Jeju volcanic island is an example of a large shield volcano, a lesser common type of volcano and rare in its enviromental setting. Its most distinctive feature however is its system of lava tube caves.
The nominated area consists of 5 locations:
- Hallasan Natural Reserve
- Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, divided in 3 parts
- Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone
Visit September 2001
Jeju island is the equivalent of tropical paradise, especially for regional tourists. The Hawaii of South Korea, with its sunny climate and even real palm trees. On the flight that I took from Busan to Jeju were at least 100 elder women, excited as children going on a school trip.
Arriving at Jeju airport however, the island is covered in fog and rain.
The next day it is still raining. I decide to join a bus tour, to get an easy (and dry) glimpse of the island. The tour takes 8 hours, and circles the eastern part of the island - the vulcano crater, lava caves and the open air museum are included. I'm joined by about 10 Koreans and a German girl. We (the westerners) haven't got a real clue where we are going, so a surprise tour it is (the guide only speaks Korean).
First we stop at the "Mystery Road", an optical illusion. Really strange, but funny.
The Sangumburi crater is stop number two. This should be an impressive sight, a large green volcanic crater. Now only fog, just the edge of the crater can be seen.
So we go on. Most of the Korean passengers are fast asleep now. Next stop is the Song-Eup Folk Village, an open air museum where we are lured into a tent where a sales presentation of health products is held (tea, pills). The Koreans are wide awake now, and buy in large quantities.
After a great bulgalbi lunch we go horse riding. Two brave Koreans from our group are given a cowboy hat and boots, and sit on a horse for 10 minutes in the pouring rain.
The bus route now takes us to the coast, to the Sunshine Peak. We end up at the lava caves of Manjanggul. There we have an hour to follow the trail that the lava has made underground. The most impressive sight of the day in my opinion. The caves are cold and dark, and their walls are moulded into strange forms by the lava. Most of the Korean co-passengers have stayed in the bus by the way.
The day ends at a fish restaurant, where the Koreans start being attentive all again and where I have my first freshly cooked octopus.
Frederik Dawson - October 2012
Heavily promoted as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Jeju Island, an oval volcanic island in the East China Sea, is a different country of South Korea with its different landscape, climate, architecture or even the taste of kimchi. Jeju is not a new discovered destination for me; my Korean friend often posted their honeymoon photos on Jeju on their webpage, Jeju is popular for Korean honeymooner, and during my last trip to Seoul, I saw many advertisements of its new seven wonder campaigns, even a large booth in Seoul Station for clicking the vote, so when I decided to visit Korea again, part of my annual Asian trip this year, I requested to visit Jeju as my prime destination to discover this island.
The best way to see Jeju is to rent a car, after landed at Jeju Airport, my first place to visit was the famous Manjanggul Cave; the lava tube cave is indeed a great site, very interesting, unique and definitely the best site of Jeju. While I really enjoyed the place, I also really concerned with the protection of the cave, currently tourists can freely touch and walk inside which finally someday will damage the cave and its unique lava surface. My next destination was the famous sunrise peak or Seongsan Ilchulbong which is actually an eroded volcano next to the sea; I was surprised to discover that the peak is surrounded by a very big town and large car park with hundreds of bus tours, clearly the peak is very popular. The peak itself is quite nice with its beautiful green lawn, high cliff and seacoast landscape, but with thousands of tourists, the place was really chaotic and noisy and made the whole experience not quite enjoyable. Actually I had much more enjoyable time seeing Seongsan Ilchulbong from the nearby beautiful Seopjikoji Peninsular or Phoenix Island Resort, and as already mentioned by Paul, the works of Tadao Ando are very interesting and his design use Seongsan Ilchulbong as part of borrowed landscape is very classy.
Due to bad weather on Hallasan, I only saw two parts of the Jeju's World Heritage Site. The island is indeed a nice place to visit especially for its unique volcanic wonders not only the lave tubes but many beautiful lava coastline. For other manmade tourist attractions I found them are just fine and sometime to bizarre to visit. The food on Jeju is also nice especially abalone and other seafood, local products made from cactus and its local orange are quite good for souvenirs and interesting for their taste. In my opinion, UNESCO sites on Jeju, especially Manajanggul Cave, are one of the best sites that Korean offered to the World Heritage and should be seen at least once in a lifetime.
