Jeju is literally a hiker's playground with 18 walking trails (and numerous sub-trails) to date of varying degrees of difficulty and distance. These trails connect Jeju, bringing hikers past the ordinary as well as the main tourist attractions. "Olle" in Jeju dialect refers to the narrow pathway that connects the front door of a house to the main street. Indeed, the trails often lead visitors through narrow pathways between residential buildings to main roads and backstreets, via hidden gardens and quiet forests. There is always an element of surprise and discovery in each of its trail. Every trail is marked either with ribbons tied to tree branches, painted arrows on boulders, roads, lava rocks or the wired horse symbol at strategic places. At the beginning or the end of each trail (depending on which trail you start or end with since each trail connects to the next), there is a booth or a wooden horse with a stamp and ink pad for hikers to "mark" their "passports" as a sign of achievement.
Olle Route #6 is known as a cultural and ecological route, it is also the most popular route. It is a great trail for beginners as the route starts from the Soesokkak estuary, towards Jejigi Oreum, onwards to Jeongbang waterfalls, meanders into way the center of Seogwipo city, circles Cheonjiyeon Waterfall (passing TGG enroute) and ends in Oedolgae Rock. The total distance is approximately 14km and the estimated time to complete the trail is about 4 to 5 hours. We explored this trail by sections over a period of 3 days.
Highlights of Olle Route #6
This is the beginning of Route #6. This is where freshwater meets the sea. The beach here is famed for its black sand. The main activity here seemed to be either to canoe along the estuary to admire the lava cliffs or to take a leisurely boat ride on a traditional Korean flat wooden raft called the Teu which is pulled across the estuary by a long rope that is strung between the two banks.
Seogwipo is a quiet town, located in the southern part of Jeju-do. The town has many affordable hotels, guesthouses and inns as it is close to a number of tourist attractions which is accessible either on foot, or via the airport bus #600. The downside of staying here is that it takes 1 hour 20 minutes to and from and airport. Seogwipo Olle Maeil market, the main shopping "mall" here is a mere 10 minutes walk from TGG. There is also a small hole-in-the-wall Olle visitor center for hikers to find out more information about the various trails. The Olle market is a charming place to visit and get lost in. This is a covered market that sells everything from freshly made beancurd to kimchi, clothes dyed in persimmon juice to hand-made handicrafts, pots and pans to street snacks, freshly caught seafood to fruits and the list goes on. The vendors were friendly although very few could speak English or Mandarin for that matter.
Lee Joong-seop (1916–56)
To be honest, I have no idea who he is but Seogwipo seemed to hold him in high esteem, naming a street after him, restoring and preserving the house that he once stayed in and building a gallery behind it in that displays some of his works. Lee is a Korean artist who, during his short stay in Jeju, painted some of his greatest works while here. I did not visit the gallery but was impressed by the restoration of his house, a typical thatched house (choga) that was humble and yet homely.
Japanese-Korean Friendship Plum garden
This is listed as "Park in Namseong-ri Community Center" on the map but is part of the route. We followed the marked route from across TGG towards Oedolgae and came across this peaceful park with its plum blossoms in full bloom. This section is part of a larger park that includes a small golf course and fitness corner. An observatory plateform located towards the corner of the park (just follow the blue ribbons) revealed Cheonjiyeon waterfalls in its full glory (for those who do not want to pay the entrance fees for Cheongjiyeon falls, this is a great alternative). We had the park almost to ourselves and spent some quiet time here, admiring the blooms. From the plateform and towards the other end of the park is a path leading downwards towards Seogwipo port and Cheonjiyeon waterfalls. Follow the blue ribbons if your intention is to end at Oedolgae.
This was one of the filming locations for the popular 2003 Korean TV drama series, "Daejangguem" (you will not miss pictures of the main actress at various points of this route). The trail passes through some of the most scenic coastal area of Seogwipo, through pine forests, and at one point, down the beach which was once a landing place for invaders into Jeju. Oedolgae is a 20m tall volcanic basalt pillar that stands apart from the cliffs, it fires one's imagination. Also known as the lonely rock and the General rock. There are many myths and legends associated with Oedolgae. The name General rock was attributed to the legend of General Choe-Yeong who dressed up the rock as an imposing general which frightened the Mongolian invaders away. Regardless, this is a must visit for many tourists for its beautiful coastal views and spectacular sunsets.
Other highlights (which are described in detail under individual entries) include the Cheonjiyeon waterfalls and the Jeongbang waterfalls.
Due to the strong winds in Jeju, umbrellas are almost unheard of. Seasoned hikers seemed to adhere to a uniform code of dressing. This includes: hiking sneakers (no boots), cap, mask (to protect the face from debris and wind), gloves, track suits and wind-breakers, walking/hiking sticks are optional. Most will also carry a small backpack with essentials such as water bottle and sun-screen.