Getting There

Sanbangsan (Mountain) is situated on the southern tip of Jeju Island. There are many buses that connect Jeju-si (north) to Seogwipo-si (south). We took Bus No. 600 from Jeju International Airport and got off at Changcheon-ri bus stop. In hindsight, it was a mistake to get off at that bus stop. We had missed the connecting bus and were stuck in the middle of nowhere. We walked towards an intersection and hoped for empty taxis to pass by. After 15 minutes, we found a taxi and showed him the location of our pension house near Sanbangsan(산방산).

A better way to reach Sanbangsan (and Yongmeori Coast) would be to catch Bus No. 251 from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal in Jeju-si. The bus stop is a stone’s throw away from the entrance of Sanbangsan. There’s another bus stop (on the opposite side of the road) for buses headed back to Jeju-si.

TIP: This trip can be covered in a day, but it’s nice to stay the night and soak in the sights of this idyllic coastal village in Jeju. 

The Island Life

Our taxi driver had some difficulty finding our pension house after reaching Sanbangsan. Sea and See Pension was located at the end of a narrow village lane. Our taxi driver finally figured out the route and we convinced him to drop us back to the mountain. That’s when things started to get more complicated. We couldn’t find the entrance to the pension and halmoni (grandma) didn’t speak a word of English. In broken Korean I said that I am a door — instead of saying that I was at the door. Strangely, she understood that we had come early and asked the local convenience guy to keep our bags with him till check-in.

To Sanbangsan

We had to let the taxi go and walked back to Sanbangsan Mountain. We passed interesting hotels, pension houses, and eateries. Some of the houses were marked as ‘Geo House’. We didn’t understand the significance of these houses back then. While writing this post, I found an interesting article (VisitJeju) that explains the importance of Geo Houses.

Following Signs

There were direction boards at every intersection and we just kept following the signs. Although, it was hard to miss the towering peak of Sanbangsan.

Love at First Sight

Sanbangsan is popular for its bright yellow canola fields in late March and early April. Most of the canola fields were cultivated in patches. We spotted the first field at the intersection of a busy road. Visitors stopped their rental cars to click selfies with canola flowers. The corner cafe blocked the view of the mountain and it irritated me. Hours later, we’d have our lunch at the same cafe.

Paid Canola Fields

On the opposite side, tourists entered another field and clicked pictures with the mountain as a backdrop. Halmoni (grandma) stopped us before we could enter and asked us to pay a small entry fee. It was a standard fee for entering canola fields in the vicinity. The field owners probably made some money from the tourist frenzy.

Sanbangsan with the Canola

Honestly, it’s hard to get a clear shot of the canola fields and the mountain — without being photobombed. It was around noon and many local tourists had arrived here.

Canola Close-ups

In late March, the canola flowers had just started to bloom. These fields would look gorgeous in a week’s time when the flowers would be in full bloom.

Climbing Sanbangsan

I was quite tired with the adventure of the morning and wasn’t looking forward to climbing Sanbangsan. It’s roughly 395.2 m above sea level and that doesn’t make it a very challenging hike. Sanbangsan gets its name from a cave that’s found at around 150 m (above sea level). There are multiple trails at the base, but we followed the stairway that lead to the cave. This route doesn’t reach the summit.

Climbing Up

It was hot despite the occasional mountain breeze. The views kept getting better and there was always an interesting sight to admire.

Buddhist Shrine

We spotted our first shrine after climbing a flight of stairs. I stayed back on the main trail and admired the view. Basil explored the shrine for a bit.

Vantage View

There are vantage points scattered at regular intervals. We stopped at one of them and admired the view below. I had forgotten how tired I was and was excited to get to the cave above.

Markers & Description Boards

Description boards and markers dominate the trail. This mountain is steeped in volcanic history and local folklore. Sanbangsan was born roughly 800,000 years ago, when viscous lava — flowing slowly from a vent of bedrock — quickly solidified to form a lava dome.

Honeycomb Weathering

I wish I had paid more attention to geology in school. Thankfully, there was a detailed board that explained the process of weathering.

