Give a ‘green light’ to the island life and explore thrilling hiking trails, crater lakes, and surreal surfing beaches in South Korea’s Jeju Island.
Honeycomb candy recipes making rounds on the internet, the ‘red light-green light’ game going viral on Insta Reels, fans showing up in creepy animatronic doll and masked guards costumes in Halloween parties… the world is certainly high on Squid Game fever these days. The disturbing dystopian fantasy series recently broke all records and became Netflix’s most-watched show with over 111 million views (and counting) from 90 countries in its first month of release. Many cafes from across the world have picked up its theme and the Korea Tourism Organization even organised a real-life version of the game, announcing a roundtrip to Korea for the winner!
It doesn’t just end there. From the sets of Daejeon to Seoul’s various spots like Baegun Market, Namsen Tower, and Yangjae Citizen’s Forest Station in upscale Gangnam, to the remote (and extremely private) island of Seongapdo and Wolmi Theme Park in nearby Incheon, fans from around the world are busy bookmarking South Korean sites appeared in the series. But if there’s one destination that has caught the intrepid traveller’s curious eye, it is Jeju Island.
In the spotlight
Jeju Island has long been the top escape for locals in South Korea. And a mere single mention of the island throughout the nine-part K-drama has now put it at the top end of the global travel map. When the North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok (played by actor Jung Ho-yeon) mentions her dream to visit Jeju Island with her little brother if she survives in the game, the name seems to have ached in many hearts. Probably that’s why the island topped the Google Search charts during the first week of October.
Moreover, it has also been one of the most-visited tourist destinations for Koreans since January 2021, due to restrictions on overseas travel in the wake of the pandemic. The largest island in South Korea, and often compared to Hawaii, the island boasts three UNESCO World Heritage sites and is known for its endless adventures.
A myriad of experiences
With rolling countryside, lofty peaks, volcanic lakes, turquoise lagoons, and serene beaches, Jeju is quite a wonderland. Located off the southern coast, southwest of Jeollanam-do in the Korea Strait, it is home to Mount Hallasan, South Korea’s highest peak towering over it like a cratered sentinel.
The scared volcano of Hallasan has on offer a fertile isle marked with unique geographical features and jaw-dropping panoramic views for the hikers who manage to climb its top at 6,398 feet. The UNESCO-listed Manjangul Cave, five miles deep under Jeju City, is a gargantuan tube loaded with stalactites and lava blisters (its first mile is open for the public to explore). Once done, spend your days exploring other adventures like paragliding off one of the island’s many scenic hills, strolling amid the pines of Gotjawal Provincial Park, surfing along the Hwangwooji Coast in its otherwordly rock pools, or kicking back on the smooth white sands of Hamdeok Beach. Wrap up your visit by hiking along the Olle Trail, witnessing the waves crashing against the igneous rock and the languid village life of untouched Korea.
Or simply, live your Jeju dream just like Sae-byeok wished to—surfing off Jungmun Beach, growing mandarins in a citrus orchard, exploring art galleries and living the island life in peace.