What is Jeju Olle Trail?
437 km of way-marked walking trail around South Korea’s largest island, Jeju. There are a total of 27 routes, 21 of which are considered part of the connected and looped main island trail. The other 6 dash routes (example 1-1) are mostly located on smaller nearby islands with some exceptions. A walker will need all stamps from all routes in their Olle passport to be considered a candidate for the 437 km completion certificate and mini medal. More recently a 100 km completion certificate has become available too.
The routes do not go from start to end in a straight line. That’s because the philosophy behind the whole trail is to take a break from every day living, slow down, and just take some time to relax. Life is certainly hectic here in South Korea. Working hours are incredibly long and the work environment can honestly brutal. Therefore for Korean walkers it is a chance to leave all of that behind for a while.
Jeju Olle Trail is not a trail designed to be completed in the shortest and fastest amount of time.
“It all started in September 2006, when Suh Myung-sook, the editor-in-chief of South Korean current affairs website OhmyNews, decided to pack up her newswoman notebook after 23 years and fly to Spain for a pilgrimage trek at El Camino de Santiago. Believed to be the path of Saint James (Santiago), it has attracted countless pilgrims in search of spiritual healing and rejuvenation.
As has been chronicled, while walking the trail, Suh met a British girl called Henney, who then gave her some food for thought, “If the journey was so great for us, why not build our own El Camino de Santiago in our homeland when we go back?”
This jolted her memory of Jeju with its beautiful and serene Olle, or narrow walking paths, around the island. She resolved to recreate the Santiago route in South Korea. Upon returning home, she embarked on the restoration of the old Olle and the creation of new ones. The first Olle trail was opened in 2007…”
Can I download apps for planning and helping?
Unfortunately (due to the neighbor in the North) Google Maps is not particularly good or useful here in South Korea. The satellite view is low quality and out-of-date. Do not despair. There are two free Korean-made apps that have English-language options. They are rather good for Jeju Olle Trail.
One is made by Naver (iOS Version | Android Version) and another by Kakao (iOS Version | Android Version). Walkers should certainly download and familiarize themselves with at least one of these free apps before arriving in the country or on the island. For example, the Kakao app has a dotted blue line (sometimes orange denoting wheel-chair accessible section) for the whole trail. Walkers can also check exactly where their bus is in the map too. We had a suggestion from a walker about using Naver for finding accommodation along the trail. Apparently you can search guesthouse, minbak, or pension in English near your location and it will translate that into Korean and suggest places to stay.
Where exactly is Jeju Olle Trail?
Jeju Island is the biggest island in South Korea. The island is about 73 km from western to eastern tips. It is about 30 km from northern to southern points. It is one of the most southerly islands in the country with the tiny places of Gapado (Route 10-1), Marado (no Olle route), and Iedo (semi-submerged rock with research station) being the only pieces of land further south.
When should I walk Jeju Olle Trail?
A difficult question to answer. This is because everyone in the world has a different walking habit. Generally, late March to mid-May is the most comfortable walking period earlier in the year. Later on mid-September until mid-November is considered the best time to be on the trail. Especially the month of October. Walkers do enjoy the cold and windy winter walks. But we strongly and I mean strongly discourage anyone from walking the trail from late June, July and August. Due to the summer heat it is a very unpleasant experience. Do something else with your time on the island. Really. Like going to the beach or climbing Halla Mountain.
How long will it take me to walk Jeju Olle Trail?
Well, walkers doing one route a day should take 26 days in total. But Route 18-1 on Chujado requires an overnight stay in a guesthouse or hotel so that’ll stretch the trip to 27. Walkers need 21 days if they are only walking the main routes on the main island (no break days). Some walkers have done two routes in a day and covered up to 40km. But the philosophy behind Jeju Olle Trail is to go slow and enjoy the break from every day life.
What level of fitness do I need to walk on this trail?
There are so many factors involved with trying to answer this question. Each route has its own difficulty level, so please check this before departing. Also check how many oreums (small parasitic extinct volcanoes) each route has. These hills all vary in size and steepness. Though in most cases de-tours exist to take you around them. What we can say say is that Jeju Olle Trail is not a wilderness trail with hikes above tree lines and extreme dangerous weather to deal with.
