The beautiful island of Jeju is punctuated by the imposing Mount Halla (or Halla-san) in the center. Halla-san is the most recognized natural treasure in the island so Halla-san has practically become synonymous with Jeju-do; a visit to Jeju-do is never complete without hiking up Halla-san, visiting Mt. Hallasan National Park or at least gazing at its peak. Local islanders often say, “Jeju Island is Halla Mountain, and Halla Mountain is Jeju Island.”
Jeju-do has more treats up its sleeves, though. This volcanic island is found at the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula in the Korean Strait (250 km away from Sasebo, Japan and 420 km from Yangtze, China). It is blessed with a number of natural and national treasures that attract millions of tourists from around South Korea and the world. It is the leading honeymoon destination in country, known to many as “Island of the Gods”.
The island alone has three World Natural Heritage Sites, which are gifts of Nature declared by UNESCO as worth preserving for years and years to come. Halla-san is, of course, one of the three sites. The other two are Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (a volcanic peak aka “Sunrise Peak”) and Manjunggal Cave (a lava tunnel that is home to the largest lava column in the world). Jeju-do also boasts of abundant forests, lush greeneries, picturesque waterfalls, and white sandy beaches. The most popular tourist activities are hiking, swimming, sightseeing, snorkeling, and shopping.
From several points around the island, Halla-san is visible because this 1,950-meter high mountain is the highest peak in all of South Korea. It is so tall that its other name is Mt. Yeongjusan, which means “mountain high enough to touch the galaxy”. At that height, however, its peak is almost always hidden in the clouds. On top of Halla-san, hikers and mountain climbers are rewarded with a magnificent view of the crater and a huge lake within the crater, not to mention the view of the entire island. The lake measures 2,000 meters in diameter and 100 meters deep. It is named Paengnoktam Lake because, according to folk stories, heavenly men called Sinsons often descend from heaven to visit the place and play with the white deer. It is not difficult to believe this myth since the scenery is truly a glimpse of heaven.
Other than its priceless value to tourism, the mountain also provides a rich source of information to researchers, scholars and nature enthusiasts. Its vertical ecosystem is known to provide a home to more than 1,800 species of plants and 4,000 species of animals. Mt. Hallasan National Park was declared a National Park in 1970. The park is open to the public all year round but on different schedules according to season. In winter it opens at 6:00 a.m., 5:30 a.m. in autumn, and earliest at 5:00 a.m. in summer. This is the most important mountain in the island to climb, which is why the park offers five different but equally satisfying hiking courses. There are a number of trails, campsites and mountain shelters. Mount Halla is surrounded by 368 parasitic mountains called “Oreums”.