Udo island is a quaint little island just off the east coast of Jeju in South Korea, and is easily accessible by a 15 minute ferry ride from the island. Udo island makes for the perfect relaxing day trip and you can explore Udo by foot, bicycle or motorbike. In this guide you’ll get the best tips on how to spend a day on the island and what the best things to do in Udo island are.
What is Udo island?
Udo, or U-do, translates to Cow Island, with “u” meaning “cow” and “do” meaning “island”. Why it’s named after cows is because some say its outline looks like a cow lying down and some say it’s named after the shape of the head of a water buffalo. It’s a stretch, but we’ll take it!
Otherwise, Udo is a volcanic island formed as a result of volcanic activities, with a fertile flatland where sweet potatoes, garlic, and peanuts are some of the major agricultural products being grown.
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How to get to Udo island: Udo island ferry
Getting to Udo island from Jeju is best via ferry from either Jongdal Port or Seongsan Port. You will arrive at either Haumokdong or Cheonjin port on Udo Island. I’d say it doesn’t really matter which you opt for, but the most common one is between Seongsan port on Jeju and Cheonjin port on Udo island.
We took the ferry from Seongsam and ended up at Haumokdong and it made no difference to the other port, except the travel time being about 5-10 minutes longer.
Before you get tickets for the ferry, you’ll have to fill out a quick Boarding Declaration Form on the tables in the centre of the room and then show an ID (passport or ARC). The ferry costs ₩10500 for an adult’s single-day roundtrip ticket or ₩3000 for kids ages 2-6.
Make sure you note the ferry return times (take a photo or the timetable brochure), so you don’t miss the last one going back to Jeju. The ferries usually start around 8:00 am and return around 5-6:00 pm, depending on the season. They run about every 30 minutes so there’s never too much waiting around though.
If you’re coming to the port with a car, there is a parking garage just before the ticket office. We paid ₩4000 for 6 hours since we went to Udo at 9:00 am (parked around 8:30 am) and returned at around 14.30 pm.
Getting around Udo island
By electric scooter: The easiest way to get around Udo island
While it might be the easiest choice to get around, it is also one that is priciest and comes with a bit of hassle for non-Koreans.
When you first get off the ferry you’ll see plenty of cute covered scooters, yet no one wants to rent them to non- Koreans. Some told us it’s because they don’t have the right insurance and some said we are simply too tall to drive them.
But we didn’t give up so easily. We walked a little further up the road to find a place that will accept our international driver’s licence (if you don’t have one then you can not rent this option). And since Mikael even has an A licence for motorbikes, he was very easy on us and let us rent one right away.
There are two options for renting this cute motorbike, for 3 or 6 hours. They would not budge and let us rent for 4 hours. So we opted for 3 hours for ₩30,000 ($22). This was near Haumokdong port (see it marked on the map). Later on we did see these motorbikes with a UK flag on them near Cheonjin port, so it leads me to assume they are renting them to foreigners there too.
However, don’t be upset if you don’t manage to rent one. They will not rent them to non-Koreans and can be a little rude in dismissing foreigners there. One old lady just waved her hand at us and told us to go away. My feelings were definitely a bit hurt!
*Rental cars are not allowed on Udo Island. There are some occasions when they’ll let it pass, but it’s a bit of a hassle so it’s better you leave your rental on Jeju.
By bicycle: How long does it take to bike around Udo island?
If you want to get around by bicycle, I highly recommend you opt for an electric bike. While there aren’t any serious hills on Udo island, it’s just a lovelier experience if you don’t break a sweat while cycling around.
Biking around the entire island will take you roughly 2 hours and with a bicycle you have a great advantage of spending the whole day on the island since it only costs around 10 USD to rent a bicycle for the whole day.
You will need to leave your ID with the rental place and they will return it to you when you come back with the bike.
By walking: How long does it take to walk around Udo island?
I would highly suggest you rent a bicycle or motorbike, but if you really want to walk around Udo island, then the Udo Olle course is around 11,3 km long and takes about 4 to 5 hours to walk.
By shuttle bus: great in summertime!
If you don’t have an international drivers licence and aren’t too keen on walking or cycling in the heat (it gets very hot on Udo in summertime), then a shuttle bus is your best bet.
The buses are very frequent, at most they’re about 15-minutes apart, so don’t worry about waiting around too long. The shuttle bus also stops at all of the major sites on Udo island so you won’t be missing out!