The Last Leg

There’s an entry fee for Sanbanggulsa Grotto (Cave Temple). We bought a combined ticket to Sanbanggulsa Grotto and Yongmeori Coast (next post). It’s 10 minutes to the cave from the ticket counter. The view from the top looked stunning and I was happy that I decided to climb up those stairs. It didn’t feel so tough after we reached the cave.

Sanbanggulsa

According to local folklore, Sanbangsan was formed when the dome of Hallasan was removed and placed here. The myth might have originated to explain the absence of a crater at the summit of Sanbangsan.

There’s a towering statue of Buddha inside the cave. The temperature drops drastically inside the cave and it was a reward for climbing those stairs. There’s something soothing about Buddhist temples. I’m tempted to believe in inexplicable powers that I would normally doubt. The soothing chants, the cool wind, and that stunning view created a surreal setting. I closed my eyes and felt calm. Basil climbed up and tasted the water from the spring. I’d have believed it was sweet — had he suggested it.

The View from the Cave Temple

Bomunsa Temple

The trail splits into two paths at Bomunsa Temple. We followed the sign that lead to Bomunsa (written in Korean only). This temple is closer to the main entrance and it’s possible to visit it before climbing up.

View from Bomunsa Temple

The outer courtyard of Bomunsa has a stunning collection of Buddhas — in different shapes and mudras. Golden prayer wheels are arranged on there outer perimeter. The view from here is equally scenic.

An Ode to the Learned One

The towering golden buddha statue makes quite an impression. The grey sculpted buddhas are noticeably different from the main statue.

Array of Statues

It’s hard to escape legends on this mountain. It’s believed, if you tap your head (thrice) on the statue of this sage and wish for long health — it will be granted.

Other Sights

Bird Spotting

We spotted this bird pecking berries or some kind of fruit.

Towards Yongmeori

Searching for Lunch

We were quite hungry and hoped to find some place to grab a bite to eat. We spotted few restaurants, but there were hardly any signs in English. We walked further and reached another dense canola field. This field also had an entry fee and we decided to skip it.

Route to Cafe (after Yongmeori)

We spent the next few hours exploring the stunning coast of Yongmeori (next post). We were quite hungry after our exploration and hoped to find some place to eat. We followed a path that cut across crop fields.

At the Cafe

With no other restaurant in sight, we had to go to the corner cafe that blocked the view of the mountain. We ordered a bagel and smoothies. The location of this cafe was its main attraction for its visitors. The view from the first floor was stunning.

Final Glimpses

The sun was playing hide-and-seek with the clouds again. It was getting windy and we were tired after a long day of walking. After checking the timing for the bus (next day), we  walked back to our pension house.

 

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Walkers. Wanderers. Travellers. Now in Seoul.

29 replies on “Canola Love at Sanbangsan Mountain

      1. Yongmoeri is stunning. I did like the Ilchulbong sunrise hike though. It was a crazy experience with the wind threatening to blow us away. 🙂

      2. Did you reach the peak before sunrise? We intended to do that, but was too lazy and ended up watching the sunrise from the beach 🙂

      3. Yes! We woke up at 4 a.m. and walked to the entrance in darkness. There were 5 other tourists and thankfully, some of them had headlamps. It’s crazy climbing the stairs in darkness with that howling wind. The views were worth it!

  1. Those canola fields look gorgeous. I sometimes think Australia could charge more entrance fees to some of our attractions, which would possibly keep them better maintained. Great post Cheryl giving a vivid overview of this lovely area. Hugs from a cool Autumn night in Melbourne. xx

    1. Canola fields are gorgeous! Seoul’s canola field is bigger. I haven’t visited in 3 years. 🙂 It’s hard to keep track of the many spring festivals of Korea. lol. Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Miriam. Definitely made my day. We’ve got good sunny days ahead. Sending you warm hugs from Seoul! xoxo

      1. I’m doing much better with the temps getting more bearable. We’re learning Korean and it’s got me all confused. I keep mixing scripts and languages. lol. Got another very test this Saturday. 😦 Stay warm my friend. xoxo

  2. Love, love, love the street art and the variety of Buddha statues. But the highlight was the sprawling Canola fields. Just magnificent every one. The images here remind me of a picture of wildflowers that I had framed above my computer at work when I was still anchored to my desk. I used to look at the picture and plan my escape. When I finally quit my job, I found myself walking through a similar field every day en route from my B&B accommodation to my sailing school. Dreams come true as they say.

