It took me three trips to Jeju, but I have finally made my way to Udo Island! Here’s my little travel guide on all the things to do and see if you get a chance to go.
Guys, I’ve been wanting to go to Udo Island (or really just Udo or U-Island) since my first trip, so I’m pretty happy I finally visited on my most recent trip. While Jeju itself is an island off of the southern Korean coast, Udo is an even tinier island of off Jeju’s northeastern coast.
Some say it’s the “Scotland of Korea” which is, of course, quite a stretch, though I can see how some of the landscapes can be reminiscent of the Highlands or areas around the isles.
Either way, most people I know only go for a brief day trip, and the information about visiting is pretty scarce online! I wasn’t 100% sure how I was getting around or even what I was going to see before I went, so I’m obviously going to rectify that for you guys in this little travel guide!
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Udo Island Travel Guide
What is Udo?
So Udo literally translates to Cow Island, with “u” meaning “cow” via Korea’s Hanja alphabet (Hanja refers to Chinese words used in Korean). It’s named after cows because, apparently, the outline looks like a cow lying down or the top of a cow’s head depending on who you ask.
Speaking in scientific terms, Udo is a lava plateau which means it was formed by basaltic lava after numerous eruptions.
People started inhabiting and visiting Udo during the Joseon Dynasty when the government built a horse ranch there under King Sukjong in 1697. Regular citizens could visit later under King Heonjong, and Kim Seok Rin, a literary scholar, settled there with his family in 1844. Since then it’s been a fairly popular spot for visitors to Jeju, and it was made an official maritime park in 2000.
How to Get to Udo
You have to go to Udo via ferry. There are two ports from Jeju and two ports on Udo. Jeju has Jongdal Port and Seongsan Port. Udo’s ports are Haumokdong and Cheonjin. The most frequent route is between Seongsan and Cheonjin.
The ferries between Seongsan and Udo start around 7:30 am and 8:00 am and end around 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm depending on the month. They’re pretty much every 30 minutes.
The ferries between Jongdal and Udo’s Haumokdong start at 9:00/9:30 am and end at 4:00 pm (from Udo) and 5:00 pm (from Jongdal), again depending on the month.
I took a ferry from Jongdal to Haumokdong and from Haumokdong to Seongsan (missed the last ferry, whoops!). When you go to get your ticket, they’ll give you a brochure with all the specific times so you can keep track.
It’s 8,500 KRW round trip and takes maybe 15-minutes at most.
How to Get Around Udo
Sooooo many options! I chose the lamest but easiest for someone on their own and not in the mood to walk or bike around in 90C heat — the Udo shuttle bus! I really didn’t know 100% where it would go, but I figured it circled the island and I had a map that kind of showed its stopping points.
Don’t worry, I made sure to save the areas it stopped, and screenshot this map for you to reference. Just go by the purple stars:
It was a little confusing though just because there’s the smaller van style, which I originally went on, but there are also bigger regular-sized buses. I was allowed on one from Geommeollae Beach to Biyangdo but was promptly ushered off when I tried to get on one at Biyangdo, so I don’t know.
The shuttle buses are super frequent, so you don’t have to worry about missing them. I’d say at most, they’re 15-minutes apart.
Biking + Walking
Udo has parts of the Olleh trail, which is a series of trails all around Jeju, so it’s feasible to walk and bike (and electric bike) the island. I chose not to just because it was so hot, and I didn’t want to be in the sun if I didn’t have to. I also had a cute dress and impractical sandals on, so, you know :P
The whole Olleh Trail is about 11.3km and roughly follows the same route as the shuttle bus.
You can rent scooters! Oh my word, these cute looking scooter options made me wish I had remembered to get my international license before coming back to Korea because they looked so ridiculous and fun. I even took a photo of one just to show you guys. If you’re visiting as a couple, it’d be a crime not to rent one of these!
Rental Cars + Taxis
Just making a note here that as far as I know, you can’t bring rental cars from Jeju to Udo. This is why we didn’t go on my last trip because they wouldn’t let us bring ours on the ferry! I also didn’t see a single taxi, so I wouldn’t try relying on them either.
Top Things to Do + See in Udo
Before I get into what I saw and did, you should know Udo, like many places in Korea, has made its own list of scenic wonders to see. I wouldn’t prioritize this list only because you’ll go through them in under an hour. About four of them are in the same area, just different parts of it! Anyhow, here are they are just so you have them for your records:
- Jugan Myeongweol (주간명월) – a sea cave under Udobong (Udo’s Peak) — apparently the mid-morning sun reflection makes it look like a moonlight glow in the cave
- Dongan Gyeonggul (동안경굴) – another cave under Udobong. Legend has it a whale lived there, and when the tide is low enough you can walk out to it.
- Jeonpo Mangdo (전포망도) – the full view of Udo you see on the ferry as you cross over
- Jidu Cheongsa (지두청사) – the views from Udobong, which sits 132.5m above the sea. When people compare Udo to Scotland, this is probably the image they have in mind.
