WHS: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, South Korea

For our next South Korean visit, we’re going to what must be the most awarded island in the world, being not merely a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also Biosphere Reserve and Global Geopark — making it the first and only “UNESCO Triple Crown” — and also voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature:

Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes


Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. It includes Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, the highest in Korea, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and lake-filled crater. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and processes…

The Geomunoreum lava tube system, which is regarded as the finest such cave system in the world, has an outstanding visual impact even for those experienced with such phenomena. It displays the unique spectacle of multi-coloured carbonate decorations adorning the roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls, partially covered by a mural of carbonate deposits.

The fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, with its walls rising out of the ocean, is a dramatic landscape feature, and Mount Halla, with its array of textures and colours through the changing seasons, waterfalls, display of multi-shaped rock formations and columnar-jointed cliffs, and the towering summit with its lake-filled crater, further adds to the scenic and aesthetic appeal.

Seongsan Ilchulbong

This is Seongsan Ilchulbong with its remarkable array of accolades — a 180m climb, short but steep! — with a nice vista from the top:

Seongsan Ilchulbong

The most accessible part of the Geomunoreum lava tube system — be warned, the place marked ‘Geomunoreum’ on your tourist maps is a moderately interesting museum with no actual cave access — is Manjanggul Cave:

Manjanggul Lava Tubes

Since these are lava tubes, they’re not as spectacular as you find at Gunung Mulu for instance, but they do have their striking pieces:

Manjanggul Lava Tubes

However, our main aim in visiting Jeju was to try the seafood. Jeju in general and Seogwipo in particular is renowned through Korea for its seafood, and why yes the stalls in Maeil Olleh Market serve without doubt the freshest tastiest seafood of all sorts you have ever had:

Seogwipo Market

But we were there for a very particular kind of seafood unique to Korea which Seogwipo is renowned for, sannakji.

And what is sannakji, you ask?

Well, first you sharpen up your butcher knife to a paper-cutting edge, then you take a live octopus from the tank

Seogwipo Market

and snick! you slice one of its arms off. Then you quickly douse the arms in sesame oil and serve them still wriggling:

Sashimi just doesn’t get any fresher than that. Another unusual food ticked off our Culinary Cultural Appreciation bucket list!


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So there you go, pretty sure that between the UNESCO Triple Crown and the New 7 Wonder voting, there’s nowhere anywhere that’s racked up the international honors Jeju Island has. Be sure to work it into your Korean visits!

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