Last week I ventured to South Korea’s famous Jeju Island for four days of vacation. Often called the “Hawaii of Korea,” Jeju is one of the country’s most popular vacation destinations, drawing not only Koreans but many Chinese and other international tourists as well. The island is home to many incredible natural sites but is small enough that these are all pretty close together and easy to get to in a short amount of time.
I began my journey at Manjang Cave, an impressive lava tunnel on the north side of the island. Lava tunnels are formed when lava that was deep underground spouts from the peak of a volcano and flows to the surface. The cave hosts an impressive array of stalagmites, stalactites, pillars, and all sorts of interesting textures formed by the cooling of the lava. The cave was also remarkable for its size. Most caves I have been in before feel quite cramped but Manjang was cathedral-like in its spaciousness. Traveling through the kilometer of the cave that is open to the public was a refreshing break from the heat and humidity of the outside.
When I emerged from the cave, the outside humidity was incredibly intense and my camera lens immediately fogged up. The weather remained like this for most of the trip and there were thunderstorms on and off throughout the week. Thankfully the day I hiked Halla Mountain was rain-free.
My next stop after Manjang Cave was Seongsan Ilchulbong, Sunrise Peak. This formation rose from the sea in a volcanic eruption more than 100,00 years ago. There is a large crater on top of the peak which is covered in beautiful green grass. The short hike up the peak proved quite the challenge in the intense heat of the day, but the sights were certainly worth it.
After hiking up the peak I took a walk along a black sand beach nearby, which provided more views of the unique volcanic formation.
The next stop in my journey was on the south side of the island in a town called Seogwipo. The magnificent Jeongbang Falls is the only waterfall in Asia that flows directly into the sea. The falls were quite the tourist attraction, providing a cool escape from the heat of the day. Some visitors swam in the pool at the base of the falls, while others simply stood nearby and enjoyed the cool mist.
Another waterfall would be my final stop for the day. Not far from Jeongbang are the less dramatic but no less beautiful Cheonjiyeon Falls. These falls feed a river that winds its way through a beautifully landscape park and provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening. I had been traveling non-stop the whole day and was very tired, so I really appreciated the tranquil beauty of Cheonjiyeon.
My first full day in Jeju was finished and it was time for a good night’s sleep at a guesthouse in Seogwipo. The next day would bring many more remarkable sights.