Solivagant - May 2012
Another day, another island on our RTW cruise – but this visit to Jeju was more critical than most as it offered the promise of a completely new WHS after a long period of “revisits” since Rapa Nui on the other side of the Pacific! With just 9 hours ashore we somewhat reluctantly decided to use a standard tour which promised to take in 2 of the 3 elements of the inscribed site, together some more of Jeju’s delights!
The big worry was whether the tour would give us enough time at our priority sites and after visits to a crater, a folk village and a resort it was after lunch before we reached the Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, otherwise known as “Sunrise Peak” (Our lunch by the way was served in the visually stunning “Glass House” by Tadeo Ando – well above the normal quality of restaurant used for tourist groups around the World but it was a pity we couldn’t also take in his “Genius Loci” or the interior of Botta’s “Agora” at the same Phoenix Island location!). We were then presented with an option – either go to see the Haenyeo diving ladies whose “show” commenced at 1.30 or climb to the top of the crater – in either case we would leave in 1 hour and it was now 1.05!!
Well there was no alternative of course but to try for both - and it was well worth doing so too. Seongsan Ilchulbong is often described as a huge offshore stone castle with sheer cliffs all round – in reality it is connected to “mainland” Jeju by a spit of land but the climb starts only a bit above sea level and climbs steeply to the summit at 182 metrs. It was a popular spot and the stairway got very crowded. The summit revealed that those steep sides hid a deep circular crater (its floor just 90 metres above sea level) - this is a “volcanic cone formed by Surtseyan-type hydrovolcanic activity about 5,000 years ago” (Wiki). The views on all sides were spectacular from the very narrow summit ledge.
Next to the diving ladies so, after a speedy climb of 15 minutes, it was less half than that to run down. Luckily they started a bit late and we arrived in time to see and hear the rituals they undertake before diving. The Haenyeo are mainly old ladies who dive without oxygen down to 20 metres for conch, urchin, abalone and octopus looking a bit like “Michelin men” with their rubber wet suits highlighting their avoirdupois! Apparently they are embarked on a project to be inscribed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” – it was certainly an interesting vignette of Korean culture and worth taking in if you can, even if the show at Sunrise Peak is one put on for tourists
So, it was on to the “main event” – the Geomunoreum lava tube system “regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere,” (UNESCO – though Hawaii et al might disagree!). Arrival at 2.40 gave us a full hour to cover the underground walk with reasonable time to take in the atmosphere and the numerous geological phenomena on display. Only 1 km of one of the tubes, that of Manjaggul, is open. Its entire length is 13.4kms with a height of 23m and a width of 18m (photo). We had visited lava tubes in USA but found Manjaggul a worthwhile experience, well presented with informative signs.
Both Seongsan Ilchubong and Manjaggul deserve a bit of research before and after a visit to help understand the geological processes which created them and what makes them special enough to be inscribed. Ok, Jeju requires more than the 9 hours we gave it, but I felt we used our limited time reasonably well and, in particular, that we did justice to the 2 WHS elements we visited (and we saw the third as we sailed away with the sun shining brightly on the snow capped peak of Mt Halla!).
Thibault Magnien - March 2012
Jejudo, which means Jeju Island, is the biggest island of Korea and its most touristic area for Korean people dreaming of beautiful beaches and nice sea. The WHS there mainly consists of the Hallasan mount, an extinct volcano culminating at almost 2000 meters and the lava tubes inside which you can walk and enjoy the natural sculptures made by lava and water.
The Volcano is a great national park in which people hike and climb to the top. Four different ways allow to get to the top and are more or less easy to use. Whatever the one you take, you will have several hours of hard walk to get to the top and same thing to get down. However, you will enjoy the beautiful landscape of the park with its fauna and flora and its different places between forests, solid lava, water falls and cliffs. Lava tubes are really amazing and offer a natural testimony of the work made by lava first and erosion then.
John Booth - May 2010
A memorable part of visiting Jeju was meeting so many friendly visitors, mostly local, on ther ferry from Mokpo to Cgheju-do. But I did visit some of Jeju's volcanic attractions.
one day I took a bus from Jeju-do up to Seongpapak on the side of Mount Hallasan and from there gained some views of the summit, as well as visiting the WHS museum there.
on another day I took a different bus heading to Seongsan Ilchubong and got off near the Manjanggul lava tubes and went for a 2km hike down through a tube, a black tunnel big enough to run a train through. Along the way were some beautifully illuminated lava formations. The 1 km open for visits is only a fraction of what is there.
