Exploring Jeju’s Olle Routes

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After watching sunrise at the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, we decided to head toward the coastline of Seopjikoji. As we walked toward the bus stop, a cab stopped for us, and we hopped in. Turns out the bus doesn’t take you all the way to the parking lot. The fare from the main road to the parking lot of Seopjiko, is the base fare, and it makes good sense to reach before tourists start pouring in. This particular coastline has featured in a number of Korean dramas making it a magnet for K-Drama fans.

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Although, we aren’t hooked on K-Dramas, Seopjikoji’s coastline looked stunning in all pictures. That was reason enough for us to make it here. And, once we reached the parking lot, with a vantage view of the coast, we knew it was worth it. It’s a short walk to the lighthouse and the route snakes out as the rocky face hugs the choppy coastline. In the month of November, the winds were pretty strong, and despite being a warm sunny day — it was quite cold.

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The climb to the top of the lighthouse isn’t a challenge. It’s the wind that makes it a desperate fight against the fear of losing your balance. The view from the top is quite spectacular. I wished there were fewer tourists and I could get a moment of solitude to take in the beauty. I guess, it’s the price you pay, for choosing to visit a popular tourist destination. A steady stream of tourists made it to the top, squealed at the view, clicked selfies, and walked down — only to be replaced by the next set of tourists.

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The walk down was more tricky. There were many moments, in which, I thought the wind might actually want to take me along for a ride. Fortunately, the view makes you forget about those queasy moments. And as the sun shone, the waters changed from blue to green and blue again.

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We continued walking toward the shore without wanting to reach anywhere. We stopped, many times, to peak over and see how far we had walked or how different the view looked. And fortunately, few tourists followed this path, because they had to make it back to their tour buses in the parking lot.

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The road to nowhere lead to the edge of the rocky bed of the sea. Waves occasionally broke the silence and then, a sense of calm prevailed again. In the foreground, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak dramatically rose from the sea. Who would have thought, couple of hours back, we were on top of it — looking at this side.

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We kept walking and didn’t mind the sun shining brightly or where our feet took us. And that’s what I love about walks like these. When you don’t have to reach anywhere, everywhere looks beautiful. We passed by the Haenyeo installation, Aqua Planet, and a quiet cove with empty boats. As we crossed the main street, we chanced upon another beach (my best guess would be Sinyang Beach). It was approaching noon, and on a cold day, it was deserted. It almost felt like Basil and I were marooned on a scenic beach — in the middle of nowhere. Seaweed floated on the waves and glistened in sunlight. The water were pristine and Basil was stupid enough to remove his shoes and sink his feet in the cold water. I thought it would have been stupid if I didn’t follow him.

After 20 odd minutes, we continued walking towards the peak. It was our beacon of sorts. Instead of following the main road, we turned at one of the alleys, and entered a quaint village town. Tractors, trucks, tiled rooftops, and narrow roads dominated the scene. We walked aimlessly looking to see if we could grab a bite to eat somewhere. Mildly dejected and reasonably hungry, we continued walking and realised, we might be a little lost. We did figure the way back to the main road and somewhere near the farms, an elderly lady looked at Basil and smiled. When I wished her, she was pleasantly surprised and smiled back. And that’s what I love about small towns and villages like these. The warmth is hard to find in the cities and often gets lost in towering buildings or glitzy lights.

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As we crossed the main street and reached back to Gwangchigi Beach, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the sea looked. The day before, we had walked right into the sea, and it looked nothing like what we saw in front of us. We continued walking and it was getting to be a little difficult to trudge along the path. We were greeted by two Korean (Olle Trail) walkers. They were happy and surprised to see foreigners walk on the same path. And as we greeted them and waved, I realised, why I love to travel rather than stay. When we came across the Olle route marker, we knew we’d accidentally discovered one of the routes.

The Haenyeo divers performance was scheduled for the afternoon. So we walked back to Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. This time, unlike our early morning hike, we paid for the entrance ticket, and walked down a steep set of stairs. Oddly enough, there was no performance for the day. So we looked around, submitted to the throes of tourism, tried to overlook environmental pollution, marvelled at the rocky bed, and hoped that hunger wouldn’t take over.

