Though incredibly beautiful, the western half of Jeju is somewhat wilder and generally less accessible than East Jeju. Tour buses usually don’t halt here and people who go to this area are mostly locals. But for travellers who decided to explore this part of the island, they will be rewarded with unspoilt terrain and experiences that they can find nowhere else.
The west side of Jeju-do is where the island hides its true beauty. Unlike the rocky eastern coast which features volcanoes and craters, West Jeju appears more pleasant with evergreen gardens, white sandy beaches and turquoise coloured water. In fact, one of Jeju’s dreamiest gardens – the Hallim Park, and one of its most attractive beaches – the Hyeopjae Beach are located in this area. But the beauty of West Jeju doesn’t stop there. The windswept coastal line becomes more impressive when turning southward to Yongmeori, where it turns into a spectacular wall of rocks.
One of the most popular attractions in West Jeju, Hallim Park began as a subtropical arboretum in the 1970s. It was the life project of a man named Bong-kyu Song who wanted to create a world-class recreational park near his home town, Hallim (33km west of Jeju City). After purchasing a piece of barren land, he covered it with tons of soil and started planting palm trees and tropical flowers. Over time, the park has expanded, reaching nearly 100.000m². Today, it consists of multiple gardens that can be enjoyed in any season, including the Jeju Stone and Bonsai Garden, the Bird Garden and much more. In addition, a folk village was built to present the traditional living style.
A stone throw’s away from Hallim Park is Hyeopjae Beach – a small but charming stretch of seashore that has white sand, and surprisingly, turquoise coloured water. This beach in West Jeju is about 9 kilometres long and 20 metres wide. Its beautiful white colour comes from a large number of crushed seashells that have been mixed in with the sand. The water is also pretty shallow with no sudden drop, making it suitable for everyone. Just off the beach is Biyang-do, or the “The Flying Over Island” – the last formed volcanic island in Jeju-do.
Standing tall in the plains of Andok-myeon like a giant dome, Mount Sanbangsan is, in fact, a massive body of lava which was created some 700,00 – 800,000 years ago. At the height of 395 metres, the mountain can be seen from nearly everywhere in the region. Due to its relatively high elevation and close proximity to the sea, Mount Sanbangsan has developed a distinctive volcanic environment, making it the sanctuary for a variety of vegetation. Hewn out of the peak itself is Sanbangulsa – a Buddhist temple which offers a spectacular view out over the ocean and the Yongmeori coast.
A jagged and highly photogenic cliff, Yongmeori is the place where Mount Sanbangsang stretches into the sea. This area is created by layers of sand that have been deposited for over millions of years. Under the influence of wind and waves, hollows, bridges and mysterious patterns are formed along the seashore; enough to make anyone who witnesses it exclaim in wonder.
When strolling along the Yongmeori coast, you will probably meet haenyeo – the famous female divers of Jeju. Known for their iron will and strong determination, as well as their remarkable diving skill, these ladies represent the matriarchal family system that still exists on the island. They come here to sell their catch of the day, such as octopus, sea urchins, or even abalones.
Practical Information in West Jeju
- While renting a car or taking a taxi is the most convenient way to explore West Jeju, you can still reach most attractions by buses. It takes a little patience though.
- To Hallim Park/ Hyeopjae Beach: take west-bound express buses (Nr. 101, red colour) to Hallim-ri. From there take the local buses (blue colour) to Hyeopjae Beach or Hallim Park.
- To Sanbangsan/Yongmeori: take west-bound express buses (Nr. 101, red colour) to Andeok Nonghyup Bank. From there take the local buses (blue colour) to Sanbangsan.
- Climbing to the cave in Sanbangsan takes about 20-25 minutes. The staircase is well maintained and located behind the main temple.
- The operation hour of Yongmeori coast depends on the tides. During high tides or bad weather, the coastline will be closed. Therefore, it’s recommended to check the weather and tide schedule before visiting.