE 14-1 & 14 (to Geumneung)
~
JEOJI OREUM – GEUMNEUNG

DISTANCE

27 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

12 hours (total)

8 hours 40 minutes (walking)

CAMP SPOT

Geumneung Beach Campsite


This was a day when we straddled three routes; the furthest we walked in any one single day on the Olle Trail. Not that we knew that when we woke up. Our plan formed, shifted and reformed throughout that day, adapting to what we found along the way. When we finally decided to push on to the coast, we were safe in the knowledge of what awaited us there.

When we clambered out the tent before five it was still cloudy, and a thick mist hugged the ground. But we weren’t to be disappointed: soon Hallasan and the surrounding landscape came into view, and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise.

The sunrise we were hoping for on Jeoji Oreum



By six o’ clock we started to get company, the occasional local man appearing, grunting and performing early morning exercise routines. By eight we’d got the shots we wanted and were packed up and on the trail, with still around two kilometres of Route 13 to go. It was a beautiful morning as we made our way back down through the forested slopes of Jeoji Oreum, passing a few walkers and excitedly spotting three deer as they leaped through the trees.

A tent sits on top of the wooden viewing platform on Jeoji Oreum, one of the best places to stay when camping the Jeju Olle Trail

Enjoying the morning views from our camp spot on top of Jeoji Oreum



A tent sits on top of the wooden viewing platform on Jeoji Oreum, one of the best places to stay when camping the Jeju Olle Trail

Enjoying the morning views from
our camp spot on top of Jeoji Oreum



Reaching the main street of Jeoji-ri, we made a beeline for the GS25. Eating an extra big breakfast at the picnic benches outside, we filled up on tofu and rice parcels, yogurt, bananas, coffee and energy bars. We even got the solar panel out for some quick charging.

Energised, we walked down the road to the stamp spot, ready to start Route 14-1. This was a route that we’d heard much about. It’s famed for its exceptional Gotjawal (Jeju dialect for dense forest of trees and vines) and is regarded by many as a favourite. With that in mind we set off in anticipation of the day ahead.

The familiar blue wooden arrow pointing the way to Olle Trail Route 14-1

The trusty Olle Trail arrows pointing the way



The familiar blue wooden arrow pointing the way to Olle Trail Route 14-1

The trusty Olle Trail arrows pointing the way



The route begins on narrow tree-lined roads, winding past houses and farms, climbing gradually. After a few kilometres, the small cultivated fields and greenhouses give way to the trees, but it’s still quite open: a paved single track road leads gently upwards, passing the odd horse grazing here or there. After 5 km the landscape opens up again and the trail brings you out next to a horse ranch at the bottom of Mundoji Oreum. We stopped here for a good ten minutes or so, entertained by the antics of the curious horses.

On the short climb to the top of the oreum we passed a group of expat trail runners out for a Sunday run, and at the top, a group of brightly bedecked Korean mountain bikers – a popular route indeed. Although not particularly high, Mundoji Oreum’s relative height offered great views around the surrounding countryside.

A horse grazing on Mundoji Oreum on Route 14-1 of the Jeju Olle Trail

A horse grazing on top of Mundoji Oreum on a hazy Sunday morning



A horse grazing on Mundoji Oreum on Route 14-1 of the Jeju Olle Trail

A horse grazing on top of Mundoji
Oreum on a hazy Sunday morning



Descending the attractively forested slope, we got our mid stamp and continued along another paved road with trees rising either side. We began to wonder if the real Gotjawal would ever start and if this was as good as it was going to get, but with around 2.5 km of the route left, we finally reached it. 

Up past the waiting Olle Trail sign, we entered the narrow woodland trail. As with previous Gotjawal experiences, it got more impressive the further we walked, the deeper we went. Moss covered stones lined the way, sprawling vines crawled up trees, and a beautiful variety of lush vegetation kept us intrigued as we negotiated the forest path. A dark mysteriousness hung in the heavy air, the rich complexity of life leaving us spellbound.

Vines and moss growing in the Gotjawal dense forest on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14-1

The moss covered wood deep in the Gotjawal on Olle Route 14-1



A person with a backpack walking through the Gotjawal dense forest on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14-1

Winding through the quiet forest path



Vines and moss growing in the Gotjawal dense forest on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14-1

Mossy wood in the Gotjawal on Olle Route 14-1


A person with a backpack walking through the Gotjawal dense forest on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14-1

Winding through the quiet forest path



With progress slow and much to hold our interest, it felt like more than just a couple of kilometres. But as the path widened, we started to hear loud music pumping from beyond the trees. Our initial view of the O’Sulloc Green Tea Fields through the trail opening was a wondrous one, but stepping out into the open, the reality was quite different. Making our way through the tea fields, we had that jarring effect of leaving somewhere quiet and peaceful and arriving in a major tourist hotspot. Girls in flowing dresses with selfie sticks and a car park full of coaches told us everything we needed to know.

Skipping the overflowing green tea cafe, we headed straight for Innisfree instead, looking forward to the organic food we’d heard so much about. Our luck was out however – the place was under renovation and closed for the next few months. Deciding not to hang around, we jumped on the next bus and made the 5 km journey back to Jeoji-ri.

O'Sulloc Green Tea Fields stretching into the distance

A moment of quiet at the O’sulloc Green Tea Fields at the end of Olle Trail Route 14-1



O'Sulloc Green Tea Fields stretching into the distance

A moment of quiet at the O’sulloc Green
Tea Fields at the end of Olle Trail Route 14-1



After a few failed attempts to find an open restaurant, we settled on a hefty bulgogi set meal at a traditional Korean restaurant on the main street. We scanned satellite view for potential camping spots over lunch, but with a lack of good options, by the time we were sitting back outside the GS25 downing cans of cold coffee, the decision had been made to continue all the way to Geumneung. That left us with 14 km still to walk – no easy task – but we realised that if we made it, we could afford to have a rest day and spend two nights at the beachside campsite there. 

It was after three by the time we left Jeoji-ri, arms swinging and legs pumping like absolute troopers. After hearing reports of the first half of Route 14 as ‘ugly’ and ‘one to skip’, we didn’t have high hopes for it. But actually, the journey back to the coast was a pleasant one for the most part. The green and varied landscape was full of interesting fields and small attractive wooded sections, the trail leading us along a succession of farm roads and narrow stony paths.

