I can wax poetic about a lava tube all day long. There’s just something cool about walking where glowing lava once flowed. When I found out there was a lava tube on Jeju Island in South Korea, I had to go.
The quest to find Manjanggul Lava Tube is why Sarah and I took a city bus out into the countryside of the island known as the Hawaii of South Korea. We hopped off the bus and two miles up a road. We left the sea behind and headed into a forest of shady trees and huge spiders.
And lava tubes. Lots of them, only a few of them fully mapped and likely many left undiscovered.
But we’re headed to one that’s certainly well discovered. Manjanggul is a well-known attraction, judging from the steady flow of traffic along the road. Taxis honk at us, hoping to take us the rest of the way. But we’re walkers – we decline every few moments with what we hope is a polite head-shake and wave.
And we come to the parking lot. We pay an entry fee of less than $2 – a spectacular deal for a 30-minute walk underground.
By this time, I’d been in South Korea long enough to expect even a lava tube to be a bit well-developed. As I feared, Manjanggul is a bit too regular, tame and paved to slake my thirst for the shadowy depths of a former volcanic hot spot. It’s certainly nothing like the Ape Cave lava tube in Cougar, Washington.
On the other hand, Manjanggul is grand, with a ceiling that arches high above. So far, researchers have plumbed about 50,000 feet of it. Only about 3,500 feet are open to the public, though.
It’s nice and damp inside Manjanggul, with some nice lighting effects. The flow of traffic never seems to stop, so you won’t experience the solitude that you can in more rugged, remote lava tubes. But the grandeur that earned Manjanggul status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site makes it well worth the trip to South Korea and to Jeju Island. If you’re creative with camera settings, you can also snag some nice photos.
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