January 28, 2011

Korea's Jeju Island is a Geological Wonder

Late last year, nine geological sites on Jeju Island (South Korea) received recognition as UNESCO Global Geoparks from the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network (GGN). The Jeju sites are the first in Korea to earn this recognition and with it, Jeju Island becomes 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.

UNESCO's support for Global Geoparks aims to safeguard, educate and sustainably manage landscapes and formations of outstanding geological, archaeological and ecological value and promote tourism around these sites to benefit local economies.

The nine sites begin with Korea's highest mountain and dormant basalt volcano Mount Hallasan (1,950 meters). Standing at the centre of Jeju Island it has around 360 parasitic cones on its flanks creating a remarkable landscape. On top of the mountain is a crater lake which is 3 kilometres in circumference and 500 metres in diameter. The landscape is beautiful throughout the year and a diverse and rare ecosystem can be found at different altitudes.

Seongsan Ilchulbong or Sunrise Peak as it's more commonly known (182metres) rose from the sea in a series of volcanic eruptions beginning over 100,000 years ago. The site 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. Watching the sunrise from the peak is considered one of the most magic things to do on Jeju Island.

Jeju Island has the longest lava tube in the world in Manjanggul Cave. Over 13 kilmometres long and five metres wide the lava tube was formed about 2.5 million years ago. The lava tube has been well preserved revealing a splendid interior that is out of this world.

The Seogwipo Stratum is the only marine sedimentary formation created in Korea during the Pliocene Period from 5.3million to 2.6 million years ago. Situated in Seohong-dong in Seogwipo-si, the formation contains fossils of thick shell along coastal cliffs. The stratum has a high academic value as it offers valuable information on the environment and marine life of the era it was formed.

A popular honeymoon photo location Cheonjiyeon Falls creates a splendid view of water falling from a steep cliff which is a habitat for rare plants.

Jusangjeolli Cliffs refer to the set of black, rock pillars of rectangular or hexagonal shapes on the east coast of Jungmun Tourist Resort. As if carved by stonemasons the pillars are evidence of nature's awesome power. The sight of waves crashing against the columns is truly spectacular.

Situated on the southwest coast of Jeju Island, Sanbangsan Mountain (395 metres) is a volcanic formation in the shape of a bell. The mountain has two Buddhist Temples. A walk up the stone staircase leads to a sea cave called Sanbanggul. Inside is a temple called Sanbanggulsa containing a Buddhist statue. The rare plants on the cliffs are designated and preserved as natural monuments.

Yongmeori Beach is a ten minute walk from Sangbangsan Mountain. The location's name literally mans Dragon's Head because of the resemblance to a dragon wading out to sea. The coastal area offers great walking areas and splendid landscapes created from persistent waves.

Suwolbong Peak, a small cone (77metres) on the western side of the island is located at the end of an expansive field and this area is best known for its wonderful sunset views.

See the official travel website for Korea for more information on Jeju Island's geological wonders: www.visitkorea.or.kr

For those visitors into nature and walking one of the best ways to see Jeju Island is by its 'Olle' Walking Paths. A special 'Olle' Pathway guide showing the six different routes allows visitors to see Jeju Island's beautiful natural wonders and scenery along the way. Copies of the guide are available from Korea Tourism Organization by email: visitkorea@knto.org.au or phone: 02)9252-4147/8

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