Jeju Island, Mountain Hallasan
Hiking to the top of a highest mountain in South Korea
Jeju Island is a pearl of South Korea. Recently, it was included in “7 new wonders”. The nature is like nowhere else, reminding of “Hobbit” landscapes with a fresh ocean breeze. This magnificent place is home to the highest mountain of South Korea - Hallasan. An active volcano with its height of 1990m.
There are only 2 trails that will take you to the top of the volcano - its crater : Seongpanak trail and Gwaneumsa Trail. Seongpanak trail is longer but recommend for the way up due to its mild incline (9.6 km) therefore making the climbing a bit easier and quicker. The path is full of sharp rocks ( at least 50% of it) therefore wear comfortable shoes (there is a big chance to trip over so you would always have to pay attention where you are walking). The total length is 9.6 km and it WILL take you at least 3 hours of walking. Make sure that you will leave early enough as there would a checkpoint which will cut you off the way to the top after 1pm. ( the walking time to checkpoint is at least 2 hours). We were confident enough to say that we can do better and we did ( locals say 4 hours), however we have been almost running up and still exhausted closer to the top. BRING YOUR FOOD AND WATER. There is no place to buy and snack or refill a bottle of water. Around 1,5 litres will be enough. The optimal snacks are chocolate protein bars - easy to carry and will give you instant energy ( 4-5 is enough). Locals say that there used to be a little cafe in the middle, however it was shot down and became illegal for soliciting.
There would be 2-3 shelters with benches where you can sit and relax, no garbage bins (so be ready to carry everything with you back). Once you are on the top, you will be able to connect to WI-FI (yes, wi-fi near the volcano crater). Although it is an active volcano, there is no smoke but a little lake in one of the bottom’s corners. The view is epic and is worth the hike. Expect it to be more cloudy than clear due to the high moisture in the attitudes. In the summer time, the weather does not differ from the ground one. If it is +30 then it will be around +28 there all the way to the top. However, bring a light windproof jacket-near the crater the wind is very strong and lots of bugs. CONSIDER THE WAY BACK. It will take you 4 hours, because you will be tired and slower. HIGHLY recommend to take Gwaneumsa Trail due to its scenic landscapes, which you would not be able to see on Seongpanak trail. Gwaneumsa Trail lies in the open area of the mountains where the view is unobstructed and will give you a peak of the other surrounding mountains.