A little over half way to the coast, the trail meets and starts to follow a dry, concrete sided riverbed – Mumyeong-cheon. Outside of periods of heavy rain, this stream is pretty much always dry. Following the trail markers, we crisscrossed the stream at various points, sometimes out in the open, sometimes along tree-lined paths, and gradually, small cactus fields started to appear. By the time we got our first glimpse of the sparkling sea, we were surrounded by the sprawling cactus plantation of Wolryeong-ri. With purple fruits known as ‘prickly pear’ and bold yellow flowers, these cacti are known for their health benefits: the fruit and stem are used to make cactus extract, honey and powder.

A hiker with a backpack walking through a tangled wooded path on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

Negotiating a tangled wooded section



Close up of yellow flowers on cactus in the plantation at Wolryeong-ri on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

The distinctive yellow flowers on cacti at Wolryeong-ri



Close up of yellow flowers on cactus in the plantation at Wolryeong-ri on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

Yellow flowers on cacti at Wolryeong-ri


A hiker with a backpack walking through a tangled wooded path on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

Negotiating a tangled wooded section



Welcomed by a flat grassy park, with stone benches overlooking wind turbines and volcanic black rocks, we were delighted to be back at the coast. Taking our bags off to rest our weary legs and chomp down on Dr Yoo protein bars, Kim realised she’d captured this very spot from the airplane window as we’d flown in almost a month ago.

No longer inland, it felt like we were almost done – but we still had 4 km left to go. Heaving our bags back onto aching shoulders, it was around six by the time we set off along the coastal boardwalk, skirting around Wolryeong-ri. As much as we wanted to be done, we stopped often to admire the wild cacti clinging to the rocky shore – a truly magical sight. These cacti originate from Mexico, and this habitat is thought to have come about due to life carried on the Kuroshio Current of the North Pacific.

Cacti clinging to the coast beneath a giant wind turbine at Wolryeong-ri on Jeju

Wild cacti clinging to the coast at Wolryeong on Olle Route 14



Cacti clinging to the coast beneath a giant wind turbine at Wolryeong-ri on Jeju

Wild cacti clinging to the rocky coast
at Wolryeong-ri on Olle Route 14



Continuing to wind our way round the coast to Geumneung, we stopped again and again to appreciate the views, bathed in magic hour’s golden glow.

Fishermen and wind turbines on the coast



When we reached Geumneung Village, we knew we were close. We’d reached this point in 2017 coming the other way, before stopping and turning around in the face of a wild storm. Even in those challenging conditions the place had made an impression, and it made an even greater one now in the soft evening light – an attractive mix of traditional brightly roofed houses and stylish modern buildings.

As we followed the path round to the beach, the tide was receding, revealing the sprawling white sand and snaking fingers of seaweed draped black rock. The place was alive with a nice buzz, kids playing at the water’s edge and people enjoying the last of the day’s light. We dumped our bags just in time to watch a beautiful sunset, and gratefully received a couple of healthy sized slices of watermelon from a nearby family. A feeling of deep fatigue was coupled with a sense of quiet elation, and we were already looking forward to our rest day at the beach.

A family playing at sunset in the shallow water at Geumneung Beach on Jeju

A family enjoying sunset at low tide on Geumneung Beach



A family playing at sunset in the shallow water at Geumneung Beach on Jeju

A family playing in the water at low tide
as the sun sets on Geumneung Beach



As the last of the day trippers packed up and headed home, we set up camp alongside a few others on the grass behind the beach. Wandering along the lamplit path to the adjoining Hyeopjae Beach, we got stuck into some kimchi jjigae, sitting outside at a local restaurant. Eating dinner and drinking makgeolli, the exertion of the day hit us like a hammer. With eyelids feeling like they had weights attached, we shuffled back to our tent, crashed out, and dove headlong into a deep and satisfying sleep.

ROUTE 14 & 14-1 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

Cafes & restaurants in Jeoji-ri at 14/14-1 start point

Innisfree Jeju House (end of 14-1)

Geumneung area (mid-way Route 14)
Geumneung Sand
 Donato’s
닻별 cafe
 금능반지하 cafe

Hallim Kalguksu
(just before end route 14, a must!)

CAMP SPOT

Geumneung Beach
(
33.3911, 126.2360)
One of our very favourites!


FIND ROUTE 14 & 14-1 ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

SEE MORE FROM JEJU

A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
The Best Beaches On Jeju Island
Diving Jeju Island South Korea
A Week On The Olle: Jeju Olle Video
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak

OLLE TRAIL DAY 22: ROUTES 14 & 15
~
GEUMNEUNG – GWAKJI

DISTANCE

13.7 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

8 hours (total)

4 hours 40 minutes (walking)

CAMP SPOT

Gwakji Beach


After enjoying a beautifully sunny day of rest at Geumneung, filled with coffee, ice cream and good food, we looked forward to getting underway once more. The plan was to complete the last 5 km of Route 14 (a stretch we’d done in reverse in 2017), before starting on Route 15 for the first time. As there’s a choice of trails on Route 15, a decision needed to be made – the flatter coastal 15-B or the more hilly inland 15-A. Well, we love being on the coast and weren’t in the mood for undue hills, so 15-B it was.

We woke at first light, just after five. It was a cloudy but peaceful morning; we took our time eating breakfast, watching as the tide came in. Getting up so early you think you have all the time in the world, but time passed quickly as usual: Kim filled a bag of rubbish from the beach, I got the bags packed, and we made sure to get all the shots we wanted. It was nearly ten when we finally headed off, saying goodbye to one of our favourite beaches on Jeju.

Conditions were blustery as we made our way along the path to Hyeopjae, where the popular white sand beach was already starting to get busy with tourists snapping pictures. Following the trail markers, we skirted the black rocks around the beach, admiring the soft and subtle tones of the turquoise water under an overcast sky.

The white sand, black rock and turquoise water of Hyeopjae Beach on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

The white sand and turquoise water of Hyeopjae Beach, great in any weather



The white sand, black rock and turquoise water of Hyeopjae Beach on Jeju Olle Trail Route 14

The white sand and turquoise water of
Hyeopjae Beach, great in any weather



From the beach, the trail meanders through village streets lined with volcanic rock walls and traditional houses, before joining the main road. After taking a detour to the post office to send Kim’s dad a birthday postcard, we continued on our way.

