The Gotjawal is a forest of hearty trees, brush and moss growing in the island’s volcanic terrain. Much of this land is untouched by human development and thus a unique ecosystem has evolved there. Let’s take a closer look at this aspect of Jeju’s wilderness.
Dongbaekdongsan is a forested inland wetland located in Gotjawal, a forest formed on volcanic, rocky ground. This wetland is fed by groundwaters which easily penetrate the rocky soil and provide a habitat for diverse plant species. It is a flat rugged area, dense with trees. A path extends through it which takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. Sturdy shoes are required to avoid ankle injuries while navigating through this beautiful, but rocky, terrain.
The name dongbaek refers to the camellia tree. This doesn’t mean that you’ll find a forest solely comprised of these camellias, though. Rather, it was the case that in olden times trees growing in this area of the Gotjawal were used to make charcoal for heating homes and other uses. The camellia, though, does not burn well, and so its kind were left to flourish over many centuries. Now that charcoal production using the Gotjawal as a resource has ceased, the camellia trees are somewhat drowned out by other tree species. As you walk through Dongbaekdongsan, though, you’ll discover these camellias in various spots throughout the area. For hikers who pass through, they’re considered to be a kind of hidden treasure of the Gotjawal.
Due to its unique ecosystem and valuable ecological resources, the Ministry of Environment of Republic of Korea designated Dongbaekdongsan Wetland as a National Wetland Protected Area in November 2010 and a Ramsar Site in March 2011. These wetland areas are located deep inside the Dongbaekdongsan and are known as the Seonheulgot Seupji (Wetland). It is a verdant place full of life.
The best time to experience the Dongbaekdongsan forest is in the light of the early morning, through to about noon. The sunlight streams through the thick conglomeration of trees in such a way as to touch your heart. If you have time, it’s also recommended that you walk with a trained forest interpreter. You can make an advance reservation for the nature walk at the information center. The walk takes about 2 hours and is twice daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Seonheulgot Dongbaekdongsan San 12 Seonheul-ri, Jocheon-eup, Jeju-si 09:00~18:00 Open daily Free admission From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take buses 990, 981, or 982 and get off at Seonheul bus stop. Total travel time is about 1 hour 20 minutes. Free parking available http://www.ramsar.co.kr/
A forest of life, the life of a forest
Seonheul Gotjawal Village
Seonheul Gotjawal is in the Jocheon-Hamdeok area. In 2013 the entire area of Seonheul 1-ri was designated as the world’s first Ramsar village. It is with pride that the villagers of Seonheul 1-ri help with the conservation efforts instituted with this designation.
When you begin walking into the Dongbaekdongsan, the asphalt road quickly transforms into a quaint village path. You pass through a rural village with a small cafe, a school, a public health center and small supermarket. Walking along the traditional stone-lined alleyways you see seasonal crops abutting the forest edge.
This village has all this hallmarks of one of those idyllic rural lifestyles that so many urbanites dream of. As you walk through this quiet area in about an hour, it’s possible to calm your mind and relax your tired body. But please keep in mind that this is after all a working village, so while walking through the forest and the community, it’s important to respect both nature and the people living there.
Seonheul Gotjawal Village 114-2 Seonheul-ri, Jocheon-eup, Jeju-si From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take buses 990, 981, or 982 and get off at Seonheul bus stop. Total travel time is about 1 hour 20 minutes. Free parking available http://www.ramsar.co.kr/
Fall in love with Gotjawal
Hwansang Forest Gotjawal Park
Hwansang Forest is one of four major areas of Gotjawal. There is a forest interpretation program that runs every hour. It is designed with kids and families in mind, and the guide engages children with simple, incisive questions and answers like “Why are the roots of the Gotjawal forest so thick?” or “Why is it so rocky?” The experience helps develop a warm, thoughtful connection between people and nature.
The path itself is quite family-friendly and suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It takes about an hour to complete the walk with the interpreter.
