If Hallim Park were a recipe, you would add two parts botanical garden, one part zoo, one part cultural center, and a dash of Indiana Jones lava-cave sauce to get the delectable west coast attraction.
Founded in 1971 by the forward-think-ing Song Bong-gyu, and located near Hyeopjae and Geumneung beaches, the spacious 80-acre park is attractive, biologically diverse and worth visiting any time of year.
If you choose to become one of the park’s 1.2 million annual visitors, then be sure to bring the whole family, especially in spring and summer. The park’s luscious green foliage and blooming flowers are a feast for the senses of all ages.
Upon entering, rows of planted tulips lead visitors to the Subtropical Garden, which is home to two thousand exotic plants from all over the world. Look up in awe at the towering canopy of the palm tree garden, then continue through to several subtropical greenhouses, filled with exotic fruit trees, aromatic flower blossoms, picturesque cacti, and lined by glass display cases and cages containing a range of reptiles and birds.
Visitors can try fresh cactus juice near the Subtropical Garden exit and then wander down the enchanting Palm Tree Avenue. You’ll eventually get to the Wild Grass and Flower Garden, which is a peaceful walk along a spacious forest path surrounded by flowering plants. Go in May or summer to see the many of the wildflowers in full bloom.
If you do visit the park in the heat of the summer, you can cool off in the Hyeopjae and Ssangyong caves. That’s because the 500-meter portion of the caves open to the public remains at 17-18 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Keep in mind this is a fragment of the 17,000 meters of caves beneath Jeju, part of the longest lava cave system in the world. Be on the lookout for unusual stalactites, stalagmites, and fossilized seashells as you cool down, but watch your head if you’re tall!
Step back into the light and breathe fresh air in the Jeju Stone and Bonsai Garden. Admire the intricacy of the tiny bonsai plants mimicking giant trees, view stones that resemble faces, and take photos with 300-year-old pine, myrtle, azalea and magnolia trees.
Visitors can also take a peek at what traditional Jeju life used to be like at the Jae-Am Folk Village. Here you can sit in the shade of thatched houses and take a break by enjoying local delicacies such as mung bean pancakes or pork bulgogi. Also, be sure to check out and pose with the tallest stone grandfather statue in Jeju!
Other highlights at the park include a bird garden with white peacocks, the Jae-Am Stone Exhibit Hall, and the Water Garden. Each month also boasts a different flower festival, with tulips in March, cherry blossoms and canola in April and wildflower in May.
So, whether your fancy is botany, animals, history, geology, or even photography, Hallim Park has enough to enchant all, so be sure to pay it a visit if you’re in Jeju!
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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