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The Kimchi-ite: Jeju Island, An Escape From The Metropolis
In many corners of the world, winter offers nothing but a biting cold that demands we stay indoors until the flowers start to bloom. But with spring stretching its legs, it's time we start to do the same. The best way to mentally prepare for spring and summer is to reminisce about trips from the past and to plan a new travel adventure built around shorts and sandals.
Here in Korea, Jeju Island is one of the first places that come to mind when seeking warm weather travel. A popular honeymoon destination, Jeju Island is a small, volcanic isle just south of the Korean peninsula, famed within Korea for its beaches, seafood, unique mountains and tangerines. It'll be hard to miss the tangerines; they are sold everywhere on the island and are in anything that you'd consider edible.
Seongsan Ilchulbong is a bizarre looking dormant volcano that juts out of a flat landscape, seemingly placed there by accident. It's a great place to catch the sunrise, lending to its other name, "Sunrise Peak."
The most well known of all points of interest, however, is Hallsan, South Korea's tallest mountain and one of the islands three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It's an odd looking mountain that in some ways is actually the entire island itself. Hallasan is an extremely popular hiking spot offering some very accessible trails for beginning hikers.
Manjanggul Lava-tube is one of the largest in the world and with Hallasan now dormant as a volcano, it serves as an impressive cave system. Upon first descending down into the tube system, the temperature instantly drops down more than 20 degrees, a welcome bit of natural air conditioning. Beautiful rock formations, rare animal species and awe-inspiring preservation contribute to it, too, being listed as a World Heritage Site.
Jeju Island is the perfect weekend getaway from the city's mess of towers and people. It is just a short one-hour flight away from Seoul and during the right time, tickets can be in the $200 range. It's a great place to hop on a bus and get off when something out the window looks interesting. The island doesn't have a wealth of things to do or see, but sometimes that is the point.
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[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]