Capping off Winter Trip to Jeju with Camellias
On Jeju Island, camellias will be in full bloom in February. If you’re there around that time, be sure to check out famous camellia spots across Seogwipo.
Perhaps it’s because spring, summer and autumn are often so glorious, but winter on Jeju Island can be particularly brutal and desolate. With the wind blowing hard under overcast skies, the mercury stays below freezing for many days. And when you come across red camellia on this island on a bleak wintry day, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. You will marvel at how resilient these flowers are, even in snow, so much so that you will find yourself healed. Camellias are like your sturdy neighbors who will withstand the long, cold winter next to you.

Not All Camellia Are Created Equal
Camellia flowers don’t have a distinct aroma. You could walk amongst camellias in full bloom and you will barely smell anything. On the other hand, their colors are quite vivid. Their bright red stands out even more under typically overcast skies of Jeju’s winter days. The island is best known for canola flowers in spring, hydrangea in summer and silver grass in autumn. Camellias, which paint the island in red for nearly three months during winter, typically grow in the southern part of the country.
There are believed to be some 200 different types of camellias, mostly in Asia. They come in many different colors, too, including red, pink, purple, white and spotted patterns. On Jeju Island, pink baby camellias and red native Korean camellias are most prevalent. Baby camellias bloom from December to February, while native camellias are in full bloom from March to April. You can see them both in winter and spring.


Past winter, camellias can be seen all over Jeju.

Baby camellias were imported from Japan after they were developed for gardening. These baby camellias fall in the category of camellia sasanqua. There are layers of petals that grow so large that they will lean back, and they will fall one by one. The Jeju native camellias are single-form camellias. They bloom between March and April. Even in full bloom, their buds only open about halfway. And when they fall, the entire flowers drop. When camellia sasanqua petals fall, the layers of red leafs will glitter like silk. On the other hand, there is an air of dignity where flowers from single-form camellias have dropped. Native camellias are also the symbol of the April 3 uprising in Jeju. In 2018, marking the 70th anniversary of the occasion, Jeju produced camellia-shaped pins. The local government explained that camellia flowers that fell to the ground are reminiscent of those who were killed quietly all across the island on that fateful day.

Large and red flowers are there to attract birds. They carry plenty of honey and are popular among white-eyes. In places full of camellias, you will hear white-eyes chirp, rather than bees buzz. It’s always fun seeing tiny and yellow white-eyes amongst camellias, but these quick birds rare stay in one place.

Hundreds of flowers bloom on a camellia, as if in a competition. Sometimes, just looking at a tree can make your heart full. It’s quite something to see flowers on camellia trees in a habitat. Think of a lavish, fancy ball. Seogwipo is home to many camellia habitats, including popular botanical gardens such as Camellia Hill and Hueree to cafés that have built their own camellia forests of varying sizes. You will easily find camellias pretty much anywhere in Seogwipo. But for a closer look at flowers, we recommend Namwon-eup.

Camellia Forest in Wimi features red camellias along the stone walls.

Camellia Forest in Wimi and Native Camellia
Camellia Forest in Wimi, located in Wimi-ri, Namwon-eup in Seogwipo, has a special back story. Hyun Maeng-choon (1858~1933), who moved to Wimi-ri after getting married at 17, bought a plot of barren land with the money she’d saved all her life. To block wind, she sowed seeds of camellia from Mt. Halla. A century later, a forest of camellia trees was formed and was later designated by the local government as a Natural Heritage Monument. As you enter the forest, tall trees lined up along the stone walls will provide shade. Filled with native camellia trees, the forest is always a uniquely charming place, whether the flowers are in full bloom or they have fallen. It’s easy to tell these trees were planted for wind blocking, so dense is the forest. Red flowers poke their heads amongst those trees. And when the petals fall, they cover the side of the road with half-bloomed buds.


Camellias are everywhere.

