Do you think of South Korea as a country jammed with neon lights, staggering skyscrapers, barbecue feasts, and vending machines? That’s partially true, but this east Asian nation has another face to show. Jeju Island represents the least westernized side of South Korea; located off the southern tip of the country, Jeju pairs traditional culture with exciting nature adventures. Also, with an excellent bus network, it’s fairly easy to combine Jeju’s highlights.
Are you planning a trip to South Korea and looking for a break from modern cities? Then pack your bags and hiking shoes. Here are unmissable adventures and top experiences to enjoy on Jeju, South Korea’s beloved holiday island.
Walk in the lava tunnel of Manjanggul
Volcanism can shape incredible landscapes, and proof of this brutal force of the elements can be found at the lava tunnel of Manjanggul. The Manjanggul is a truly magnificent sight to behold. Unlike caves that are generally eroded by water or ice, this tunnel system on Jeju Island is solely shaped by flows of bubbling magma.
Upon entering the tunnel, Manjanggul looks like an ordinary cave overgrown with vines. But the omnipresence of basalt tells the story of volcanic flows that found their way under the ground millennia ago. Black stalagmites and stalactites surround the tube, which is a staggering 23 meters wide in certain areas.
Although the total tunnel network stretches out for over 7 kilometres, only 1 kilometre is accessible for visitors. Still, you’ll get a great impression of the lava tunnel and plenty of photo opportunities.
See the Jeongbang Falls
Jeju Island has a bunch of waterfalls to offer, and one of them is particularly scenic. The Jeongbang waterfall sits on the south coast of the island and drops almost directly into the ocean. This makes the waterfall unique in South Korea. The waterfall measures 23 meters high and around 10 meters wide and is surrounded with gorgeous scenery; pine forests, basalt boulders, and dramatic cliffs.
It takes an easy walk to reach the falls from the parking space. Going back is a bit harder, as you have to climb stairs.
Visit the Jeju Folk Village
Not only is Jeju Island a playground for nature lovers; the isle has its fair share of cultural experiences as well. In the Jeju Folk Village, you’ll be catapulted to the end of the 19th century, when agriculture and fishing were the most essential pillars of Jeju’s economy.
This open-air museum offers a sneak-peek into traditional life on Jeju, and all the buildings here have been wonderfully reconstructed. The Folk Village has stone houses with grassy rooftops, decorated on the inside with classic furniture and household tools.
Learn more about traditional music and dance performances by checking the instruments on display and the theatre hall.
Hike up to Mount Hallasan
Mount Hallasan towers above all else on Jeju Island. With its height of 1950 meters above sea level, this inactive shield volcano is also the highest mountain in South Korea.
Hiking up to the crater rim is without a doubt the most strenuous endeavour on the entire island. Trails of various lengths lead to the summit. If you want to challenge yourself and see the beauty of Hallasan National Park at its best, you can opt for the Seongpanak Trail. This hike starts at the Hallasan National Park visitor centre, east of the summit. Galvanize your spirit and body, because the trail length is 9.6 kilometres one-way. The first part leads through an enchanting pine forest, but the vegetation is less dense while you’re ascending more and more. The last 2 kilometres offer uninterrupted views of the entire island, making this the most rewarding part of the climb.
On the summit, the crater and its lake are definitely the highlights; ‘walls’ on all sides surround an emerald lake down in the deep.
There are several checkpoints along the way to the top, where you can chill out on benches and use the restrooms. Stairs are available on difficult and steep sections, which makes it easier to conquer the long journey up.
Other treks, ranging from 1.5 to 8.7 kilometres are also available. These start at different points around the majestic mountain. There is no entrance fee to any of the trails.
Explore the ocean in the Seogwipo Submarine
No matter how dramatic the backdrops on land are, nothing can compare to the magic of the underwater world. Diving on Jeju Island is quite compelling, as volcanic rocks and seaweed gardens cover the bottom of the ocean. For those who don’t want to scuba dive in Jeju’s cold waters, there’s a fascinating alternative. You can float in the East China Sea and take in the undersea landscapes while seated in a submarine.
The journey in the Seogwipo Submarine starts near Munseom, a tiny atoll of Jeju’s south coast. As a passenger, you have your own individual window for optimal views of the rocks and marine life. Curious fish encircle the submarine, while you descend to a depth of up to 45 metres.
Relax on Hyeopjae Beach
If you’re looking for a place to unwind after adventures in Jeju’s nature, Hyeopjae Beach might just be the ultimate getaway. This shoreline on the northwest of the island has all the ingredients that make a beach likeable; gorgeous white sand, rock formations, and views of small islets just off the coast.
Hyeopjae Beach is an excellent spot to take memorable travel photos. The seaweed gardens, the translucent sea, and the sand make for a unique setting. Thanks to its location in the west, Hyeopjae Beach is the hotspot for sunset and a fantastic waterfront to conclude your holiday on Jeju Island.
The beach has several facilities, including restrooms, a playground, and a stand with refreshing drinks.
With its mixture of natural sights and cultural experiences, Jeju Island is South Korea’s most popular holiday destination for a reason. Hardcore hiking goes hand in hand with leisurely activities like hanging out on the beach and exploring the ocean from the belly of a submarine.
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