It wasn’t long before we were stopping again. The road curves alongside the sea, and eagle-eyed Kim spotted the telltale orange buoys in the water – haenyeo. We hadn’t seen much of Jeju’s women free divers in recent days, and not wishing to pass up the opportunity, we clambered down over the rocks to get a closer look. There was a big group, and as always, we enjoyed watching them at work. When we were finally ready to move on, we only made it another 100 m down the road to the waiting GS25, hungry and in need of a caffeine boost. It was one of those days: stop, start… stop, start… stop, start…

Haenyeo women free divers Haenyeo climbing from the water near Hallim on Jeju

Watching the haenyeo come ashore with their catch near Hallim on Olle Trail Route 14



Haenyeo women free divers Haenyeo climbing from the water near Hallim on Jeju

Watching the haenyeo come ashore with
their catch near Hallim on Olle Trail Route 14



Winding our way through the narrow lanes at Ongpo Port, we were stopped in our tracks time and again: by old boats in the harbour, an army of gloves drying on the ground, picturesque doorways and a couple of men skillfully spray painting a roof. As we made our way along the colourful causeway to Hallim, the brightening sky at the coast was in stark contrast to the deep shade of purple grey building inland.

Colourful mural wall near Hallim on Jeju

This colourful mural wall stretches a couple of hundred metres along the causeway



Colourful mural wall near Hallim on Jeju

This colourful mural wall stretches a couple
of hundred metres along the causeway



Finally, we made it into Hallim around one. The Hallim Kalguksu restaurant caught our eye and we ventured in to a small but packed place. After putting in our order, we were directed out the back to find a sizeable group of people waiting. Clearly the place had a reputation – it must be good we thought. Well, we weren’t wrong. It was absolutely worth the wait. One of the richest, most delicious bowls of noodle soup we’ve ever had.

A large stainless steel bowl of chicken handcut noodles at the famous Hallim Kalguksu in Hallim, Jeju

We simply can’t speak highly enough of the noodles at Hallim Kalguksu



A large stainless steel bowl of chicken handcut noodles at the famous Hallim Kalguksu in Hallim, Jeju

We simply can’t speak highly enough
of the noodles at Hallim Kalguksu



The whole lunch process had taken about an hour, so by the time we made it round to Hallim Port and the stamp spot, the afternoon was getting on. But with our intention to camp at Gwakji Beach, we only had another 8 km to go, most of it flat along coastal roads and trails.

Olle Trail Route 15 begins by curving round the coast, the island of Biyang-do a constant presence in the sparkling blue sea to the left. The trail then winds inland through the charming, colourfully roofed houses of Suwon-ri, before splitting into 15-A and 15-B. Turning left we joined 15-B, following an arrow straight farm road through a patchwork of fields, back towards the coast. By now the threatening clouds had disappeared, and the bright afternoon sun shone high in the sky.

Farm workers resting in the fields on Jeju Olle Trail Route 15-B

Cutting through the fields on the way back to the coast



Farm workers resting in the fields on Jeju Olle Trail Route 15-B

Cutting through the fields on Olle Route 15-B



From here on, we settled into an easy pace and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the walk to Gwakji, the sea to our left and a succession of small villages to our right. We admired the interesting mix of traditional old houses, some renovated and turned into cafes or attractive looking accommodation.

Not feeling any pressure to move quickly, we decided to stop for a coffee break, succumbing to the charms of Cafe Maggie. Tucked into a bend of the road right on the coast, this converted old house was a pleasure to spend a little time in. The owners had been there for five years, but the house itself was over ninety years old and bursting with character, the many open windows giving the place a light and airy feel. We sat at the front, looking out to sea and feeling the breeze as we sipped iced coffee and devoured delicious chocolate cake.

True to form, no sooner had we started than we were stopping again – the trail led under a big outdoor shelter, where a group of haenyeo sat scraping out the meat from the sea urchin they’d caught that day. As always, they took our interest in good humour and were happy for us to take pictures. It was our second haenyeo experience of the day and we were delighted to be able to capture it.  Continuing round the corner we realised that it was part of a larger complex – turns out it was the first haenyeo school on Jeju, run by women from the local village.

A haenyeo scooping out sea urchin meat outside their changing rooms

The work continues:  a haenyeo scraping out sea urchin meat



A haenyeo scooping out sea urchin meat outside their changing rooms

The work continues on land: a haenyeo
scraping out the meat from a sea urchin



With 4 km still to go we pushed on. A series of attractive coastal sections and charming villages brought us close to Gwakji Beach. Stopping for a few minutes, we admired the long wall of colourful dol harubang (stone grandfathers) and laughed hard at the sight of a swanky looking cafe called ‘Romantic Hardboiled’. 

Just around one more corner and the beach was in sight. After making our way down through the various bars, cafes and restaurants, and picking out a potential place for dinner, we grabbed some beers and headed eagerly for the beach. A wide, flat expanse of white sand greeted us, sloping gently down to the shore. Behind, an extensive grassy/sandy area was perfect for camping. We chose a spot then hit the beach, happily getting stuck into our sundowners with sand between bare toes and a beautiful sunset for company.

Three people stand together on Gwakji Beach as the sun nears the horizon out at sea

A calm and beautiful sunset on Gwakji Beach



Three people stand together on Gwakji Beach as the sun nears the horizon out at sea

A calm and beautiful sunset on Gwakji Beach



As the sun hit the horizon we got the tent up, shoved in our gear and went for dinner. The Japanese place we’d spotted before turned out to be a good choice – top quality food and friendly service, although admittedly a little expensive. Wandering back to the tent in the warm evening air, we went to bed well satisfied after another fine day on the trail.

ROUTE 14 & 15 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

Hallim Kalguksu
(just before end route 14, a must!)