Currently, you can only view this forest from outside and it’s unfortunately closed off. New camellia trees are being planted and a new trail is being paved, after years of tangerine greenhouse farming. But old camellia trees are easily visible from afar, and flowers will bloom everywhere, not knowing where the boundaries are. You will get to see plenty of those flowers from outside. You can instead try visiting Jeju Camellia Arboretum.

Built by Hyun’s great-great grandson, the arboretum is about 700 meters from the forest

Address: 23-7 300-bun gil, Wimi Joongangno, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo, Jeju

Well-manicured camellia trees at Jeju Camellia Arboretum



Camellias come in many different colors.

Jeju Camellia Arboretum and Baby Camellias
The arboretum is a habitat for baby camellia trees. Their flowers start blooming in late November and are typically in full bloom by January. The arboretum only operates during winter months. It once was a little-known piece of private property. For the past few years, they have been charging visitors an entry fee. There are other tourist spots featuring camellias, such as Camellia Hill and Hueree. But it is at this arboretum that you can see the largest baby camellia tree in Korea. The only downside is admission has skyrocketing every year.

Inside is a pretty walking trail that takes you amongst well-manicured trees. Everywhere you turn, you will see camellias. There’s a palpable sense of life that almost seems out of place for winter. Just when you start wondering if spring has arrived already, you will see the snow-covered Baengnokdam Lake atop Mt. Halla in the distance.

There are photo spots all over the arboretum. Couples and families often manage to find spots to their liking, creating long-lasting memories in their own ways. The sound of laughter traveled amongst camellias, accompanied by bright smiles all over. Emerging from days of strict social distancing measures, people might have consciously avoided crowded places. And they would take extra caution when they were forced into crowded areas. However, you will feel much safer at this arboretum. You will also begin to wonder just how it’s been since you last saw so many people seem so happy in one place.

Address: 929-2, Wimi-ri, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo, Jeju
Inquiry: +82-64-764-4473
Instagram: @jeju_camellia_arboretum

Namwon-eup is a town full of camellia trees.

Shinheung-ri Camellia Village and Camellia Experience
To learn more about camellia, check out Camellia Village in Shinheung-ri, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo. It’s a huge habitat for the native camellias that bloom from March to April. In 2007, celebrating the town’s 300th anniversary, residents planted a native camellia tree and named the place ‘Camellia Village.’ You will also find a camellia tree habitat designated as Local Monument No. 27 by Jeju. Trees you see on streets of the village are all camellias. When you are in the area around March and April, you will be treated to some special sights that you won’t see elsewhere.

There’s more to do in the village than just taking in these flowers. Native camellia trees also bear edible camellia fruits. When ripened fruits fall from frees, locals pick them up and squeeze to get oil. Using camellia oil produced by a local mill, you can try your hands on making camellia soap and sample camellia oil. You can build your own souvenirs with friends and family, and the experience will make your visit that much more special and memorable.

Address: Camellia Village Visitor Center, 22-1, 531-bun gil, Hanshin-ro, Namwon-eup, Seogwipo, Jeju



Where to Stay in Jeju: LOTTE HOTEL JEJU
Located in Jungmun Tourist Complex, LOTTE HOTEL JEJU is a resort hotel with 500 rooms. Inspired by ‘The Palace of the Lost City’ in South Africa, the hotel blends in perfectly with the beautiful surroundings of Jeju, creating an exotic atmosphere. All-day dining restaurant THE CANVAS serves over 140 dishes prepared with the freshest local ingredients hand-picked by hotel chefs. The all-season, warm-water pool and Hello Kitty character room are among various features that make LOTTE HOTEL JEJU such a popular destination for families and couples.

Address: 35, Jungmungwangwang-ro 72beon-gil, Seogwipo-si, Jeju Island
Phone: +82-64-731-1000
February 2023 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Jung Daun
Photographer:Park Doosan

Where to stay?

  • February 2023
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
    Writer: Jung Daun
  • Photographer: Park Doosan
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