5 reasons to visit Jeju, your visa-free gateway to beautiful Korea

Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2017 11:21 PM | Updated as of May 12 2017 11:23 AM

Canola flowers and cherry blossoms adorn a highway in Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

With only over 8,000 Filipino tourists in 2016, Jeju Tourism Organization in South Korea is seeking more Philippine tourists this year. Should you give in? Here are several reasons why Jeju-do could be your next destination.

1. Visa-free option to experience South Korea

Since the Korean wave reached Philippine shores, many Filipinos have longed to visit the land of their dream oppas or favorite idols but may be burdened by visa rules. Entry to South Korea requires a visa, but not when you're heading straight to Jeju-do. 

Budget airlines have yet to offer direct flights from the Philippines' major airports to Jeju but Philippine Airlines' chartered flight is a good option. You may also sign up for group tours via Rakso Travel or go DIY with budget flights with stop-overs in Singapore or Hong Kong. 

There are plenty of shops for everything Korean: beauty masks, clothes, BB creams, and more. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

2. Awesome sights and natural wonders

Though far from South Korea's capital, Jeju-do promises a city experience like that of Seoul (Wi-Fi almost everywhere, well-lit shopping districts, and plenty of dining options) but with a provincial charm you won't find elsewhere. The special tourist zone island rightfully holds many titles: UNESCO triple crown awardee, World Natural Heritage, and as part of 7 Wonders of Nature.

Photo courtesy of Korea Tourism Organization.

Jeju-do is home to Daepo Jusangjeolli Cliff, a natural wonder that features volcanic rock formations that look like perfectly-carved cubes and hexagons. The carvings emerged after lava from South Korea's tallest mountain Hallasan erupted into the sea of Jungmun. Stay awhile to enjoy the sound of waves while savoring fresh air. 

Then there's Seongsan Ilchulbong, a postcard-worthy hill that makes for memorable long walks. Couples young and old go hiking and reward themselves with picturesque views at the peak. Other tourists watch 'mermaids' known as Haenyos, female divers who can hold their breaths for over 3 minutes and dive up to 30 meters deep. These Haenyos have been named intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO. 

Awesome views await visitors of Seongsan Ilchulbong. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Seongsan Ilchulbong has vast lands peppered with wild flowers, making it a great backdrop for your travel selfies. The hill's sunrise view is also a great motivation to wake up early. 

Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

3. Gorgeous flowers, happy places

If you plan to see cherry blossoms sans the hordes of tourists during Sakura season in Japan, set a trip to Jeju-do. During spring, cherry blossoms adorn highways around the island. The baby pink blooms also meet yellow Canola at Keunsaseumie Oreum, or create archs in tranquil parks around Jeju City. Jeju-do's Canola fields, usual sceneries in Korean dramas and music videos, are also best for do-it-yourself pre-wedding or family portraits.

Perfect for lovely dates. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News
Picture-perfect! Cherry blossoms are good backdrops. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News
A usual street view in Jeju during spring. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News
Cherry blossoms galore: Calming view of the famed flowers. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Huge roses and vibrant tulips can also be seen at Ecoland, a child-friendly theme park at Beonyeong-ro. Ecoland visitors are treated to sunny sights, beautiful views of calm lakes, and a scenic train ride that passes through a forest. There are also plenty of picnic areas in Ecoland, making it a great spot for idling or playful family time. 

Blooms welcome visitors of Ecoland theme park. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Kids love various sights at Ecoland. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

No wonder Ecoland is a family favorite. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Families will love it here. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

4. Fit to a tea, beautify thee

Tea lovers will love O’sulloc Museum in Jeju-do's Seogwipo-si district. The museum has almost everything you need about tea: see vast fields of green tea, try tea rituals, and discover the beauty of tea cups from around the world. The best part? You can shop for affordable sets of flavored tea bags or exquisite matcha chocolates and spreads. Favorites include teas made from Jeju-grown citron and tangerine.

Enjoying nature at O'sulloc tea museum. Photo by Kim Tae Hyoung.
Green tea galore. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News
Matcha lover? You would want to take home 10 boxes. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Nearby the museum sits a huge Innisfree shop, where they sell the famed Jeju volcanic line (from pore cleansing foam to clay masks). Everything you need to beautify is within reach and if you want a personalized green tea-oatmeal-citron soap, you can even make your own. It's also a good spot to shop for keepsakes or gifts for your friends back home.

Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

5. Tour for the tummy

If you travel for food, you only need one reason to pack your bags and immediately fly to Jeju-do: black pork samgyeopsal (pork belly meat). Their distinctive ‘dwaeji’ is savory, soft and chewy. Eat it with rice or wrap it with greens, then enjoy it with soju and have a belly-full all-nighter. You may have to wait in line if you dine at Giunne Heugdwaeji, but it will be worth it. 

Yummy! Cook your own version of Korean barbeque. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

You also shouldn’t miss Jeju-do’s delectable seafood. The island paradise has plenty of mouthwatering mackerel, tasty abalone, raw fish and squid, and more! Korea’s traditional side dishes will add flavor to the already scrumptious seafood.

Abalone's aplenty in Jeju. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

For those with time to spare, a trip to scenic cafes is highly recommended. Pass time with a nice cup of coffee at Bonmal café or G-Dragon café while appreciating Jeju’s calm seas. 

Bonmal cafe (left) and G-Dragon cafe (right) are great places for relaxation by the sea. Photo by Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

For more information on places to see in South Korea, visit Korea Tourism Organization.