Jeju Island is a small province in South Korea, with an area of roughly 1,848 km² and a population of approximately 600,000. You can reach this island in 1 hour via domestic flights from Gimpo International Airport. The number of flights made to Jeju from Seoul has been recorded as the highest in the world with an average of 10.2 million passengers being flown per year. However, upon arriving on and touring the island, I understand now the reason behind this staggering statistic.
Jeju is home to the world’s largest lava column, Manjanggul Lava-tube, and is located in the eastern part of the island. This lava column measures 23 metres in breadth and is 30 metres tall. With brilliant purple, blue and green spotlights lighting it from below, it provides the visitor with a surreal and unforgettable sight. Areas of the Manjanggul Cave are also lit up with multi-coloured spotlights to highlight certain rock formations that are of particular scientific interest, or which just look spectacular. Either way, this fantastic display of geology made my jaw drop to the cave floor. Admission fee: Adults – 2000 won. Youth and children: 1000 won
I only managed to visit 2 of the 3 famous Jeju waterfalls. They are both about an hour’s drive away from the main city, but they are worth the journey. Cheonjiyeon waterfall is located at the end of a landscaped trail. Paved footpaths lead me past small bridges, built over a small, turquoise-blue stream, whilst above me branches filled with orange flowers rustled and swayed. It was a tranquil scene, especially when you can hear the calm burbling of the waterfall drifting towards you through the trees.
Jeongbang waterfall is apparently the only waterfall in Asia to fall directly into the ocean. Located on a high cliff next to the sea in the southern part of Jeju, this 23 metre high waterfall looks like it could have been conjured up directly from a fairy tale. There is something magical about the way the droplets of water dance in the afternoon sun, creating small rainbows in the surrounding mist depending on which angle you’re looking from. To reach the foot of the waterfall, you have to take a playful scramble across a tumble of rocks. It is perfectly safe as long as you take it nice and slow.
Also located at the southern coast of Jeju, Jusangjeolli cliffs are the most spectacular cliffs I have EVER seen. Like, EVER. It looks very much like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
These cliffs are hexagonal pillars rising up from the ocean, and are formed by a phenomenon known as vertical columnar jointing. These formations were created when hot lava from a volcanic eruption suddenly made contact with the ocean. Pressure from this sudden drop in temperature caused the solidifying lava to shoot up into the air, and the rate of how fast the basaltic lava cooled determined the height of the columns.
Probably the largest tourist attraction in Jeju other than the famous Mount Hallasan is Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. It is also called Sunrise Peak because watching the sunrise from the top of this site should probably be one of the last things you must do before you die – it’s that great. Unfortunately, I was on a tight schedule and couldn’t make it. Nevertheless, the view was amazing. Admission fee: Ages 23 and above: 2000 won. Ages 7 – 23: 1000 won.
Yakcheonsa Temple houses a grand 3 metre tall Buddha. It’s grounds has groves of tangerines, and the temple’s multiple floors are filled with warm, multi-coloured paper lanterns with visitor’s wishes written on it. Admission is free.
Some consider the Trick Art Museum to be overpriced, and with an admission fee costing 8000 won, I might agree. However, if you love taking pictures and optical illusions, this is the place for you. I spent 2 hours in this museum. Some of the exhibits will become repetitive as you continue to explore, but overall I would say this was an experience for me.
To explore the whole of Jeju, you should give yourself about 4 days. I managed to visit these places within 2 days, but it was extremely rushed. If you’d like to climb Mount Hallasan in winter, it is possible – but be sure to dress warmly and wear crampons!