South Korea

The World's Busiest Air Route Is Between Seoul and Jeju

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If you were to rank the the busiest air routes in the world, where would Seoul to the South Korean island of Jeju land on your list? If it wouldn't make your list at all, we're certainly not judging. On air-travel intelligence company OAG's list, however, Seoul to Jeju ranks number one (and in case you're wondering, not a single U.S. route made the top 10). According to Google Flights, approximately 200 flights run in either direction between the two destinations every day. Let's explore why 11 million people made the trip in 2014.

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What's All The Fuss About?

For being on the world's busiest air route, it might surprise you that 70 percent of Jeju's visitors are actually domestic. The nation's largest island is nicknamed "the Hawaii of South Korea," since Koreans regularly venture to the subtropical province for natural wonders such as a dormant volcano named Hallasan—a site that's also the country's tallest mountain at 1,950 meters (6,400 feet). UNESCO added the island's lava tubes to its World Heritage Site list in 2007, and in 2011, the island was named one of the New 7 Wonders Of Nature. There are also grandfather stones—giant carved statues that echo those on Easter Island—and an island specialty seaweed-and-sea-urchin soup.

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South Koreans also travel from Seoul to watch Jeju's female divers, known as the Haenyo mermaids. These elderly women dive the depths of the Korea Strait for sea urchins, sea cucumbers, abalone, and squid. They don't use any equipment and can hold their breath for up to two minutes during each dive.

Jeju's More Unusual Attractions

In addition to South Korean travelers, Chinese tourists flock to Jeju thanks to their visa-free entry requirements. According to Quartz, 1.8 million Chinese tourists made the journey in 2013 alone. Visitors can also enjoy casinos, which are forbidden in China, and a theme park called Loveland, which is full of erotic sculptures (Google at your own risk).

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However, Jeju Island wasn't always the a destination for honeymooners. The island has a less than sunny past due to a violent uprising in 1948 led by Communist sympathizers. This has sparked a form of "dark tourism" to Jeju that brings visitors to pay their respects at the 4.3 Peace Park memorial. There were also recently political protests surrounding plans to build a naval base that a 2013 student article in Scientific American asserted "will harm the environment, way of life, and security of Jeju-do." As of February 2016, the Jeju Cicilia-Military Complex Port opened on the peaceful island with hopes of boosting tourism by introducing a million cruise tourists by 2020.

Interested in visiting the "Island of the Gods"? We heard a flight leaves in 15 minutes.

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