Posted by: Matt Kelley | 4 May 2009

Jeju’s Sunrise Peak

20090504_seongsanvillage

Mention Jeju to your Korean friends and you’ll see their faces soften with affection for it. Sometimes called Korea’s Hawai’i, the island’s relative isolation is why its culture and even its language are different from the mainland. In fact, there’s archaeological evidence that the ancient kingdom of Tamna (탐라국) was actively trading with mainland Korea, Han China and Japan as early as the first century AD.

20090504_seongsanSeongsan Ilchulbong is easily accessed via well-maintained pathways.

As was discussed here on an earlier post about climbing Jeju’s Mt. Hallasan,volcanoes because they are a very important part of Jeju’s history. In addition to Mt. Halla are 360 parasitic volcanoes (oreum) that have, over the millennia, periodically let off steam.

20090504_viewA little bit of the incredible view from the top. Note Mt. Hallasan in the distance.

Probably the most famous among them is Seongsan Ilchulbong (성산일출봉), which is also known as Sunrise Peak. The striking archetypal tuff cone was formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions about 5,000 years ago. Today, the 182 meter cone forms a conspicuous peninsula on Jeju’s eastern edge. The volcanic cone is 600-meters wide and 90 meters tall.  Its crater is lined with 99 rocky spires that resemble a crown or castle walls.

20090504_rapeseedFields of rapeseed blossoms with Seongsan Ilchulbong in the background.

While the north and southeast sides feature dramatic cliffs, the northwest slope is a grassy field that connects the crater to Seongsan Village. In the spring, the area fills with bright yellow rapeseed flowers and is perfect for horseback riding. “Seongsan” literally means “holy mountain”, and if you take an early morning hike to see the spectacular sunrise there, I think you’ll agree that the place deserves its name.

20090504_beachSince Jeju’s “Sunrise Peak” extends from the island’s eastern side, it’s visible from many places.

But don’t just take my word for it. Last year, Seongsan, Mt. Halla and Jeju’s extensive network of lava tubes became Korea’s first UNESCO Natural World Heritage site. The distinction is shared by just 173 other places around the world, and has served to boost international interest and travel to the island.

Getting There:
map_jeju_seongsan→ From Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport, dozens of flights depart for Jeju City daily. The 1-hour flight costs between 167,000-244,000 won ($113-$165) on major Korean carriers, and around 108,000 won ($73) on budget carriers, like Jeju Air.

→ Once on Jeju, reach Seongsan Ilchulbong by driving due east towards Seongsan Village.

(A version of this text aired on KBS World Radio on August 9, 2008.)

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