By Jacky Lynne A. Oiga
K-Drama life goals: 1.) Go on a trip to Jeju, 2.) Fall in love on Jeju, 3.) Get married on Jeju.
You may need to manage your expectations accordingly on the falling in love part but jetting off to Jeju Island for a memorable trip and then flying with your betrothed, your respective families, and friends to tie the knot there is totes doable.
For one, Jeju Island, the largest island and the only special self-governing province of South Korea, has a vise-free policy for over 180 countries, including the Philippines. So this means when you fly direct to the island via airlines who service the Manila-Jeju route like Jeju Air, all you need is your passport and weather-appropriate outfits and you’re ready to go and share a passionate kiss against the gorgeous Jeju backdrop a la Yoon Eun Hye and Kang Ji Hwan in Lie to Me.
Because if you thought the love locks on the roof deck of and the cable car traversing the N Seoul Tower were magical, then you must, MUST see Jeju for its exotic scenery, breathtaking views, and magnificent landscapes that are 100 times more astounding and swoon-worthy IRL. In fact, Jeju is such a gem that the whole island was declared as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2011. The whole island. It is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, part of the UNESCO World Geoparks Network. It attracts millions of local and foreign tourists each year, with a record high of 12.6 million in 2015.
Sadly, a lot of people, even Filipinos, are still unaware what and where Jeju Island is. A land of sky, sea, pure air, and the legendary haenyo (female drivers)—who to this day dive beneath the freezing, charcoal black waters to catch abalone, and any shellfish small enough to fit their nets, to sell or cook in small coastal restaurants.
This is why the Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) has been boosting promotions for this treasure island not just for leisure tours and honeymoons but for intimate weddings and photo shoots (prenup photos), too. The Korean Tourism Organization in Manila and JTO invited media guests and travel agents to Jeju to see—and feel—firsthand its palpable romance and island charm.
According to JTO, “Jeju weddings” are receiving much attention for its unique and serene mood. These weddings can literally happen anywhere from towering cliffs to rustic forest setups, from luxury resorts to beach weddings with the emerald sea waves as its background. JTO’s chief manager for overseas marketing Jules Cho, however, admits that Jeju weddings are still not very popular to Filipino couples who like to keep things traditional—a church wedding followed by a ballroom reception for 100 to 200 guests. “But pre-wedding photo shoots (pre-nuptial shoots) are a good place to start. We want our Filipino market to know that we have a lot of pre-wedding suppliers like photographers, stylists, and decorators here in Jeju,” Cho says. And even if you’re not engaged or looking to get engaged, a trip to Jeju for its Batanes-like vistas, delicious organic cuisine, stunning beaches, quirky museums, and giant teddy bears is surely one to fall head over heels for. But don’t just take our word for it. Here are some gorgeous and super romantic places to visit in Jeju.
Also known as the highest Holy Mountain in South Korea, Mt. Hallasan is a shield volcano that rises 1.950 meters above sea level and boasts of the caldera Baengnokdam, steep rock cliffs, fir threes endemic to Jeju Island. Legend has it that there once lived a mystical giant grandmother named Seolmundae so was unimaginably strong that, in only seven quick tosses of her shovel to the earth, created Mt. Hallasan. The dirt that fell from her tattered mystical skirt then formed each of the more than 360 unique parasitic cones of the volcano known as oreum. Trekkers train for months to conquer South Korea’s highest peak through the Gwaneumsa hiking trail, a dizzying five-hour trek. There are temples, mountain shelters, restrooms, and visitor centers for the professional or at least advanced hikers. Like Sam Soon in My Lovely Sam Soon who painstakingly made her way up the mountain to break up with Jin Heyon, only to find him at the summit waiting for her, refusing to let her go. (Aaawww!) For those who just want to marvel at Mt. Hallasan’s terrain and multiple cliff faces can grab a coffee or hot tea from nearby shops and restaurants at its foot.
Jungmun-Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff
Now here’s a nice place to go down one knee and put a ring on it. Or just take hundreds of naturally wind-blown selfies. Head to the Jungmun Daepo Coast to have a breathtaking view of this impressive pillar rock formation that is a pain to read, much more to speak, so let’s just call it The Cliff, as it holds the largest pillar rock formation in Korea, yup, the NoKor included! Here, you can see hexagonal rock pillars that stand on top of each other like a giant stairway to heaven (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The waves that hit the pillars are equal parts fascinating and scary as, during high tide, they can leap up to 20 meters high. But thanks to a very sturdy and encouraging viewing deck/platform with wooden steps, it is possible to see The Cliff closely but at a safe distance, if that makes sense. Designated as Jeju’s Natural Monument No. 443, The Cliff’s jointing pillars were formed by the cooling lava flows that happened 140,000 to 250,000 years ago, around the time when Jeju’s mystical grandma created the Holy Mt. Hallasan.
Hyeopjae and Geumneung Beach
These beaches are the two most popular public beaches on Jeju. They are usually swarming with locals and tourists during the summer. The water is relatively shallow, but swimmers are told to be careful not to float too far from the shore as there are many spots that drop deep. Both beaches have fine white sand mixed with pulverized shells that glitter under the sun. Hyeopjae and Geumneung have that emerald green color of the ocean, typically found in tropical countries like the Philippines. But don’t be fooled by its “tropical color.” People are only allowed to swim in the beaches of Jeju in the summer as the water is below freezing during other seasons. Oddly enough, Koreans in Jeju like to walk by the beach barefoot like the rest of us and very unlike their fellow citizens who prefer heels over fit flops on Boracay Island.
Also known as the Sunrise Peak, this place is the perfect Korean New Year goals as it is one of the special places Koreans like visit to see the sun rise as each old year turns to the new. A kiss on the peak on the sunrise of Jan. 1 on one of Jeju’s most beautiful spots could tromp a New Year’s kiss at Times Square in any K-Drama fan’s book, yes? The Sunrise Peak, like many other tourist sites on Jeju, was formed when a volcano erupted under the ocean. Its cone has a large basin on top of it quite like a meadow. Sunrise Peak, like Mt. Hallasan, is not a novice climb. As always, there are restaurants and shops located at its foot for tourists. Anyway, the peak’s view on the ground level is equally as stunning, with rolling hills and foot paths that reminded me a lot of Batanes’ Racuh A Payaman a.k.a. Marlboro Country.