JEJU - a gem of an Island

Publish Date: 12th September 2019

Discover jaw-dropping views, spectacular caves, magnificent mountains, and stunning beaches on South Korea’s largestic land.

Rising dramatically from deep blue seas, just anhour’sflight from Seoul, is the beautiful volcanic island ofJeju. While it has long been a favourite domestic holiday destination, it’s a bit off the beaten track for foreign visitors.Jeju has much to offer. It’s quite small, so you cancover the highlights in just two or three days. However,there’s plenty to see and do, and we’d recommend allowing at least five days. This would let you enjoy the beaches and spas, as well as seeing the sights.Here, webring you suggestions for six sensational things to do on Jeju Island:

See the sunrise from SeongsanIlchulbong (Sunrise Peak)

A 20-minute climb up steep stairs takes you to thetop of SeongsanIlchulbong, a splendid 180m–hightuff volcano. To be there for sunrise, stay the previous night in the sleepy village of Seongsan-ri. Stop at look out points on the way up to catch views you may notbe able to see from the top.

Climb South Korea’s highest mountain

Jeju Island is home to Mt. Hallasan, a dormant volcanoand a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Several walkingtrails of varying levels of difficulty lead to the top,where you’ll find a beautiful crater lake. Visit in springfor the flowers or in winter for the snow. Autumn is alsopleasant, but summer is to be avoided because of the rain.

Dive down a lava tunnel

Another UNESCO site on the island is ManjanggulCave – the longest lava tunnel in the world. The entiretunnel is more than 8 km long, but only 1 km is opento visitors. If you walk the entire 1 km length, you willneed to come back the same way, so it will be a 2 kmwalk in total. It’s cool inside (11~21℃) and the floor is quite wet,so wear a jacket or sweater and shoes that will grip on slippery surfaces. The cave’s star attraction is the Stone Turtle, a structure resembling a turtle (and the shape of Jeju Island),which is about 400 m inside the cave

Meet the grandfather stones(dolharubang)

At various places on the island, you will see the volcanic stone statues known as dolharubang, depictingnear life-size humans. Some are modern replicas,but around 47 of the originals still exist. It is believed that the originals were carved in the 18th centuryand placed outside the island’s fortresses, possibly to frighten invaders. Each figure has its own character,but some features – helmet-style hat, broad nose,prominent eyes and hands placed on the stomach arecommon to most.

JejuOlle walking trails

Olle means winding path in the local dialect and Jeju Olle trail is a long-distance foot-path around Jeju’s craggy coastline. The overall trail is 422 km in length but is divided into 21 connected numbered main routes (average length 16 km) and five sub-routes. Coloured route markers show walkers the way. The trail passes through villages, beaches, weird rock formations, farmsand forests and it’s a great way to explore the island.

See Jeju’s mermaids (haenyo) at work

Rocky, windy Jeju cannot support rice cultivation so, intimes past, the island’s inhabitants depended on seafood and pork for sustenance. While the men went fishing, the women taught themselves to dive for abalone, octopus,shell fish, and seaweeds to supplement their families’ diet. The haenyo start young and learn to dive to depths of 30 metres without breathing apparatus, staying under waterfor a few minutes at a time. The use of modern wet suits allows them to dive for more hours in the day. However, this traditional for aging activity may be dying out. The average age of the current generation of thehaenyo is 65, and some are in their 80s. Younger women are, not surprisingly, going for other careers.