A Day with Nature
An Island off an Island
Isn’t the reason that many travelers come to Jeju Island that they want to experience Jeju’s unique natural environment? However, as Jeju has emerged as a global travel destination, crowded with tourists, it can be hard to find the image of Jeju you were looking for. But the old Jeju is still there and if you’re looking for a special holiday spot where you can enjoy nature, why not try leaving Jeju for another island – nearby Udo (우도).
Beautiful, natural Udo has been the background for a number of films and television dramas including ‘My Spring Days’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Summer Scent’ and ‘Il Mare’. From the austere stonewall walkway to the Haenyeo (female shellfish divers) emerging from the crisp, clean ocean water and freely prancing ponies, Udo lives up to the spirit of freedom embodied in its name, which means “like a cow lying down”.
Feel the wind in your face and listen to the sound of waves crashing on the beach as you feel your stress melt away. Although Udo isn’t a very well-known tourist destination, you’ll fall in love with its natural beauty and feel at peace.
Udo by Scooter
There are four ways that visitors generally travel around Udo. Walking, bus tours, driving a rental car and finally by scooter. If you really want to get to know Udo, we recommend trying a scooter. As you travel, you will find that you might stay for a long time in a place you hadn’t intended to visit at all, or that you leave a destination you really wanted to see after just a short time there. The good thing about travelling by scooter is that you can follow your own tastes and choose when and where to spend your time. There is a limit to the number of cars that can come onto Udo, so there won’t be many cars and there are plenty of places to park a scooter, making this the simplest way to enjoy Udo.
However, no matter how confident you are in your driving, be careful as accidents are always a concern when the natural beauty of Udo can be so distracting. If you’re ready, let’s go to Udo!
It takes about a day to travel around Udo. It’s a small island, so while there are options for staying overnight, there is a limit to availability. We recommend finding an inn back on Jeju near Seongsan Ilchulbong.
1) The fare for the ferry from Jeju’s Seongsan Harbour to Udo is KRW 5,500.
2) It costs KRW 23,000 to take a car to Udo on the ferry (return trip for a saloon)
3) Scooter hire is KRW 15,000-20,000 (for 2 hours)
After arriving on Jeju, the journey to Udo is like a holiday inside a holiday and full of thrills. Let’s jump board and ride the ferry to Udo. After just 10 minutes or so, you’ll see “WELCOME TO BEAUTIFUL U-DO” in big letters.
Sanho White Sand Beach (산호 백사장)
After renting a scooter, your first stop will be Sanho White Sand Beach. There you’ll find shining white sand and emerald waters as far as the eye can see. Sanho White Sand Beach is one of Udo’s eight white sand beaches.
The emerald waters off the coast here are a beautiful sight and very different to how the sea looks from South Korea’s mainland. The area is picture-perfect nature with the exotic feel of the white sand and emerald sea. Comparisons to the idyllic South Pacific and the Mediterranean aren’t an exaggeration.
The name Sanho comes from the belief that the white sand was formed from broken coral, but later it was discovered that it actually came from rhodolith beds. This is Asia’s only known rhodolith bed beach and has been designated a natural treasure.
Rhodolith beds look like piles of small rocks clumped together along the sea floor. Red algae, a sea plant, forms along the sand and over time the waves and currents of the water cause this formation.
The first time you see a rhodolith bed is always surprising and something you’re likely to remember for its unique shape and colour. But remember, it has been designated a natural treasure, so you can’t take any from the beach. Recently there have been news reports warning about the danger of losing white sand beaches due to environmental issues. So it’s important to make sure that we take care of this natural wonder so more people can enjoy it.
Stone Staircase Lookout (답다니탑 망대)
Hop back on your scooter for 15 minutes or so until you arrive at our second destination, the Stone Staircase Lookout. Located at the northernmost tip of Udo, climbing the staircase will you give you an excellent view of the blue sky and the sea. A refreshing sea breeze here allows you to really enjoy the full beauty of Udo.
Make sure you look for the stone heart shape next to the Stone Staircase Lookout. This is no ordinary rock formation – it’s a kind of dam used to catch fish in a natural way. On the outside, the stones are loosely placed to allow the fish to come in, but on the inside, the stones are placed diagonally around each other preventing the fish from escaping. This allows the island’s Haenyeo to easily catch small fish. This rock formation was built by the community together and they rebuild it every time a strong wave or typhoon knocks it over. Notice the multicoloured formation next to it. This is formed by conch shells gathered by shellfish divers during a special festival every year.
This is a beautiful place to enjoy the scenery now, but it has a painful history. During the Jeju Uprising, which started on 3 April 1948, this lookout was built to watch the situation unfolding on Jeju Island. Every day, the residents would go up to the look-out wondering about the fate of those on the mainland and wishing the conflict would end. It is important not to forget that history.
This is not just a place with white lighthouses, blue skies and emerald seas. The Stone Staircase Lookout has a painful history. This place reminds us of those who have long protected Udo and how different it might look without them.
Hagosoodong Beach (하고수동 해수욕장)
As we move onto your next stop, we were lucky enough to meet an Udo Haenyeo. You can see the sweat dripping from her forehead and that she is working hard. She greeted us happily.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from Seoul. Isn’t that hard work?”
“Hard work, ha! I do this everyday, go have fun.”
She looked very busy as she was heading back in. Haenyeo, with their hands full of shellfish straight from the sea and large welcoming smiles, are a hallmark of Jeju Island.