Cafe Maggie
(33.4409, 126.2773)

심바카레 Simba Curry
(just before Gwakji Beach)

CAMP SPOT

Gwakji Beach
(
33.4509, 126.3060)

ACCOMMODATION

Gwakji Area
Jeju Marevo Beach Hotel
(Dorms Available)

Gonae Area (Route 15 End)
Sea and Bike
(Dorms Available)
Sea Stay Hotel


FIND ROUTE 14 & 15 ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

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OLLE TRAIL DAY 23: ROUTE 15 & 16
~
GWAKJI – HANGPADURI

DISTANCE

18.2 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

9 hours 30 minutes (total)

6 hours (walking)

CAMP SPOT

Wooden pagoda

(near Hangpaduri Historical Site)


Our penultimate day walking on the mainland turned out to be quite a long one. There was much still to capture our attention on coastal Route 15-B, and the long gradual climb inland on Route 16 was an energy sapping one. But by the end of the day, we were set up and enjoying wonderful views from one of our favourite camp spots on the Olle Trail

Awaking to a beautiful morning, we went for an early morning dunk in the sea before freshening up at the traditional spring water baths, housed in an open air stone enclosure.  Sitting on the stone steps behind the beach, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and admired the perfect trio of horizontal bands: sand, sea and sky.

  • A woman holds her child in front of the blue sea and sky on the white sand of Gwakji Beach on Jeju Island in Korea
  • A woman holds her child in front of the blue sea and sky on the white sand of Gwakji Beach on Jeju Island in Korea

Sand, sea and sky on Gwakji Beach



Packed up and underway by ten – as the busloads of tourists started to stream in – we were hoping to quickly put some distance behind us. It was however, to once again be one of those days. In the next hour and a half, we didn’t get far – less than a kilometre in fact. And who could blame us; put simply, the Handam Coastal Walkway just beyond Gwakji was breathtaking. Wondrously shaped black volcanic rock, shining white sand, multiple shades of sparkling blue water – it was a marvel, and one we just had to take our time over. Towards the end, the walkway curved round an open bay, where people paddled in glass bottom kayaks while a couple of haenyeo continued their centuries old practice.

A spectacular curved black rock bay with crystal clear turquoise water and bright blue sky

It was scenes like this that kept us from making too much progress along the Handam Coastal Walkway



A spectacular curved black rock bay with crystal clear turquoise water and bright blue sky

Scenes like this that kept us from making too much
progress along the Handam Coastal Walkway



Following the trail round the rocky coast, modern Jeju continued to reveal itself. The first few quirky cafes gave way to huge glass and concrete constructions, places such as the Hi-class Jeju Resort where immaculately dressed young Koreans lounged and posed for their Instagram shots. But before we knew it we were right back in traditional Korea again, winding our way inland through vegetable patches and ageing machinery on the outskirts of Aewol.

The scenery quickly became industrial as we skirted the port and negotiated our way past road construction. A couple of restaurants looked promising for lunch but we were conscious of time. With this stretch of the route increasingly less attractive, we picked up the pace and aimed for the end stamp spot at Gonae, pausing only to admire the geometrically organised women harvesting plants in a field.

Women in a row picking fields of green plants and filling sacks near Gonae on Jeju Olle Trail Route 15-B

These good natured ladies put a smile on our faces when we needed it



Women in a row picking fields of green plants and filling sacks near Gonae on Jeju Olle Trail Route 15-B

These good natured ladies put a smile
on our faces when we needed it



We couldn’t find anywhere in Gonae that suited us for lunch – places either closed, too expensive or extremely limited – so we filled up on snacks from the CU instead. Rested and refuelled, we got our passport stamped and started on Olle Route 16.

From Gonae, it’s about 5 km along the coast to Gueom, where the trail heads inland. This coastal stretch is a bit of a mix, some of it along the road, other parts through pine forest sections on sandy cliffs, or along the rocky shore past various small ports and fishing villages. It’s a popular coastal road to drive for Korean tourists, evidenced in the hotels, restaurants, convenience stores and coffee shops – we saw two or three Starbucks alone. Cycling on those foldaway rental bikes seemed to be a thing too; we spotted more than one identically dressed young couple pedalling up and down the undulating road.

We stopped to observe the old salt flats outside Gueom, a wide, flat area of rocky shore where villagers used to enclose and evaporate sea water. The salt from here was prized for thicker grains and better colour, and was produced up until the 1950s.

Flat areas on the rocky shore at Gueom on Jeju Island where people used to harvest salt

The rocky shore at Gueom where villagers used to collect highly prized salt



Flat areas on the rocky shore at Gueom on Jeju Island where people used to harvest salt

The rocky shore at Gueom where villagers
used to collect highly prized salt



Continuing into the village, we made a beeline for a donkass (cutlet) restaurant that we’d scouted on Kakao Maps. At 4 o’clock it was closer to dinner than lunch, but it was a big feed that would see us through to breakfast the next day, barring a snack or two.

Fed, watered and stocked up from the local convenience stores, we turned inland, heading through farmland towards Susan-bong. The climb up the forested oreum wasn’t too tough, most of the trail on wooden boardwalk or steps. It’s a pleasant environment but sadly no views.

Down the hill and back in the open, the markers lead around the reservoir and through Susan-ri. What followed was perhaps the most interesting part of Route 16 so far. Wandering through a nice mix of traditional houses and modern homes, a smiling family offered us corn as they sat sorting vegetables in their garden. Still stuffed from our late lunch, we politely declined, voicing our appreciation and gesturing at our full bellies.

A person walks on a curved road through small farms and plantations inland on Jeju Olle Trail Route 16

The road winds on: making our way inland on Olle Route 16



A person walks on a curved road through small farms and plantations inland on Jeju Olle Trail Route 16

The road winds on: making our
way inland on Olle Trail Route 16



A wide variety of crops were growing in the small fields we passed, everything from green chillies to barley, with the odd orange grove here and there. A quiet peacefulness filled the warm air, with intriguing irrigation systems adding to the ambient soundtrack. That ambience was however, punctuated in short, regular intervals. The higher we climbed, the more noticeable the planes passing low overhead – approximately every 2 minutes on the busy flight path from Seoul to Jeju.

As the sun went down behind the hills, we crossed the main road and dived into a short forest section. After climbing through the woodland trail, we came out into the open, passed through some hillside strawberry fields, and made our way up a long set of wooden steps. At the top of the slope, tucked in amongst the trees, we followed the curved path round towards a large resting pagoda. What a vantage point! Looking back all the way to the coast, we could see everywhere we’d been for the last few hours.

