Exploring Seongsan Ilchulbong: A UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site

Written by @Joehairie

Yes, it was strenuous ascent up to the peak but it was worth it. Steep zigzag staircase, multiple stops for us, while the elders seemed to move at a faster pace than us. Our guide told us it will take about 25-30 minutes to reach the peak. We took 40 minutes to reach the very top, famously known as ‘Sunrise Peak’; official name, Seongsan Ilchulbong, one of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

Seongsan Ilchulbong as seen from the air!
Source

A nature paradise in the Island of Gods, that’s how we would say it. It’s kind of reaching Heaven after that unbelievable climb; although it’s on well-maintained path all the way to the peak. It’s actually a volcanic mountain, measured at 180m in height with a huge crater at the top of its peak. The crater is 600m in diameter and 90m high. There are 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater, if viewed from the air, resembling a gigantic crown.

Summary
Area:1,688km2 (0.518km2 :core area, 1.17km2 :buffer zone)
Height: 180m (Bottom of crater is 90m above sea level)
Crater Circumference: 1704.86m
Crater square: 214,400m2

Tuff Cone

Most will come here to have a view of the sunrise, we highly recommend that though we came here quite late in the afternoon. It was winter so we didn’t sweat during the steep climb. In the summer, it will be way different; be prepared with bottled water, a cap or umbrella if you want. But believe us, all that ‘hardships‘ with be rewarded with breathtaking views, during and after the climb.

Precautions-These People should not hike the peak
Diagnosed with hypertension, cardiac disorder, diabetes, drunk, pregnant women or senior citizens unable to carry out physical activity

Seongsan Ilchulbong seen from Gwangchigi Beach

On our way to Seongsan Ilchulbong, we made a quick stop at Gwangchigi Beach, an impromptu pit-stop decided by our tour guide. She told us that we would love the view of that Seongsan Ilchulbong from this particular point. Indeed. It was one wise decision as the view was absolutely amazing.

Gwangchigi Beach

We were told that Gwangchigi beach is the last part of the first course of Jeju Island Olle Trail and where the second course starts. Seongsan Ilchulbong and the sea Join at this amazingly beautiful beach with its black sand. Riding a horse along the beach is also possible. We wish we had to time to do that.

We continued the journey to our intended destination; Seongsan Ilchulbong. At the base, which is part of the small town and near to Seongsalliipgu Bus Stop, abundant shops selling all sorts of touristy items can be seen. We spent some time here after the hike; buying some souvenirs! There are many places in Jeju Island where one can get cheaper souvenirs but as in our norm, we tend to support local communities; wherever and whenever possible.

Greeting us at the entrance were the erected stones with plaques commemorating Jeju Special Self-Governing Province as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Including this site, it’s our 3rd (Halong and Komodo, visited), 4 more to go. Fingers crossed.

Designations
National Designation of Natural Monument: 18 July 2000
Inscription to UNESCO'S World Natural Heritage: 2 July 2007
Certificate of Global Geoparks Network: 1 October 2010
One of the world's New 7 Wonders of Nature: 21 December 2011

First thing one will see after the main entrance is the ticketing booth. As to maintain the facilities at Seongsan Ilchulbong, especially that steps up to the peak, admission fees for visitors are imposed, depending on age/categories.

Admission Fees 
Individuals
Adults 2,000 KRW
Youth and Chidlren 1,000 KRW
Groups
Adults 1,600 KRW
Youth and Children 800 KRW
Children 800 KRW  
* Adults (ages 25-64)
* Youth/Children (Under 24)
*The information is correct at the time of writing

Seongsan Ilchulbong, seen from the base

The ‘journey’ to the peak starts after another checkpoint (tickets). It’s quite a distance to reach the steep staircase but at this phase, walking on the path is quite easy. It’s also quite pleasant walking on this path during winter season (as we did).

Seongsan Ilchulbong is a classic tuff cone, formed 5,000 years ago by a hydro-volcanic eruption in a shallow water seabed. It's the best place in whole Jeju Island to enjoy the view of sun rise.

Half-way at the base, there is another path (going to the left). Those intending to hike Seongsan Ilchulbong should walk straight by following the right path. The path to the left leads to the lower part of Seongsan Ilchulbong where performances by Jeju Woman Diver are held daily at 1.30pm and 3.00pm.

The next phase will be the steps already but slightly bigger and the hike is not that steep. Visitors of all ages will have no problem at all to walk on this path. There are plenty space to stop for a while, letting others with ‘extra’ energy to pass through.

Gradually, the path becomes steep and narrow, leaving little space for slower people to actually stop (in case bigger groups coming from behind, walking at a faster pace). Fret not as there will still be some people who walks slowly, so do join in the slower line. The path is one-way (going up) as those who are descending will be taking another designated route.

The path continues but narrower and steeper but luckily exactly on this spot there’s a small opening where you can squeeze in with other slower people, taking 5-minute break while admiring a large rock at the side..

