Jeju: The Volcanic Island

So it’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been pretty busy with my thesis and stuff lately so I’ve neglected posting anything new here. But I’ve hit a bit of a lull in my work so it seems like a good time to add some content!

I’ve been living in South Korea for almost three years now. It’s pretty crazy when I think back to my time here. It really doesn’t feel like three years, but numbers don’t lie. In my time here I’ve visited a bunch of places, and aside from the south-eastern corner of the peninsula I’ve been all over this country. So, I’ve decided to write a few posts about three of my favourite places to visit, starting with Jeju Island, the largest island in Korea.

As an island south of the mainland, it’s a lot more tropical.

I’ve only been to Jeju once, and that was actually pretty much this time two years ago. I really enjoyed my time there and always planned on going back, but alas I haven’t went back in the time since. Of all the places in Korea though, Jeju is definitely the one place where I actually want to go back to.

After living in Korea for so long, one thing that becomes pretty apparent is that every city is like the same. Seoul is obviously the big city and Busan has the ocean and the beaches, so they’re the most unique. But a lot of the cities just feel.. similar. All the buildings in the cities here are built relatively recently, and probably around the same time too, and they’re all just boring grey buildings. You can go to a completely different city and not even know it sometimes since so many parts of the cities in this country look alike.

This kinda extends to the nature aspects as well. When I first got here I was really amazed at the Korean scenery since it actually looks pretty nice. Lots of rolling mountains, the ocean, and a decent amount of forest cover. But again, the country is quite small so the entire country looks the same. There’s just no variety. Coming from Canada, which is obviously a big country, we have a lot of variety in our landscapes which is something I enjoy. Variety is pretty key, and I think that Jeju is the most visually distinct when it comes to Korea.

Mountains in Jeju are a bit spikier looking.

Being a volcanic island situated south of the mainland, Jeju actually looks and feels different. The air is a bit clearer, the mountains are a bit spikier, and the small villages and towns also have a bit of a different feel to them as well. Pretty neat atmosphere.

Of course, you have to leave the city. Jeju City was pretty boring to me to be honest, since it just reminded me of any other coastal city in Korea. But, the naturey sightseeing spots in Jeju are actually really nice and it’s by far the main reason why you would want to go to the island to begin with. Sure, they also have random stuff like the African Museum of Art, but I’m not really looking to check that stuff out if I visit a volcanic island in Korea though you know?

The main thing in Jeju is Hallasan, the tallest mountain in Korea. It also happens to be a volcano in the center of the island, so it’s hard to miss. There’s hiking trails that go up the mountain, and despite it not being a very difficult hike up, I’m still not sure if it was worth it.

The crater lake at the top of Hallasan.

It took us four and a half hours to go up, and then another three hours coming back down. I’ve done my fair share of Korean hikes but man, that was a long hike.

The actual crater lake at the top was.. disappointing. Plus there were a ton of flies when we went so it was really gross cause they kept flying around. But I do admit the mountain itself is quite scenic and the fact that you could turn around and look over the island at the top was pretty fantastic. On a nice day you can even see the edge of the island, which we were lucky enough to see. There’s something pretty awesome about seeing that far away and actually getting to see where the landmass ends.

Jeju pretty much positions itself as the volcanic alternative to the mainland. The lava tubes is one of the major attractions as well, and definitely pretty neat. It’s not mindblowing, but it was still pretty cool to walk through this cave and check out the lava formations and stuff.

Lava formations, kinda neat.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been in a cave but it was the first time I’ve been to a volcanic cave though, which was cool.

When I went to Jeju I pretty much just hit up a lot of the main touristy areas since that was the easiest way to do it. But now that I’ve been there once I kinda wanna go back and just, explore a bit more. Either by renting a car or even biking around the island. Jeju has a lot of cool stuff that’s heavily featured in tourist resources, but I have a feeling that there’s a lot of random cool stuff to just discover on your own, which is something I want to check out if I ever go back.

Like we also went to Udo as well, which is a small island off the coast of Jeju. So like, the Jeju of Jeju. We ended up taking a bus around the island but you could also rent scooters or whatever, which in retrospect seems like a more fun option. Having the freedom to just explore is pretty nice.

Even the algae is different.

So in conclusion Jeju is nice. It honestly might be my favourite sightseeing area in Korea, so I do recommend it to anyone that enjoys traditional culture and nature. If possible, rent a car or some other form of transportation that gives you a bit more freedom though, I think that’s what I would do. When we were there we ended up covering maybe half of the island, but not fully of course. If I ever go back I’d definitely want to check out the western and southern sides of the island.