A person standing in a resting pagoda looking out over farmland down towards the coast on Jeju

Looking out from our last camp spot on the Olle Trail



A person standing in a resting pagoda looking out over farmland down towards the coast on Jeju

Looking out from our last camp spot on the Olle



We got the tent up just as the light was failing. There was no need to make dinner, and nowhere to buy any if we’d wanted, so we opened up the makgeolli and crisps, carried from Gueom-ri, and settled in to appreciate the view from our final camp on the Olle Trail. As darkness fell, the lights of the fishing boats at sea appeared like scattered lampposts, their shimmering lights reflecting on the dark surface of the water.

  • Squid boats lit up at night near the shore on northwest Jeju
  • Squid boats lit up at night near the shore on northwest Jeju

Squid boats lit up at night



Planes continued to fly by every few minutes, gradually tailing off as the night wore on. Savouring the secluded spot, we talked over the day and the days before that, looking forward to completing our circle in Jeju City, but already starting to feel nostalgic for what had been a very special journey.

ROUTE 16 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

Various cafes & restaurants at Gonae
(start of route 16)

And Gueom
(route 16, before turning inland)

We ate crispy pork cutlet at Basak
(33.4837, 126.3783)

CAMP SPOT

Pine forest
(
33.4731, 126.3470)

Wooden pagoda near Hangpaduri
(
33.4538, 126.4073)

ACCOMMODATION

Near End Stamp 16 (Gwangnyeong)
Harry and Sodam Pension
Jeju Nine Resort


FIND ROUTE 16 ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

THINKING ABOUT CAMPING ON THE OLLE TRAIL?


OLLE TRAIL DAY 24: ROUTE 16 (finish) & ROUTE 17
~
HANGPADURI – JEJU CITY

DISTANCE

24 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

10 hours (total)

7 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

My Korea Guesthouse
(Dorms Available
)
Jeju City


Today we would complete our circuit of Jeju Island, arriving back at the Ganse Lounge nearly a month after we’d started. Among other things, we were looking forward to pizza, beer and a bed, but with 5 km of Route 16 and the whole of Route 17 to go, we still had a long day ahead.

We woke with daybreak at five, and by six, the planes were once again flying by every few minutes. At a higher altitude, it was a touch chilly as we sat eating energy bars for breakfast, but we continued to enjoy the views from our pagoda. By eight, we were packed up and ready to go, leaving our final Olle Trail camp spot as the sun broke through the trees.

After passing the visitor centre at the Hangpaduri Hangmong Historical Site and availing ourselves of the open toilet blocks, we got our Route 16 mid stamp and carried on to Gwangnyeong-ri. Through uncultivated fields, trees and the occasional village, this last part didn’t hold much interest and we pushed on to the end stamp spot in good time.

A person walking past uncultivated fields near the end of Jeju Olle Trail Route 16

Making good time on the last section of Olle Route 16



A person walking past uncultivated fields near the end of Jeju Olle Trail Route 16

Making good time near the end of Olle Route 16



After getting our obligatory stamp, we stopped at the GS25 for breakfast round two before carrying on: yogurt, bananas, coffee and of course, more Dr. Yoo bars.

With breakfast done, we crossed the main road, took in the view from Gwangnyeong Bridge, and followed the narrow forested path down towards the coast. As the trail opened up, we found ourselves following the largely dry riverbed of Musu-cheon, a dramatic channel of jumbled rocks which had us picturing wadis in Oman again.

Looking down on the river canyon from Gwangnyeong Bridge in Jeju (M)

Looking down on the river gorge from Gwangnyeong Bridge at the start of Olle Route 17



Looking down on the river canyon from Gwangnyeong Bridge in Jeju

Looking down on the river gorge from
Gwangnyeong Bridge on Olle Route 17



After crossing at Chango Bridge we walked down through village lanes and past a sports park, until finally reaching the coast at Oedo. It was a pleasant enough trail but there was nothing too spectacular to grab our attention, and with more than 10 km already done, we were making pretty good time. Turning east along the coast however, proved a little more hard going – we had to fight against a strong headwind, and it was no surprise to see wind surfers making the most of it among the waves.

We arrived at Iho Tewoo Beach in time for lunch, deciding to try the grilled mackerel set at a traditional beachfront restaurant. The food was decent and we enjoyed the open air views from the terrace. The beach itself was an attractive enough strip of golden sand, and although not one of our favourites, in the end we spent nearly two hours there, following lunch with coffee outside at a colourful cafe.

The golden sand of Iho Tewoo Beach near Jeju City, with the red and white ganse pony lighthouses at the end of the pier

The golden sand of Iho Tewoo Beach, recognisable by the ganse (jeju pony) lighthouses at the end of the pier



The golden sand of Iho Tewoo Beach near Jeju City, with the red and white ganse pony lighthouses at the end of the pier

The golden sand of Iho Tewoo Beach, with the
ganse (jeju pony) lighthouses at the end of the pier



Ready to continue, we heaved our backpacks on and followed the trail around the beach, choosing not to go down and see the red and white horse-shaped lighthouses at the end of the pier. We did of course pause to watch some haenyeo pushing their catch along the road, while one of the husbands diligently spread out seaweed to dry on the pavement.

As we carried on round the coast, all the while planes started appearing lower and lower the closer we got to the airport. It almost felt like you could reach up and touch them – a pretty cool experience.

Before long we reached Dodu Port, climbing stairs to cross a narrow footbridge over the river. Our fascination with seeing airplanes in the heart of the city continued. From our vantage point on the bridge, we watched them come in to land on the runway, looking like they were touching down on a particularly wide street among tall buildings – it was quite a sight.

A plane lands on the runway at Jeju airport, from this vantage point looking like it's landing among the city's buildings

One of a seemingly neverending stream of planes coming in to land at Jeju Airport



A plane lands on the runway at Jeju airport, from this vantage point looking like it's landing among the city's buildings

One of a seemingly neverending stream
of planes coming in to land at Jeju Airport



Down from the bridge, we spotted a good looking haenyeo mural and went to take a closer look. The doors to the building were open; inside we could see a lady, still in her wetsuit and sorting through the day’s catch. She graciously allowed us to take her photo, and after she’d gone, we took the opportunity to get more pictures of the scene: taewak hanging on the wall, wetsuits drying, and a particularly photogenic set of old scales. 

