After last year’s cycling trip from Seoul to Busan, I’ve got a real taste for exploring the country on my bicycle. Before I start simply taking random directions and exploring the nooks and crannies of towns and villages, I’ve decided that I want to complete Korea’s “Grand Slam” and this trip to Jeju Island was a part of that.
The official name for the cycling path that circumnavigates the island is the “Jeju Fantasy Bicycle Path.” A few thoughts to come on that name, but let’s start with getting there are the parts of the island that it touches.
Originally, I’d actually considered cycling from Gwangju to Mokpo and then taking the ferry across to Jeju, but time constraints prevented this. I’d still love to take that ferry, but flying was my best option this time. Next time!
The Seoul-Jeju airline route is the single busiest area of the skies on the planet and there are flights taking off every 5 minutes from Gimpo from around 6am until 9pm. That’s the easy part.
From there, you need to get your bike down to Jeju (of course, you could rent one on the island as well, but I took my own). Several airlines will take your bike as “sports cargo” for around a 10,000KRW fee as long as it is packed and doesn’t exceed their weight limits. First, I considered using Gimpo’s oversized baggage packing service, but they wanted 40,000KRW each way and were using cardboard to pack the bike which would need to be disposed of after landing and provide very little protection for the bike during the flight. Eventually, I came across a brand new service called Roundel Cycle Touring Club that was offering reusable bike boxes that could be rented for 48,000KRW for a round trip. This meant no additional garbage created, lower cost, and a safer way to pack my bike. All good things in my book.
The Jeju Fantasy Bicycle Path snakes its way around the coast of the island much like the 1132 highway. In fact, it shares the highway and the coastal road for most of the journey. Beginning in Jeju city, it takes you south through Aewol, Hallim, and Gosan until you finally reach Sagye and Songaksan. Then it takes you across the southern coast through the resort town of Jungmun, Seogwipo City, and out to Pyoseon before turning north towards Seongsan Sunrise Peak. From there, you follow the northern coast through Gimneyong and Hamdeok before heading back into Jeju City.
In terms of the quality of the views, this path is second-to-none here in Korea. However, in terms of the quality of the path itself, I feel like that’s where the word fantasy really comes in. It seems like Jeju is expecting you to fantasize that there are no broken soju bottles littering the path, no drunk Olle Trail walkers sharing your road, no farmers dumping piles of soil on the path, no cars parked along it, and no potholes large enough to swallow a tractor. Simply put, about half of the path is excellent and the other half is in complete disarray. In many sections, it was safer to ride on the 1132 highway with cars and trucks than to ride on the bike path itself. Especially for those with road bikes (thin tyres!), very few were taking the actual bike path for these sections.
I did the path in three days so I could spend time photographing the island and enjoying the sunshine whenever I found a nice spot to stop. Even then, however, I was done early each day and could have easily completed the riding in two days. I’d recommend aiming for 2 days if you’re just riding, or 3-4 days if you want to make the most of the island and explore things off the bike path.
There isn’t really much to be said about the views on Jeju. They’re spectacular and are a must for anyone visiting Korea. I’ll leave you with some images from the ride.