Globally known for rapid technological advances and increasing urbanisation, South Korea embraces the new while proudly retaining much of its heritage, says Jeevan Blesson.
It’s a spectacular, diverse country bursting with exciting cities and tranquil rural locations, with myriad cultural attractions to be found in both.
As a result, South Korea is becoming an increasingly sought-after travel destination.
There are more than 3,000 islands off the coast of South Korea. More than 30 of these have drawn visitors to their enchanting scenery. One of the most popular is Jeju Island.
Jeju, known locally as Jejudo, can be found in the southwest of the Korean Peninsula. It’s a volcanic island that is dominated by the Hallasan Mountain (with a height of 1,950 metres, the highest mountain in South Korea). The island is about an hour from the capital city of Seoul by plane and is the country’s biggest island. Here, tourists can savour pristine, white, sandy beaches; cascading waterfalls and an atmosphere that can be as laid-back as you will find anywhere.
My favourite place- Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, also known as the Sunrise Peak, in Jeju. It was formed by a volcanic eruption under the sea more than 10,000 years ago. Located on the eastern end of Jejudo Island, there is a huge crater atop Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak which is about 600m in diameter and 90m high! It looks like a gigantic crown with 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater. While the southeastern and northern sides are cliffs, the northwestern side is a verdant grassy hill connected to the Seongsan Village. The ridge provides an ideal
spot for walks and for horse-riding. The sunrise from the crater is magnificent. Moreover, the Seongsan
Ilchulbong Peak, particularly when surrounded by bright yellow coloured canola flowers in spring, is a sight to behold.
Highlights- For those wishing to truly understand what the island and its people are all about, check out the Jeju Folk Village Museum. Within walking distance of Pyoseon Haevichi Beach and near the Haevichi hotel and resort itself, this is a must-see for anyone looking for a hands-on historical and cultural experience.
Founded in February 1987, around 100 structures were carefully brought, rock-by-rock, from across the province to replicate traditional structures representative of the Joseon era (1392-1910). Everything you see within the open-air village museum typifies life as it was lived long ago. Within this 4,500-hectare-wide museum are authentic replicas of a traditional mountain village, a fishing village, a marketplace, a botanical garden, old government buildings and a holy place where actual religious rites were performed. The village was constructed after some years of research on how Korea and Jeju Island looked like in the 1890s, how the people lived, and how their homes were built until the end of the Joseon Dynasty, just before the Japanese came. Although this is a constructed village for the sake of tourism, it was aimed at coming as close as possible to the real thing.
Lowlights- Frankly, nothing I can think of. Everything about this place is exceptional.
Souvenirs- Jeju Underground Shopping Street is the perfect place for shopping in Jeju as there are more than 377 outlets. An underground shopping street takes you away from the city traffic and you can stroll around hunting for bargains. This is the best place to look for clothes, footwear, accessories and crafts. As this street is covered, you can shield yourself from the sun during the daytime and, of course, you can shop here when it’s raining outside. There’s so much on offer that you will need an entire day to browse through it all.
Where to stay- As you would expect, there are hotels to suit all budgets. The closer the hotel is to the seafront the more expensive it will be. You can easily find them on websites.
1. Climb a volcano
2. Experience Jeju Island’s Natural Wonders
3. Take a walk on the ‘Olle’ side
4. Sunset on Hyeopjae Beach
5. Visit Seongup Folk Village