Jeju Island is a famous destination during Summer holiday season. People who heard me going during Winter on February furrowed and asked, “Why would you go to Jeju on Winter?” Now, I am telling you why.
Location: Jeju Island, South Korea
Entrance fee: Free
Suitable for: Age 10+ (group travel is much preferable during winter)
According to Korea’s Tourism Organisation, Jeju Island is an all-seasons travel destination. In the Summer, the infamous beaches are both local and international tourism spots; flowers are blooming in the Spring; the Olle trails are perfect to cover in the autumn; and Winter is the perfect time to enjoy the dishes ranging from abalone porridge and seaweed soup, to their signature black pig.
Hallasan mountain is a national park which is entitled by UNESCO as a world heritage, albeit the whole Jeju Island is also considered to be the one due to its geological value. The course is relatively easy to follow which can be done within 2-5 hours each way and it opens all year long, including Winter.
There is only a small chance to see the snow during Winter in South Korea. So, yes, it becomes the main reason I visit Hallasan: to see a pile of snow.
There are many trails in Hallasan with the easiest one starts from Eorimok entrance to Eusongsaengak peak. A visitor centre is available at Eorimok where you can gather a lot of information about the mountain. If you are not in a rush, it is best to go here before deciding which course to take.
My visiting time was limited since I came on Winter. We are only allowed to climb during the day with the entrance gate opens 12:00 and closes at 16:00 on Winter. I also had trouble finding the bus due to the language barrier because nobody speaks English, so I only had about 3 hours to climb up and down on the slippery snow. Do not forget to check the schedule for each entrance in this link before going.
The trail is relatively easy, but if you come on Winter like me, you need to layer up clothes to keep warm since the wind is extremely strong. Also, make sure that you wear proper shoes with spikes and it is wiser to prepare yourself with walking sticks for safety reason.
At the Eorimok entrance, there are some food stalls which sell instant noodles, snacks, and drinks to keep us warm. It is nice to meet fellow climbers who come with their families, crumpled in a narrow hut eating ramyun (Korean instant noodle) just to warm up before continuing climbing.
Going to the national park during Spring, Summer, or Autumn may offer a better view on its ecological diversity. However, there is nothing that can alter the feeling of seeing the white carpet of snow on a vast open plane with the fresh Winter breeze. In fact, it is so much better for your health, both mentally and physically.
As a newcomer in Jeju, I realised a little later that it is best to travel by car instead of relying yourself on public transport since the buses are not very frequent and it takes much longer time to travel. Practically there will be more attractions to cover when you drive instead of wasting your time waiting for the buses. If you are up to physical challenge, do not miss the chance of a journey around the island by cycling through the coast lines. It is always rejuvenating!
Note: There is no trash bin provided at the national park. Prepare yourself with proper bag to carry the trash home.