Sangumburi is one of Jeju’s most popular tourist destinations and with good reason, as it is an extinct volcanic crater now filled with lush vegetation. Formed during Jeju’s fiery volcanic past, the crater withstood its violent eruption and is still perfectly shaped, making it unique. Sangumburi is Korea’s Natural Monuments #263 and is a must see for any Jeju visitor.
The crater is also very easy to enjoy. The climb up the slope will take less than five minutes making it one of the most accessible craters on Jeju. The steps are wide and well-maintained to accommodate the crater’s many visitors. This short walk brings visitors up to the main viewing platform where they are rewarded with views in every direction; including stunning panoramas of the ocean, Mount Halla and Jeju’s volcanic oreums.
Visitors looking down into Sangumburi are first struck by its enormous size and perfect shape. The crater has often been described as a natural stadium. It is 130 meters deep which makes the trees at the bottom and the opposite-side look like miniature toys. The circumference of the crater edge is 2,070 meters and the width is 650 meters. Sangumburi’s crater is even larger than the crater atop Mount Halla and the name Sangumburi means ‘crater mountain’, which fits it well.
The vegetation within the crater is diverse and because of its scientific importance the inside of the crater is closed to visitors. Despite this, people can get an excellent view into the crater from above. The crater is densely packed with trees and shrubs; including magnolias, pine trees, and maples. Jeju Roe deer and other animals live within the crater and the surrounding area.
|▲ A crater without a cone: Sangumburi erupted so abruptly that it is virtually flat, and is the only one of its kind in South Korea. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Government
Legend of Sangumburi
The crater is indeed a sanctuary for Jeju’s timid wildlife. There is even an ancient Jeju legend about the crater tied to its animals. Long ago, Jeju people believed, two young, star-crossed lovers lived in the crater. Maljatddal was the daughter of one of the gods of Jeju and her lover was Hangam, or Hanbyeol, a star that she fell in love with. Her father did not approve of the match and they ran away to live inside Sangumburi. They were happy together for a time but Maljatddal eventually left Hangam, who stayed behind to tend the craters many animals. The people of Jeju honor Hangam as a guardian of the island’s animals and as a guardian of hunters. In the past they performed shaman ceremonies at Sanbumguri to ask the gods, and Hangam, for good hunting.
Today people can walk around half of the crater edge to peer inside. On the main viewing platform there are binoculars to get a closer look into the crater. There are also some walking trails along the crater slopes and a pavilion in which to rest and enjoy the sweeping country views. There are also several Jeju traditional graves within stone walls that are fenced off but still allow visitors to get a close-up look at them. Near the parking lots many giant, volcanic rocks from the local area are displayed.
Most visitors to the crater arrive during the summer but the crater has much to offer all year round. In the autumn the slopes of the crater are covered in Jeju’s famous Eulalia flower. These tall plume-like, gray flowers sway in the breeze, as people line-up to have their pictures taken amongst them. The crater and slopes are often covered with snow in the winter making it a winter wonderland. Spring visitors can expect to see the vibrant greens of new life within the crater.
Sangumburi crater is an excellent spot to see the might of Jeju’s volcanic past and enjoy the countryside. Allow at least 1-2 hours to enjoy the crater and surrounding area. Sangumburi is located southeast of Jeju City on Highway 1112, and can be reached easily by bus. Nearby attractions include Mini-Mini Land, Jeju Stone Park and the ‘Sa Sam’ Peace Memorial Hall.