All of Korea isn’t Seoul. It’s something you will hear time and time again. Seoul isn’t all there is to Korea. This is something that few visitors realise until they get the chance to leave the city – me included. But once you leave the cities, there is a whole new dimension to the country. People with amazing stories, beautiful nature, and fascinating wildlife. If you come to Korea, make sure that you don’t only stay in the cities. The are amazing, but Korea offers so much more! This is where Udo comes in…
Udo isn’t exactly a ‘country’ location. On the contrary, it’s really quite popular. However, it isn’t a place that tourists usually go. Somehow many people never even hear about this little island, and I’m not sure why. Rather, it’s more of a local hot-spot. Once you visit, It’s easy to see why!
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Paradise Within Korea’s Paradise
Udo is located off the east coast of Jeju Island. The island which itself is often considered a holiday location by Koreans (although it does have its own population of 600,000). Udo is then considered a holiday location by the locals already on Jeju. Located away from the two cities of Jeju, it is a short ferry ride from the mainland. The island itself barely takes fifteen minutes to reach via ferry, and the ferries leave regularly. The island is quite popular, and always has visitors. Other than the coast (which is the focus area for most tourists), the island isn’t very built up. It is a more traditional feeling community.
Important Notes: before I go any further, it is important that you bring both your passport (or ARC if you are residing in Korea) and license (if you have one). The reasons to bring these will be included below, but they are essential.
Traveling to the Island
Car parks are available at the terminal and parking is incredibly cheap (only a couple of dollars usually). The ferry itself coasts 8500KRW (around $7) for a round trip. A small form must be filled out before taking the ferry – a form that asks for your phone number, name, and gender. After this form is filled out, tickets can be purchased (the cashiers are mostly able to speak English) and you can queue for the boat. The ferries depart between 7:30 am and 6 pm. If you want to explore the island, make sure to visit with enough time to spare.
The biggest difficulty with reaching Udo is getting to Seongsanhang Port from elsewhere on Jeju. However, this too is an easy trip! From the Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal, multiple buses can be taken to the port. After some research, it seems that the buses have changed a few times over the past few years. As such, I recommend this link for more detailed information on the buses. Google Maps also has some different routes. This trip takes about an hour and forty minutes. Otherwise, a car can be rented – a fantastic option if you also want to explore the rest of the island.
The lighthouse located on Biyangdo. A small island that is reachable by a bridge from Udo.
Traveling on the Island
Once you reach Udo, you have a large variety of transport options. Motorised scooters, electric bikes, mini cars (basically enclosed bikes), and more can be hired on the island. The prices will vary based on the store that you use, as there are many competing services. However, the store that we used on our visit was only 20,000KRW for either an electric bike or motorised scooter for the whole day. What a bargain! It is worth keeping in mind though, that a license is required for the motorised vehicles. If you don’t have a license, the electric bikes are always available. Some of the available transportation can be seen here (unfortunately no English option is offered). The prices listed on Udorent are higher than what we paid though, and bikes and scooters can be found for 20,000KRW for the day.
All in all, you can expect transport on Udo to cost about 30,000KRW (or 35,000KRW if you travel from Jeju City). A ferry round-trip and bike hire are all that you need for a fantastic day on the island. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to use the bus, that’s also a valid option. Buses operate all over the island and stop at all of the most popular locations. Since the island is so small to begin with, anywhere is walking distance from a bus stop. A full map of the bus route can be found here.
Important note: If you plan to hire some kind of transport (or even if you don’t – it’s good to be safe), bring your passport. Many of the hiring stores will require you to hand over your passport for the duration of your hiring.
I would personally have to recommend a method of personal transport rather than the bus. While the bus may be a more comfortable journey, the island is well worth exploring. Something which is hard to do when you have to rely on the bus. There are a lot of breathtaking views and locations on the island, and being able to stop anytime you want is a great bonus.
Udo is just under 6.2km² and is really quite small. Biking the circumference of the island (including a short trip to the centre of the island) is not a difficult ride on bikes, and being exposed to the elements (especially in spring and fall) is really quite refreshing. Udobong is located at the southeastern tip of the island, standing at 130 metres tall, it is the highest point on the island. With the stunning views that it provides, this is one of the areas on the island that is definitely worth visiting.
If you only have time to speed around the island, I imagine that the it could be covered in a couple of hours. This would be the speediest of visits though and would leave no time to enjoy the highlights of the island. A morning or afternoon is the minimum time required to enjoy all that the island has to offer, with a dedicated day for Udo being the best option. We stayed on the island for an afternoon, and I would have been happy staying a few more hours. If you have a spare night, you can consider staying a night there. For as little as 30,000KRW per night, accommodation can be found.
The Udo Lighthouse is a favourite picture location.
The Two Udo’s
The island can be divided into two main areas. The coast and the inland island. Being the main attraction, the coast is usually quite crowded. While not being unbearably crowded on the day we visited, it definitely was a little congested at times. On the other hand, heading inland will quickly take you away from all of the crowds. There is a small township in the centre of the island in which a couple of hundred people live.
The town feels like a traditional Korean town, with a lot of farming and fishing. The coastal views are something that everybody should see. In saying that though, inland is another very nice, albeit different, experience. If you are someone who likes to leave the beaten path sometimes, this is a great opportunity.
This is when hiring a bike really comes in handy – The bus doesn’t really go inland and only sticks to the coast. Since all of the attractions are located along the coast, there really isn’t much need for most people to head towards the township. If you want to see more than what most visitors see though, you definitely will as soon as you leave the coastal road.