There are some vertical and pointed rocks that surrounds the climbing path and this particular rock is DeungGyoungDol. Unique rocks such as this was formed by an unequal erosion process of unset layers of volcanic ash when it rains. In the time of volcanic activities which created this peak, unset volcanic ash piled up and formed a steep slope. Raindrops on the layers of ash forced a flow down the slope. The layers eroded over time thus creating a land that appears deeper than the ground itself. The less eroded stratum retains its vertical shape.

Seeing some friends who were left behind starting to catch up, we continued walking. Our goal, not the be the slowest of all but apparently, we’re getting slower and slower as we took time to enjoy the beautiful view of Seongsan Ilchulbong’s surrounding.

Indeed. We’re not even on the peak but already we had the clearest view of the entire town.

Tombolo

The tuff cone of Seongsan Ilchulbong was actually an island shortly after the eruption. It became smaller after thousand of years of wave erosion. The eroded materials were transported southwestward and deposited along the eastern shore of Jeju. The present tuff cone is now connected with the main island by a tombolo, which can be seen in the present landscape.

A tombolo is a bar of sand or other sediment connecting an island to the mainland or another island

Vista Point 

Reaching the peak, we saw other visitors sitting, relaxing and enjoying the view of Seongsan Ilchulbong. The well-maintaned platform enable visitors to enjoy a 360-degree view! I guess the sun rise view must be a spectacular one and hopefully someday we will be here again to do that.

The amazing views..

We were on the peak for about 20 minutes or so before heading down to the base. There is a designated path for visitors to descend, different than the route meant for going up to the peak.

The path going to the base is almost similar to the ascending trail as it’s well maintained, making it easier for visitors to slowly walk. We however took only 15 minutes to do so as it was much easier than going up.

The descending trail

When almost reaching the base, there is a hut where visitors may relax for a while and perhaps use the restroom! We rested here for 5 minutes before heading to the location where Jeju Woman Divers (Haenyo) can be seen doing their daily dive or selling their fresh catch.

We walked straight on the path that brought us to another staircase. We missed the scheduled 1.30pm session so we knew that we would not be able to watch the Jeju Woman Diver doing their daily dive in the sea but at least we will get to see them selling their catch such as abalone, clams, seaweeds and sea urchins.

From where we were standing, we’re able to see the place where the Jeju Woman Divers stationed themselves either for the dive or selling their catch.

We walked until we saw this big signboard, indicating that we’re nearby to the place we intend to visit.

Another long staircase, going downhill but it was a fun walk.

It took us about 2 minutes to reach the base of the cliff.

We were greeted by this friendly Ajumma who was selling Tangerines.

As in our norm, whenever and wherever possible, we will support the local communities by purchasing local products. Though we did not spend that much but at least we played our part, much as we do expect when people come to our own place. The Ajumma was selling the Tangerines at a very low price anyway, so why not?

Then we came to this place where all the Ajummas were selling their catch. Some of them are also the divers (Haenyeo). Jeju Haenyeo are the symbol of women who have tough spirits as they took over the job from men since the late 17th century. Culture of Jeju Haenyeo was designated as the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.

Umutgae Seashore

This is the place said to be where the Jeju Woman Divers perform their daily dive. Since we were not able to watch the performance, we spent few minutes here trying to understand their hardships. We do hope to come again one day and document the whole thing, from start to end and perhaps join them for a while in the water!

What better way to end our own exploration? Celebrate it with the Tangerines we bought from the friendly Ajumma we met earlier! Although we knew that we’re to pick Tangerines in a farm later, that didn’t stop us from buying some in advance.

 

Bottom Line

The visit to Seongsan Ilchulbong was not only fun but it was educational as well in the sense that it taught us to further appreciate nature’s gift. Yes, it was a tiring hike but that did not stop us to admire the beauty of Seongsan Ilchulbong. We didn’t get the chance to watch the performance by Jeju Woman Divers but we plan to come here again one day.

We’re glad to had the opportunity to visit one of UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage and to add to that, Jeju Island itself is listed as one of 7 Wonders of The Nature! It’s our 3rd out of 7 and what more could we ask for?

 

Seongsan Ilchulbong
284-12, Ilchul-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do
Information: 064-783-0959
Website: Click HERE

Opening Hours
Summer 07:10-19:00
Winter 07:30-17:50
Parking Facilities
Available and free

Getting to Seongsan Ilchubong

Below is a map of Tourist Spots including Seongsan Ilchubong in Jeju Island. courtesy of Jeju Tourism Organization. Feel free to download as you might need it prior coming to Jeju. If you need more maps and more information, visit Jeju Tourism Organization official website, click HERE.

If you are planning to fully rely on the public transport to get you to Seongsan Ilchulbong and Gwangchigi Beach, please refer to this LINKVisitJeju official page clearly describe Jeju’s Public Transportation System. It also gives you an insight on how to move around by renting a car, taking the taxi or getting to and from the Island’s Airport.

 

The visit to Seongsan Ilchulbong was part of the 5 days 4 nights FAM trip to Jeju Island. The entire trip was organized and sponsored by Jeju Tourism Organization.

 

 

 

 

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