- Huhae Seokbyeok (후해석벽) – the side view of Udobong from the water
- Seobinbaeksa (서빈백사) – a white sand beach with multi-blue water
- Cheongjin Gwansa (천진관사) – the views across the sea to Hallasan from Cheonjin village.
- Yahang Eobaeom (야항어범) – the night lights from fishing boats
Anyhow, here are the things I actually did!
Dip your toes in the water at Seobinbaeksa (서빈백사)
Seobinbaeksa is also sometimes referred to as Sanho Beach. It’s a white sand beach made up of red algae fossils. The unique thing about it is that the water changes color pretty significantly, from a more turquoise blue towards the shore to a deeper blue the further you go out. It was our first stop on the shuttle bus, and such a pretty one! Most people were having fun taking photos, but you can easily go swimming within the barrier and bring your picnic things to relax here for a bit.
Trek up Udobong (우도봉)
The main area to do things is right around Geommeolle Beach. The first I did was figure out where the entrance to Udobong was and climb up before I got too hot or sun tired to make excuses and not go.
Udobong is also sometimes called Someori Oreum (소머리 오름 or Cow’s Head Oreum), and it’s the tallest area in Udo at, as I said above, 132.5m. It’s 150m from the main area, and a little outdoor cafe sits right at the entrance, so you can treat yourself to a nice juice after your mini-hike.
The hike itself is ridiculously easy! I was in a dress and flimsy sandals, and I was fine. The incline is just a little, little steep right at the beginning, but then it’s easy, almost flat towards the lighthouse, and you’ll have the best views.
Take a Boat Ride from Geommeolle Beach (검멀레해변)
So, if you really wanted to, you could set up shop on Geommeolle Beach and go swimming or sunbathing. You will also probably be alone in this endeavor, but hey, more power to you. Geommeolle is known for its black sand, and it’s a tiny stretch of beach set below the area with cafes.
You know what color likes to absorb heat the most? Black. Walking from the staircase to the boat dock was mildly torturous even when I had the water to cool things off!
Anyway, one of the cool things you can do is take one of the boat rides! The ride will allow you to see the two caves and the side view of Udobong. You can buy your ticket from the lovely ahjumma at the top of the staircase for 10,000 KRW, and then go towards the rocks and wait for your turn.
It’s maybe a 20-minute boat ride in all that will take you out to see everything from the sea, and our ahjussi even knew when to stop and take photos of everyone. Mine would only take phone pictures, so sadly the world will never see what I look like in the middle of July, post-mini-hike, in an ill-fitting life jacket. C’est la vie.
Eat some peanut ice cream and drink some Hallabong juice.
Udo specifically is known for its live turban shells, sea mustard, agar, garlic, and peanuts. Jeju, in general, is known for its hallabong and black pork. I obviously downed bottles of Hallabong juice and had two ice creams while I was there in lieu of actual food because, why not?
The peanut ice cream was pretty delicious, though I’m quite certain it was just vanilla soft serve sprinkled with peanuts… Actually, I think the one I ordered at The Cloud Hotel was a little tastier.
There are three main cafes/ice cream shops near Geommeolle:
Pro Tip: Dennis is all indoors and has its own bathroom (code is on your receipt), so of the three, it’s the best for cooling off!
Wander out to Biyangdo.
The next stop after Geommeolle is the entrance to Biyangdo (비양도). This is like a mini island connected to Udo via a land bridge with its own lighthouse and pretty views out to the sea and of Udobong from afar. If you’re planning on camping on Udo, I saw a few tents here as well!
Other Spots Along the Route:
Here are some other places the shuttle bus stopped, but I didn’t get out at:
- Tolkani Beach (톨칸이해변)
- Hagosudong Beach (하고수동해변)
- Mangru Lighthouse (망구등대)
- Haha HoHo Cafe (하하호호카페
Where to Stay in/near Udo
Let’s be honest, I’m probably visiting Jeju again next time I visit Korea because it’s one of my happy places! Don’t ask me why. I just really love it. I’d probably stay overnight in Udo so I have two days, and I’d 100% have my license to rent one of those fun scooters to drive around in.
If you want to stay in Udo, I’d try to stay around Geummeolle Beach just because that seemed to have the most happening in terms of places and restaurants. You could also probably stay near one of the beaches and have direct access to them.
For a slightly alternate suggestion, I stayed at this lovely place right near Jongdal Port (like literally right across the road). It’s called Slow Mansion + Baco Home, and there are different rooms depending on how you’re traveling. The owners were so nice, and it has its own beach and swimming area with views of Udo and Seongsan Ilchulbong. It’s really quite country, so I pretty much had the beach to myself my whole stay.
And that’s a little Udo Island travel guide for you. Let me know if you have any questions on visiting or things I’ve forgotten!