Rather than seeing the ocean on your sides, these roads will lead you through farmland and houses. Hundreds of fields surround the road, many with people tending to them. Dogs will be assisting in the daily tasks, and you’ll see the locals living life as it is on Udo. For me personally, this was a really cool experience.
The inland parts of Udo have their own kind of beauty.
The Island Loop
The most common way to view the island is by the coastal loop. This loop begins at Cheonjin Port, one of the island’s two ports. Ferries from Jeju arrive here at regular intervals and it is populated with food, drinks, and places to hire transport. Every kind of vehicle on the island can be found here.
From here, it is up to you which way to head. Since Cheonjin is located in the southwest, you can decide to head either north or east. The whole loop is about 16km. With electric bikes though, this isn’t as bad as it seems! Although our batteries nearly went flat, we were never wondering ‘when will this be over?’. There were so many scenes and locations of interest that the trip was always exciting.
From Cheonjin Port, I recommend heading north towards Haumok-dong. While heading east will give you just as pleasant a time, going north lets you explore the island, then head up to Udo Peak and get an ice-cream near the end of your journey. The island is famous for peanut ice cream… More on that soon! Heading to the north most point of the island (Dapdani Tower) will take you past white sand beaches filled with volcanic rocks. The beaches here are definitely some of the best I’ve seen in Korea.
Dapdani Tower is about 5km from Cheonjin Port, and it marks one-third of the journey. The tower itself is situated on the beach and right next to a lookout. This is a very popular spot, and you can expect a lot of people to stop here. From the tower, it is back south again. Hagosu-dong beach is another beautiful beach that you will pass on your way to Biyangdo, a small island off the coast of Udo. This island is reachable by a bridge (it is quite small and not far from the mainland) and has another lighthouse – this time situated on some volcanic rock. This was definitely one of my favourite views on the island.
From Biyangdo, head south towards Udo Peak (Udobong). This will pass you by Geommeolle Beach and will take you to the last leg of the journey. Geommeolle Beach is a stunning one! Located at the bottom of the cliffs below Udobong, there is a staircase leading down the cliff to the beach below. Even if you don’t plan on descending down to the beach, the view here is fantastic… It is also home to some famous peanut ice-cream! Seats are located along the top of the cliff, and even if you don’t want the ice-cream (which you should!), it is worth taking in the sight.
From Udobong it is a direct journey back to Cheonjin Port. This part of the journey doesn’t follow the coast as closely and instead goes ever so slightly inland. From here you can either end your journey or head to the town before leaving. It’s an easy trip to reach the centre of the island before heading back to Cheonjin Port.
To reach the port from Udobong takes 15-20 minutes. However, a short diversion to the town centre will add about 40 minutes on to your time. There is nothing special in the town, and the tourist attractions are all located around the coast. The town is a nice visit though, as it has a small village feel and feels more authentic than the locations around the coast.
Seobinbaeksa Beach. One of the many beautiful beaches on the island.
Food on Udo
There are multiple famous foods on Udo. Prime amongst them are the peanut and tangerine ice-cream variations, as well as Jeju’s black pork – but this time in burgers. Not being a food blogger myself, this post has much more information on the best food on the island.
HaHa HoHo is famous for both its ice cream, and its burgers. The store is often VERY busy, however, and expect queue times of 15+ minutes. However, the burgers are very good. If you avoid the lunchtime period of 12-1 then you will have a much better chance of being seated straight away. The restaurant is located at the Obong-ri juhong-dong intersection.
Peanut and tangerine ice-cream can be found all over the island. It is the most famous local speciality, and as such, it is very popular amongst visitors. If you only eat one thing on Udo, make sure it is peanut ice-cream! (or tangerine if that’s more your style).
My recommendation for the best place to get ice-cream is near the end of the coastal route (if you decide to go clockwise around the island). Udobong is near the end of the trip, and it also happens to be one of the most beautiful parts of the island. Not only this, but the small township next to Udobong has multiple different ice-cream cafes including Bawi sori, and Dennis Cafe.
Udobong stands tall (but not too tall) over the rest of the island.
Udo – Is it worth visiting?
There is something about the island which just makes you forget about your worries. Something which is immensely appreciated after the stress of living in Korea. Even if you are just a visitor and not a local, Udo is a place that is definitely worth your time. In a way, it is like Jeju – but a version of Jeju that can be fully explored within a few days. While Jeju itself is also amazing, if you only have a day or two spare, spend it on Udo.
Forget About Your Worries
Udo Is one of the few places in Korea where I have felt truly relaxed. There is a certain atmosphere on the island that just makes everything seem calm, relaxed, and happy. It is the polar opposite of Seoul and the lifestyle there. After living in Korea for a couple of years now, I can see why locals love Udo. It’s an escape. A great one.
Besides the atmosphere, the scenery on Udo is breathtaking. The white sand beaches with the clear water and volcanic rocks make for some of the best coastal views you can find in Korea. I thought that Sokcho was beautiful at the time, but I think that one of the beaches on Udo definitely takes the cake for the most beautiful beach I’ve seen in Korea so far.
If you get the chance and are able to, I highly recommend hiring a bike or scooter so that you are able to explore as you wish. This allows you to also travel into the centre of the island, another experience which is very unique and interesting.
If you require any additional information or have something to add, please feel free to let me know in the comments. I will reply as soon as I am able.
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