Jeju is famous for many things, earning itself the title of one of the new seven wonders of the world as well as holding multiple UNESCO heritage sites. Hallabongs, lava rock formations, beautiful scenery, black pig and loads of other foods and snacks, are a few notable aspects, but a highlight no one should miss are the Olle trails. I often heard people talk about Jeju Olle trails, but I honestly never spent much time looking into them, that is until last week. After a few months of traveling, eating and drinking too much, I was ready for a few solid days of exercise, and lucky for me Jeju is the perfect place for this, along the Olle trails.
I had a few worries of getting lost or feeling unsafe, I also considered joining one of the free guided walks with local guide, but then I remembered where I was. Korea is one of the safest countries I've ever been to, and when they do something they go full out, so I knew the trails would be well maintained and marked. I had a look through the guide (great resources online in English) and chose trail 18, mostly due to the fact I could walk out of my guesthouse and reach the starting point in a 5 minute walk. The trail also wound through the neighborhood I had stayed in my first few days on the Island, so I felt comfortable passing through familiar territory.
Actually, I had planned to leave that night on a ferry to Mokpo so I was only going to do half the trail, I thought I had enough of Jeju, but I was sooooo wrong. Fate was on my side, not able to pre-book a ferry ticket that morning it was as I left the terminal ticket office that I realized I wasn't leaving. As I started my walk (hike) I wondered why I was in such a hurry to leave, I was just getting started with my love affair for Jeju. I shifted my mind-set, settled on a few more days on the island and soaked in my surroundings.
Since I wasn't going anywhere that evening I had all the time in the world, and instead of catching a bus back to the city when I reached Samyang, I kept going. The trail wrapped along the coast where I watched Haenyeo women hard at work (traditional woman divers in Jeju) and continued on through small neighborhoods and fishing villages. I was very quickly falling in love with the Olle network, only wondering why it took me so long to discover it. The trails are well maintained and marked with various markers, including ribbons, wooden arrows, painted markings and Ganse (Jeju ponies). If you're walking the trail from start to finish look for blue colored markings, but should you wish to do it in reverse you're color is orange.
After Samyang the trail led inland through villages, fields and farms. I was basically in the middle of no where and at times went for long stretches without seeing another person, but I was thoroughly enjoying it. The beauty of Jeju was finally hitting me, I wrote before about how my first two visits to Jeju just didn't do it for me, but being out on the trails changed everything.
Although the millage of the trails can be long, it really doesn't feel like it, the day is broken up due to the different surroundings from fields and farm land to coastal walls, listening to the crashing waves and watching the Hanyeo (traditional divers in Jeju) go after their day's catch. While it seems that most people complete the entire route this is not necessary, the trails do cross main roads along the way, so should you grow tired there is always the option of catching a bus back to the city, although I would research these routes (options) ahead of time.
By the end of the day I felt amazing, I had seen small corners of Jeju that no other traveler would have crossed, received smiles from curious locals and as a bonus a full day of sun and exercise. Towards the end of my first full Olle course I already knew what my plans were for the following day, I just wasn't sure what number to tackle next.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.