In pictures: South Korea’s biggest island, Jeju

Why South Korea’s Jeju Island should be on your travel bucket list. Source: Shutterstock.

LOCATED JUST OFF the coast of South Korea, Jeju Island is known to the locals as an idyllic rest and relaxation destination, popular with honeymooners.

The largest island in the country, the South Korean gem also used to pull in group or tour vacationers by the thousands – particularly those from China.

According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, Chinese tourists made up 85.3 percent of the 2.6 million foreign visitors to the island in 2015. To put this into perspective, it is home to only 660,000 people.

But last year, Beijing decided to impose a blanket ban on group travel to South Korea, a limitation that was felt most by Jeju Island, as it was a top Chinese tourist destination due to its proximity to China.

The ban was in protest of South Korea’s intended deployment of the US THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system as well as a series of attacks against South Koreans on the island.

Jeju Island also offers Chinese nationals visa-free entry for 20 days, unlike the rest of the Korean mainland. However, South Koreans have petitioned for the government to end the policy.

An aerial view of Jeju Island from Seongsan Ilchulbong in South Korea. Source: Shutterstock.

Once suffering from overtourism, Jeju Island is now quieter, having faced a dramatic collapse in the number of Chinese visitors.

Its beautiful beaches with pristine blue waters, lush countryside, volcanic landscape of craters, cavelike lava tubes, and seaside hotels are not as populated as before.

But it remains one of the top resort destinations for domestic travelers and that number has actually increased by 10 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.

While Chinese tourism may be slowly recovering in South Korea, thanks to a general shift toward independent travel, here are a myriad of reasons why you should make Jeju Island your next island holiday.

Take a look at what Jeju Island has to offer:

A few airlines currently serve a direct route to Jeju Island from various locations in Asia including Korean Air, AirAsia X, Asiana Airlines, and Japan Airlines.

Meanwhile, South Korea and China are holding a “Jeju Paints Asia” joint art exhibition on Jeju Island next month, bringing together seven Korean and five Chinese artists in hopes of mending ties with Chinese compatriots.