Best things to do in Udo island
To put it quite frankly, Udo island is tiny. So tiny that some of the sights that are being called ‘sights’, really aren’t that special. We’re talking rocks, hills with very average views and small caves.
Don’t go to Udo for ticking off things to do and see just for the sake of it. Go to Udo for a fun and relaxing day, doing nothing and everything, rather than plan on seeing sights one after another. And that’s coming from a person who generally loves to tick sights off the list!
So here is a list of things you actually should do and see while in Udo:
1. Ride around the island
I know, this is a given. But don’t underestimate just how much fun it is to just ride around a tiny island in South Korea. Stop for a beach stroll, a coffee or a peanut ice cream and make sure you take a pause to take in the views.
You can easily get around the entire island by this cute scooter vehicle in just an hour.
2. Haenyeo or female divers on their morning dive
Haenyeo are female divers primarily active in Jeju and Udo. They are female divers who harvest a variety of mollusks, seaweed, and other sea life from the ocean.
Originally diving was a male profession here, but in the 18th century the women outnumbered the men and became heads of the household in Jeju. Nowadays it is unfortunately a dying profession and as of 2014, 98% of haenyeo are over the age of 50.
On Udo you will experience a far more authentic way to see these women divers than on Jeju island. On Jeju they only did a short 5 minute show with singing and that was all. None of them even went diving. Which is rather unfortunate seeing they are promoting it as a 1-hour diving show.
We saw one group at around 10am by Mangru Lighthouse, just as they were getting ready to dive. Generally they’re not too keen on having photos and videos taken, but this group was lovely and allowed it.
3. Mangru Lighthouse 망루 등대
Mangru lighthouse is a beautiful white lighthouse, located at the most Northern point of Udo island.
At the parking lot in front of the lighthouse you will also see the Beacon Mound called Bongsoo-dae (봉수대). This was placed there for the military to communicate via smoke during the Joseon Dynasty.
If you happen to be in the area at around 10am you are very likely going to see the haenyeo female divers getting ready for their work day here.
4. Udo Seobinbaeksa Coral Beach 우도 서빈백사 산호해변
Seobinbaeksa or Sanho beach, is a beautiful white coral beach. In the summer you can definitely go forn a swim here, just make sure you bring your water shoes. The coral is not so fun to walk on even if it looks like soft popcorn!
5. Udo Garden 우도정원
Udo garden is a beautiful instagrammable spot with a pink muhly field for those visiting in early autumn. It’s perfect for a stroll in the sun and the admission fee is only W3,000 per person.
6. Udo Biyangdo 우도 비양도
From Jeju to Udo and from Udo island to Biyangdo. This is an even smaller island connected to Udo island connected via a bridge. You’ll find lots of campers here, a lighthouse and a small seafood restaurant. Swimming is not allowed here and you can walk around the entirety of Biyangdo in just 20 minutes.
7. Udobong Peak or Soemeori Oreum 쇠머리오름 (우도봉)
The Udobong peak or Soemeori peak, OR Cow’s head peak (lots of names for something that’s not quite that exciting), is a low hill less than a 20 minute walk from the Udobong parking lot. You’ll need roughly an hour to go both ways and the hike up is not difficult at all.
8. Dongangyeonggul cave 동안경굴
You can go inside the Dongangyeonggul cave by boat or speedboat to see the phenomenon of “day moon”, where the sun shines through the entrance of the cave. The reflection creates the illusion of a full moon on the water.
9. Red lighthouse by Cheonjin port
Just next to the Cheonjin port you’ll see a pretty red lighthouse, perfect for a beautiful photo.
10. Eat peanut ice cream
Before or after you visit the Soemeori peak, make sure you head to one of the many ice cream places by the parking lot. We opted for the famous one that’s inside the shell, but you could go anywhere and a great peanut ice cream! They do come at a little higher price (W5,000) for the small amount you get, but you can always share it like we did.
Where to stay in Udo?
If you want to extend your stay in Udo and take a relaxing night here, then I highly suggest you book this beautiful stay. I wouldn’t even look into any other booking websites when traveling around Korea. We stayed at 3 of Stayfolio’s properties and would come back to each!
This is a wrap on this Udo island travel guide! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and have a lovely time in Udo if you’re going soon!