What about camping?
It is a kind of difficult to give a definitive answer. There are no routes that have a camp site at the start or end point. Then you’ll find the routes that do have a camp site, well, the sites are in the middle, which is just not practical because you have to walk back from the end of a route. Camping rules are generally not hard-and-fast. It really depends on who happens to be around at that time and where you are exactly when you decide to camp. So at the end of the day if you can find a quiet, secluded corner, in a farmers field or a rest pagoda you will generally be fine. And if anyone does show up flash them a friendly foreigner smile and say ‘Jeju Olle’. Hopefully that’ll be enough for you to spend the night wherever you are and move on in the morning.
Can I store my luggage somewhere on the island?
There are a couple of options for walkers.
The HQ office of Jeju Olle can keep luggage, but it’s not an official service. Furthermore Jeju Olle HQ office is located in Seogwipo so the location could be inconvenient for walkers arriving on the island in Jeju City.
Walkers could try asking their accommodation. Especially if this is an AirBnB reservation.
Send an email to email@example.com. I have kept luggage for many walkers over the years. However, I am only a volunteer and sometimes my schedule is so busy. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you are okay with a charged service, there is a company which stores and delivers Olle hiker’s luggage, Zimdao. (This maybe the last option when you don’t find any kind of friends or accommodation.) It costs KRW 2,000~10,000. The staff are not fluent with speaking English but they’ll try.
Finally, Jeju Olle is actively trying to solve this luggage storage issue. An office staff member liaised with several government officials and asked about making a luggage keeping service or place near(or in the) airport. It may take long but Jeju Olle will try to prepare what Olle hikers actually need.
What about the extra -1 routes. Should I do these too?
We have 21 main routes on Jeju Olle Trail. There are five small routes each with their own characteristics.
Route 1-1 on Udo Island is a mixed bag due to heavy tourist traffic. There are cars, buses, and ATVs. Actually Jeju Olle Trail advises against walking this route during the summer (it will also be hot and there is a lack of shade on 1-1). If you can hike on a weekday or start with an early ferry you’ll be okay.
Next up is Route 7-1. This is a walk from the World Cup Stadium in Seogwipo and actually takes you back in the Seogwipo. It is uphill at first with an oreum hike and then down hill for the ending part. Yes, this route is worth adding in.
Route 10-1 on the small island of Gapado. If you walk fast you can get this done in under 2 hours. The point of this route, however, is to go really slow and just take in the uniqueness of small island life. Plus you can stop off at the school and have your picnic or prepared lunch on the grass field.
The best extra route on the main island is Route 14-1. This includes the Gotjawal Forest for much of the day. The only taste of real civilization is the O’suloc Green Tea Fields at the end. You’ll be spat out into a tourist mecca. However, it is a welcome place to re-charge with coffee and brunch. The lunch set boxes are 15,000 WON in the building behind the main tea house.
Finally we have Route 18-1 on Chujado. These islands are about one hour from Jeju on a fast ferry. Walkers require a one night stay to do the hardest Jeju Olle Trail route properly. With a bit of planning you can do one of the best routes with some of the best views in Korea. Chujado is a rugged, hardy, and beautiful place for any foreign visitor who manages to make it that far. Please check the weather forecast because ferry services are often canceled. The fast ferry can also be vomit inducing. Check our accommodation guide because reserving a place to stay is not as simple either.
Which route is the best?
Every walker has their favorite route on the trail, so it is difficult to give a definitive answer. If you only have a day or a couple of days to walk then please consider these routes:
Route 1, 6, 7, 18
These are routes recommended to foreign walkers over the years.
Route 1 gives you a standard introduction to Olle and Jeju Island. Walkers get a countryside feeling at first followed by Seongsan Sunrise Peak towards the end. This route isn’t super long either. Plus the bus stops are really close to the start and end points. You’ll have three oreum climbs in this day (one optional at Sunrise Peak).
