The main islands of Jeju gotjawal habitat remain under threat. Photo courtesy JTO
Would you like to take a walk in the woods?
“Gotjawal” is Jeju dialect which translates loosely as “rocky forest” and in this dense volcanic woodland trees grow from rock and flourish in the challenging topography.
Jeju gotjawal provides an atmosphere of mystery and magic. Vents in its volcanic floor result in a distinct microclimate; they are known as the “lungs” of Jeju for this reason.
Jeju's relatively damp climate makes for lush woodland. Photo courtesy JTO
Plants both temperate and tropical grow in this unusual atmosphere, and porous basalt and deep aquifers result in natural stone water basins which purify and mineralize Jeju water.
Far from wild places, the woods were the lifeblood of the community. They not only provided timber and meats, but also botanicals and grazing for domesticated animals.
The many “gamateo,” traditional kilns, are evidence of the gotjawal being an essential energy source for charcoal up until the 1970s.
There are four main areas of gotjawal, remnants of the “bille” lava flow from nearby oreum. These areas are Hangyeong-Andeok, Aewol, Jocheon-Hamdeok, and Gujwa-Seongsan and we have selected some of the best areas to experience each.
Despite huge areas being lost to development, walking through the gotjawal is now easier than ever thanks to the Jeju Olle trail system and various other walking paths.
Try one out and reward yourself with chance encounters with grazing deer, fluttering butterflies and fireflies, or even slithering snakes.
JBT: Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal
SBT: Seogwipo Intercity Bus Terminal
The gotjawal is home to much of Jeju's flora and fauna. Photo courtesy JTO
Sinpyeong Gotjawal Park
178 Edu City-ro, Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si
Paths: 6.5km / 2hrs
The Jeju Free International City Development Center, or JDC, opened this 1.5 million square meter provincial park in July after investing 5.7 billion won. This has the most facilities of all gotjawal areas with plenty of convenient paths and a stylish rest area where farmers markets will be held. There is also an educational center, eco-school and a 15-meter-high observatory. It is included on Olle 11 (as is Mureung below).
From JBT: #755 to Samjeongji Edu (47mins) ->Walk west 500m (10mins)
From SBT: #780 to Donggwang 6-geori (33mins) -> #755 Samjeongji Edu (47mins) ->Walk west 500m (10mins)
The Mureung forest trails were chosen as the most beautiful in Korea in 2008, and this long trail is included on both Olle 11 and 14-1 (which also includes another section of Cheongsu Gotjawal, famed for its fireflies). The trail boasts shaded woodland tunnels, bat-infested caves and exposed “bille” (lava) bedrock. Even Chusa Kim Jeong-hui, a renowned Joseon scholar enjoyed this forest for relaxation and inspiration.
From JBT: #755 to O’Sulloc Green Tea Museum (41mins) -> #967 to Myeongri-dong (8mins) -> #950 to Wolgwang-dong Guldongsan (5mins) -> Walk east 1.4km (20mins)
From SBT: #702 to Gosan-1ri (1hr 6mins) -> #950 to Wolgwang-dong Guldongsan (5mins) ->Walk east 1.4km (20mins)
The gotjawal is warmer in winter and colder in winter than elsewhere. Photo courtesy JTO
Despite its small size, this gotjawal provides great variety on a varied circular path along which cattle graze, as in the days of old. Rather than being thick and dark, this woodland is relatively light thanks to the open fields at the woodland’s edge and the path moves from inner woodland into the surrounding pasture.
From JBT: #750-1 to Hwasun-ri Ecological Trail (55mins) -> Walk west 194m (3mins)
From SBT: #961 to Seogwangdong-ri(38mins) -> #750-1 to Hwasun-ri Ecological Trail (55mins) ->Walk west 194m (3mins)
Geological riches inside the Jeju gotjawal. Photo courtesy JTO
The Aewol Gotjawal is not as well preserved as other regions, surviving in a few fragments emanating from Nokkome Oreum. Mixing with pine woodlands, the gotjawal here can be seen along the trails linking Keunnokkome Oreum, Jogeunnokkome Oreum and Gwetmul Oreum. This trek is regularly featured among Jeju’s best for its views of the interior and the peak of Hallasan.
Transport (no buses)
Traveling along the Pyeonghwa-ro, at the 1st EoeumGyo (bridge) turn east and join Sallokseo-ro road . Drive 2.1km northeast to Keunnokkome Oreum Car Park.
Walk 600m east of Seonheol-ri bus stop
Paths: 2km (1 hour)
A path from Dongbaek-ro dissects the forest, leading walkers to Dongbaekdongsan, a wetland and one of only 18 Ramsar sites in Korea (it is one of four in Jeju). This wetland is fed from an underground reservoir, providing a breeding ground for rare bird and reptile species. The woodland is also home to numerous cultural relics such as abandoned charcoal kilns or “gamateo”.
From JBT: ->#981 to Utgareum Bus Stop (51mins) ->Walk 15mins east
From SBT: ->#780 to Jeju Bus Terminal (1hr 9mins) -> Then as above (1hr 6mins)
Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest
Namjoro 2023, Jocheon-eup, Jeju-si
Paths: 3.5km + 1.5km
Adults 1,000 won / Youths 600 won (Children under 12 and the over-65s are free)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This upland gotjawal next to Jeju Stone Park covers a lush 230,000 square meters and is full of cultural relics. It includes routes to the top of Keunjiguri Oreum as well as traditional “chogajip” accommodation, an outdoor performance hall, a campsite, and an an ecology experience hall. Visitors are also advised to pay a visit to Jeju Stone Park next door for more woodland, a museum, gallery and a recreated traditional village.
From JBT: ->#730 to Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest (57mins)
From SBT: ->#730 to Gyorae Natural Recreation Forest (1hr37mins)
This gotjawal is unique, even on Jeju! Over almost 45 hectares there are more than 2,800 nutmeg trees up to 800 years old, making Natural Monument 374 the largest such forest in the world.
There are also around 100 other tree species and 150 herbal plants. Walkers can enjoy a short 40-minute course (smooth enough for a stroller) and a longer 90-minute course along a route smooth.
From JBT: #710 to Songdang-ri (52mins) ->#990 to Bijarim Bus Stop (7mins)
From SBT: #780 to Jeju Bus Terminal (1hr 9mins) ->Then as above (59mins)
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