Korea: exploring World Heritage-listed Jeju Island

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By Caroline Adam

Volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls and forests combine with a host of other natural attractions to make Jeju Island the kind of place that makes people sit up and take notice. Perhaps this is why it has successfully passed the first and second rounds of the New7Wonders of Natur e campaign, a global campaign run by the New7Wonders Foundation in Switzerland, and is now among the 28 official finalists. The campaign is in its third and final phase, with the top seven to be announced in November this year.

Late last year, nine geological sites on Jeju Island received recognition as UNESCO Global Geoparks. The Jeju sites are the first in Korea to earn this recognition and with it, Jeju Island is the only place in the world with three UNESCO certifications, following its Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site designations in 2002 and 2007 respectively. Here is a lowdown on three of the nine geological sites.

MOUNT HALLSAN

Korea’s highest mountain at 1950 metres, Mt Hallasan is a dormant basalt volcano located at the centre of Jeju Island. There are around 360 parasitic cones on its flanks, while on top of the mountain there is a crater lake of three kilometres in circumference and 500 metres in diameter. From its warm climate to the cooler areas, Mt Hallasan is famous for its vertical ecosystem of plants. Over 1800 varities of plants and 4000 species of animals (3300 species of insects) exist here, and there is also a well-developed climbing course of less than 10 km in length.

SEONGSAN ILCHULBONG

Also known as Sunrise Peak, this site rose from the sea in a series of volcanic eruptions beginning over 100,000 years ago. It resembles an old fortress on a coastal cliff and was originally a volcanic island but was later connected as sand and gravel accumulated between the island and shore. There is a huge crater at the top of the peak, with the appearance of a gigantic crown. Watching the sunrise from the summit is a highlight of a visit to Jeju Island.

MANJANGGUL CAVE

This is the longest lava tube in the world, being 13 km long and five metres wide and believed to have formed about 2.5 million years ago. It has been well preserved with an incredible interior containing interesting structures including 70 cm lava stalagmites and lava tube tunnels, as well as plenty of bats. The stone pillars and stalactites are widely spread and the tunnels shows off the cave’s topographical features. However, only one kilometre of the cave is open to tourists.

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