Marado Island exudes rugged, natural charm

053-maradoislandHeading to Korea’s southernmost region takes a bit of planning.

Reservations for the ferry are required a few days in advance, and bad weather can quickly put the kibosh on sailings. This means you need to double-check before making your way to Moseulpo Port.

Since you’ll be departing the main island for a few hours, Koreans and non-Koreans alike need to show ID when purchasing their ticket. For non-Koreans, this means a passport or ARC (alien registration card). As they say: “Don’t leave home without it.”

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Once you get to Marado Island, though, all the preamble is worth it. It may be diminutive, but this 4.2-kilometer-long oval-shaped exclave is bursting with sites to explore and photograph.

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Given that it’s out in open water some 11 kilometers from Jeju Island and exposed to the elements, you can’t call Marado exactly lush or cozy. It’s more a combination of wind swept, sun-drenched ruggedness.

But that’s part of its charm.

Over 1 million people make the 30-minute trip by ferry each year to see Marado first-hand. First on the list is getting a selfie at the nation’s southernmost point — a photo-op alongside a large stone that marks the spot.

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Taking a stroll around the island takes just over an hour.

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Did you know?

Jeju islanders steered clear of Marado as a permanent place to live until the late 1800s. Only then did farmers begin tilling the flat pancake of an island, cutting down the original vegetation. 

However, keep an eye out at the center of the island today… there is a small clump of the black pine trees that hint at what the island looked like centuries ago.

Now Marado is home to about 90 people. There’s a lighthouse, a school, and a large conglomeration of jjajangmyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) restaurants.

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With so many people putting Marado on their bucket list these days, the island is being carefully managed and tighter environmental protections are now in place. It was designated Natural Monument No. 423 in July 2000 and it is a nature reserve to ensure its special mix of marine animals and plants are protected.

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