Just as we were about to leave, a cheery-faced haenyeo pulled up on the back of her husband’s scooter, wetsuit still dripping and mask perched atop her head. Taking our presence in her stride, she dumped her heavy net on the concrete floor. It was bursting with clams, but on closer inspection Kim spotted the pink suckers of a tentacle poking through. Seeing our excitement, the haenyeo pulled out an octopus, dangling it from her meaty hand and proudly displaying it for the camera. This incredible sight had Kim spontaneously shouting “daebak!”, which in turn had them all laughing. We thanked them in our best Jeju dialect before moving on, delighted with one of the best experiences of the whole trip.

A smiling haenyeo in her wetsuit, kindly posing for a portrait shot

The smiling haenyeo, happy to pose for a photo



A cheery haenyeo proudly displaying the octopus she caught

The cheery haenyeo, proudly displaying her catch



A smiling haenyeo in her wetsuit, kindly posing for a portrait shot

The smiling haenyeo, happy to pose for a photo


A cheery haenyeo proudly displaying the octopus she caught

The cheery haenyeo, proudly displaying her catch



Still buzzing, we skirted the attractive harbour, made short work of the climb up Dodu-bong, paused for a few minutes to appreciate the airport view and coastal panorama, then headed down the other side. A short inland stretch took us through fields, back lanes and some unwelcome construction, before spitting us back out at the coast beside a photogenic rainbow wall.

  • A person sits on one of many multicoloured blocks along a footpath in front of the sea on the north coast of Jeju Island
  • A person sits on one of many multicoloured blocks along a footpath in front of the sea on the north coast of Jeju Island

We can never resist a rainbow wall



The rest of Route 17 largely follows the coast back to the city, a nice stretch of road busy with cyclists and scenic drivers. We got our mid stamp at Eoyeongso Park and continued to march on. Mostly on paved footpaths, the final 5 km was a bit of a slog for me. With the end in sight I could feel my energy levels crashing, resorting to chants and songs to keep my mind busy.

We wound our way through the tourist crowds at Yongduam and Yongyeon Bridge, then finally entered the streets of downtown Jeju City itself. With just a kilometre to go, we found ourselves chatting to a Yemeni refugee, one of around five hundred on the island. As we walked together, he talked to us about the situation in his country and life in Korea, as well as recommending a local Yemeni restaurant before parting ways.

And just like that we were done. It was a little before six as we turned the final corner and the Ganse Lounge came into view – four weeks and over four hundred kilometres later, we were back where we started. Celebrating with a couple of beers and some mouthwatering calamari, we toasted the end of our Olle Trail journey. Well, not quite the end – we still had a trip to Chuja-do and Route 18-1 to complete.

Two weary hikers rest outside the Ganse Lounge in Jeju City after a month hiking on the Olle Trail

Back at the Ganse Lounge after a month hiking the Olle Trail



Two weary hikers rest outside the Ganse Lounge in Jeju City after a month hiking on the Olle Trail

Good to be back at the Ganse Lounge
after a month hiking on the Olle Trail



As the city lights sprang to life we walked bleary eyed and weary legged to our waiting guesthouse, where we dumped our bags and headed straight back out. A couple of pizzas and a few beers later, we were back and in bed by nine, too tired to even take a shower.

ROUTE 17 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

No shortage of restaurants & cafes on the coast
– all the way to end of Route 17

Jeju City

Ganse Lounge

Wardah Restaurant
(the Yemeni place, 33.5110, 126.5231)

CAMP SPOT

 Iho Tewoo Beach Campsite
(
33.5006, 126.4551)

ACCOMMODATION

Oedo Area (approx 6km into Route 17)
제주도 하숙집 Jeju Guest House  (Dorms Available)
Iho Beach Area 

Iho1820  (Dorms Available)
Dodu-Bong Area
Yesjun Guesthouse (Dorms Available)
Jeju City
Mir Guesthouse (Dorms Available)
My Korea Guesthouse (Dorms Available)
Yeha Guesthouse (Dorms Available)
 R&T Hotel


FIND ROUTE 17 ACCOMMODATION

Booking.com

OLLE TRAIL DAY 25: ROUTE 18-1
~
CHUJA-DO

DISTANCE

18.9 km

Watch The Relive

TIME

8 hours (total)

7 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Navaron Minbak


It’s safe to say that Route 18-1 is like no other on the Olle Trail. In the middle of the Southern Sea, halfway between mainland Korea and Jeju Island, hiking on Chuja-do is very different to hiking on Jeju itself. An archipelago of 4 inhabited and 38 uninhabited islands, the jagged geography is more akin to Korea’s south coast than Jeju’s volcanic landscape. Even the principal town feels like it’s been transported from the mainland, albeit from 20 or 30 years ago. Indeed, Chuja-do used to belong to the province of Jeolla Namdo, until governance was transferred about 100 years ago. So while Route 18-1 is most definitely part of the Olle Trail, and technically part of Jeju Province, it feels quite separate from the island of Jeju.

A hazy view of Hachuja-do from the north on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

Looking south on Chuja-do from Olle Route 18-1; more reminiscent of the Korean mainland than Jeju



A hazy view of Hachuja-do from the north on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

Looking south on Chuja-do from Olle Route 18-1;
more like the Korean mainland than Jeju Island



The ferry schedule to and from Chuja-do makes it difficult to arrive, do the hike and leave all on the same day. It is of course possible, but doing so would mean rushing round the route and not having enough time to really appreciate the island. 

With that and the weather forecast in mind, we left a drizzly Jeju on the 9:30 am ferry, and arrived planning to stay not one night, but two. Aware that ferries are often cancelled due to strong winds, we just wanted to get there and were happy to spend the extra night. We also knew that the following day was due to be a cracker, and waking up on the island, we could get an early start. Additionally, given the weather and a desire not to carry all our gear, we decided to get a room in town. It was the right decision. The morning’s drizzle turned into a full-on afternoon downpour, and we retreated to our minbak (guesthouse) to rest and catch up on a few missed TV episodes.

After waking up to a traditional Korean breakfast feast at our guesthouse, we got our passport stamped at the port and were on the trail by half past nine. It was a blue skies day and the sun was bright, but the strong breeze kept it from being too hot.  As we did our first loop, up behind the town and back again, the key points of interest were the multicoloured school, the shrine to General Choi, and getting some perspective over the island from the top of Bongeullesan.

Back in town, the trail then led us through narrow lanes, past houses with colourfully mosaiced walls and bold roofs – no drab exteriors here.