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There’s a small temple (Dongamsa Temple) as you come out of the entrance and walk toward the parking lot. It’s peaceful and the chants of Buddhist hymns fill the air. In a split second, it might even be possible, to forget the chaos and tourist frenzy that surrounds the peak. If you close your eyes and try to take in everything you saw in Jeju — it might look like a time-lapse of beautiful places — made up of sun, earth, sky, wind, and sea.

40 responses to “Exploring Jeju’s Olle Routes

    • Thanks, Peta! 🙂 I love the sea and mountains. I love nature more than anything else. I’m so glad to have found so many travellers who enjoy these gams we find. 🙂

  1. Beautiful place… worth exploring Cheryl!
    Loved some of the pictures here like the one with stairs in the foreground on left hand side and the expansive beach pictures. 🙂

  2. The view is indeed spectacular..no wonder it’s featured in many Korean dramas!

    That’s always a thing with the touristy places, it is difficult to find solitude!

  3. love the sun in the photos, the whole post is so energizing, soaked with wanderlust 🙂 I especially love the photos with the stairs leading up towards the lighthouse and meandering along the shoreline… vast spaces are your thing… 🙂

    • Thanks a bunch, Alex! 🙂 Vast spaces are definitely our thing! I’d do anything for solitude and panoramic scenes like these. And we just explored it by walking around aimlessly. 🙂

  4. Wow! The landscape is absolutely gorgeous – every single one of your images! Your description of the walk was so lucid that I felt I was walking right next to you and Basil. It looks like it’s not that easy to find food in these part of Korea – unlike a lot of other Asian countries where there is always a food stall around the corner. Looks like you need to bring your own sandwiches and drink when taking this route.

    • Thanks for your generous praise, Helen! 🙂 I’m so glad we explored this route. It was one of those spontaneous walks — where you really don’t know what you’d see or what you’d explore. This part of the island is quite a sleepy town and most of the eateries are near the tourist areas. We should have taken something to eat. 🙂

  5. That reminds me very much of two of our coasts: Maine and California. The sea is always so beautiful below steep, curving cliffs and your walk looks heavenly, in spite of the wind. The stairs to the lighthouse were so picturesque … the whole thing is stunning, really!

    • Thanks, Lex. It amazes me how similar different parts of our world look. Without captions, it’d be hard to know for sure. 🙂 I agree! Jeju is such a sunning island and we know we have to go back again.

  6. All of the images are delicious! Sorry you had to deal with more crowds than you wanted, but I’m really grateful you chose to share images that allowed us to feel like we were taking an afternoon stroll along the coast.

  7. Felt like I just walked the lighthouse trail with you Cheryl and felt the buffeting of that wind. You have a way of putting me in the picture. Thank you for such lovely visuals and Basil’s photos are as exquisite as ever. Sometimes we just can’t escape the tourist crowds and yet your posts always convey a sense of being the only ones there. Love it! xo

    • Thanks a bunch, Miriam! 🙂 I’m dreaming of our Jeju trip. I need to get through this winter, the ‘real’ Korean winter. 😦 My friends weren’t kidding when they said it get cold! Brr… When I write, I see myself retracing those paths, those routes, and the thoughts come flowing back. I get carried away. Hehe! Thanks for reading till the end. Basil is really patient when it comes to photography. He waits until people move away from his frame. 🙂 I wish I had that kind of patience. xo

  8. From one gorgeous coast to another: 👋. Being able to watch the sea on a solitary spot along the seashore is rejuvenating. Though I do not have a temple of ringing bells to accompany the crashing waves, I can imagine how wonderful that must be!

    • I couldn’t agree more. Though, these days, sunny beaches and temples are a difficult to imagine as temperatures continue to plummet in Seoul. 😦 It’s all getting white here.

  9. Beautifully written and the photos are stunning. your way with words and your pics – they literally make me want to experience it all! Hope and wish I can make it possible soon!

    • Haha! I guess because internationally tourism is promoted differently. A lot of gimmicky stuff. And I really can’t understand why? There are so many interesting islands here and the coastline of the mainland is stunning. And 80% of the country is mountains. 🙂

      • In a way it’s a bit like Taiwan.. you know for me Taiwan was synonym of cheap clothes and all the crap they sell in shops… until Le’s parents went on holiday there and I’ve realised how beautiful it was! The scenery was amazing!

      • And South Korea translates to electronics, plastic surgery and beauty treatments. All true and yet puffed stereotypes. Taiwan is on our list. It’s such a beautiful country! 🙂 So close from here.

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