Returning to the bus stop I caught another bus to Seongsan Ilchubong, clearly a place of pilgimage for the hundreds of people gathered there to climb to the summit.
Kyle Magnuson - February 2010
An incredible island with volcanic lava tubes, the beautiful Hala mountain, and a distinct culture from that of mainland Korea. Also the ilchul-bong is a must see crater located on the eastern edge of the island. This paradise is full of delicious seafood, friendly people, fascinating "stone grandfather" statues, Haenyo Women Divers, and numerous waterfalls. Visitors planning a trip should really consider their timing, because for Koreans there are definitely high and low seasons in regards to tourism, and the island can become quite busy. Moreover, foreign visitors can rent cars or smaller vehicles on Jeju, which is less restrictive than mainland South Korea. Setting up your hotel should also be considered carefully, Jeju City or Seogwipo. I chose the later, but it really depends on your travel priorities.
Besides the 3 inscribed areas (Hallasan, Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, and Seongsan Ilchulbong), there is talk of expanding the property to Yongmeori coast, additional caves and oreum, and potentially even some of the smaller volcanic islands off the coast of Jeju-do. I would certainly welcome an extension. Nevertheless, a trip to Jeju is a highlight for many who visit Korea.
Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.
Norie - August 2008
I am in Jeju at the moment. i have been to these World Heritage sites with Bus tour which Yeha Tour provide the East Tour and the West Tour. Their courses are covered the World Heritage site. it's fantastic time.
Share your experiences!
Have you been to Jeju? Click here to add your own review.
Full name: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
2007 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 5 locations.
- 'Geomunoreum Lava Tube System - 1 Gujwa-eup, Jocheon-eup, Bukjeju-gun,
- 'Geomunoreum Lava Tube System - 2 Gujwa-eup, Jocheon-eup, Bukjeju-gun,
- 'Geomunoreum Lava Tube System - 3 Gujwa-eup, Jocheon-eup, Bukjeju-gun,
- 'Hallasan Natural Reserve Jeju-si, Seogwipo-si, Bukjeju-gun, Namjeju-gun,
- 'Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone Seongsan-eup, Namjeju-gun,
The site has 36 connections. Show all
- Anchialine Habitats Yongcheon Lava Tube Lake "The lake appears to be a unique feature that has not been reported in other lava tubes around the world although there are a number of lakes known in lava tubes. There is some evidence that this lake is anchialine (freshwater lies on top of more saline water) and the presence of aquatic invertebrates (copepods) demands that this lake be more closely studied, and carefully conserved, as such anchialine communities have proved to be of very considerable significance elsewhere around the world." - Nomination File
- Animal Migrations Seasonal Bird Migration "Many migratory birds come to Jeju Island because this island is in the courses of the migration of the birds." - Nomination File
- Boreal Forest / Taiga Primarily higher elevations on Hallasan Mountain."First type of habitat/land cover: Alpine coniferous forest - Abies koreana forest/ Regional" - Nomination File
- Columnar Jointing Examples in the Hallasan Natural Reserve (AB review - " The diverse volcanic landscape includes a 1.6 ha lake-filled crater, 550 m in diameter and 108 m deep, a younger (circa 25,000 years in age) intruded trachyte dome, and a series of columnar jointed basalts forming prominent cliffs" (the Best examples on the island are at Jistagae Rock but this is not within the inscribed area)
- Dripstone All five Lava tube caves include stalactites (a type of dripstone). Yongcheon Cave "Originating from of overlying carbonate sand dunes, including stalactites, stalagmites, pillars, cave corals, cave pearls, curtains, flowstone, and rimstone pools." - AB Document
- Dunes Yongcheondonggul Lava Tube "On the surface of the tube and around its vicinity, seasonal northwesterly winds have blown towards the inland, depositing sand dunes ranging from one to seven meters in height.- Nomination File
- Lava tubes
- Natural Arches and Bridges "Several natural lava bridges. "Microtopographical structures, such as about seventy lava pillars, large chambers, lava stalagmites, lava bridges and lava ledges are beautifully preserved." - Nomination File
- Notable examples of multiple speciation in one site "A. koreana thrives in vast areas, and shows great genetic variation in the color of cones, and thus Jeju Island serves as a valuable source of research regarding the speciation of the conifer species. A. koreana is registered as a 'Red Listed' endangered plant species (LR/nt; ver 2.3, 1994) at the IUCN." - Nomination File
