Enjoy Cheju Island's Mini-Volcanoes

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Enjoy Cheju Island's Mini-Volcanoes

The beauty of Cheju's beaches and seascapes is not the only reason to visit the island.

Tourists who go to Cheju can also enjoy hiking and sightseeing at Cheju's mini-volcanoes, called 'oreums.' 'Oreum' is a word only spoken in the Cheju dialect. It is derived from the Korean verb 'Oruda,' which means 'ascend,' and denotes volcanoes that were formed by the eruption of bigger volcanoes. Most of these mini-volcanoes stand at elevations of 500 to 1000 meters; the climate there is cool and windy, typical of the Cheju highlands. Climbing an oreum in order to enjoy the magnificent vistas of Cheju and of the sea is rather easy. These oreums are considered one of the island's hidden treasures.

The round oreums are found at the foot of Cheju's majestic Mount Halla, South Korea's highest mountain. They are arranged along the mountainous seaside like sentinels standing guard.

The typical shape of the oreums resembles that of traditional Korean thatched-roof houses. Oreums do come in varying shapes, however. Some rise steep and straight from the ground, whereas others have gentler slopes. They all seem to support the loftiness of Halla.

It takes only ten to forty minutes to climb one of these mini-volcanoes, depending on its height. Climbers who reach the peak of an oreum are rewarded with wonderful vistas. Legend has it that these little volcanoes, called 'Mount Hallas within Mount Halla,' are scraps that fell bit by bit from the skirt of a colossal goddess named 'Sullmundae.' According to Cheju lore, Sullmundae used her skirt to haul the mud that created Mount Halla.

There are 368 oreums on Cheju. They can be found in the eastern regions of Kuja-up and Song Dang-ri, but those in the western regions of Aewol-up and Bong Sung-ri are more densely clustered and considered more spectacular. The visually striking 310-meter Abu-oreum, located in Song Dang-ri, is seen often in movies. Within Abu-oreum is a crater that is 78 meters deep; its concave shape has been compared to the Roman Colosseum.

by Lee Tae-il

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