As it happens, this area of the Gotjawal in June is home to many thousands of fireflies, who light up the forest in the midsummer night. About 3 kilometers from Hwansang Forest Park at Cheongsu Gotjawal there is a volunteer guide program which takes small groups to see these fireflies in their natural habitat. The program is from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Hwansang Forest Gotjawal Park 594-1 Nokchabunjae-ro, Hangyeong-myeon, Jeju-si 09:00~18:00, Closed Sunday mornings Adults: 5,000 won, Children 4,000 won From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 755 and get off at the O'sulloc bus stop. Transfer to bus 967 and get off at Gaksimul bus stop. Total travel time is about 1 hour. Free parking available http://www.jejupark.co.kr/
A little easier, a little closer
Jeju Gotjawal Provincial Park
Jeju Gotjawal Provincial Park is part of the Hangyeong-Andeok Gotjawal Zone, along with Cheongsu Gotjawal which was introduced above. Jeju Gotjawal Provincial Park is a good place to learn a whole lot about the forest. There’s a comprehensive information center, a Gotjawal Ecology Experience School, a Gotjawal Exhibition Education Room, a café, and five rest areas located in the park.
The course is divided into 5 sections, ranging from about 40 to 150 minutes. All the roads are flat enough for young children to walk. No matter which course you choose, you will pass pass an impressive 15-meter-tall observation deck. When you climb to the top, you are treated to a breathtaking view of the forest, the island, and Sanbangsan and Hallasan Mountains in the distance.
Forest interpretation tours are available for groups of 5 to 20 people. Excursions are held daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (except Monday) and a reservation a day in advance is required.
Jeju Gotjawal Provincial Park 178 Educity-ro, Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si 09:00~15:00, Open daily From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 755 and get off at the Samjeongji Edu bus stop. Total travel time is about 1 hour and 4 minutes. Free parking available http://www.jejugotjawal.or.kr/default/
Experience Gotjawal ecology vividly
Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest
The Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest is a ranching area where the natural forest has been well-preserved. The Gotjawal forest here remains intact and reminiscent of centuries past.
Located at the Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest is a Gotjawal Ecological Experience Center. It serves to educate both adults and children about the importance of the forest. There a 40-minute interpretation program which you can take separately or in addition to a two and a half hour volcanic cone walking program. If you opt for the latter, please wear hiking shoes and all-weather clothing.
Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest has other facilities like a campground, convenience store and restaurants for visitors.
Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest 2023 Namjo-ro, Jeju-si Hours: Open daily 07:00~15:00 (winter), 07:00~17:00 Adults: 1,000 won, children: 300 won From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 730 and get off at Jeju Stone Park bus stop. The total trip takes about 38 minutes. Free parking available http://www.jejustoneparkforest.com/
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Cheongsu Gotjawal 98 Cheongsu-ri, Hangyeong-myeon, Jeju-si Hours: Open daily. From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 755 and get off at the O’sulloc bus stop, transferring to bus 967. Get off at Myeongri-dong bus stop and catch buses 950 or 962. Get off at the Cheongsu-ri Pyeonghwa-dong bus stop. The total travel time is about 1 hour and 4 minutes. Free parking available
Hwasun Gotjawal 2045 Hwasun-ri, Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo-si Hours: Open daily. From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 750-1 and get off at the Hwasun-ri Eco-trail bus stop. Total travel time is about 1 hour. Free parking available
Geomun Oreum 569-36 Seongyo-ro, Jocheon-eup, Jeju-si Open 09:00~13:00, 09:00~18:00 (Tuesday), closed Wednesdays and national holidays Adults: 2,000 won, children: 1,000 won From Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal take bus 981 and get off at the Seonheul 2-ri bus stop. Total time is about 1 hour and 6 minutes. Free parking available http://wnhcenter.jeju.go.kr/index.php/contents/black/reserve/reserve
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