Route 6 takes walkers through Seogwipo and has a lot of cultural sites along the way including waterfalls. Starting at 9:30 a.m. you can be finished by lunch. Then spend the afternoon exploring Seogwipo City.
Route 7 is considered Olle trail’s most popular route. Certainly the first part is very popular, however, I’m not a huge fan myself. I’d probably choose Route 6 over Route 7. I would do Route 7 on the following day.
Route 18 is a personal favorite of mine. You’ll see a different side of Jeju Island that many tourists don’t see. The landscape on this northern route is different to that of the exotic feeling of Seogwipo. Route 18 starts in Jeju City, but slowly leaves it all behind. Move into Samyang for lunch and then along country roads and paths for the afternoon. That is quintessential Olle. Start points and end points have easy bus access. Though Route 18 is quite long. Keep that in mind.
Should I do the trail in order?
Picking and choosing routes will leave walkers with no overall sense of how the trail changes throughout the varied landscape of the island. International walkers start from Route 18 in Jeju City or Route 1 out in Seongsan. It is down to your personal preference.
Walking clock-wise or anti-clockwise?
Jeju Olle Trail can also be walked in either direction. Blue painted arrows denote a clock-wise direction. The orange arrows denote a counter-clockwise direction. However, I have never known of any walkers going counter-clockwise on their first walk. Everyone usually goes from Route 1 around to Route 21 in a clock-wise direction. Those who live on Jeju Island tend to walk in reverse after completing the whole loop for a fresh approach.
Should I reserve accommodation for every day on the trail?
Unless you’re walking in high season (during the summer when it’s really hot) then you should be able to find suitable accommodation at the route start and end points. Consult your guidebook that you hopefully picked up free of charge from our airport information desk or downloaded from this site. Consult the accommodation guide here too. It’s really hard to answer this question because most walkers don’t know if they’ll do one and a half routes in a day or where exactly they will end up. Don’t worry, you will find somewhere.
Are there any events for walkers?
Yes, we have two events in a month that might be of interest. Clean Olle is an officially sanctioned volunteer group choosing one route and tidying up the trash found along the way. Trash tongs, bags, and other support materials are provided.
There is the Walk Together event on the fourth Saturday of every month. Walkers start together. Then go off as they please. Shuttle buses run from Jeju City and Seogwipo City. Please contact us for specific event route information and start times.
Do I need to send resupply and food packages to myself on this trail?
No, you do not. Jeju Olle Trail does not have remote sections without food or water for days. This trail is not as challenging as the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail at all. Routes start, pass through, and finish near bus stops and villages throughout the day. There are modern convenience stores selling typical snack foods and beverages. You’ll never be more than a short walk or short ride from being able to resupply or eat. The challenge is more about overcoming the language barrier and finding somewhere to eat that is agreeable with your tastes (especially if this is your first time in Korea with Korean food).
Can I walk with my dog on the trail?
The trail is open to pets as well. However, walkers use typical dog owners common sense. Especially in sections where routes pass through fields with livestock (cows and horses).
Should I be worried about the animals?
What about walking with children?
This is a question that arrives in my inbox from time-to-time. It all depends how old they are, what type of parents you are, and past walking experiences. Please use common sense.
You don’t want to be walking Jeju Olle Trail in the high summer months (July and August) with young children in strollers/push-chairs. During that time you don’t even want to be carrying children on your back. The same goes for winter.
From personal experience I have found walking half an Olle route more than enough with children.
Route 15-B from Hallim to Gwakji Beach offers a good walk. Not too long and not too short. There are restaurants and cafes along the route, including the awesome dragon-on-the-building Chinese restaurant. Don’t worry, you can see it from the route. Plus Route 15-A finishes at Gwakji Beach where the kids can play in the sand.
If you have older children then the start of Route 18 until the middle point in Samyang is good, too. It’ll be a 3.5 hour walk with cafes and restaurants as you walk. At the end you’ll be at the black sand beach and an easy bus ride back to the start point.
If a walker is bringing a stroller/push-chair then check the official web site for sections marked with a blue/orange line. You can go there.