What do you get when a hockey player/strength trainer marries a yogi/dancer/occasional strength trainer?
Not a hiker!!!
Both my husband and I don’t hike, don’t like it, and definitely don’t have the right attire/shoes to do it properly.
But, we fancy ourselves as WALKERS, no, not “The Walking Dead” ones but the plain, boring ones, with flip flops on and a need to take a rest every hour (due to the well, you know, back issues.)
So we traveled to Jeju Island in September, treating ourselves for my 35th and his 40th year of life. Between all the beer tasting, aka research, I figured it’d be nice to get “some steps in” and do one of those Olle things that people talk about.
Table of Contents
About Jeju Olle Trails
‘Olle’ means ‘alleyways’ in Jeju dialect, and Jeju Olle Foundation constructed the Jeju Olle Trails back in 2007 in order to motivate locals and visitors to sightsee Jeju’s less famed paths, which surround the island as well as go inland. All in all, there are 26 routes, five of which are sub-trails (1-1, 7-1, 10-1, 14-1, and 18-1), creating a linked network of 425 km (264 miles). The attraction of the Olle Trails is that each route consists of connecting alleys, mountain paths, field paths, coastal roads, and hills, which make for some pretty picturesque and memorable times. On average, each route is around 15 km (9 miles), taking a hiker/walker around 5-6 hours to finish a course. Over the past 13 years, over 8 million travelers have been visiting Jeju Olle Trails, making it one of the top things to do while on Jeju island.
I decided to do some research into each one, to see what other hikers recommended as their top pick. Luckily, I found an English-written article in Jeju Weekly, which ranked each trail based on varying criteria (Natural scenery, Conditions of the trail, Environmental damage, Bilingual opportunities, Crowd control, Facilities, Improvements, Park planning, Short-term impression, Long-term impression). Contributor Steve Oberhauser gave a compelling overview of each trail, with Jeju Olle Trail 14-1 earning 49.5/50 points, earning the 1st ranking.
Not that I like to chase the best of the best things when I travel, I don’t, but a mix of a dense forest Jeoji Gotjawal, small extinct volcano Mundoji Oreum and green tea fields of O’Sulloc Museum was a pretty compelling combination to walk through. The fact that this trail is a bit shorter than most, at 9.3 km (5.7 miles) long, made it a no brainer when pitching the idea of spending a day walking to my husband. Promising him a lot of breaks and that I carry our backpack of necessities, we were ready! Oh yeah, we also made sure it was within driving distance to an evening “research” laboratory, called Jeju Beer Brewery (제주맥주). (If you also complete this Jeju Olle 14-1 at the O’Sulloc Tea Museum, then Jeju Beer Brewery is less than 10,000krw taxi ride away, if you too want to “conduct” some “research.” 😛
Jeju Olle Etiquette
Take your trash home
Don’t pick or take agricultural products (such as tangerines)
Don’t take or disturb Jeju Olle signs
Greet Jeju residents you encounter with a smile
If you need to use the restroom, ask the owner politely
Do not cause harm to domestic wild animals
Fasten the doors/gates securely when entering/exiting privately owned farms
Before you begin, there are also some safety rules that you should be aware of:
The trail closes officially at 6 pm in the summer and 5 pm in the winter. Refrain from hiking after these hours.
Refrain from walking in a storm, heavy rain, or snow, and from visiting steep valleys & cliffs off the trail.
Carry emergency contacts with you at all times.(Jeju Olle Call Center @ 064-762-2190, Police @ 112)
Go back to the spot where you saw the last signpost if you missed one.
Essential Packing Supplies for non-hikers such as ourselves: comfortable walking shoes like sneakers, a large water bottle as well as something to eat/lots of snacks (there are no services at all along the 14-1 route), hat/sunglasses/sunblock (depending on the season), fully charged phone (to navigate and take pictures), Jeju Olle Passport (if you want to commemorate this trail with a few stamps. Upon finishing ALL 28 Jeju Olle Trails, you can apply for a certificate and a prize here)
Optional gear: long sleeves and long pants, raincoat/umbrella, flashlight (for the forest section)
Getting to the starting point
Personally, we drove our rental car to the parking lot of Jeoji Arts Information Network Village and were able to park for free and without any problems. If you’re traveling by public transport, here is what other travelers recommend you do.
-Go to Jeju City Bus Terminal.
-Catch the ‘Intra-Village Bus’ (#12) SPECIFICALLY at 6:40, 7:40, 9:30, 15:30 (3:30pm), 17:30 (5:30pm), or 18:50 (6:30pm). ** The times are important as there are many Intra-Village buses, but these are the ONLY ones that go to Jeoji.
-Ride to Jeoji Village Assembly Hall (Jeoji Maeul Hoegwan/저지리 마을회관), get off, and cross the road.
The 14-1 Trail
We started our journey close to 12 pm and were elated with a sunny yet mild temperature on this late September day. Near the Information Network Village, we got familiar with the signage that will guide us through our journey, with the first one being this cute little character (A), they call Ganse, which contains stamps at the start, end, and the middle of your trail. Other signage looks like this:
We were not privy to this information when on or trail. Two heads are better than one, especially when my husband pointed out that “K” is actually an arrow, duh!
Windy rural village roads were full of short hanok houses, farm fields, and gardens growing tangerines (Jeju’s specialty). In the distance, we could see some wind turbines, an occasional horse or two, and almost no person or car during the first 2-3 miles of the trip.
Before climbing up the Mundoji Oreum, you have to pass through a narrow gate, which prevents grazing horses from escaping. As a huge horse lover, this part was amazing and I couldn’t believe our close encounter with them while walking this trail.
At the top, we got a bit of a much-needed breeze and were loving the views of the entire island! Korea’s highest mountain peak Hallasan is also visible from this vantage point. Taking a break, gave us some time for a few silly snaps.
By the way, the trail is well maintained, and finding signage was never complicated.
A surprising discovery along our route was this section, which featured some wooden carved ships, one of which looked very similar to what the famed Admiral Lee Sun Shin used to defeat the Japanese during the Joseon Dynasty. There is an outstanding movie about it, called The Admiral: Roaring Currents.
Walking towards the much anticipated Jeoji Gotjawal forest, we discovered a sign, which forbids entering after 2 pm. The time was on our side because it was 1:50 pm and we couldn’t just turn around and miss out on all the subtropical and temperate flora of this place. Jeju Olle Foundation regularly cuts the forest vines just enough for one person to pass and levels the pathway with stones, so walking was a breeze, like Alice in a moss-covered wonderland!
“There are camphor trees, Japanese camphor trees, sericeous newlitse, silver magnolia, and sword-leaf actinodaphne.”
The forest provided for a shaded canopy, which we definitely needed during this toasty afternoon. The smell of the forest was intoxicating, the moss – lush and vivid, and sighting a wild horse was the icing on my cake.
At the end of the trail, we walked through a circular cutout in the trees to find ourselves among the vast green tea field. It was a perfect ending!
Next door, there is a very sexy, modern building belonging to the skincare company “Innisfree.” You can purchase products, test them out, and enjoy their very lovely cafe/dining area where apparently you can purchase organic meals/snacks. The view of the green tea fields, again, is stunning!
Overall, we had a wonderful time walking/hiking the Jeju Olle 14-1, so much so we recommended it to our friends who were visiting Jeju a week later. They also enjoyed this less than average in length but very picturesque and memorable trail. If you’re looking for an easy intensity, half-a-day hike through Jeju’s countryside, a sleeping volcano, dense forest, and tea fields, then this course is for you!
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Other noteworthy and very picturesque places to visit while in Jeju-do!
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