JEJU - a gem of an Island

Publish Date: 12th September 2019

Discover jaw-dropping views, spectacularcaves, magnificent mountains, and stunningbeaches on South Korea’s largestisland.

Rising dramatically from deep blue seas, just anhour’sflight from Seoul, is the beautiful volcanic island ofJeju. While it has long been a favourite domesticholiday destination, it’s a bit off the beaten track forforeign 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 recommendallowing at least five days. This would let you enjoy thebeaches and spas, as well as seeing the sights.Here, webring you suggestions for six sensationalthings 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 previousnight in the sleepy village of Seongsan-ri. Stop at lookoutpoints 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 onslippery surfaces. The cave’s star attraction is the Stone Turtle, a structureresembling 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 volcanicstone statues known as dolharubang, depictingnear life-size humans. Some are modern replicas,but around 47 of the originals still exist. It is believedthat the originals were carved in the 18th centuryand placed outside the island’s fortresses, possibly tofrighten 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 JejuOlle trail is a long-distance foot-path around Jeju’scraggy coastline. The overall trail is 422 km in lengthbut is divided into 21 connected numbered main routes(average length 16 km) and five sub-routes. Colouredroute markers show walkers the way. The trail passesthrough 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 seafoodand pork for sustenance. While the men went fishing, thewomen taught themselves to dive for abalone, octopus,shellfish, and seaweeds to supplement their families’ diet. The haenyo start young and learn to dive to depths of30 metres without breathing apparatus, staying underwaterfor a few minutes at a time. The use of modernwetsuits allows them to dive for more hours in the day. However, this traditional foraging activity may be dyingout. The average age of the current generation of thehaenyo is 65, and some are in their 80s. Younger womenare, not surprisingly, going for other careers.