Geomunoreum Lava Tube System (Jeju Island)

The entirety of Jeju Island is essentially a living volcanic museum. There are unique species of plants and animals, and also lava tubes, which are cave-like channels through which lava either flows, or has flowed in the past. According to those who geek-out on geology, the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System on Jeju Island is one of the world's most, I don't know, unique or extensive or oldest or something. They are a big deal on the island, and in 2007 were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which currently makes it one of fewer than 200 natural U.W.H. sites in the world.

To be honest, I wasn't that impressed. To be fair, I did not visit Manjanggul cave, but instead the main tourist area near Mount Halla. In hindsight, I wish I visited Manjaggul cave, because where I visited not only required reservations but was also entirely above ground. I'm not sure what I expected, but I did expect to go below the surface of the Earth.

That having been said, it was a nice two-hour hike, and I would have gotten more out of the experience had I understood anything the Korean tour guide said. Fortunately there were English signs along the way, and they provided me with an extensive site manual in English. Plus I saw some beautiful nature and wildlife, including a Siberian Roe Deer up close.

Some of my fellow hikers (all Korean women) straggling behind on our way back to the entrance.

At the start of our journey we hiked through a forest including many Japanese cedar trees (杉).

More Japanese cedar trees, and if you look closely in the bottom-right quadrant of the photograph, you may spot what is most likely a Chinese or Korean gravestone surrounded by a small wall of lava rocks. I say Chinese, and not simply Korean, because during my time on Jeju Island, I stumbled upon a few random gravestones, and all had Chinese characters, not Korean (although Koreans do use Chinese characters in addition to their own Korean alphabet, so the language on the gravestone says nothing about the body buried below).

This is one of at least 10 underground tunnels in Geomunoreum built by the Japanese army during the Pacific War. The Japanese army used forced labor of Jeju citizens to build tunnels not only in Geomunoreum but all over Jeju-do, which they occupied prior to the liberation of Korea. Of the 360 volcanic sites on the island, a full third of them have Japanese tunnels and facilities.

This is a manmade kiln used to produce charcoal.