Jeju-do Island of the Gods

About an hour by air from Seoul, just off the Korean coast is the island of Jeju-do, which is often called the `Island of the Gods’, and is also known as `Honeymoon Island’ because of its popularity with both Korean and Japanese newlyweds.

The island is one of the nine provinces of Korea, and is popular because of its balmy climate.

Jeju is unusual in that the local population is a matriarchal society, so women make many of the important family decisions, and also perform much of the work that is normally carried out by men.  One of their tasks is to dive for fish, especially on the Umutgae shore near Seongsang.  Here the women dive to collect octopus, filefish and other marine delicacies.  They do this without the use of diving gear, and catch the fish with their bare hands.

There are two major cities on the island, Jeju City and Seogwipo, which compete against each other for the tourist trade.  Some of the natural attractions are Manjanggul Lava-tube, a 7 km cave, of which only a 1 km part can be accessed by the public. The tube is up to 23 m high and has been created by lava streams running through.  Seongsan Ilchubong is a famous volcanic cone, of which you’ll see pictures of everywhere in Jeju.  It’s a 180 m high tuff volcano  named “Sunrise Peak” because climbing to the top to view the sunrise is a popular activity. It’s about a 25 minute walk to the top, covering over 600 steps.

At 1,950 m (6,400 ft), Mt Halla is Jeju’s most distinctive landmark, and South Korea’s highest peak.  There are five hiking routes available, only two of which actually goes to the top.  Most trails are open all year round, even in the winter. If planning a winter trip, the short trails on the western side are particularly popular, going up Yongsil and down Eorimok or vice-versa, with children and the elderly even being common sights on both.

There are a couple of very unusual attractions on Jeju.  On the Dokkaebi-Doro Road a strange phenomenon happens on this slope.  If you park your car on the road and leave it in neutral it begins to slowly move – but if you look closely, you’ll notice that the car runs uphill, and not down.    

Loveland is Jeju’s most eccentric and internationally infamous attraction and almost a reason in itself to visit Jeju, this bizarre sex-themed sculpture park was created by graduates of Seoul’s Hongik University. Few of the (over 140) exhibits are generally shocking, and it makes for some interesting holiday snaps that you won’t want to show your parents. Although you will likely see some Korean families in the park, this is one where you should definitely leave the children at home or in the attached playground.

The island is also home to several museums, including a teddy bear museum, a green tea museum, and a museum, that is housed in a full-sized replica of the mud brick mosque at Djenne, Mali which features a quite good museum of African art.

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