- Orchids Hallasan Mountain of Jeju Island contains 3 orchid species: Cymbidium kanran, Neofinetia falcata, Aerides japonicum
- Rainforests Temperate Rainforest (Hallasan NP)
- Salamanders Jeju Salamander (Hynobius quelpartensis) - nomination file
- Significant Karst Features Outstanding example of volcanokarst, a special style of pseudokarst(AB ev)
- Crater Lakes
- Dependent territories Jeju Special Autonomous Province or Cheju Island is the only special autonomous province of South Korea
- Notable lakes "Yongcheondonggul Lava Tube was discovered recently, and it has a large lake with different salt concentrations along the depth, future detailed scientific investigations on the fauna may reveal some interesting results on its fauna and ecology. The ceiling above the lake also displays a majestic view of carbonate speleothems." - Nomination File
- Pacific Ocean
- Territorial Highest points Mount Hallasan (part of Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes)
- Volcanic Cone Ilchulbong Volcanic Cone
- Drifting Across the Sea: A Record of Ming China (Departure from Jeju Island) 3rd day, Intercalary First Month, 1488. [February 15th] At Sea. This day was cloudy and sometimes rainy. The wind was from the east and slightly favorable. "Chol-lyo and Tung-nye tried to stop me from going, saying, "We old men were born and grew up by the sea lanes. When it is changeable on Mt. Halla, now cloudy, now rainy, the wind is sure to shift, and it will be impossible to sail boats."
- Insurrections Jeju Uprising and Massacre in 1948 - Most estimates are around 30,000 civilians killed, and 70% of villages on Jeju Island destroyed. Significant remains of massacre victims have been found on Hallasan Mountain. - wiki
- Armouries Seongsan Ilchulbong Crater "A portion of the coastal area on the southern slope was used as a military supply storage area during Japanese occupation. At that time, a natural sea cave was slightly modified into a sea-cliff defense post." - Nomination File
- Hendrick Hamel Hamel and his crew were shipwrecked on Jeju-do in August 1653 and left the following year in June. "There is a high mountain, full with trees and further there are mainly bare mountains without any trees and many valleys where they cultivate rice." The Journal of Hendrick Hamel
Religion and Belief
- Legends and Folk Myths There is a crater lake on Hallasan called Baengnokdam, literally "white deer lake." There is a legend attributing the name of the lake to otherworldly men who descend from heaven to play with white deer." - wiki
- Sacred Mountains "Shamanism and the traditional belief system played an important role in the daily life of Jeju people and show a strong relationship with the natural environment. Cultural resources in Mt. Hallasan include altars and shrines such as Sancheondan, providing traces of religious activities native to Jeju Island. Mt. Hallasan is also known for folk tales, such as Hojongdan and Gwangyangdang, showing that Mt. Hallasan served as a spiritual pillar for Jeju residents." - Nomination File
- Cretaceous Volcanic activity on Jeju began approximately in the Cretaceous and lasted until the early Tertiary period. (Wiki)
- One million visitors or more Ilchulbong Volcanic Cone recieved 1.2 million.
- Purpose Built Visitor Centre "A new visitor centre has been built at Mt Hallasan, which on completion in 2008 will provide 1,500 m2 of floor space for exhibitions, conferences and management offices. Construction of new visitor centres at Manjang cave and Ilchulbong will begin in 2008. There are also plans to construct a special Jeju World Natural Heritage Centre." - AB Evaluation
- Recently discovered Yongcheondonggul is one of five lava tubes included in the nomination. "Discovered on May 11, 2005, Yongcheondonggul Lava Tube, was registered, No. 466. in 2006, as a Natural Monument." - Nomination File
- Role of Women Haenyeo can often be seen diving at the cove at the foot of Seongsan Ilchulbong and the nearby Udo Island. "Haenyo are skilled (Female) divers who are known to be able to hold their breath for more than two minutes and dive to depths of 20 meters" ... Since it was the women who worked from morning till night every day, women held a special place in Jeju's society." - Official Site of Korean Tourism
WHS on Other Lists
- Global Geoparks 2010
- Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Jeju Batdam Agricultural System
- Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible heritage Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers)
- New 7 Wonders of Nature
- Ramsar Wetlands 1100 Altitude Wetland (Hallasan National Park), 2009
- World Biosphere Reserves Includes Jeju Island (2002)