…Earth, Wind, and Fire, Jejudo Island…

Sitting at the southern edge of the Korean Peninsula, Jejudo Island is the premier tourist destination in the country. From its picturesque peaks to winding coastal roads, the volcanic island offers visitors awe-inspiring sights that they are unlikely to forget.

Jejudo Island was formed from five separate volcanic eruptions, and evidence of its explosive past can be observed throughout the island. In 2007, UNESCO named the volcanic island and its lava tubes as World Heritage sites, calling Jejudo’s lava tube system of caves some of the finest in the world.

Jejudo is nicknamed “Samdado”, meaning an island abundant with three things. According to folklore, these three things are wind, rocks and women.

Jejudo’s strong winds originate from far across the East China Sea. The winds help blossom the fields of yellow rape flowers, but also prevent the flowers from growing very high. Likewise, Jejudo’s gusts are said to lift the spirits of all they come in contact with, be it trees or humans.

Seopji Koji is a cape that extends 2 km off the eastern shores of Jejudo Island. The word seopji comes from the Korean word hyeopji, meaning narrow way, while koji is the local word for cape. Just past the windy hills of Seopji Koji, the ocean awaits you. An idylic white lighthouse stands against the jade waters, and you can see the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak in the background. The peak was formed by volcanic activity during the Great Ice Age and features a large crater at its summit and marine cliffs on three sides. Although not steep, the peak stands 182 m above sea level and requires a decent hike to reach. However, the panoramic scenery of Jejudo and its surrounding waters at sunrise are well worth the trip up.

Jejudo’s volcanic past has given the island dozens of rock formations, including several mountains. In addition to Seopji Koji cape and Seongsan Ilchulbong on the eastern coastline, the island has Mt Sanbangsan on the southern coastline, and Manjanggul Cave and Mt Hallasan inland. Mt Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korean and has been designated as a national park. A visit to the dormant volcano’s summit to see the 3 km-circumference Baengnokdam crater lake is highly recommended. From the summit, you can see the entirety of Jejudo Island.

Secondary volcanoes, called oreum in the local dialect, can also be found throughout the island. Ranging from 100 m to 1300 m high, there are around 370 oreum tourists can choose to climb. The most popular oreum ae located on the eastern side of the island. One of the more challenging oreum to hike is Wollangbong, which peaks at 382 m above sea level and has a circumference of 3,300 m. While the trail is steep, interpid trekkers are rewarded with beautiful view of the island’s rolling hills at the volcano’s summit.

Visitors to Jejudo should not miss the 7.4 km-long Manjanggul Cave, a natural lava tunnel located in Gimnyeong-ri, Gujwa-eup. The cave was formed between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago when lava from Mt Hallasan flowed toward the ocean. While only the first kilometer of the cave is open to tourists due to safety concerns, visitors can easily feel the overwhelming scale of this underground palace. Stalagmites and stalactites decorate the walls at every turn like natural works of art, and if you’re lucky you may even run into some of the cave’s residents: bats.

One of the best ways to see all that Jejudo has to offer is by traveling down some of the island’s coastal roads. Car rental is available at Jeju International Airport, and the island’s simple layout makes getting around easy.

Springtime is especially beautiful on Jejudo, and driver can enjoy the jade-colored ocean on one side and endless fields of yellow rape flowers, violet cherry blossoms and red camellia flowers on the other. The many ports and beach-side restaurants off the coastal roads offer some of the island’s traditional cuisine such as galchi-jorim (broiled hairtail fish), galchi-gui (grilled hairtail fish), jeonbok mulhoe (raw abalone water salad) and obunjak ttukbaegi (baby abalone soup served in an earthenware pot).

If you’re not a fan of driving, another popular way of touring the island is on some of the Olle foot trails. Olle is a local world meaning a road between the main gate of a house and a town’s main roads. There are 18 different Olle courses in Jejudo, including one that connects Siheung on the eastern side of the island with Gwangchigi and another that connects Dongmun Rotary in Jejudo with Samyang.

Each course takes five hours to trek and offers visitors a chance to take in the lovely scenery at a natural pace. Trekkers who buy the Jejudo Olle passport will receive stamps for each trail they complete and receive discounts at many hotels and restaurants. If you need a break from nature, Jejudo offers a variety of museums, botanical gardens and theme parks. The Haenyeo Museum, in particular, is well worth the trip. The museum explores the history of the island’s famous haenyeo, or local female divers who explore the ocean to gather shellfish without using any underwater diving equipment.

Jejudo Island is in the running to be named as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature in a competition organized by the New7Wonders Foundation. The island has been recognized by the foundation for its well-preserved natural habitats and unique volcanic formations.

“Jejudo Islands is the only place on earth with three environmental designations by the UNESCO Natural Science Center (as a biosphere reserve in 2002, UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2007 nad geopark status in 2009), a wetland added to the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance and will host the WCC (World Conservation Congress) in 2012, “Jeju Governor Woo Keun-min said, “If Jejudo Island is named as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, Jejudo Island will become the center of the global environment.”

Among the 452 applicants for the New Seven Wonders of Nature competition, Jejudo Island was the only Northeast Asian location to be selected as a finalist candidate. The final round of voting is open until Noember 10, 2011, and voting can be done by phone or through the Internet. (www.new7wonders.com).

Travel Information
Korean Air has an average of 20 flights daily from Gimpo International Airport in Seoul to Jejudo Island starting from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm. Asiana has an average of 25 flights daily to Jejudo. Passengers can also access Jeju directly from Japan, China and Taiwan.

Generally, visitors will take the KTX to Mokpo and then a ferry from the Mokpo Ferry Terminal to Jejuhang Port. Seaworld Express Ferry has three ferries daily at 9 am, 2 pm, and 2:30 pm. A new sea route to Seongsanhang Port in Jejudo Island from Noryeokhang Port in Jangheung, Jeollanamdo province, was recently opened. There are two feriies daily at 8:30 am and 3:30 pm, with the ferry ride taking an hour and 50 minutes. The Noryeokhang route is popular because visitors can also transport their cars of the ferry.

Source : Korea People & Culture Magazine, May 2011


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