One of the main reasons we chose to go to Jeju during our two week trip to South Korea was to go see the sunrise from Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak). My sister and I were fans of a famous Korean variety show called “We Got Married” where celebrities pretend they got married. Our favorite couple went to Jeju and saw the sunrise from this exact location. Jeju also happens to be the filming location of many other Korean TV shows and dramas if you are a fan, Jeju is definitely the place to be.
Seungsan Ilchulbong (or as I call it Sunrise Peak) is an UNESCO World Heritage site located on the east coast of Jeju Island. Sunrise Peak is a crater with 99 rocky spires making it look like a crown. Source
We specifically booked a hotel near Sunrise Peak just to make sure we made it go see the sunrise, and went to bed early the night before (it was also one of the only nights we slept on a real bed!).
We woke up at 4am and made our way to Sunrise Peak with our coffee in hand. They open an hour before sunrise, but it will probably not take you an hour to make it to the top. Unlike other hikes, this hike is basically a 20 minute climb up stairs (train on the stair masters before coming). I don’t think we really looked at the view on our way up, we just wanted to get to the top. But looking at the one picture I managed to take. I’m a little surprised to see all those lights on this quiet island.
I think we were one of the first groups of people to make it to the top of the Sunrise Peak (no, we were not the first), but as the sun rose more and more people surrounded us. We spend hours here watching the sunrise and the colors in the sky change. It was interesting thinking that it takes such a long time for the sun to rise and the changes seemed so subtle. It really wasn’t until I edited my video of the sunrise did I notice it.
Although this was not my first time seeing the sunrise, I definitely cherish the sunrise much more than the sunset. Being from San Diego, I feel as though I can see the sunset everyday. I took hundreds of pictures of the sunrise, but they all look the same to me. The experience of seeing the sunrise is worth a LOT more.
It wasn’t until it was bright did we really see where we were. We were basically overlooking the center of crater covered in greenery and beyond that was the ocean. I kind of wonder what it would look like to see the sun rise from this crater instead of the ocean behind the crater. Anyways, my focus kind of wandered away from the sun and to the greenery.
Yes, we sure did need our sunglasses! (V, me, and Y)
We really did make it the top of Sunrise Peak! The sign behind us says so. There isn’t much at the top, simply a big patio like area with steps (like a theater) allowing more people to watch the sunrise and this sign.
From the east we see the colorful horizon, and the west was the rest of the island getting brighter. As you can see in the picture on the left, Sunrise Peak is located at the end of a little peninsula that is covered in greenery (I think my hotel is somewhere along the coast behind one of these little islands).
Even though the sun is already up, there were plenty of people still making their way up Sunrise Peak. It really is still worth going even if you are not their for the sunrise. I bet this place gets super crowded with tourists through out the day. So, if you wake up early enough for the sunrise you will probably miss the tour buses.
We were in Jeju at the end of the summer, but apparently one of the best times of the year to come to Jeju is during the spring. Rather than seeing this greenery, you will also see fields of yellow flowers (one of the many famous things to see in Jeju).
Now that we’ve made it to the top and have seen the sunrise, we took our time walking back to our car in the paring lot. There were plenty of stops worth making to take pictures. Making our walk back much much more relaxing.
In the picture to the left, there was a random boulder jutting out. It created an awesome frame for us to snap a couple shots. I think that boulder is also famous, but I like the view more. I was so glad that the weather was just perfect. I remember seeing the weather forecast showing rain (It started to rain after we left)!
It’s also interesting to see that some of the pathways get split for up and down traffic (that’s convenient).
At the end of our hike down, we saw signs for Haenyeo performance. Haenyeo literally means “ocean women” who are also know as mermaids of Jeju. These women dive into the ocean without any special equipment for several minutes at a time. This is a dieing art because all of the Haenyeo are grandmothers and they did not pass this art / skill to their family.
It was a shame that we couldn’t see their performance because they only perform later in the day, and we needed to head to the other side of the island. I hope I’ll be able to see them next time I come back to jeju.
Did I mention the beautiful open grass fields everywhere? Snap a couple more shots of Sunrise Peak behind us, and off we went to head back to our hotel for breakfast (and a nap).
I would also recommend that you stop by one of the many restaurants on your way our for some abalone porridge. I didn’t get to do that (since we had breakfast for free at our hotel) but I the abalone porridge is a famous dish in Jeju.
Tickets: Adults: 2,000 won. Youth/Children: 1,000 won