A colourful mosaic wall on the side of a house on Chuja-do

Colourful mosaic walls keep the walk interesting



A person looking down over the colourful roofs to the port on Chuja-do

Enjoying the view down over the port



A colourful mosaic wall on the side of a house on Chuja-do

Colourful mosaic walls keep things interesting


A person looking down over the colourful roofs to the port on Chuja-do

Enjoying the view down over the port



We climbed again, this time up Keunsan, to the highest point on the northern island of Chuja-do, Sangchuja-do. After emerging from a tight forest path we continued up past the lighthouse and down the other side. This was one of our favourite parts of the route. We were rewarded with expansive views over the islands as we scrambled over a fun and rocky trail, where we met a large group of multigenerational Koreans coming the other way. They were out for a hike but also armed with litter pickers and rubbish bags.  We greeted them as we passed, with one mother proudly exclaiming to her companions about her young son’s superior English language abilities.

Navaron Haneul Gil (나바론 하늘길)

As we followed the path up Keunsan, above the treeline the Olle Trail Route went left and another trail, the Navaron Haneul Gil, went right. This translates to something like ‘Navaron Sky Path’, and it had been strongly recommended to us by our guesthouse owner. Looking up from the port before, we’d seen a series of wooden bridges and walkways connecting a jagged, broken ridge, and assumed it was part of the Olle Trail. However, it’s not, and it seems like we missed out on one of the most spectacular parts of Chuja-do. Not that we realised it at the time – at that point, we still had a long way to go and didn’t want to get sidetracked. If you’re going, please, get sidetracked.  Take the time to check it out and don’t make the same mistake we did.


Soon we were back on level ground and crossing Chuja Bridge, to the southern island, Hachuja-do. For the next couple of kilometres we walked through a beautiful forest trail, before coming out at the small village of Muk-ri (pronounced ‘moongnee’). We were getting a little hungry but there were no options for food. So after getting our mid-stamp, admiring the drying shallots and saying hello to a local dog, we pushed on towards Sinyang-ri.

One of the many uninhabited islands of Chuja-do, seen through the long grass and tree branches

One of the many uninhabited islands of Chuja-do, along the coast near Muk-ri



One of the many uninhabited islands of Chuja-do, seen through the long grass and tree branches

One of the many uninhabited islands of
Chuja-do, along the coast near Muk-ri



Good coastal views on the road outside of Muk-ri were followed by a few more forest kilometres, the path rising and falling. After emerging from the trees and crossing a narrow road above Sinyang, we plunged into the forest again. This last section was narrow and seriously overgrown, the most entangled section of our entire Olle Trail journey – even when we saw the blue and red markers, we questioned whether it was still part of the actual route. With the day getting hotter, it was tough going and felt like unnecessary hard work, making us glad we didn’t have our usual bags. Dropping into the village, we were ready for rest, water and food.

Not wanting to spend too much time, we headed straight for the CU that was marked on Kakao Maps and in the Olle Trail Guidebook. It still had some of the usual signage, but none of the usual goods, having turned into some kind of dried fish market. All the more reason to pick up plenty of snacks at the CU back in Chuja Port. In need of something, we asked around and were directed to a nearby restaurant, 봉이네 (bong-i-ne). The friendly ladies there served up a filling pork stir fry dish, and we topped up our water bladder from their ice cold cooler before getting underway again.

A pork and veggie dish being cooked in a wok style pan on a table top burner

This pork and veggie dish was the perfect energy boost for the rest of the trail



A pork and veggie dish being cooked in a wok style pan on a table top burner

This pork and veggie dish was the perfect
energy boost for the rest of the trail



By this time it was around two o’clock and we still had 10 km to go, with lots of up and down  which included the highest peak on Chuja-do, Dongdaesan. Having arranged with our guesthouse to eat dinner at six, we felt the time pressure to get back too. Conditions were hot, and I was feeling the accumulated fatigue of a month hiking with a heavy bag on the Olle Trail. 

At over 18 km, this route is a fairly long one, and with nearly 800 m of total climbing, it’s also pretty challenging. And while the Chuja-do landscape is impressive, it’s not quite as impressive as places we knew well from our former home in Tongyeong on Korea’s south coast. Saying that, coming at the end of the trip, I’m afraid my mindset was a little off. Kim was much more positive and kept trying to gee me up, but if I’m being honest with myself, I probably failed to appreciate Route 18-1 as much as I should have.

FANCY TACKLING THE BEST DAY HIKE IN KOREA?


Carrying on through more forest trails, we climbed up and down, emerging from time to time to see some genuinely stunning views. My mindset aside, it really was a beautiful route. We stopped to appreciate the curved pebble beach, before climbing steeply and dropping down onto a trail specially created by the Jeju Olle Trail team. After a few twists and turns through thick vegetation, the path came out onto a grassy hillside. Wind rushed in from the open sea, and below, powerful waves crashed against the rocky shore, where choppy water twinkled under the bright afternoon sun.

Rocky coast on southeast Hachuja-do on a hazy afternoon on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

One of the wildest parts of the trail on Chuja-do



Looking out to sea from Hachuja-do on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

Looking out to sea



Rocky coast on southeast Hachuja-do on a hazy afternoon on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

One of the wildest parts of the trail on Chuja-do


Looking out to sea from Hachuja-do on Jeju Olle Trail Route 18-1

Looking out to sea



The coastal views continued to keep us company as we negotiated our way round to Yecho-ri, a sleepy little fishing village. From there, it was just a short distance on the road till we turned off again, beginning the long climb up the wide forested path to the top of Dondaesan. The trail even had lampposts, and we imagined lines of people snaking up here in the dark for those quintessential Korean New Year sunrise celebrations.

The summit was quite open, with rocky areas, a few pagodas, and exercise equipment of course. Standing in the highest place on Chuja-do, the excellent vantage point allowed us to see far and wide. It was a little hazy, but on a totally clear day it’s said you can even lay eyes on Hallasan, all the way back on Jeju Island.

A wide view of Sinyang Port on a sunny blue sky day from the highest point on Chuja-do, Dondaesan

Looking down on Sinyang Port from the top of Dondaesan



A wide view of Sinyang Port on a sunny blue sky day from the highest point on Chuja-do, Dondaesan

Looking down on Sinyang Port from Dondaesan



From Dondaesan the trail descended through more forest, back to the road and the bridge across to Sangchuja-do, where we retraced our steps from before. By now it was late afternoon and that familiar golden glow was bathing land and sea, our surroundings displayed in deliciously warm colours.

