The Jeju Olle Trails comprise 27 different walking routes throughout Jeju Island (and nearby islands, including Chuja, Udo and Gapa), spanning a total distance of over 430km. So you can pretty much walk the whole island on foot, which is a great perk of living on the island or if you’re a frequent visitor!
History of the Olle Trails
According to Visit Korea, the trails were founded by Suh Myung-suk, an ex-journalist who was inspired after hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. The pilgrimage became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and receives thousands of visitors worldwide.
Her goal was to create a similar trail on her home island back in Jeju, South Korea. She started developing and discovering existing trails and as a result, the Jeju Olle Foundation was established in 2007. The word ‘olle’ is from an old Jeju dialect meaning narrow alley or path between a house, street and the next village. The trails are said to offer safe passage for travellers to move from one area of the island to another.
How to walk the Olle Trails
There are currently 27 trails (or some say 28 – there always seem to be route changes and updates happening). Walking the trails is incredibly easy in terms of following the route. Depending on where you start, you’ll follow a blue or orange arrow strategically located throughout the courses to help guide you along the way. You can find arrows everywhere, including stonewalls, the ground and on poles, so keep a look out! The blue points in the forward direction from the official starting point of the trail, while the orange is the reverse. So technically, you can start at either end of the path to complete it.
There are also blue and orange ribbons all along the trail, making it a fun game of spotting the ribbons for kids to lead the way. They’re usually hanging on a tree branch or signpost. Blue ribbons represent the beautiful Jeju ocean, and orange the famous tangerines found all over the island.
You can also print off the map for each route from the Jeju Olle website before you go, or there is an app available to download (but I couldn’t get it to work on my phone – typical!). Most trails also offer information along the way via signpost about distance so you can see how far you’ve travelled and how long you have left. Honestly, though, I’m still determining how accurate these are based on our experience! We always seem to walk a few kilometres more than the trail suggests!
Look out for the blue horses to get your stamps for your official Olle Passport book (available at any of the Tourist Information Centres near the start or end of a trail). There are three stamp stations per Olle, located at the trail’s beginning, mid-point and finishing points. A hot tip is to take a few extra bits of paper for the kids so they can make their own ‘passport’. Otherwise, they’ll want to stamp their hands, and the ink tends to be a little on the wet side and end up everywhere (based on experience!).
Certificate of Completion
By completing all courses of the Jeju Olle Trail and stamping all the spots in your Jeju Olle Passport, you can claim a formal Certificate of Completion from the Jeju Olle Tourist Center located at 22 Jungjeong-ro, Seogwipo-si.
What to bring on your Olle Trail
If you’ve ever tried walking long distances with kids, you’ll know how important it is to take snacks…. snacks … and more snacks! My kids want to stop every half an hour for a break and a food stop, which makes it an extra long walk. We’ve done three trails so far as a family (and many more just as a couple, which, as you can imagine, were somewhat more pleasant and a lot less whiny!). The family ones we’ve tackled were said to be around 10-11kms, but according to our Garmins were much more. Unfortunately, the last one tipped us over the edge! Olle 9 was a gorgeous walk, but it incorporated a very high oreum (extinct volcanoes) which my poor husband had to carry our four-year-old up and down. So the plan going forward is to break the trails off in chunks with the kids – start at one end and finish in the middle, and then attempt the other half on another day.
Other helpful things to take with you include:
- Good quality trekking shoes or sturdy runners
- Plenty of water
- Your Jeju Olle Passport
- Some cash or debit card in case you spot a lovely cafe along the way!
- T-Money card if you’re travelling by public bus
- A hat to protect you from the sun
- A warm jacket if you’re hiking during cooler months
Getting to the Olle Trails
We own a car, so we typically park at the starting point and arrange a taxi using the Kakao Taxi app to take us back to our car at the end of our hike. There is plenty of public transport options available though if you don’t have a car. Check with the Tourist Information offices near each trail who can let you know about public bus options which are usually very well connected. There are also usually at least a few toilet stops available along each trail, another essential when walking with kids!