Wednesday, July 28, 2021

3 Jeju Olle Trails to Hike in Autumn [including checkpoints, elevations and tips]

If you're looking for a different way to see and explore Jeju Island that isn't hopping on and off a bus or a self-drive around the island, I've got you covered in this blog post

A little known aspect of Jeju Island is its 425km worth of walking trails otherwise known as Jeju Olle Trails. That's right. You can actually explore Korea's most southern island by foot. Circling its coastline and cutting inland, you can take your pick of 26 different walking and hiking courses all across the the island, courtesy of Jeju Olle Foundation. 

Unlike the hiking trails in Malaysia that are often maintained by the residents of the area, the trails in Jeju are taken care of and maintained by Jeju Olle Foundation. The Foundation is non-profit and operates with the backing of donations and profits from souvenirs. Thanks to them, tourists and hikers can enjoy trails that connect old roads between villages and famous tourist spots while preserving nature and blending it with culture and history. 

The Foundation operates on 3 principles when it comes to their trails which are refraining from using artificial materials to mark the trails, avoid vehicle roads and linking a village at the start and the end. Their objective is to build a trail to 'Play, Rest, and Hike Together' and that brings joy to those who hike on it, those who live on it, and, nature allowing us to hike. I like this statement as it shows how their efforts impact everyone.

The trails are accessible all year round but summer is highly discouraged due to the scorching heat that rivals even Malaysia's weather and worst still, its typhoon season that brings torrent rain and wind to the island. So instead of braving the heat, why not enjoy the great outdoors of Jeju in the spring, autumn and winter? 

Autumn and Spring already promises stunning sceneries of blooming flowers and fiery fall leaves respective but what about winter? Its milder winter temperatures will make the long walks and hikes much more enjoyable without having to freeze your butt off in nature. It's almost like walking outside with the aircon on. If you're fortunate, you might be able to see fields and layers of snow in nature although compared to the mainland, snow is a rare occurrence in Jeju. 


Jeju Olle Route 3-A: Onpyeong Port to Pyoseon Beach (20.9km) 


This route starts from Onpyeong Port and turns inland shortly into the hike where you will get to experience the mid mountainous area. The old stonewalls and wild shrubs add elegance to its hushed yet unique scenery. 
Tong Oreum(small extinct volcano)


Tong Oreum(small extinct volcano) and Dokja-bong(peak) flaunt the original charm of Jeju's oreums while a camellia path, a mandarin path, and other kinds of walking paths in Samdal-ri continue until the Kim Young Gap Gallery Dumoak. He took beautiful photographs of Jeju until the last day of his life, and some of his works are on display at the gallery.

Kim Young Gap Gallery Dumoak

Tip: You can time your hike to have your meal near Kim Young Gap Gallery Dumoak as there are restaurants and cafes there. 

Pyoseon Beach

You might came across orange farms and can see the farmers at work. But of course, do not pluck one unless it's offered to you by the owner. 

Jeju olle route 12: Mureung Farm to Yongsu Port (17.5km)

Suweolbong Peak

When you hit the coast, you start an 8.8 km trail that winds along the seafront. The highlight of this section of the path is Suweolbong Peak. This is a hill known for its unique geological properties. You can clearly see the layers of rock that formed due to volcanic activity in the peak's cliffs. From the summit, you get great views out over Chagwido island—the largest uninhabited islet off the coast of Jeju.
Chagwido island

Dangsanbong Peak

A tougher climb comes towards the end of the trail when you hit Dangsanbong Peak. This forest-covered peak is 148 meters high. It has a distinctive dome-like shape that stands out from the flat farmland that surrounds it. Fall hikers get a final treat in the form of Sengyi Gijeong Cliff, which is covered in silver grass at this time of year. 
Sengyi Gijeong Cliff

Olle Trail 12 covers 17.5 km in total, and Jeju Olle Foundation estimates it will take hikers between five and six hours to complete. There’s also a 1.1 km stretch between Ungalgil Pathway and Jagunae Port that is wheelchair accessible.

Olle Trail 16: Gonae Port to Gwangmyeong-1-ri Office (15.8 km)

Jeju Olle Trail 16 starts with a 4.8 km stretch along Aewol Coastal Road, a windy stretch of road known for its cliffs and views out over the sea. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, as well as many caf├ęs and restaurants you can try out. Much of the path travels along the famous road, although there is an off-road section mid-way through.

Sogeumbille Salt Field

Susanbong Peak

At the end of the coast road, you reach Gueom Fishing Village. This is home to Sogeumbille Salt Field, a spot that villagers previously used to harvest sea salt since 1559. They did this by building clay dams that created shallow pools of water. When the seawater evaporated, it left the salt behind. While no longer in use, the fields have been restored so visitors can see how they would have worked. From here, you turn inland and soon end up at Susanbong Peak, a small but steep hill that reaches an altitude of 121 meters. You then walk past Susan Reservoir, one of the few places on Jeju where you can see surface water inland.
Susan Reservoir

The path then continues through the area’s countryside, past farms, and down narrow paved roads. The remains of Hangpaduri Fortress is a popular spot in fall as it is home to fields of pink cosmos flowers at this time of year. You then go through more forest before entering Gwangmyeong-ri village, a small rural village that is also the final point on the trail. 
Sineom Dodaebul(lighthouse)

At 15.8 km, the route is the shortest on this list. It should take between five and six hours. 

Jeju Olle Wander Jeju on Foot

But if you're not so hardcore and just want a way to enjoy the scenery while meeting new friends, the Jeju Olle Foundation has launched a weekly guided walk program called, "Wander Jeju on Foot," for foreign visitors to Korea. While hiking on specially-selected sections, participants can obtain useful tips for exploring the trail and interesting information about Jeju Island from experienced and trained English-speaking trail guides affiliated with the Jeju Olle Foundation. The walk takes place every Saturday from April to June.

Jeju Olle Walking Festival

The Jeju Olle Walking Festival is the largest festival of its kind in Jeju and takes place in Autumn, letting visitors enjoy the culture, arts, performance, and local eats while hiking a route a day. Pre-covid, more than 10,000 participants come from all around the world, including China, United States, United kingdom, Japan, Canada, and of course, Korea. Hikers and walkers of all walks (hah!) of life will be joined by volunteers, local residents who offer unique experiences and foods, and outstanding performers throughout the journey. 

Usually it's a 3 day affair with 3,000 hikers per day but due to Covid, the festival has been extended to 23 days across 23 routes this year. This year, it takes place from 22 Oct - 16 Nov with registration opening in August. You can pick which route you want to try but of course, to see the best of Jeju in the fall, I recommend tackle one of the aforementioned routes. 

You can visit Jeju Olle website for more information on their 26 trails. Accommodations can also be sorted via the site along with a ton of helpful information. You can also learn more about Jeju's attractions on the official Visit Jeju and plan your itinerary from there. 

Happy Hiking! 

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