It’s always a pleasure to meet them. Continue on your way to Hagosoodong Beach. There you will find the world’s largest statue commemorating the work of Jeju’s Haenyeo. Haenyeo have been an important part of Udo’s culture and livelihood for centuries. Because of this, a statue was built as a symbol of the god who protects their peace and safety. The sign in front of the statue says, “Grant happiness to the homes of the Haenyeo”. After meeting a Haenyeo for yourself, this statue will seem even more special. Every April there is a special shellfish festival on Udo and you can even have a go at being a Haenyeo. You can try getting a conch shell for yourself, surely a memory you’ll never forget.
Geommeole Beach (검멀레 해수욕장)
One of the reasons that Udo is a popular tourist spot is the many locations that seem similar, but, at the same time, are very different. Sanho White Sand Beach is known for its white sand and emerald waters, but Geommeole Beach is a black sand beach with dark blue waters. The name even means “Black Sand Beach” in Korean. This sand was formed from black volcanic rock and the words “Geomeun More” are spoken differently as “Geommeole” on Jeju.
The volcanic cliffs surrounding this beach are one of its main attractions. It almost looks as though someone has carved them out on purpose. Here you can also find one of Udo’s special attractions – Dongangyeong Cave. Literally meaning “East Coast Whale Cave”, its name refers to the great size of this cave and the fact that a whale could live inside it. At high tide, the entrance cannot be seen, but at low tide, you can go inside the cave. There is even a tour that will take you into the cave in a boat.
Udo Hill (우도봉)
This is the reason Udo is named after a cow lying down. Udo Hill is the cow’s back rising in the air. When you go up Udo Hill, leave your scooter for a while. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up the hill and reach the top. From here you are even closer to the beautiful Udo sky, where you may find yourself reaching out and shouting for joy. It’s the highest peak on Udo and looking down from here gives you a great view and a refreshing breeze. On a clear day, you can see Jeju Island and Seongsan Harbour, and enjoy a great view of Seongsan Ilchulbong.
You can also find South Korea’s first lighthouse theme park on Udo Hill.
Our trip is almost over, but it’s hard to say goodbye. It’s tempting to stay on Udo Hill – watching Udo ponies running through green fields is a peaceful experience.
Udo is a special place that has retained the old style and atmosphere of Jeju. It is a great place for those who want to experience the natural beauty of Jeju but also enjoy a unique holiday experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Jeju, why don’t you try falling in love with the exotic charms of Udo?
Copy/Images by Jeong Gyu Seon
+ Tip. Udo’s 8 Sights
No. 1 Jugan Myeongwol (晝間明月)
The sight of the moon shining in the middle of the day in Haesik Cave south of Udo Hill. Between 10 and 11 am, the sunlight falls into the cave and reflects off the water onto the cave ceiling, making it appear like the moon is shining inside the cave.
No. 2 Night Fishing Lights (夜航漁帆)
On summer nights, if you look out over the sea at Udo, you’ll see fishermen’s lanterns shining over the ocean. It looks almost like the whole sky is lit up. The best spot to watch from is the sand dune at the north of the island.
No. 3 Mount Halla (天津觀山)
From Cheongjin-Li, the gateway to Udo, you can see Mount Halla, South Korea’s tallest peak. The view of Mount Halla and Seongsan Ilchulbong is incredible.
No. 4 Panoramic View (指頭靑沙)
From the top of Udo Hill you can get a great view of Udo. The blue waters, the white crests of waves and shining white sands mix together beautifully.
No. 5 View from the Sea (前浦望島)
The view of Udo from Jeju’s east coast (Gujua-Eup). From here, Udo looks like a cow lying down.
No. 6 Ocean Cliffs (後海石壁)
Stone cliffs in the sea. Standing over 20 metres high and around 30 metres wide, Udo Hill’s volcanic cliff walls look they could have been carved out by the gods.
No. 7 Dongangyeong Cave (東岸鯨窟)
This cave at the black sand beach of Geommeole is known for its size, supposedly big enough to fit a whale in. There is even a legend that it was once home to a whale.
No. 8 White Sands (西濱白沙)
Udo’s western coast is home to rhodolith-formed white sand beaches. The sand is so white, it can be hard not to squint. This site is also famous for its view of Jeju’s Jimi Peak.
[Source] Korean Central Research Centre – Land Culture Electronic Encyclopedia / Naver Encyclopedia
1 Seongsan Harbour (성산항)
2 Udo Port (우도 천진항)
Address: Yeonpyeong-Li, Udo-Myeon, Jeju, Jeju Special Province
Departure times: (From Seongsan) 8 am – 5 pm, (From Udo) 7:30 am – 4 pm (November to February)
(From Seongsan) 8 am – 5:30 pm, (From Udo) 7:30 am – 5 pm (March & October)
(From Seongsan) 8 am – 6 pm, (From Udo) 7:30 am – 5:30 pm (April & September)
(From Seongsan) 8 am – 6:30 pm, (From Udo) 7 am – 6 pm (May to August)
Return fare – KRW 5,500
Car transport on the ferry costs KRW 23,000 (return trip for a saloon)
3 Sanho White Sand Beach (산호해수욕)
Address: Seogwang-Li, Udo-Myeon, Jeju, Jeju Special Province
4 Stone Staircase Lookout (답다니탑망대)
5 Hagosoodong Beach (하고수동해수욕장)
Address: Gosoomul-Gil, Udo-Myeon, Jeju, Jeju Special Province
6 Geommeole Beach (검멀레해수욕장)
Address: Joil-Gil, Udo-Myeon, Jeju, Jeju Special Province
7 Udo Hill (우도봉)
Address: Cheonjin-Li, Udo-Myeon, Jeju, Jeju Special Province