    1. I knew you would love it! We loved every bit of this escape. We were a little early for the Canola Festival. I think it would be more amazing at that time. Wow! Your story is so inspirational! I used to have fantastic pictures pinned on my softboard and it helped me get through rough days at work. I never knew I’d travel so much after quitting my job. I agree, dreams do come true! I’m always thankful to every place we get to explore.

  3. I’m not sure I would have imagined canola fields in Korea; I really associate them with Tuscany, but of course they probably grow in all sorts of places. This is the same place you found all the great cherry blossoms, too, right? Seems like a lovely little escape!

    1. Korea is a surprise package. Basil and I wonder why the local tourism doesn’t promote it more. It’s hard travelling around Korea because of language and transportation. Tours are the next best option. Canola fields are a big thing here. We have one in Seoul (Banpo Canola Festival) in May. I wrote about it 3 years ago. 🙂 Cherry blossoms and canola fields rarely exist together (Noksan-ro is an exception) because of different blooming intervals. This place is at the southern tip of Jeju Island. 🙂 The cherry blossoms (prev post) were mostly in the northern part of the island. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing such a long post…

    I know how hard it’s to organize all the images and prepare the text.

    Huge effort…

    The landscape looks great and lot of opportunities for fine tuning your photography skills, right?

    1. Thank you so much, Sreejith. Made my day! It does take a long time to get every thing in order. 🙂 I hope the effort helps travellers visiting this part of the world. 🙂
      The landscape is stunning and I had a tough time shortlisting pictures. 🙂 Basil enjoyed clicking pictures and I guess it shows. 🙂

  5. Years ago, quite a few years ago in fact, I had a roommate for a couple months from Jeju Island and have always wanted to visit so this post is a great reminder to do so one day 🙂 As always, and incredible description of your journey and incredible photos – canola fields are very cool, we have them all over the Czech Republic right now.
    Look forward to seeing your post on exploring the stunning coast of Yongmeori…I am very much a coastline person. Cheers.

    1. Jeju is a fantastic island. I can’t believe I took so long to revisit it. The people are warm, the climate is warm (a bit windy though), and the landscapes are stunning! We love Jeju and it’s place we’d like to keep visiting. I hope you get to visit Jeju someday. Canola fields are a big craze here. Canola flowers are also blooming in Seoul now.
      Thank you for such a wonderful comment. Always makes my day. Cheers!

    1. Haha…Really? Didn’t know you visited Seoul and speak Korean. 🙂 Halmonee was such a sweetheart when we met her. My Korean was much better in person. We’re learning Korean now, but it’s a long way to fluency. 😦

      1. Visited Seoul about three years ago. It was one of the few cities in which I felt I could go for a walk at night without any issues and I wrote about that on the blog. 🙂 Other than the obligatory ‘hello’ ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ my knowledge of Korean is a secondhand jumble from friends…exclusively on food, cutlery, and cooking methods. 😬 So exciting that you two are learning Korean! 즐겨.

      2. Wow! It is pretty safe at night (but locals do have their concerns — if you’ve seen Korean movies you’d know what I mean). It’s nice to have friends to introduce you to a new place. Our Korean friends helped us navigate initially and showed us around. We’ve been taking classes for about 2 months and have tests every week. My head’s in a jumble with so many scripts and words mixing. I’ve started mixing languages. lol

      3. 😁 Mixing up languages happens to me all the time, especially when I’m trying to navigate in Spanish…always inserting French words into the mix. Best of luck with your Korean course.

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