The Bijarim Road (Nutmeg Forest Road) is known not just among those who live on Jeju Island, but across South Korea.
In 2002 out of 88 locations this road was chosen by experts as the best one to drive in all of the country.
From the moment you enter the road you’ll suddenly take in a short surprised breath of air. On both sides thousands of cedar trees stand tall and stout to attention.
But why is the road named after nutmeg trees instead of the cedar trees? It all has to do with where the road eventually leads. To the most wonderful Bijarim (Nutmeg Tree Forest). In 1985 this became the official designated name. On maps you’ll find it as the 1112.
However the road’s history dates back to 1967 when the government spent some 100,000 dollars on its construction to help develop the numerous ranches in the area.
At this point I feel like I have to give you some insider advice about getting there especially if you plan on walking the increasingly famous forest footpath that is Saryeonisupgil (Saryeoni Forest Trail).
Actually if you access the Bijarim Road towards Saryeonisupgil from the direction of the 5.16 road things might be a bit uncomfortable.
As there is no proper parking lot many cars take to parking at the side of the road. In addition many drivers go over the 60km speed limit due to the straight nature of the route. It can be a little dangerous.
Instead enter Saryeonisupgil from another side on the way to Namwon via the 1118. Here the parking lot is wide and recommended.
But if you really must access from the 5.16 direction I want to tell you about the small forest path. Blink and you’ll miss it as begins right at the junction. Really.
There are no signs and it is very narrow. In fact I’m not even sure how far it goes or even if it links with Saryeonisupgil. It has a different kind of feeling to Saryeonisupgil as well. It’s like you’re enveloped in trees and nature.
However I did find out one evasive plant species has moved in causing the forest colour to blend into one. Though it has now been put to use in herbal medicine and cosmetics so I guess that reduces my hatred for it somewhat.
By the way one reason there are many small forest paths in this area is because of the tombs. People have to access the tombs to look after their loved one’s graves.
I have to highlight one tree in particular. It looked like something out of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.
Later I found out the tree’s name involved blooming for 100 days. Yet when I saw it, it was devoid of life. Quite creepy I think.
So if you’re up for a bit of exploration go for this small forest path. It might be better to find someone else to team up with.
Moving on down the 1112 Bijarim Road, you’ll find a lot more activities to take part in. Horse riding, ATV, Sangumburi Crater, Mini Mini Land and Eco Land are a few.
Heading a little south you have the Samdasoosupgil (Samdsoo Forest Walk) and Seongeup Folk Village too.
One thing I didn’t tell you yet is how popular the road has become for filming things like music videos, movies and commercials. It is at the Samdasoo Ranch that So Ji-seop filmed a commercial for Alpha Camera.
Finally I must tell you about the grand amounts of cherry blossom that line the road during spring. By now it has all gone, but at its peak it really is Jeju Island’s best driving course.
But if you want to bathe and heal in nature then get out of the car for a walk.
“If you stop you can see,” a monk once said.
And it is something I agree with. You can never find primordial nature from behind the wind-shield.