Evidence of a turbulent creation, East Jeju is characterized by black cliffs, hundreds of extinct volcanoes, and craters. It was a desolate land, filled with rocks and lava stones. But Mother Nature has revitalized this part of the island, transforming it into a picturesque landscape with impressive rock formations, lush green meadows, and silver grass fields.
Similar to its distinctive culture, Jeju-do’s geological features are different from those of mainland Korea. As a result of a series of volcanic activities, the entire island is covered in volcanic rock and volcanic soil produced by the enormous Hallasan, the God Mountain. This frenzied creation also formed an extensive system of lava tubes, as well as more than 360 satellite volcanoes and craters, including the prominent Seongsan Ilchul-bong and Sagumburi in East Jeju.
1. Seongsan Ilchul-bong
Rising from the seabed like a majestic castle, Seongsan Ilchul-bong is definitely one of Jeju-do’s most remarkable sights. This extinct tuff cone was formed approximately 5000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption underneath the sea. Over the course of time, its bowl-shaped crater has been forested. And Seongsan Ilchul-bong has gradually become home to more than 200 species, including some rare plants. At the base, lush green meadows roll-on sloppy hills, creating a contrast to the dramatic rocky outcrop.
Due to its location on Jeju-do’s eastern tip, Seongsan Ilchul-bong is said to offer the best sunrise view on the island. That’s why a lot of visitors came here every day to glimpse the sun coming over the horizon. The Koreans believed that catching the sunrise at Seongsang Ilchul-bong will bring good luck. Many even consider it is a life-affirming journey. Therefore, the peak is also known under a more florid name, the Sunrise Peak.
Another unmissable destination in East Jeju is the Sagumburi – a rare, shallow crater that has been designated as a Natural Monument. Unlike its brethren, this volcano exploded quickly but did not eject much lava nor did it form much of a surrounding cone. Instead, a 100m-deep and 650m-wide valley was created inside the crater.
Being a protected environment, human activity is restricted inside the Sagumburi crater. Visitors can walk around the crater’s rim. But they are not allowed to venture down into the central area because it is the habitat of over 400 species of flora and fauna. The crater looks most astonishing in late autumn when its ridges are painted gold by a sea of silver grass.
Tips for visiting East Jeju
- In order to catch the sunrise Seongsan Ilchul-bong, it’s best to stay in a nearby town. You can easily find accommodation in either Seongsan-ri or Goseong-ri. If staying in Jeju City or Seowigpo, you must add another hour to your trip. Buses might not be available at that time, thus renting a car or taxi are the only options.
- Seongsan Ilchul-bong opens an hour before sunrise all year round. From the entrance, it takes approximately 30 minutes to reach the crater rim.
- Though the sunrise view is amazing, the view of Seongsan Ilchul-bong is no less impressive. The best places to have a panoramic view of the peak are Gwangchigi Beach (a short walking distance from Goseong-ri) and the coastline of Seopjikoji.
- Renting a car or getting a taxi are the most convenient ways to reach Sagumburi. Buses are available but they are time-consuming, ranging from 60 minutes (departure from Jeju City) to 90 minutes (departure from Seowigpo).
- From the entrance, a well-paved path leads to the viewing area, which has a small pavilion and several vista points.