Jeju Island is South Korea’s largest island. Referred to as the Hawaii of Korea, the island boasts some of the most scenic sights: Mt Hallasan and the trio of waterfalls, to name a few. The island was formed following the eruption of the dormant volcano Hallasan about 2,000 years ago. Jejudo is a popular destination for Koreans who come to enjoy a relaxing stay by the beach or engage in walking or hiking trails such as the Jeju Olle Trails.
- 1 What are the Jeju Olle Trails?
- 2 Why you should do the Jeju Olle Trails?
- 3 How to choose the best trail?
- 4 Olle Trail #6
- 5 The views and highlights
- 6 Practical Information
What are the Jeju Olle Trails?
The Jeju Olle Trails are a series of walking trails that loop around the outskirts of Jeju-do. The trails cover a distance of 425 km and are divided into 21 mains routes and 5 sub-routes.
The word olle (올레) in the Jeju dialect means ‘a narrow street that leads to a wider road’.
The Olle Trails was created in 2007 by a journalist, Seo Myung-Sook, following her pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela (Spain). She was so inspired by her trip and the walk that once back in Jeju, she decided that Koreans also needed a similar hiking course.
The trails designed both to create safe walks and show less popular or visited part of the island became popular with locals and international visitors. Now more than 10 years after it was created the Olle Trails is one of the reasons many people visit the island yearly.
Why you should do the Jeju Olle Trails?
Whether you like hiking or not, the olle trails is a must-do while you’re in Jeju. The trail offers great sightseeing opportunities and a chance to be in sync with nature. We were able to experience Jeju’s natural beauty and discover places that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
When you visit somewhere new, you are prone to focus only on the top attractions. Thus, you sometimes miss out on some unspoiled parts. Another reason to do the trail is that it costs nothing and doesn’t require anything other than your two feet. Some of the routes even have wheelchair-friendly paths.
How to choose the best trail?
Choosing the perfect trail can be difficult if you are doing this for the first time. However, the Olle Trail’s official website is a great resource where you can find out all the information about the different routes, distances, difficulty etc… Another website – Jeju Olle Trail Guide – provides a useful guided tours for each section of the trail. There’s also a downloadable PDF guidebook you can get prior to your walk.
Walking the trail cost absolutely nothing and you can do as many as you want. Some people like to do the whole trail but some just pick and choose the ones they are interested in.
If you are planning to walk several routes, don’t forget to grab the Olle Trail Passport. It allows you to tamp at the beginning, the middle, and end of each of your hike. You don’t get any reward but your pride for completing the course. Since we did only one route, we were content stamping the trail guide instead. It’s still a nice reminder of our walk.
Olle Trail #6
- Name: Soesokkak – Oldolgae Olle
- Distance: 13.3 km
- Time: 4-5 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Sights: Jejigi Oreum, Jung-seop Art Gallery, Jeongbang waterfalls, Olle Market
We had initially planned to hike Mt. Hallasan on the second to last day of our Jeju trip. However, with all the walking we did the previous day, we cancelled the hike in favour of the trail. The trail was our second option, so we already knew which route we were going to follow. We settled on route 6 because it faced the shoreline and also had a low difficulty level.
The trail starts at Soesokkak Bridge and ends in Seogwipo city via Jeongbang Waterfall and Jung-seop Street. We planned on setting off at 9:30 AM sharp but after a nice breakfast, we somehow got distracted. We reached the starting point at noon instead!
Our walk started well with the picturesque Soesokkak Estuary coming to view minutes later. I think we spend a little too much time there watching people enjoy kayaking and riding the island’s wooden boat: the tewoo. With such a scenic view, turquoise water, it’s to be expected right?
Not to waste too much time, we carried on following the beach path and a lush forest until we reached the top of Jejigi Oreum Volcanic Cone. It’s not very high but it offers a nice perspective on the landscape. Continuing, we followed the trail through flat paths more or less rugged until we arrived at a stunning spot: the observatory at Bomok port.
We met and quickly chatted to a family from Seoul. They were surprised to see foreigners walking the Olle Trails. It was funny to see how both the kid and grandma were fascinated by my braids! I could sense that they wanted to touch but didn’t dare. After waving goodbye, we carried on. The observatory was my favourite section of the route. I could have spent the rest of the day there just looking at the waves crashing on the shore.
There are cafés along the way to stop for refreshments, we stopped there for a well-deserved fish ice cream and coffee.
The last bit of the walk was Jeongbang Waterfall. At 25 meter the waterfall is surrounded by cliffs and forest. Jeongbang was the busiest place we have been all day. It was a struggle to navigate between people to take a good picture. I guess, that’s bound to happen when you choose to visit a popular tourist area. Once we have had enough, we continued back into the city towards the finishing point: Seogwipo Olle.
The views and highlights
Regardless of the route you choose, you are guaranteed to see stunning coastlines, beaches, ports, waterfalls, volcanoes, stone-fenced villages, farmland and more. Walking the Jeju Olle Trail is allowing yourself to enjoy the island’s landscapes and appreciate the serenity of it away from tourist spots. The trails have been carefully designed to show a different side of the stunning island. So it’s worth trying if you want to discover Jeju-do differently.
Best time to hike the Jeju Olle Trails
The climate in Jeju Island is humid with mild winters, hot, muggy and rainy summers. Even though winter is less cold than in mainland Korea, the wind can increase the feeling of cold. I wouldn’t recommend doing the trail during winter because of the icy wind.
Although summer is hot and humid, the cool breeze of the ocean makes it bearable. In my opinion, the best time to do the trail would be either spring or autumn. The weather then is warm and not too humid which are ideal conditions for hiking.
Things to consider
While neither myself nor my friends were avid hiker and walker, we found our routes to be easy. You don’t have to be fit to do the walk. Having said that, if you are planning to do several, then it can be hard on your legs.
As mentioned the trails have routes of various distances and difficulty. Whilst some can be done within a half-day (like route 6) most require the whole day to complete. As the walk sometimes passes through the coasts, it is sensible to take precautions:
- avoid walking on your own (or at least let someone know about your whereabouts)
- do not to get stuck in a remote area after sunset
- be aware of falling rocks
- wear comfortable shoes
- carry a bottle of water, snacks and a plastic bag.
- avoid cliffs and steep valleys during extreme weather like storms, snow or heavy rain
Most routes will pass by shops and restaurants so carrying a big bottle is perhaps not necessary.
Olle Trails are remarkably well designed and well marked. The symbol, a blue horse along with a blue and orange ribbons symbolised the routes and direct people in the right way. On the trail we could see the ribbons tied to trees or signposts, arrows painted on the footpaths or walls.
The blue arrows mark the direction from the starting point to the finish point. As some people do it the other way round, you can also follow the orange if you have started from the finishing point. Routes were always clear but subtle marked.
There were occasions where we struggled to find the markers but that was because we were often off route to take pictures. But we always found them in the end!
Getting to Soesokkak Bridge
From Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal:
- Take bus 201-4 (Blue) or 201-5 (Blue) and get off at the Hyodon Nonghyup Hanaro Mart Station. It takes about 15 minutes to the Soesokkak bridge
- Take bus 510 (Blue) and get off at the Dure Villa Station. Walk 10 minutes to Soesokkak.
- Starting point: 128, Soesokkak-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
- Finish point: 22, Jungjeong-ro, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
For another way of discovering Jejudo (maybe involving less exercise), I recommend joining a 1-day tour. There are several around the island, the blow is some options:
- Jeju Island: West Coast Day Tour
- Jeju Island: Must-See Nature Full-Day Tour
- Jeju: Full-Day East Coast Tour
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