My friend Pieter and I are trying to complete all the routes in our KTO cross country passport before winter kicks in and before we leave Korea next year. We have a few small river routes to complete but we just added Jeju to our list of DONE. Once we’ve completed all our rides we’ll qualify for the “Grand Slam” certificate and medal. Put that way it sounds a bit lame. We’re not doing it for the medals 😉 Using the cycle passport is hands down the best, most organized way to see Korea during your time here. It has only enriched the Korean experience for me and I feel I have gained a deeper understanding and love for the country as a result.
Getting to Jeju
You can fly or take a ferry. If you fly you should box up your bike (get one from your local bike shop). Since we were planning this ride for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) flights and ferry spaces were thin on the ground and expensive. Enter “Enjoy Korea” and their super affordable Chuseok 4 day weekender. Stacey Kim is American- Korean and she runs Enjoy Korea with the perfect blend of professionalism and partying. She is the missing link between Western and Korean culture and she makes tour planning seem effortless. I’ve used all 4 of the main Tour Groups for foreigners in Korea (Adventure Korea, Waegook Travel, WiNK and Enjoy Korea) and Stacey wins hands down.
You can take a ferry from Busan or Mokpo but the Busan ferry takes 12 hours (overnight) whereas Mokpo can take from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (depending on the company you use).Our journey started from Mokpo and took around 4 hours. Load your bike into the cargo hold before joining the queue to board the ferry. If you’re not piggy-backing onto a pre-existing package tour it’s worth thinking about your way back since buses and trains tend to be booked out on public holidays like Chuseok.
The Cycle route
Once you’re on the island the cycling route is pretty straightforward. The terrain is mostly flat and most of the roads have a separate lane for cyclists. It was only in Jeju City lacked a decent cycle lane/ sidewalk option for road bikes. I definitely felt uncomfortable and I’d say I’m a fairly experienced cyclist. We cycled anti-clockwise but usually most people go clockwise due to the winds (we didn’t know this). We were cycling into headwind most of the time but luckily it wasn’t strong.
The route is 234km long and has 9 stops for stamps. Heads up: there are no red stamp booths like the rest of the 4 Rivers Trail. This is still a work in progress for the KTO at the time of writing so you have to take photos in front of the stops as proof instead. You can easily circumnavigate Jeju in 2 days and see some extra sights along the way. We started both days at 07:30 and finished at 18:30 with a few stops and 1 hour lunch breaks.
We added two stops to our route: Jusangjeollidae (lava column-shaped cliffs) and the Haenyeo Museum (traditional Korean female freedivers). If you have time you can also add Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang waterfalls to your list. Jusangjeollidae and the waterfalls are all in the Seogwipo area. The Haenyeo Museum is located in Gujwa, between Seongsan (the lava crater) and Gimnyeong.
Gimnyeon. Make time to stop and swim here. I’ve seen many beaches in my life but this ranks as one of my top 3 with its white sands and azure waters.
Jusangjeollidae: not on the map but it should be.
Seongsan: Try to start day 2 here because the sunrise is definitely worth it.
Sarabong, Yong Du Am and Turtle Lighthouse
– Sarabong is great for sunset apparently but it’s not good for much else. It’s awkward to find and I didn’t enjoy riding there.If you want a beach sunset, go to Hyeopjae beach instead.
– Yong Du Am. Korean for Tourist Trap. Cue 100 buses and 10000 tourists vying to take photos of a rock. Local government needs to make the cycle route to this destination safer.
– Turtle Lighthouse. Ahhh, Turtle Lighthouse the bain of my life. The mysterious landmark that not even Tourist Information in Seogwipo could tell us the location of. So mysterious that not even the people in the surrounding area knew its name. Not located by googling No sign boards. So you’re thinking “How hard can it be? It’s a lighthouse for fuck’s sake!!” but actually there are many faux lighthouses and harbours along this part of the coast. From Jeju City, with the sea on your right, keep to the coastal road, ride past a UFO shaped cafe and a harbour with entrance lights shaped like llamas/ dragons/ horse (one red and 1 white llama shaped building). Apparently they are called the Iho Hang Breakwaters. Anyway, it’s soon after that – keep your eyes out because you won’t be right next to the coast, but you can see it from the main road so just turn off and go through some tiny village roads until you hit the small harbour. The dark turtle is sandwiched between the base of the white building and tower. It would have been cute if it hadn’t been such a pain in the ass to find. After 2 hours of internet searching, I found that “Cheon nyeon hak” was filmed here and on this version of the Jeju map (which is not the same as the one in most Jeju Tourist Info centres) it shows the location as “Turtle Lighthouse (filming spot Cheonnyeon Hak)”- B2.
At the time of writing there was some major roadworks between Jocheon and the Jeju Folklore Museum. We rode a closed, half-built, empty, beautiful 4 lane highway as far as we could but then had to go back onto the 1132 which was also down to 1 lane being shared between cyclists and cars. Be very careful in this section, especially the part because it’s very messy. There is a very cool temple in this area called the Buddha Sharira Stupa for World Peace and Unification (평화통일불사리탑) and you can see the 1132 and the new road under construction (and where it stops).
– If you have time, try to cycle on the coastal “shore” road instead of the 1132. The 1132 is very efficient but mostly pretty dull and ugly.
– All tourist attractions have a minimal entry fee so take cash with you.
– Make sure you don’t over-pack and definitely take time sink your teeth into some juicy Jeju tangerines along the way.
– Signage for the Haenyeo Museum is pretty sparse so when you see the sign get ready to turn!
– There are plenty accommodation options. We paid 50,000 won to stay at a minbak opposite the beach with a great view of Seongsan.
– Great cheesy pizza and calzone to be found in Sinyang-ri.
– You have to eat black pig while you’re in Jeju. Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you must visit The Loving Hut in Jeju City or Jungmun area.
Other things to do in Jeju other than cycle
– Scuba dive: you can dive the lava tubes around Seonsan. Big Blue is one of the dive shops operated by English speakers, based in Seogwipo.
– SUP, windsurf and kiteboard. Zooty Club near Seongsan.
– Drink and play like a kid going down slides, climbing up poles, drinking buckets containing generous shots. A night you’ll remember because of the craziness at Monkey Beach in Seogwipo.
– Loveland: strange if you’ve never been to a sex museum, mediocre if you’ve been to the one in Gyeongju.
– Jeju Museum of Art: located next to Loveland, 1000 won entry, highly recommended. I saw a great exhibition of works by Park Woo-sung, Victor Cho and Wee Young-il.