A person sits on a yellow painted concrete block enjoying the warm afternoon colours at the coast on Chuja-do, near the end of Olle Trail Route 18-1

Time to relax and enjoy the view on the way back to town



A person sits on a yellow painted concrete block enjoying the warm afternoon colours at the coast on Chuja-do, near the end of Olle Trail Route 18-1

Time to relax and enjoy the coastal view
on the way back to town on Olle Route 18-1 



Two more kilometres along the coastal road saw us arrive back in town. But it wasn’t time to finish just yet – passing our minbak around 5:30 pm, we decided to go in for dinner before completing the final few hundred metres. That done, we still had an hour before sunset, so after picking up some makgeolli on the way, we headed round to the port to get our final stamp of the Olle Trail. 

After shooting the closing sequence to our video, we opened our beloved makgeolli, and toasted the end of what had been a memorable and remarkable journey. Looking back over the month, our appreciation for Jeju had grown and grown, all made possible by the Olle Trail. We’ve said it before, but there really is no better way to understand a place: wandering slowly on two feet, and having time to learn about the many small things that make it what it is. It’s a journey we won’t ever forget, and someday, no doubt, we’ll be back on the Olle once again.

A Note On Starting And Finishing

Having had time to reflect on the best place to start and finish an Olle Trail thru-hike, we’ve come to the conclusion that Chuja-do is not it. Being so different from the rest of Jeju, and also distant from it, it felt strange for 18-1 to be our final route. Arriving in Jeju City had already felt like the end for us, and so going to Chuja-do after that clearly influenced how we saw it. Similarly, starting there would probably feel equally strange. If we did it again, we reckon we’d start at Route 1, or perhaps in Seogwipo, where the Jeju Olle Trail Office, Pub and Guesthouse are based. That way Chuja-do could be experienced as a nice bit of variety on the way round.

ROUTE 18-1 RECOMMENDATIONS

FOOD

There are limited food options outside of Chuja port
Beware that the CU marked at Sinyang port no longer exists

Chuja Port

중앙식당 – has Korean favourites like kimchi jjigae
or yukgaejang (spicy beef stew)

Many other restaurants as well as convenience stores

Sinyang Port
 Limited food options
Get a filling lunch at
봉이네/ bong-i-ne
(a pension and restaurant)

CAMP SPOT

We chose not to camp because of weather and concerns about hilly trails and our big bags. If you’re travelling light however, there are plenty of places to camp, including at these two pagodas

Coastal Pagoda
(
33.9529, 126.3380)

Pagoda on hill
(33.9640, 126.2901)

ACCOMMODATION

There aren’t any accommodation options to book in advance via Booking.com, but there are many places to stay, especially around Chuja port (where the Queen Star 2 catamaran arrives and the start/end stamp spot is).

We stayed at Navaron Minbak (나바론 민박)
It cost us 40,000₩ per night for a room + 40,000₩ for breakfast & dinner for both of us (total 160,000₩ for two nights for 2 people)

Chuja Olle Guesthouse has dorms available.


Getting To Chuja-do

Chuja-do is around 1 to 1.5 hours by boat north of Jeju, half way back to the mainland! Two different boats service the island, the Queen Star 2 fast catamaran (1 hour), and the huge car ferry Red Pearl (1.5 hours). They depart from different terminals in Jeju City, and arrive at different ports on Chuja Island. Both continue onto the mainland after stopping at Chuja-do, so it’s possible to carry on to Jindo or Wando, or indeed depart from the mainland and stop off at Chuja first on your way to Jeju. 

If you’re travelling on a Wednesday, your options are more limited as only one company will be operating. 

Bad weather can lead to cancellations, so be sure to check the forecast and keep this in mind if you’re on a tight schedule. People have been known to get stuck on the island for a couple of days waiting out bad weather!

We’ve outlined the Jeju to Chuja ferry schedule below, as well as marking the different ports on a map. The pamphlet photo shows the schedule for the mainland Korea ports and contact numbers for each company, too. Note that you can also call the freephone tourist travel helpline on 1330 to double check current timings in English.

CHUJA-DO FERRY SCHEDULE

QUEEN STAR 2

Departing
JEJU

0930

NO SERVICE 2nd/4th
WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH

QUEEN STAR 2

Departing
CHUJA

1630

NO SERVICE 2nd/4th
WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH

RED PEARL

Departing
JEJU

1345

NO SERVICE 1st/3rd
WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH

RED PEARL

Departing
CHUJA

1030

NO SERVICE 1st/3rd
WEDNESDAY OF THE MONTH


Chuja-do Ferry Map

Ferry times and fares leaflet

USING THE BUSES ON JEJU ISLAND

Jeju has a fantastic bus system servicing the island. However you’re planning to walk the Olle Trail, these tips will help you get where you need to go.

Get The Apps

The best way to find the nearest bus stop to you is on Kakao Maps  (iOS/Android) or Naver Maps (iOS/Android). Download the app to your phone, zoom in on the road till the bus stop symbol appears and click on it. You can also use navigation on either app to get the correct bus links for where you want to go.

Bus Info Websites

You can also check out this website which gives you similar information. Search by bus number, view route maps and get live tracking info.

Also, visitjeju.net gives you up to date bus information on an excellent English language version site. It has a downloadable PDF of all the bus routes.

Get A Transport Card

Buy a T-money card for 3,000₩ at any convenience store, put 10,000₩ on it to get you started and top it up anytime. You can tap on and off any bus in Jeju, or any bus or subway in Korea. It’s the easiest way to pay, your balance pops up each time and if you change buses or lines within 30 minutes, you won’t pay for the second journey.

JEJU OLLE TRAIL PART IV

Routes 13 to 18-1

That’s it for Part Four, and indeed, our entire journey. We hope you’ve enjoyed our account of Jeju Olle Trail Routes 13 to 18-1, and if you’re planning your own Olle adventure, will find the information and recommendations useful. And if you have a question about anything at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch by leaving a comment below.

ORGANISE YOUR TRIP TO JEJU NOW

Booking.com


Booking.com

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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