Since we were only to stay in Jeju for two days, we knew we had to make the most out of it. The day before, we had the hostel contact a driver for us to drive us around Jeju Island for eight hours, listing down all the places we wanted to go to and map out an itinerary for us. We woke up around 8AM and got ready since the driver will be picking us up by 9AM. We skipped breakfast and instead bought some snacks and sandwiches on the nearest convenience store and just ate along the way.
Our first stop was the Jeju Stone Park. An ecological and cultural park that displays the history of stone culture pivotal to the history and culture of Jeju Island, the Jeju Stone Park covers a wide variety of exhibitions in a large area. Befitting the unique natural landscape on Jeju Island, the park is situated nearby oreum small volcanic cones scattered throughout the island. Visitors can arrive at the entrance of the park by walking along what looks like fortress walls on a gentle hill. Our driver was able to convince the girl from the ticketing counter to let us enter for free since we were there for about 45 minutes only, which actually lasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Had a great time doing some quick photo-ops and the fact that there were not a lot of visitors during that time, we did enjoy walking around the place and taking snapshots of just about every stone sculpture we passed by. From sculpture of the Grandmother Seolmundae and the Five Hundred Generals, there were also traditional local hatched-roof houses amidst the forest. Overall, surrounded by beautiful nature, the park offers the unique culture and history of Jeju Island.
Our next stop was the Manjanggul Lava Tube. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Manjanggul Cave is one of the finest lava tunnels in the world, and is a designated natural monument. A lava tunnel is formed when the lava that was deep in the ground spouts from the peak and flows to the surface. Manjanggul Cave has a variety of interesting structures inside including 70cm lava stalagmites and the lava tube tunnels. It is regarded as having significant scientific and heritage value, owing to its excellent condition of preservation despite its age of formation. It was pretty dark, slippery and cold inside the cave, and I think they needed to place more lighting there. I was kinda frustrated with the shots I had since it was so dark and due to the lack of lighting, didn’t get to take as much beautiful photos that I wanted.
We had lunch afterwards in one of the restaurants along the way and enjoyed my favorite bibimbap. We then went ahead to visit the Seongeup Folk Village. Located at the foot of Mt. Halla on Jeju Island, Seongeup Folk Village is a small town that holds a vast amount of culture. The Seongeup Folk Village shows the unique culture of Jeju Island: the black lava rock walls, the straight but curvy alleys to block the wind, and the stone grandfather statues known as the Harubang, which have become a prime feature of the landscape.
Our next stop was one of the highlights of the day, visiting the Seongsan Ilchubong Peak. Located near the eastern town of Songsan-ri, the Seongsan Ilchubong Peak is the easternmost tip of Jeju Island. This area is the first to greet each day’s new sun, thus earning the name of “Sunrise Peak.”
Definitely one of my favorite spots in Jeju, the Seongsan Ilchubong is the famous round almost-island you’ll see pictures of everywhere in Jeju. A 180m high tuff volcano, it was one of the toughest climbs of my life, but reaching the top of the peak after about thirty minutes and about 600 steps later was all worth it. There are numerous hydromagmatic volcanoes similar to the Seongsan Ilchubong, but there are no other known hydromagmatic volcanoes with a well-preserved tuff cone and diverse internal structures along a sea cliff. Because of these scientific values and remarkable scenery, Seongsan Ilchubong Tuff Cone was able to be designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and it is worth preserving permanently as a natural heritage of humankind.
On our way to our next stop, which was the Cheonjeyeon Falls, we were able to pass by the beautiful Saeyeon Bridge, the bridge that connect Seogwipo Harbor and Saesom Bird Island. I would’ve loved to stay there and take in the beautiful scenery but we were on a time-crunch. We also passed by Yakcheonsa Temple, one of Korea’s Buddhist temples and reminiscent of that of Buddhist temples of the early Joseon Dynasty. And since I’ve had enough of temples already all my life, a quick photo-op was enough for me and then we were on our way to Cheonjeyeon Falls.
We got a little confused communicating with our driver since there were actually three popular waterfalls in Korea, and two of them were called Cheonjeyeon and Cheonjiyeon. Yes, the only difference is one letter. One is with an I and the other one is with an E. We just asked him where was the nearest one and Cheonjeyeon was nearby, so we went there instead.
A three-tier waterfall, Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls is one of the most popular tourist attactions in Jeju Island. Known as the “Pond of the Emperor of Heaven”, Cheonjeyeon Falls consists of 3 parts. The water from the first waterfall becomes the second and third waterfalls and flows into the sea.
We were on a really tight time crunch at this point since it would take about an hour or so to get back to our hostel in Jeju City and we had to catch a flight back to Gimpo. So after circling around the Cheonjeyeon area, we went back to our driver and convinced him to take us to one last stop, which was the Jusangjeolli Cliff. He was a bit hesitant at first since we actually exceeded already the hours we bought for the trip but he was kind enough to bring us to Jusangjeolli and told us we had about an hour to roam around the place and take some pictures.
The Jusangjeolli Cliffs refer to the set of blackish, rock pillars piled up along the coast and is a designated cultural monument of Jeju Island. The Jusangjeolli was formed when the lava from Mt. Hallasan erupted into the sea of Jungmun. Its 20 m cliff makes it a popular spot for high tide, sea angling. The waves of the high tides crashing into the side of the cliff provide a breathtaking view of the ocean surrounding the pillars. Most commonly expressed as vertical columnar jointing, the formations are created via sudden cooling of lava that shrinks in mass. The sight of waves crashing against the columns is both serene and beautiful.
After about an hour later, we headed back to our car and had the driver take us back to Jeju City to pack all of our stuff and head back to the airport. The driver was kind enough to wait for us while we sprinted our way to our room and packed all our stuff like crazy. We arrived about 45 minutes before our flight leaves for Gimpo. Since the AREX closes around midnight, we were just in time when we took the subway from Gimpo to Incheon for another hour and stayed there at the Incheon International Airport for our flight back to Manila scheduled at 6AM later that day.
Truly one of the best vacations I’ve ever had, and definitely the best country I have been to so far, I definitely fell in love with Korea. I wish we could’ve stayed there longer. From the food to the friendliest and most helpful people I have ever met while on a trip, this is one of the places I know I’d be coming back over and over again. There are still a lot of places to go to and visit and I just know I’m going to be back here again sooner than later.Follow @iamthegarysia