There’s a lot to see and do on Jeju Island.
From hiking the tallest mountain in Korea to relaxing on the beach, if you’re into outdoor activities Jeju is paradise.
When we visited in August 2012 one of the highlights of our trip was spending the afternoon at Seongsan Ilchulbong, a nearly 200 meter tall volcanic crater also known as “Sunrise Peak”.
Jeju is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and Seongsan Ilchulbong is a good example of what makes it so lovely.
Let these photos give you a taste of what to expect from Sunrise Peak and then use the directions at the end of this post to plan your own adventure!
Sunrise Peak Jeju: Seongsan Ilchulbong
Looking a bit like a miniature Uluru from a distance, Seongsan Ilchulbong was formed 5,000 years ago through hydrovolcanic activity. I’m no geologist, but I can tell you this: hydrovolcanic activity makes for AWESOME rock formations. Seriously. Funky rock formations abound on Sunrise Peak.
You’ll start here and should expect your hike to the peak of Seongsan Ilchulbong to take close to two hours. Even from this distance you can see unique rock formations.
Grab a cup on your way up! This Starbucks opened in late-2012 and there are a few other coffee chains to choose from. Prices are what you’ve come to expect in Korea: EXPENSIVE!
The three people down at the water’s edge are waiting to watch the Hanyeo — which literally translates as “diving woman” — dive for abalone and other sea creatures. Jeju Island is famous for its Hanyeo and these skilled women put on diving performances throughout the day in the waters just off of Seongsan Ilchulbong.
There are also boat tours available for 20,000 won.
Deong Gyeong Dol AKA “Lamp Rock”
Jeju Island hasn’t always been part of Korea. In fact, for most of its history as an inhabited island it was known as the Tamna Kingdom. It wasn’t until 1404 when the Joseon Dynasty conquered Tamna Kingdom that Jeju Island became an undisputed part of Korea.
Even to this day, Jeju Island retains some unique cultural features that distinguish it from mainland Korea.
Case in point: Lamp Rock.
Just as mainland Korea has its own creation myth, so to does Jeju Island.
On Jeju Island the story goes like this: During the day, the beautiful and beneficent goddess Grandmother Selmondae carried dirt in her skirt with which she built Jeju Island. As you can probably imagine, it takes quite a bit of dirt to make an island and by the end of each day Grandmother Selmondae’s skirt was in pretty bad shape.
So at night, Grandmother Selmondae would set about to mending her skirt. It’s said that she placed her lamp on this rock, hence the name “Lamp Rock”.
Villagers in the area bow twice before Lamp Rock when they pass by in honor of Grandmother Selmondae. Interestingly, they also bow twice in honor of General Kim Tong-jeong –the military leader who (unsuccessfully) defended Jeju Island against incursions from mainland Korea.
This is about halfway up Seongsan Ilchulbong. The view only gets better the higher up you climb.
The peak of Seongsan Ilchulbong facing east. Although we didn’t get to experience it, you can probably imagine how incredible the sunrise would look from this vantage point. Gorgeous.
A storm out at sea created this rainbow. Within minutes everyone on the peak of Seongsan Ilchulbong was drenched in fine mist as the storm blew over us.
Slowly and very, very carefully making our way back towards Seongsan village.
This is abalone porridge, one of Jeju’s most famous (and delicious!) dishes.
After our awesome hike on Sunrise Peak we feasted on abalone porridge (전복죽).
Abalone (a type of mollusk for my fellow land-locked mid-west American friends) is a delicacy and is, along with mandarin oranges, Jeju Island’s signature food.
When you see Hanyeo diving off the coast of Jeju, chances are they’re diving abalone.
Make sure to grab a piping hot bowl of abalone porridge when you visit Jeju. There are tons of restaurants around the base of Seongsan Ilchulbong that serve this iconic dish.
Seongsan Ilchulbong is easy to access both by car and bus.
If you’ve got your own set of wheels set your GPS for “선산일주봉” and make your way down National Road #12 towards Seongsan. You’ll pass through the small towns of Jocheon and Gujwa on the way. The trip takes about an hour if you’re observing the speed limit.
By bus, hop on the Seongsan Ilchulbong bus from the Jeju City terminal. It’s an hour and a half by bus from Jeju City to Seongsan Ilchulbong. Bus fare is 3,000 won per person.
Enjoy your time at Sunrise Peak!
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